I wake up on my own about 15 minutes before my alarm, worried that I slept through it again. I adjusted the volume and added my iPhone asbackup.
Even though I was only lightly sleeping in fear of missing the alarm again, I get up feeling pretty good. After a shower, my neighbor calls me over for coffee and tea. He has some other friends already over there. He likes to make me a cup of the instant packet coffee and a cup of his tea. He thinks the tea clears the palate I suppose. I’m not sure if it’s the generosity of him and his friends or the tinsy bit of coffee, but I get into the morning session feeling better than I have the whole time.
During the session there are no realizations or breakthroughs, but just little progress of pushing myself a bit harder to deal with the distractions of my mind. I really feel like that’s what meditation is all about (not that I actually know at all about how it’s successful), instead of being about whatever most people tell me to do. I hear the same thing over and over again: “Watch your breath, focus on your sensation, watch your emotions.” I think that’s all part of it, but totally missing the point of why were told to watch those things. Watching those things might cause wonderful feelings if done correctly, but I can’t believe they’ll help in the longrun or at all when real life hits. I believe the most important part is about dealing with resistance. Will I let something tighten me up or will I stay loose and let it flow by. I can be mindful of something as it happens and be either tight and resistant or loose and accepting. I believe being mindful of something is the final step. My latest thesis is that the real difficult part of this journey and where the real change comes from is how I react to that distraction when it comes up. Then, I can continue watching it and understanding its nature.
That takes me to the session following breakfast where I get back to that level of relaxation I had in the temple in Thailand. (Temple here also means monastery) I know because I can feel that subtle tightness in my chest that underlies my daily life of distraction. I get there by remembering what Bill, my old batting coach, would tell me. I swear he has been more help than all the readings and spiritual leaders I’ve learned about. He basically just told me to relax and swing the bat. His instructions were simple and left so much personal adjustment to me. I would do what he said and hit the ball hard into the net. He would respond everytime, “nope, you didn’t relax”. At first it was funny and then it got frustrating because he kept saying the same thing, even though I was hitting the ball well. It’s almost as if he knew somehow the inner working of my body and could tell I was still holding tension. After him continually nagging me, I finally, in spite of him, relax so much I thought the bat might fly out of my hand, just to show him his instructions are ridiculous and counterintuitive. The result of my “over relaxation” was actually a perfect snapping line drive right down the middle. Which in baseball terms (at least the old-school style when everyone wasn’t steroided up) is the perfect hit. Bill just sat there with his arrogant, but well earned, grin on his face. My dad and I were giddy with excitement after the lesson and often still bring that up today. I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live.
Again and again, I keep relearning that lesson. I’m still so resistant to it because I still believe in some ways it’s preposterous. I’ve been stuck on the thought “If I’m going to do something I’ve got to try hard and push through it!”. Everything I’ve learned from school and my culture and even meditation teachers have reinforced the same thing. I remembered that batting lesson today and it brings me further into the meditation to feel that very subtle tightness in my chest. I know I hold onto things and have an issue with letting them go, but it’s much different knowing that and being able to feel where it’s all stored. The feeling is especially emphasized when I know that same stress is the cause of the heart disease that runs in my family.
It’s time for lunch already, but I feel good now having made a tiny bit of progress and having Bill on my shoulder for the next few days.
The part about all of this that makes me want to scream, is that for the next two sessions I didn’t get back to that same level of progress. By the night session, my legs were done and I was defeated and frustrated. I almost got up and walked out when one of the teachers wouldn’t stop talking through the microphone. She wasn’t even doing a guided meditation, just repeating the exact same stuff about living life that we literally just chanted about as a group. I did make it the whole time and immediately went back and passed right out.