“Don’t meditate”

One day, as we sat together in silence, I glanced up at him in the middle of my meditation and was surprised to find him gazing down at me. “Are you meditating, son?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” I said proudly, filled with joy that he had finally noticed. My answer seemed to amuse him greatly. He paused for a few moments and then said gently, “Don’t meditate.”

My pride vanished. For months, I’d been doing my best to copy all the other meditators who came to be with my father. I learned some short prayers, sat in the right posture, and tried hard to still my turbulent mind. “I thought I was supposed to meditate,” I said with a shaky voice.

“Meditation is a lie,” he said. “When we try to control the mind or hold on to an experience, we don’t see the innate perfection of the present moment.” Pointing out through the window, he continued, “Look out into the blue sky. Pure awareness is like space, boundless and open. It’s always here. You don’t have to make it up. All you have to do is rest in that.”

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

in Shambala Sun

Finding the Mind of Healing

I don’t know.  That is where it all starts—not knowing.  Our journey to healing starts with not knowing.

My legs were sore this week.  I woke up last weekend stiff, sore and in pain. I couldn’t stand up easily. It hurt to move.  It is scary when the body feels like it is breaking down and the cause is unknown. Usually in the past when I had body pain, I’ve had some ideas of what caused it— too much exercise, straining the muscles in a particular movement, some random quick action that undo things. But here I had no idea, which seemed to make it worse.

I didn’t know what I did,  but I did know what to do about it. I sat silently and felt my body: I moved my body with qigong.   Got a little better.  Got a little worse, got a little better.  Slowly.  Finally my daughter gave me these small balls, “Miracle Balls,” to roll your body on and I heard some part of me say, “yes.”  My body knew what it needed. These would work.

And in fact I made major improvements over the next few days. We have an intuitive knowing about what we need and as I did the exercises I was able to feel my body more, and my body remembered another exercise—a bioenergetic breathing exercise,  a version of the pelvic tilt.  In this exercise,  you push your buttocks down to the floor as you breathe in and then raise the buttocks up as you breathe out.  The back will arch upward as you breathe in and go flat as you breathe out.  And the area loosened up even more.   

So when our body is sick or injured, we have a mind of healing that can speak to us about what we need to do to heal.  We start by not knowing, by listening and then it starts to speak.  We all have this inner knowing.  I went to a conference many years ago put on by True North, a holistic health center near me.  One of the films was about doctors not listening to their patients;   the statistic is doctors listen for only 17 seconds, 23 seconds for women doctors.  The film went on to document about how the several patients in the film all had some intuitive knowing about what was wrong with them, if the doctor had listened a little further.

When I trained in hypnosis, my trainer often made the point that the solution to each person’s problem is inside them,  there is a piece of knowledge, an experience, that can be deepened and widened to help them solve whatever problem they are facing.  We often don’t trust ourselves.  In teaching, the socratic method in essence says the student knows the answer and it can be drawn out of them.  In zen, buddha nature means that the awake and enlightened mind is already there to be brought forth.

Sometimes one follows a path moment to moment, around this bend in the woods, and the next bend.  Where is it going?  Much like a journal or blog or working on a piece of art.  Part of the joy of a journal or a blog is  finding out where it will go  and trusting that it will go where it needs to go.  [When I started this blog I had a general idea of where I wanted to go teaching meditation and movement and energy through movement. The idea of silence came up, and listening to, dancing with the silence. Likewise, when following a path of healing–listening to the silence, one finds the mind of healing.

When I was hurt this week, I thought about the mind of healing, something I wrote about many years ago after surgery on my left hip–

“The other day I was lying in bed, just staring out the window, resting quietly as I watched branches whip the sky blue.  It seemed like I had just fallen, naturally, easily, into this quiet meditative space.  Then I remembered the drugs—some mild opiate painkiller——oh yes, it must be the opiates.

“But the next day, I was back that meditative space, without the drugs, and yes, I remembered I had been drifting into this place somewhat regularly, lying in bed in the afternoon, watching the sunlight stream into the bedroom in the morning. Just content to stare out the window, just content to lie here and heal. “

It struck me at that time that this is the mind of healing. The head  could medicalize it by talking about endorphins arising naturally when one is injured, but to keep it simple let’s say the body responds with the mind of healing.   And it will come up naturally if we will let it and keep the head out of the way.  And it is available to us in those times when lying around is what is best and most needed for us to do because we need to heal, and don’t have energy for much else.

As I recalled this, I remembered another time.  I was sitting a 10 day vipassana retreat and one day I settled effortlessly, it seemed,   into a quiet peaceful space where I was just present with everything around, feeling my breathing, aware of sitting there, the small noises and movements in the room, but without working at it. I discussed this with U Silandanda, a Burmese monk leading the retreat.  I told him about the experience, and he talked about how that spontaneously happens. As I remember, he talked about how we drift in and out of different states of awareness without effort, and to describe this he used the term, “grace.”

The mind of healing is available all of the time for what comes up for us, if we allow ourselves to not know, to put our busy mind at rest.  We can rest our mind in silence and let our body find it’s way.

Following your life energy

“It makes a world of difference whether you live for a true self, going by your true feeling of life energy, or whether you simply and conveniently adopt the conventions of man-made society.  It makes a difference whether you are your true self or whether you create a fake persona, like everyone else, to smoothly join the vibrant artificial world.If you choose the latter, you choose to let the unreal system enslave you until death.  This is the real consequence of ignoring your life energy, your CHi. This is because the Chi is the true you.

Master Waysun Liao, in Chi

Dancing in the silence

Yesterday I was taking a trapped mouse to the drop off point at the power line a mile and half from the family house, at a rough parking area, over the town line in North Yarmouth. The mouse population is now exploding in North Yarmouth thanks to us.   I was dropping it off at moonrise, having that the moon was supposed to be  beautiful.  As I drove in the parking area, a blood red moon was rising over the treetops; and a hunter, orange garb, gun slung on his shoulder,  was coming out of another trail as he walked down to the road to his PT cruiser also parked there.  As I took the trap out, I wondered what a hunter was going to think about me releasing a mouse, but he came up and made an agreeable comment, and then said, “It’s a beautiful moon,”  And I agreed and we enjoyed a silent appreciation of the moon, a simple human connection as the crimson moon slowly faded to faint gold.

And then later,  there is the mouse hanging from the end of the Havahart trap, trying to climb back in.  I take them out to the overgrown open area, and these mice aren’t exactly excited about leaving the trap. Shocked maybe, they sit in the trap looking out, and it seems as if they have become comfortable in the  trap and don’t seem too interested in this wild world in front of them.  The next night, my wife Abby got out to release one, and she was waited for a minute, tipped the trap, and the mouse seemed to have settled in. So she tipped the trap up and up, raised it slightly and there was the mouse, tail dangling down from the vertical trap, feet scrambling to get back in the trap.  So much for wanting to be free.

The mouse is us.  We have constructed our own trap of ideas, self-concepts, beliefs about how the world works, other’s opinions of us, and each belief is a wire in the cage.  “Don’t seek to know the truth,” proclaims Seng-stan, an early founder of  Zen,  “only cease to cherish opinions.”  We think we want freedom and yet when confronted with it, the wideness, the openness, we stay in our cage.

We are locked behind a wall of words, and we don’t want to leave it for the larger silence, an incredible background of silence in which everything happens.   Maybe silence is the experiential correlate of emptiness, that we hear about in the buddhist sutras. “Be still and know that I am God,” in the Bible.

When you are in deep woods, in a stand of tall firs,  the silence can feel like it’s a cathedral—a deep silence because there isn’t the distractions of words and sounds and noise.  However,  even in the city that background of silence is there like a container, like a frame in a picture. There may be jackhammers, horns, sirens, engines dumbing, shouts; but it is there. When we have silence of mind, it helps us perceive it; but at any moment we can just be there.  In an  instant one can cut through all of the b.s. and  become alert to everything around you. We’re there.

As we pay attention,  there is a certain depth, an alive quality.  The universe is a large gong ringing and if one is quiet one can feel the vibration.  There is tremendous energy there in the silence; and poetry,  music,  dance,  art of all kinds,  emerges from the silence and stillness.    The silence is always there and we dance with it;  we move into it, out of it and around it but it is always there.