Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Meditation for Beginners, Part 3: So long, left brain.

So for the past month, I've been attending this meditation class.  Each time I go in, I learn something new about myself, about my teacher, about the way the world works and about our crazy connection to it all.

This morning, I was not in the mood to learn anything.

I was cranky.  Headache-y.  I felt a little like this.  It was as if all of my emotions, at one time (during meditation class) a calm, tranquil sea, had frozen into hard, icy spikes.  If you were a car in front of me this morning who was driving just a little too slow for my liking, I mentally stabbed you with my Emotion Spikes.

So when I walked into the studio, I was already feeling apprehensive.  There was Want to be Cool like Kelly! Kelly, sitting at the check-in desk looking serene and cheerful and happy to see everybody.  There were my fellow meditators, obediently waiting on their mats, getting a head start by closing their eyes and channeling the dharma.

I dropped my mat on the ground.  It made a hard slap against the floor.

And then, a funny thing happened.

For whatever reason ... I felt like crying.  Right there in the middle of the meditation room.

I felt bad for having stomped into the studio all pissed off.  I felt guilty for shoving that bad energy in with me.  "So you've had a rough week," I thought.  "Do you have to unleash it on these poor, unsuspecting people?"

Just before I had gotten into my car this morning, I had read my daily horoscope.  It had said that today was my day to get a "do-over."  I'm not sure if it was referring to the generally poor attitude I brought with me into meditation class, but I decided to give it a shot.  I quietly smoothed my mat down, retrieved some blankets, and set them down like a normal, grownup person. 

"Mahamudra" meditation, the one we are studying in this class, is also known as "end of suffering" meditation.  The Mahamudra Chant is particularly special, because it is traditionally the chant that any Tibetan Lama would whisper to themselves before teaching:

See anything
Brought about by causes
As like a star,
An obstruction of the eye,
A lamp, an illusion,
The dew, or a bubble;
A dream, or lightning,
Or else a cloud.

Besides reflecting on nature, these images are also to remind the speaker of qualities like impermanence and emptiness.  As you go deeper into the meditation, the goal is to start recognizing that life is always changing, and that nothing is permanent (like clouds or dreams). 

As I began to meditate, I felt all this tightness around my throat.  And then, as I breathed in and out, it slowly loosened.

"But hey, I still hurt!" said my right leg, which was falling asleep.

"Shh," I said gently to it. "You are pure sensation, nothing more."

"Um ... whatever you say," said my right leg, "you're the one who isn't going to be able to WALK."

I decided to focus my attention elsewhere.  Just then, Kelly said something like, "feel yourself getting bigger, more expansive."  And I noticed my hands.

I've talked about my hands before, and the educational power they have over the rest of me, including my mind.  It's hard to explain, but it's like my hands are older and wiser than I am.  They know things.  Does that sound nuts?  Probably.  But stay with me here.

I felt my hands, like ... dissolve.  During meditation.

It was as if they were there, and then?  They weren't.  I cognitively knew that my hands were still attached to my body.  But sensory-wise, I stopped feeling them for a moment.

It was the most extraordinary feeling.

Scientist Jill Bolte Taylor gave a TED talk a few years ago, about having a massive stroke when a blood vessel exploded in the left half of her brain.  Oddly, she describes it as one of the best experiences she's ever had.

That's because Jill got to spend time in the right hemisphere of her brain, that part of our brain that is always present, always connected to the whole, and lacks an "I" point-of-view. Now, I know I didn't have a stroke this morning. But I think I got a small taste of what Jill is talking about.

(I also think I had my "I saw JAY-sus!" conversion moment in meditation today, thanks to those weird, numbing hands.)

If you have time, I encourage you to carve out some time and watch Jill's whole talk below.  God bless you, right brain!

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