Monday, February 12, 2007

Everywhere, all the time

This morning’s meditation: I started with a lovingkindness practice. When that was done, I shifted into regular vipassana meditation. I noticed that the practice was easier and quieter than usual. The standard naming practice wasn’t needed, as I could simply watch the memories and thoughts arise without engaging with them. While I sat in the relaxed quiet, I perceived simultaneously both the deeper mind conditions that I usually can only explore through pratyahara practices as well as the more focused attention mind conditions that occur in vipassana meditation.

That perception was the essential experience.

From there, my mind elaborated on the recognition: I tend to experience the world in discrete and segmented ways. As I enter a meditation, I tend to close the door to non-meditation life behind me. As I move from seated meditation, which requires the involvement of my senses to maintain my vertical posture, to reclining meditation, which allows me to withdraw my awareness from my external senses entirely, I engage in another shift of mind geography. When I lie down at night to sleep, I shift my mind into sleep mode, excluding even the remote awareness of reclining meditation. Exploring each of those mind modes separately has allowed me to encounter aspects of mind that I had not perceived so clearly without the exercise of the specific disciplines that allow me to access them. So I have continued in those practices in varying degrees for the past several years. This morning’s meditation, though, suggested to me that while the distinctions and separations may be a useful didactic tool, just as isolating an exercise for biceps and another one for hamstrings can be useful, there is a fuller state of integration possible, where simultaneous engagement of each segment allows for exploration of things impossible in single-mode exercise.

Perhaps it’s not entirely coincidental that in yoga practice last night, I found myself in a pose sequence that, without the specific and separate muscle group work I’ve been performing for the past couple of years, I’d never have imagined possible. The sequence (that I did badly, but recognizably, despite my incompetence) is a flow of poses (from top to bottom, above) from twisting prayer, to side crow, to scissored side crow, to hurdle, to scorpion. Without the hours and months of devotion to isolated strength work on abdominal muscle groups, spinal muscle groups, and shoulders, and on hip flexibility, the sequence would scarcely have been imaginable, let alone possible (albeit clumsily) last night. But with those isolated exercises, I found last night a tiny glimpse of the integration of dance that is enabled by the work.

So back to this morning’s meditation… At odd moments during the day, I’m reminded that all levels of my perception and mind are available at any moment. That feels a bit like the sense I’ve had since the day I perceived that prana is continually flowing into each of us. It’s a little bit vertiginous, but liberating. It feels a bit like the fulsome connectedness of intense spiritual experiences – a flowing of all levels of mind/body/spirit into present focused awareness.
And the all-levels-at-once experience suggests to me potentials for mindfulness that are analogous to the perception of one pose flowing into another suggests the potential for vinyasa.