Day 1 - What's Happening to My Body?

For someone who’s never meditated before, I sure have been mouthing off about it recently. Not mouthing off in a disparaging way, mouthing off like meditation is something that I’m REALLY into, reading about it, talking about it, recommending it to friends and family. Listen, if meditation is half as transformative for them as I’ve imagined it’s going to be for me, they HAVE to get on board! This is going to change our lives people! Trust me, I plan to be an expert.

But the whole practice still feels like a country I’ve never been to. This weekend I went to Richard Davidson’s talk at the American Museum of Natural History on how meditation reshapes the mind, increases gray matter in the part of the brain that helps you learn, thins it out in the part of the brain that makes you anxious But I still don’t understand how. I feel like I’m trying to imagine a four dimensional shape, like I’m trying to conceive of something without knowing the material it’s made from.

Today I began my meditation. The morning was delicious, dim and quiet and warm. I sat on my floor and focused on breathing, in..one...in...two...in...three. Fifteen minutes passed without too much inner turmoil. Hunger, unanswered emails, and a sleepy foot tip-toed into my mind and showed themselves out again. But there was one particular question that tugged at my concentration: Is this right? Is it happening yet? How can there be transcendence in this empty space with nothing but my breath to fill it? I feel like a big blind blob of dough, wondering to myself if I’m rising.

Is this one of thoughts I’m supposed to greet and then release? How do I know if what should be happening is happening? Am I missing the point?

Comments

We do say letting go of those

We do say letting go of those thoughts that are kind of "meta" is a good idea...it's not that we are dismissive of any thoughts, but it's more like we are saying gently, "Not now." And, as I'm sure you noticed, those thoughts about the process actually, and ironically, pull us away from the process. Given that evaluation and analysis are important in their own time, it often makes it somewhat more challenging to let go for now, and let the practice unfold. You don't really have to assess if what is happening should be happening....if it is happening, the important question becomes, not, "Should this be here?" but "How am I relating to this?"

Hi Hallie

Hi Hallie,
I’m no expert but I would like to comment on your question of “How can there be transcendence in this empty space”.

I would ask; what is it that we’re trying to transcend? I think the Buddha would say that it is our unnecessary suffering. I think that he would then go on to say that this suffering has an origin, that cessation is possible, and that there is a path to this cessation.

So the origin of suffering as the Buddha taught and many have tested is craving and grasping. When we have any experience we have three choices; we can try to pull it in and hold on to it as tightly as possible because we think “it” is what brings us happiness, we can push it away because we think “it” is what will destroy our happiness, or it’s something neutral and it doesn’t interest us.

I think that in the experience of meditation the breath is an object of neutrality and the thoughts that arise are the things that we grasp at. So when we come back to the breath we’re training in breaking our pattern of grasping at what we want or don’t want. Breaking this pattern breaks our habit to grasp which in turn relieves unnecessary suffering, thus transcendence of suffering.

I don’t mean to say that wanting or not want is the suffering; it’s the grasping that is.

I like to think that this is a representation of “the middle way”. The breath being the middle between the two extremes of grasping.

So this may be one way to view what we’re doing in meditation.

Hope this is helpful.
Al

help my meditation

Hi I meditate in my yoga classes at a group that meets once a week and sometimes by my self. IS THERE A DIFFERENCE FROM MEDITATING EVERY DAY. Also I went to meditate in the morning, and I find it very hard. love holding love Lydia

Lydia- Really and truly,

Lydia-
Really and truly, today was my first try at meditating, so I'm not sure about the difference between meditating everyday versus once a week. Although I assume it's like anything else, the more you practice, the more skilled you become. I enjoyed meditating in the morning, but I'm kind of an early bird. I think there's no wrong or right time to do it, just what feels good to you. -- Hallie

I love the analogies here --

I love the analogies here -- "A big blind blob of dough, wondering to myself if I'm rising"! Wonderful! I'm a new-ish meditator myself. My sense is, you really can't do it wrong (although yes, from what I understand, that thought is one to release, and that thought too, and that one, and that one over there...)

Also, I too am confused about how gray matter in the brain could possibly get thicker, because although new neurons are born in adult brains, they are limited to specific places... Maybe more connections are made in certain parts of the brain, and that's why they get thicker?

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