I’ve finally been getting back to a regular meditation routine. I didn’t remember how much I had missed it until I finally got back into the groove.
Some aspects of a regular meditation practice can be difficult: in addition to all the usual, sore muscles, monkey-mind, an achey back, etc. I can get a little spacey afterwords, the sensation of floating around and of not being a participant of this world visiting me hard in moments when it’s inopportune (think car, think meeting).
When I first started doing this I used to focus a lot on experiences: I was impatient to have visions, sensory phenomena like clairaudience or clairvoyance, as “proof” that I was on the right track. I think it comes from my Catholic background. So much emphasis is placed on Jesus’ miracles that sometimes I feel that people really care about that more than they do about the teachings. Some people talk about God like he’s the adults’ version of Santa Claus, making a list of the good and bad people, saving up treats for the good ones and coals for the bad ones.
Yogis warn against placing too much emphasis on miracles. Autobiography of a Yogi for example is full of warnings against the showmanship of gurus who claim to be enlightened based on the fact that they can make things appear out of nothing, or prophecize events, etc. For as impressive as those things can be, the ability to manifest or to see through the filter of time is not connected to divinity in Yoga – although paranormal ability may be one of the consequences of a spiritual journey, it is merely side stuff, nothing consequential. In fact, Buddhists and Yogis both warn not to pay too much attention to it.
Of course I’m not saying that Jesus was only a human being; in fact, I don’t want to talk about Jesus at all. In that respect, I believe the Buddha is right: there is no point in talking about God, so you may as well just not mention Him at all.
When I first started meditating I wanted so much to experience meditation as a miracle. Occasionally, my wish was rewarded. I once heard a flute playing in my ear as if someone had been sitting right next to me, blowing the instrument within inches of my head. Another time I heard the vibration of the deep Om of the Universe, so strong and loud that I was startled out of meditation, still heard it, and wondered how ever I had managed NOT to hear it in all this time. I had a kundalini experience, and shakti-pat, blah, blah, blah. The list of experiences goes on and on, and the fact that they are fairly “standard” to any steady practitioner of meditation does not lessen the power of the experience when one first has one.
But after a while, it’s a bit anti-climactic to have a shakti-pat. Once I remember distinctively thinking: “Is that all? This is what enlightenment is about?”
That’s why it’s important to have a regular practice. The real benefits of meditation are much more subtle than the fireworks of strangeness that can happen when you let your mind float.
I’m no saint Laura. I make mistakes. I get angry. I fail to observe my own ethic codes, but it happens less and less when I meditate. Instead, I worry when someone is driving badly, that they might be having a bad day. I no longer feel the need to gossip. I don’t even “try” not to talk bad about someone because criticism of other people simply doesn’t arise in me any interest anymore. When it does, it turns inwards: what am I seeing in this person that is bothersome in my own self? It becomes easier instead to listen, to step into someone else’s shoes, to be less angry and more accepting; less scared and more loving.
As I was trying to relax my mind for meditation, I thought about “the quiet guru” who came to Savannah once, how he never tried to teach me anything, never tried to persuade me of anything, never sold me on anything or asked me to give up any idea or lifestyle, or to do anything other than just breathe with him, breathe and meditate. Words, words, words. We get so caught up in words, what Jesus said, what Mohammed said, what Buddha said. Word-cocktails, so dizzying with righteousness they give you such a great high, but such an awful hangover the next day.
When I first met the quiet guru, I tried to talk to him about my mother, sniveling for miracles like most seekers do at first, he interrupted my rush of words with one raised finger, smiling, his eyes shining with love, and said, “Yes…but…don’t worry. Everything will be ok.”
He opened up my heart, and that was that. When my heart was opened I felt the love that some call “divine” for the first time. It’s not the love that I felt for my husband, which is great, nor the love I have for my parents or for a good friend, nor even the love I feel for writing. It’s the kind of love that demands no reward and needs no touch, word or gesture to feed it. It’s the kind of love that is self-sustaining: the means and the end both. Just read the poetry of Rumi or Haphiz. Both explain it much better than I can ever aspire to. Rumi was Sufi, Haphiz was Muslim. I am Yogi. It doesn’t matter what you call yourself. When you experience that love, you know, and then there is no need of dogma, scripture, words, or labels for yourself or others.
When I have a good meditation, I am reminded of what it’s all about. When I come out of it, I am pervaded by a sense of peace, gratitude and love. There is nothing supernatural about it, except in the way that worries roll off of me, and a smile creeps on my face without my even noticing, and I feel happy about everything, and no grumpiness or problem or issue can bring me down.
Last night I had this experience again. I didn’t notice right away, but it was manifest already in all the usual clues: feeling like I’d just fallen in love and gotten a Valentine’s Day card from my beloved; having a smile on my face; feeling in harmony with the world; losing my anxiety and worry.
I went upstairs. Joel was in a bad mood. He was shouting at the tv, about the poor state of the world, about the stupidity of politics. He titillated between frustration and depression. He was lying on his stomach on the bed. I was singing, and feeling happy and in love, and I kept asking him to chant om with me, not because of any special reason, just because. He said, “No!” and he pouted. I started chanting Om on his back, moving to all the chakra points. It wasn’t anything magical, no rite, no intention behind it, just something I felt like doing, but whatever, it worked. Joel was relaxed, felt happy, no longer had anything to shout about.
Peace is contagious.