Multiple times before this I have taken meditation seriously, for at least a week. I’ve gotten past the rough patch of thinking thoughts are evil and the goal is to have a silent mind. I’ve (surely) gotten past the phase of blindly accepting the wisdom of experienced meditators, like when I intellectually believed that the self was an illusion without proving it to myself. I’m right at that neat stage where you start to sound mentally ill – I found a little Kundalini energy at the base of my spine and am starting to notice it throughout other parts of my body 👽
This week I meditated every day anywhere from 1-3 hours. Excluding one mega-meditation where I did a body scan for an hour, I would usually start with 20-30 minutes of concentration on the breath to get my attention up to speed, then do a bunch of other insight and lovingkindness meditations in 10-30 minute blocks.
Progress was actually surprisingly steady. I usually give up on meditation because I stop noticing results, but now I think it might just be that the results are less extreme and I don’t accept the small victories. Before writing this blog post, my feeling was that the beginning of the week went well, then towards the end things started to break down. It’s true that my motivation to begin each meditation session went down, but there was still deeper levels of concentrations reached or new insights discovered each time.
Concentration on the breath led to attention becoming faster. Every time I thought I must be at my limit, I would push it a little faster in the next session. I found this new trick of placing myself on the breath and sitting along for the sensational ride for the next moment. Over time the ride got shorter, happened more frequently, and it was easier to get to top speed after previously coming to a stop.
In this state of faster awareness it was easier to find and expand the positive “Kundalini energy” in my spine. Apparently if you foster that thing enough it blasts out all your chakras and gives you pure pleasure and pure awareness or something. I haven’t been able to get that far, but I can see that the energy gets stronger as my attention gets faster, so I can imagine limit approaching infinity gets quite intense. Also has anyone noticed they always have to mention that Kundalini is a feminine energy? Like, okayy??
My more insight/wisdom style meditations were mostly me testing out weird things in consciousness for 10-20 minutes. Like seeing if I could note all sensations that were mental vs physical, looking for where the thoughts that led to physical action came from, or seeing what sensations felt more or less permanent. Most of my “insights” were really truths I had noticed before but forgotten. Like how crazy it is that my mind automatically spits out a mental image to go along with 90% of all my sensations. Or how I don’t have free will (and that’s a good thing!).
There was a seeming paradox I got hung up on where during lovingkindness I wish for everyone to experience positive emotions, then I turn around and believe that striving for positive emotions leads to suffering. I don’t have a solution I’m 100% confident in, but I think it’s interesting looking back on a journal where I was working through it in real time, so enjoy:
My ability to notice and lean into Kundalini energy seems to correlate to how much positive emotion I experience outside of meditation. It sounds like I’d want to experience it all the time, and I am still drawn towards cultivating it, but it also puts into perspective that pure pleasure doesn’t solve all your problems. Feeling good is just a thing that happens. I’m more interested in the lasting effect on my mood and positive thoughts, and less interested in the moment to moment sensation. That begs the question, do I care about the moment to moment sensations of being in a good mood or having a good thought? I recognize the real pleasure in these sensations, but also recognize the impermanence that makes them feel meaningless. Still, I’d rather have 60% positive sensations than 20%. Am I getting too attached to the positive sensations? I feel like as long as I don’t ignore the negative then not really.
This seems to be the fundamental paradox that keeps coming up. Accepting that you want more positivity while still fully accepting the negative. I prefer one over the other, but should be okay with either happening. Maybe it’s not really a paradox, but well wishes and acceptance being distinct enough from each other to focus on positivity in one while allowing negativity (and positivity) in the other. It’s nice to say it like that, but when trying to apply each philosophy it seems like there will inevitably be situations where applying one or the other results in a different action. In a single action it may not be possible to do both. Maybe planning physical actions should be more inline with well wishes, and performing and reflecting on those actions has more equanimity. In the future you want things to improve, but in the past and present you accept any outcome. Truly accepting the present seems like the counterweight needed to keep you from feeling bad about not experiencing as much fleeting pleasure as you theoretically could be.
Could be true.
Sure I’m interested in uncovering truths about consciousness and the universe through meditation, but will it even integrate positively into everyday life? It’s a tale as old as time: I get a sweet taste of clean awareness, then spend all my time outside of meditation trying to meekly grasp at it, only leading to frustration that I can’t seem to hold onto it. The dangerous thing is that while those efforts still mostly failed this week, they were just a little more fruitful. Maybe I just need to meditate for 16 hours a day, then I'll have perfect control my mind, at every waking moment! I have a feeling the real solution involves less effort and more letting go.
One positive integration I was reminded of this week involved focusing more intensely on the sensations in my muscles as I’m lifting weights. Not only does it allows me to notice and correct imbalances between muscle tensions on the left and right side of my body, but if I focus on the right part of the muscle contraction it actually feels good. Then after the set the sensation of my blood pumping through my body has a slight positive tinge. It’s not a sex thing.
Overall, I do tend to find life a little more enjoyable when I’m meditating regularly. I’m more willing to let positivity in, and more likely to notice the things holding me back. My real goal for now though: no mindless longing for meditative states when I’m at the grocery store awkwardly grabbing some broccoli.