I’ve never seen myself as much of a meditator, especially since sitting around for long periods of time focusing on mantra, image or contemplating spiritual concepts seemed boring and useless to me.
While I noticed that meditation took my mind off of whatever it was on during the time I focused my attention on the object of my meditation, any peace I experienced during the meditation period was obliterated just as soon as I became aware of habitual thought patterns once again.
What I didn’t recognize until recently is that meditation has been gradually and consistently permeating my entire way of being. To my recollection, it all started when I was about eight years old…
As the eldest of six in a family that traveled long distances by vehicle, there were often conflicts between my siblings from which I could not physically remove myself. From experience I knew that to try and settle the conflict would just draw me into it, and so I would attend to the sensations within my own physical structure and find rest there. When the conflict settled down, I would once again become engaged with my family without carrying any animosity toward them for disturbing my peace.
By the time I was 32 years old, I had so identified myself with my experiences of traumas, dramas, abuses and conflicts that I had entirely forgotten what got me through those long car rides without accumulating any baggage.
At the time, I was under extreme daily stress associated with running a construction company, dealing with health issues, having a family of my own and regularly resisting thoughts about my painful childhood. Driving around in Los Angeles feeling completely fearful and fatigued, I suddenly noticed that my toes were tensely gripping to soles of my flip flops.
I immediately tuned my attention toward my toes and wondered what my body was trying to do by that action. Within a few moments of attending to them, my toes relaxed and I noticed some relief from the stress.
At that moment I decided to keep checking out my toes whenever possible. The effects of this practical turning of attention were more than I could have ever expected…
Because I experienced such relief from toe relaxation, naturally, my attention would turn to other areas of my body gradually, more and more over time – until I eventually began noticing subtle sensations at the soles of my feet and then the top of my head.
The more aware I became of the sensations in my body, the more life was working out for me. Such that the particulars of life were transpiring in ways that made me aware of possibilities that I never thought possible for me.
For example, the idea that I needed a diet and exercise program or else I would be totally unhealthy and fat; that stress was necessary to make the money I needed to live a happy life; that I had to control other people’s behavior; that I had to hate the people who abused me as a child; and that I was stuck living in a metropolitan area were all losing their power over my consciousness.
Gradually I began to recognize that I could eat whatever I wanted and exercise for pleasure while my body continued to improve in both health and physical appearance; that stress does not lead to happiness – even if money seems to come out of it; that I could experience complete peace notwithstanding anyone’s behavior; and that I could live anywhere I liked in the entire world.
I used the example of diet and exercise first because this is what I used to distract myself the most. I would almost constantly think about, research and plan my meals, my next workout, my medical protocol and feel alternately proud and ashamed of myself depending on how well I was following whatever regimen I had put myself on at the time.
Over the past 10 years life has taken amazing turns for me, including moving to my most favorite place in the entire world; having barely any thought about what I will eat and what physical activity I will engage in and zero doctor visits while enjoying radiant health; more harmonious relationships with everyone in my life; compassion for myself and for those who have abused me; and the dissolution of stresses and worries for the most part.
In the last few weeks I attended a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. I made the decision to attend only a few weeks before that, without knowing much about the technique that would be taught. I was drawn by the silent time and looked forward to experiencing and exploring the inner realms.
To my surprise and delight, on the 4th day I learned that Vipassana has everything to do with awareness of the sensations within the body structure, and it was not about imagining or focusing the mind on any thought, image or sound. As soon as I was given the technique, my whole body rejoiced as I suddenly recognized that not only was I already used to practicing true meditation but that this technique was taking me way deeper into that practice.
Over the 10 day period, I sat for over 100 hours in the truest form of meditation, and now I am so consciously aware of the subtle sensations in my body that when any habitual thought occupies my mind I can immediately recognize and experience it’s corresponding feeling, and in that recognition the habit dissolves.
I went through a very strong purification process during those 10 days which I will likely write more about soon. But for now, I’ll just say that it felt as if my entire body was passing through a fire, and all the while I smiled at the pain and tears as they arose and passed away.
May all beings experience this peace that passes all understanding.