My kids are asleep. It’s 7am and I have been encouraging a kind of premature blindness by watching music on my phone. My new meditation cushion, looking for a moment like a huge blood red eye, fixes me with its glare. I decide to start, you have to start somewhere and my somewhere is now.
So, like I say, I decide to start. Sitting isn’t easy at the best of times, seems an unruly way to arrange oneself, and is usually done with the aid of that great invention of the civilised world, that enemy of good posture, the chair. Shoving another couple of cushions under the red-eyed zaku I manage to get almost comfortable. I am trying to relax and stay upright. I have no idea what upright is, I have little idea of what relaxed means. I take a wild guess on both and let my eyelids drop – I see the curve of the wall under the window, above it the jagged bottom edge of the white curtains. It’s too bright in here, even for Winter. I start, losing my balance almost immediately. I change my position a little, I start. Again.
There is a sudden sensation, feels like pins and needles, pins and needles running towards my head and spreading across my chest. I remember something about breathing – I start to do it. My shoes are just on the right of my field of vision, they are….loud… I can’t stand their presence there, then suddenly they are gone. Or something that the shoes represent is gone. The acceptance of the shoes is part of this process. Now they are just a pair of shoes. What kind of progress is this, I am thinking, the shoes were shoes, then they were loud shoes, now they are shoes again.
There is an itch in the small of my back, further up a kind of shimmering pain that glides across my shoulders only to disappear as I remember that I have never watched a Berg opera, I am scared of talking to people on the phone, I am behind with everything and my back hurts. Letting thoughts come and go slows nothing down, they move faster and faster like boys and girls spilling out of a classroom at lunchtime, and with all the attendant noise and confusion. The shoes are back.
The curtain’s edge now looks almost violent against the straight, calm lines of the laminated floor. There is a point at which I suddenly feel that I am not here, my edges have dissolved, an invisible narrator in a film about the lines created by the jagged edge of a curtain against the parallel laminated floor. That same feeling I get when I’m playing and it’s going well. And then it’s gone again. A passing signal on a short wave radio. There is no emptyyourmindsloweverythingdownbecomeonewiththeworld thing, it feels like a roller coaster ride through a deserted amusement park, rushing past colourful billboards advertising all the self-defeating crap in my head. Sitting still and almost unable to move now, I realise how quickly the mind seems to pull inward thoughts and feelings, images and ideas, how it is in the pulling, the exertion, that they seem to exist and flourish. This movement all feels real, physical, not a transcendent feeling (apparently that would be pretty good going for my first try…), more immersive, like the difference between riding in a luxury car and sitting inside the engine that drives it. Something like the bracing reality of a stroll on the cold pier of a coastal town when that crisp air hits you.
By the time it is over, a half hour period marked by the awful digital chimes of the iPhone alarm clock, I feel like I was just getting somewhere. Or nowhere. I was just getting nowhere when the awful chimes stopped me in my tracks.
It is strange to report that my first half an hour of meditation, or “sitting down not on a chair and with no external stimulus”, produced such striking results. Aware of the traditional long haul associated with this practice, I am guessing I am at some kind of pre-amateur delusional stage. For the moment I’m enjoying the nursery slopes.