Pursuing zen: how to, or how not to
My first two attempts to meditate were laughable. I nearly toppled over on both occasions, as I unintentionally drifted into strange sitting dreams—obscure scenes of me doing dishes with my feet or walking stark naked into a conference room somewhere in the Empire State Building.
Now that I’m wide awake, this attempt to deplete my consciousness is colossally harder than meditating while half asleep. For starters, I shouldn’t be thinking about the last two times I approached this with the advantage of exhaustion. But when I don’t think about the act itself, my mind swells with contemplation, innocently dancing through the past.
I’m thinking about everything at once. I’m 13 years old, my throat’s collapsing while I’m stuttering a statement in my hometown police station. I’m somewhere in highschool, reading my Bible in the cafeteria like a self-proclaimed Jesus freak. I’m at the Classon stop in Brooklyn, waiting for the G train, that stands for Godawful, knowing I’ll be 20 minutes late for work. I’m sitting in my windowsill, 21 floors above the ground, inhaling amnesia haze while blankly watching white fog devour the San Francisco skyline. I’m running up a volcano in Sicily while sweat’s running down my neck. I’m alone in a cave on Dreamland Beach, wondering why I’m here.
This is exactly what I’m NOT supposed to do. Reflect on every goddamn memory I’ve ever stuffed into my brain lobes. Maybe visualizing something specific can get me out of this time vault. Our meditation instructor mentioned earlier to imagine the center of your brain, the infinite space between thoughts and language. Whatever that means. Let’s give this a shot.
I see an image of me, curling up like an embryo and shrinking to the size of my big toe, making my big toe about the size of a child ant. I’m sitting in the center of my brain, surrounded by pink inflated brain pillows. They look like intestines. Forget the pillows. I’m sitting in a white endless sky of nothing.
It’s hard to visualize a white sky because my eyes are closed and my field of vision is a dark landscape with a thousand tiny dots swirling in symmetrical patterns. I wonder if connecting these dots would create some visual representation of the universe. If i squeeze my eyelids tight enough, the patterns shift in different directions while the dots double up, creating microscopic visual units that sway together. The colors are hard to distinguish, but bits of purple or green or red pop from the center of the dots like a cellular nucleus.
Keeping the eyelids closed, I start moving my eyes all over the place. I roll them to the back of my head, then cross-eyed, then in circles as though I’m scanning an empty stadium, trying to memorize the space. With each shift in close-eyed movement, the dots tango in spirals that turn into figure 8’s, or maybe the infinity symbol, it’s hard to tell.
Is this cheating? It’s probably better to stare at dots than introspectively recall my life until now. I can’t help but feel disappointed by these subtle floating patterns when I know how much more impressive they’d be with just a small amount of shrooms. Micro-dosing would make meditating far easier and a hundred times more fun. Weed alone would make this effortless, although I’m sure my stomach would start tantalizing my mind with a hedonistic longing for a Shake Shack cheeseburger.
Shit. Now I’m thinking about cheeseburgers. That’s what a fully vegan retreat will do to your subconscious. So much for thinking about nothing. Here I am, thinking about thinking about cheeseburgers if I was stoned.
Forget the memories, the white sky and the dots and the meat. I shift my attention to sounds that surround my body like rainfall. I’m convinced the only reason I don’t feel these sounds is the bamboo roof covering this yoga hall. I’m impressed I was able to go as far as dot-focus now that I’m noticing this resonating jungle soundtrack.
There’s a full blown orchestra of pulsing trees, insects that buzz or hiss or simmer in the heat, cows moaning in tenor tones, birds harmonizing in repetitive twitter patterns that may actually drive me mad if I zone in on their obnoxiously exultant 2-note songs. These birds make me feel worthless. If only I felt so inspired every morning to wake up with an immediate need to sing praises to the sun. I guess if I could fly, I’d very likely be that happy.
The loudest sound pouring over the atmosphere is by far the primitive beat of a Cambodian party I wish I was at, that can’t be more than a few kilometers away. Day and night, this tiny village is bouncing to a bass bumping rhythm that uproots the trees, making them stumble through the jungle like groups of shirtless, intoxicated bros at an EDM festival. My heart starts pumping to the beat as though it’s a machine I’m attached to. Would I fall over dead right here and now if this party ended?
Now that my whole body is grooving with the wasted trees, I could almost stop thinking in words. There’s been repetitive mention of looking into our “third eye chakra”, our spiritual conscience, as a way to separate ourselves from language and time and space. Honestly, I don’t know enough about this extra eye to elaborate. But I’m curious if it’s something similar to the three-eyed raven character in Game of Thrones. If I could access this eye, I could predict the future and teleport around the universe and probably talk to animals and plants and wind. Who knows. If this is the potential result of meditation, I’m sold.
Maybe I can think in gibberish as a way to avoid language. We did this peculiar exercise the other day as an alternate form of meditation, where a small group of us were instructed to start speaking in gibberish and walk around a designated area with no particular direction. We were told to keep the gibberish going without any hesitation or interruptions.
We started off blabbing nonsense to ourselves in our aimless, circular trajectories. Part two of the exercise was to pause for 30 seconds at a time and chat in gibberish with another participating person. It was hard not to burst out laughing while rambling obnoxious noises at someone who was spewing alien sounds on top of yours.
After having 3 separate “conversations”, we then all stood in a circle, facing each other while everyone at once shouted their counterfeit languages into the air. After a minute or so of exhausting our tongues, we closed our mouths abruptly into silence. We then laid on the ground, and gazed up into the forest looming above us. Some people likely closed their eyes, but I was stirring with energy and I’ve always loved staring at trees.
This was my closest moment of meditative zen I’ve been able to achieve so far. My mind was depleted after working so aggressively to communicate without meaning. As I stared into the trees, the branches and leaves warped into distinct geometric patterns, covering the sky like a fishing net. Every patch of blue was filled with kaleidoscopic fragments of green. This was by far the best sober set of visuals I’ve ever seen. I lost all track of time, existence, everything, while I lay there focused solely on maintaining my mystical forest canopy.
So, instead of reflecting on what worked, I guess I can try this again. Sawidiyala manii pokatau toi moiety achayeim toig autiveup sividigop dapis isdifninou oip pitanoy tikke bopputi saorey camatutuni lokipal tou sementitoku tokam oniouwma micew pewtintah kalatito masimaw welitikow acitou minicovi coppotu totihgmna ano swadikara ka metiladou tamihn palikato kawehil fookamo tintoa pilirmouti . . .
The bell rings. 30 minutes of seated meditation is over. I open my eyes to discover I’m exactly the same person, only now, my spine is enraged and my right foot is asleep. Reality is still real, but inspiration is leaking from my pours and all I want to do is write.