Friday, August 19, 2016

Meditation Morass

A truism for meditators says that practice has peaks and valleys, times when one eagerly sits on the
cushion and when just about any activity seems preferable to sitting quietly doing nothing. Most certainly l have wandered for the last six months in a contemplative valley, one containing cattails and pesky mosquitoes.

This doldrum is no minor dip in the road. I've meditated regularly for about sixteen years and have seen many times when the routine ran ragged, but could always count on smooth sessions of meditation. Even if concentration frequently gave way to daydreaming, rumination or sleepiness,--those mild bugbears of the meditator--I could count on sessions of Zen that proceeded calmly and systematically. That's not so today.

Paying attention to the senses itself is like listening to someone claw a rusted nail out of rotten wood. Counting breaths is like hearing "1000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" sung on a grade school bus. Each bead counted on the rosary makes me think of tooth extraction. Daydreaming, instead of being an incidental distraction is a vast oasis of relief l run to in my mind, and I virtually sigh upon arrival at its shimmering vision of anywhere but where and when I am.

The good news is that my meditation schedule remains the same, though stolen moments of mindfulness while waiting or walking somewhere no longer happen. This morning meditation started so roughly it brought on feelings of grief for a lost sense of peace.

Inevitably the question comes as to why this happens. My first inclination, which just happens to be the Zen response, is not to think about it and plow ahead attempting to meditate. Simply continuing is the first and most practical action to take, after all. And yet, such a profound change in my contemplative life calls out for reflection. Might there be some subtle cause of all this difficulty?

There are several responsibilities and conflicts unresolved in my life right now, and though thoughts of these don't intrude on my meditation, that unfinished business might be the hidden cause of my discomfort. Time spent tidying my life may get me out of this contemplative marshland, and the sooner the better for myself and others.

What keeps me buoyed, what keeps me on schedule, is a long and varied experience with meditation. l already Know valleys come with peaks from traversing them. Things change. Tomorrow is another day. A host of bromides come to mind. But the most useful thing may be to take mundane, responsible actions and to keep this old, prophetic, verse in mind:

Nine-hundred ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall,
Nine-hundred ninety-nine bottles of beer ...

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