The following piece is a personal account of a meditation experience provoked by negative emotions – an attempt to see, what Joanna Macy calls, “the true nature of phenomena,” in her book, WORLD AS LOVER, WORLD AS SELF
I feel frozen in irrationally intense anger, and I do not move as the subway train car rattles down to
I close my eyes. Without considering it, because if I do I will refuse to continue, bringing my attention to the air entering my nostrils, I direct it to the lower chamber of my lungs. My belly expands and I notice that the muscles there are tense and must have been flexed for some time. My mind still races. As air continues to slowly enter, it gradually fills the lower, middle, and finally the highest chamber of my lungs. With conscious effort I exhale smoothly, attempting fluidity and calm to the collapse of my shoulders and the shrinking of my lungs. As minutes go by, time slows. Relaxed now, my stomach expands; my chest rising and falling harmoniously.
Becoming enveloped in the internal world of my mind, I hear nothing except the pace of my even breath. Since I was a child, my brother told me that I have a stable, unchanging part so far inside me that it is untouchable by anything. As I sit on the train, I finally feel it; my share of nature’s energy - my essence. It looks like a light amid an ocean of peaceful deep blue darkness. The longer I meditate, the stronger I am able to sense it and the more connected I become to it. There is only silence, except for a quiet buzz of vibrations of nature’s frequency. Time has completely stopped now. As strange as it seems impossible, I am at utter harmony with everything. I do not feel positively or negatively. Floating in the all encompassing infinite space, I simply exist, as the trillions of other specs of energy do, fitting together just right to form the universe.
The train arrives at
The incident on the train happened three years ago and was the only successful meditation I have ever had. Though my brother had suggested meditation for my goals of spiritual self-development and self-knowledge, I had always dismissed it. I was not ready to actually put in the work.
Yet knowing myself was and is very important to me. I need to be aware of not only the causes and effects of my moods, my dispositions, but also how these pathways came to be. With that knowledge I am better able to tackle my demons and to live the person and the life that I have wanted to for so long. As revered Indian philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, taught until his death in 1986, an individual is only one in whom the outer is the same as the inner, and the inner the same as the outer. I aspire to understand every iota of my being, so that I may be able to transform my inner to be at peace, and correlate with it, the outer and vice versa.
Only recently, with the clarity that tackling the hardships of being away at college provided me, has the possible validity and role of meditation in forming who I want to be become evident. Unfortunately, my recent attempts at meditation have been unsuccessful. It seems as though I have made no progress since months ago. I am too impatient and find myself unable to concentrate on one sound or sensation of the body, switching from concentrating on the air going into my nostrils, then on my chest rising and falling, then on the air passing through my nasal passage. I do not focus on one sensation for more than a few seconds. My mind may not be thinking about random events in my life, but it is thinking about trying to focus, and throughout the last time I meditated, about how I was slowly falling asleep without noticing it.
I have not been meditating regularly. A part of the skepticism about it, or rather my skepticism about my own ability, is still there. Whenever something does not come easily to me, I reject it and find reasons for why it is unnecessary. Meditation had always been one of these things. This is why if I were more aware on the train, I would have stopped myself from meditating. I am afraid, and have been since I first learned about it, that if I apply great effort and persistence to meditation and I fail, it will be a blow to my self esteem greater than I know how to handle. Logic says that there is a better chance of succeeding at meditation if I genuinely attempt it than if I muse on it. But, I do not function that way yet, free from the bounds of dispositions and insecurities. Even if I sincerely devote myself to learning how to meditate and to learning from it, it will take years for the state of peace and harmony I felt mediating on the subway to transfer over to my daily life.
It is gradually becoming easier, however, to do the things that I am uncomfortable with and that scare me - such as meditation. I have to keep moving forward. Slowly, I dispose of unnecessary conditioned responses manifested as insecurities, and come closer to embodying my essence.