Sunday, July 18, 2010

The doorway

On Monday morning I meditated for the first time. Not like deep thinking (which I have actually done before, thank you very much), but like a guided meditation. Here.

This meditation used the sound of a bell to focus the mind and open the spirit. It sounded three times, with the idea being to feel the reverberations and welcome the sound physically into the body, followed by a period of remembering the sound and feel of the bell, the echo or memory of the bell. And then a mental letting go of the bell sound and opening to other sounds, followed by another focus on the memory of the bell.

It was during one of these repetitions, one of these moments of allowing the bell sound to come into you, that I felt it. It was fleeting, but it was as though a feeling of openness penetrated into the protective shell I’ve built to protect myself from life’s disappointments – especially from spiritual experiences that I may or may not be able to trust. At the beginning of the meditation, the guide said, “Cultivate the mood of wonder, of humility. Let this be the doorway to the practice.” That resonated deeply with me, and I think that inviting those particular emotions allowed that brief feeling of pure openness and centeredness.

In some ways, it was like an old familiar friend. In other ways, it was a little terrifying. I mean, can’t it be possible to have both my protective shell and that openness at the same time? I mean, what’s so wrong about being careful with your heart, not just in a romantic sense but in a life sense? I want to be cautious and yet impulsive, protected and yet vulnerable, distant and yet intimate. Paradox? Maybe.

“Cultivate the mood of wonder, of humility. Let this be the doorway to the practice.”

And not just to the practice, but to life. A further explanation of the meditation:

“Do you have the patience to wait ‘til your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving ‘til the right action arises by itself? The master doesn’t seek fulfillment. Not seeking, not expecting, she is present and can welcome all things."

[Here’s the point where this blog post should end, both because of length and because of overshare. But I can’t resist wanting to sort out this other idea … and yes, if you read it and it makes you feel the need to share the name of a good therapist with me, please go ahead and leave it in the comments ... ]

I have deep angst about this trip (ok, about my life) that stems from wanting to do something, to be something, to make an impact, to please have some meaning for someone somewhere. And I am realizing that this desperation – born of loneliness, of cultural conditioning, of the pure desire to give to someone – is paralyzing. It makes me choke. And this seeking, this expectation, this need is intense – I am desperately in search of fulfillment, I admit it. And yet “The master doesn’t seek fulfillment. She is present and can welcome all things.”

It sounds so beautiful. Simply to be present and welcome all things, all people, all experiences. To be open with the mood of wonder, of humility, like a child. Not to find or accomplish something specific or to return with something grand or impressive. But to be alive, and to find meaning and connection in being open to the world.

But this is a difficult state of mind to sustain. Already in the 35 seconds since I typed that last line, my mind has started off down the road of justifying my desire to achieve something visible, something tangible, by tying it to the lofty desire to love and be loved, to give, to impact. But is it really for others I want this, or for myself? I feel afraid that by letting go of trying to do something impactful, I will sink into oblivion, into meaninglessness and loneliness. It’s like a struggle between the will to power and nirvana. The desire and ambition grip me, paralyze me. The letting go, the mediation is lighter, more open and yet now in it’s aftermath I seem to fear it more. I fear losing control, losing everything. Abandoning myself to the higher power and then simply disappearing. Alone.

And all of this -- all of it -- exists only inside of me, only in my mind, yet it affects everything. That's sort of weird, right?

“Cultivate the mood of wonder, of humility. Let this be the doorway.”

(June 2010, Peterhoff, Russia)


Zoovius said...

I love Speaking of Faith and I've never been on the blog, so thank you for posting that link - I've been looking (though admittedly not hard enough) for a simple meditation technique I could attempt - I've been wanting to try it for a long time, and I can't wait to try this bell method. It's much more simple than going to live in an ashram somewhere (though I would if I could, dang that Elizabeth Gilbert). :)

The rest of what you wrote made me think, a lot. I think I'll just send you an email on that stuff instead of leaving a blog-length comment....

Marci Jensen Stoffer said...

Great post. I have often felt the same way. The need to be still but fearing it as well. I hate to admit it, but honestly having someone to love does help.