Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Fear of Meditation and its Role in my Life - by Alisa Voll

The following piece is a personal account of a meditation experience provoked by negative emotions – an attempt to see, what Joanna Macy calls, “the true nature of phenomena,” in her book, WORLD AS LOVER, WORLD AS SELF

I feel frozen in irrationally intense anger, and I do not move as the subway train car rattles down to 42nd street where I am to meet my boyfriend. The only thing making the tension in my body bearable is the release the slight sway of the train car provides as the laws of physics force it to tilt first to one side, then the other until it is again fully parallel to the ground beneath it. Most seats are taken, one by me, and a few people are standing. At this point I no longer remember what my boyfriend did that made me so angry. Yet, my body’s anxiety persists. My mind is racing with hateful thoughts. My fingers fidget unconsciously. My breath is shallow; irregular. My heart beats out of my chest, and I feel the unhealthiness of my circumstance. I want to relax; more because of the harm my state causes my being than because I realize that it is irrational.

I close my eyes. Without considering it, because if I do I will refuse to continue, bringing my attention to the air entering my nostrils, I direct it to the lower chamber of my lungs. My belly expands and I notice that the muscles there are tense and must have been flexed for some time. My mind still races. As air continues to slowly enter, it gradually fills the lower, middle, and finally the highest chamber of my lungs. With conscious effort I exhale smoothly, attempting fluidity and calm to the collapse of my shoulders and the shrinking of my lungs. As minutes go by, time slows. Relaxed now, my stomach expands; my chest rising and falling harmoniously.

Becoming enveloped in the internal world of my mind, I hear nothing except the pace of my even breath. Since I was a child, my brother told me that I have a stable, unchanging part so far inside me that it is untouchable by anything. As I sit on the train, I finally feel it; my share of nature’s energy - my essence. It looks like a light amid an ocean of peaceful deep blue darkness. The longer I meditate, the stronger I am able to sense it and the more connected I become to it. There is only silence, except for a quiet buzz of vibrations of nature’s frequency. Time has completely stopped now. As strange as it seems impossible, I am at utter harmony with everything. I do not feel positively or negatively. Floating in the all encompassing infinite space, I simply exist, as the trillions of other specs of energy do, fitting together just right to form the universe.

The train arrives at 42nd street as I lift my lids. I am puzzled by my state as it seems as though I embody peace. This feeling is foreign to me, as usually I am unhappy about something or other. I am no longer mad at my boyfriend, and the reasons why I was no longer concern me. I had never felt such peace before and have not since then.

The incident on the train happened three years ago and was the only successful meditation I have ever had. Though my brother had suggested meditation for my goals of spiritual self-development and self-knowledge, I had always dismissed it. I was not ready to actually put in the work.

Yet knowing myself was and is very important to me. I need to be aware of not only the causes and effects of my moods, my dispositions, but also how these pathways came to be. With that knowledge I am better able to tackle my demons and to live the person and the life that I have wanted to for so long. As revered Indian philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, taught until his death in 1986, an individual is only one in whom the outer is the same as the inner, and the inner the same as the outer. I aspire to understand every iota of my being, so that I may be able to transform my inner to be at peace, and correlate with it, the outer and vice versa.

Only recently, with the clarity that tackling the hardships of being away at college provided me, has the possible validity and role of meditation in forming who I want to be become evident. Unfortunately, my recent attempts at meditation have been unsuccessful. It seems as though I have made no progress since months ago. I am too impatient and find myself unable to concentrate on one sound or sensation of the body, switching from concentrating on the air going into my nostrils, then on my chest rising and falling, then on the air passing through my nasal passage. I do not focus on one sensation for more than a few seconds. My mind may not be thinking about random events in my life, but it is thinking about trying to focus, and throughout the last time I meditated, about how I was slowly falling asleep without noticing it.

I have not been meditating regularly. A part of the skepticism about it, or rather my skepticism about my own ability, is still there. Whenever something does not come easily to me, I reject it and find reasons for why it is unnecessary. Meditation had always been one of these things. This is why if I were more aware on the train, I would have stopped myself from meditating. I am afraid, and have been since I first learned about it, that if I apply great effort and persistence to meditation and I fail, it will be a blow to my self esteem greater than I know how to handle. Logic says that there is a better chance of succeeding at meditation if I genuinely attempt it than if I muse on it. But, I do not function that way yet, free from the bounds of dispositions and insecurities. Even if I sincerely devote myself to learning how to meditate and to learning from it, it will take years for the state of peace and harmony I felt mediating on the subway to transfer over to my daily life.

It is gradually becoming easier, however, to do the things that I am uncomfortable with and that scare me - such as meditation. I have to keep moving forward. Slowly, I dispose of unnecessary conditioned responses manifested as insecurities, and come closer to embodying my essence.


Point of light said...

Your first experience on meditation is a common and very unusual experience. I had experienced it when I was just 20.

Jiddu Krishnamurthy is undoubtedly a great teacher, who helps his students to observe the mind and its patterns, so that we break away from them.

There is altogether a different dimension on which meditation practices can rest conceptually. Also, such practices to lead to newer and relevant experiences to know new destinations to understand the contents of our consciousness. The main intent is to find the possible outside the known patterns of our thinking.

I think, in that regard, meditation is an interesting discipline.

timauthee said...


Your post is from quite some time ago. If you are still viewing this, I wanted you to know that it inspired me because of its honesty. The search for our true selves must begin, travel through and end with honesty.

Perhaps it will help to think of meditation as accessing your being at all levels. Your experience in the train was one level. A glorious part of yourself that is peaceful, joyful, all knowing and full of infinite possibilities. As well, this level of your self is connected to all that is. Very nice!

But you have other levels of yourself that deserve accessing as well. These may be full of thoughts and have emotions of fear, anxiety and anger. Allow these to exist in meditation as they have meaning to your life.

Successful meditation is allowing all that comes up within you. You are an honest person, so is your spirit and when meditating, your soul will bring awareness to all that is you. :)

All Blessings.

timauthee said...
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