MS and Meditation
How I Meditate without Changing my Religion or Joining a Club
In college, seeing myself a member of the Intelligencia, I decided that I needed to separate myself further from the Great Unwashed by developing my untried Mental Powers: I would Meditate and quietly make this known to fellow-roomers in my dorm so that an Aura of Specialness might descend on me and show me as One Apart.
What a buncha Crap. All I can say forty years after the fact is that I was busily re-defining the meaning of Sophomore, the 'Wise Fool'.
When the Organic Chemistry exam was finally studied for and got through (I think some similar exam anxiety likely explains my sudden meander into my conception of Eastern Philosophy.) I settled down a bit and actually started looking into what meditation Was. I read on it with some interest and started running and sweating daily and playing volleyball outside the dorm again; I reverted somewhat to normalcy.
A Random Picture
My First Attempts and their Conclusion
I started out thinking my exploration of Meditation would be mind-altering and, with my Vast Intellect, Easy-Peesy. This is wrong and I soon found that meditation has a Purpose and an ultimate Goal and like anything else worth doing a Way to Do It. And that like anything else in reality, it involves real work.
After messing around for a few days without any useful result, I decided I really needed to go to the University Bookstore and find a Manual, something simple which would outline What This Thing I was Trying To Do really was and how to do it.
This was forty years ago and the little paperback I finally got was short, clear, with a good Table of Contents, an Index and written in good, Plain-Style English. I'm sure it is still in my old room in Portland, on my old bookshelf, untouched since 1976 or so. It got my toes into the pool for the first time.
What meditation is
A Koan, as in 'Zen Koan', is a Rule, or Guidepost or similar. The one I know and remember is 'Attention, Attention, Attention means Attention.' This really says it all. Meditation is the Centering, the Aiming of the mind on a single thought. The image presented to me in my manual was that of directing a handful of unruly horses to take the carriage on a particular road in a specific direction. The horses each have a mind of their own.. They follow directions for a little while but soon want to get rid of rein and harness and gambol out onto the fields next the road, run and munch grass and look at other things. The object of Meditation, the Work involved in the process, is getting the team of horses to stay in line and obey and follow your directions. This is not easy, though after learning how to do it it can be a pleasure and a directed Mind is a useful Tool in solving problems and moving along with the process of Living.
Some basic types of Meditation
As I think I already said somewhere, I am not any sort of Guru and my knowledge concerning meditation is unsystematically collected. As I went through life, I read about or the written works of, various people who could tell me something about meditation and this was quickly incorporated into my own practice.
I started with 'Breath Work.' Simply said, counting breaths. This can be done by putting a number to a series of inhalations and repeating these for fifteen minutes or however long the meditation period lasts. My first manual suggested that Americans could only count to Four repeatedly but that a more classic regimen was to count to Ten. I found a way to do this by imagining the drawing of Arabic numerals 1 to 10 in my mind. I will attempt to produce a drawing of these symbols and put them in this blog. If I fail, always a possibility with me, they can easily be found in Wikipedia under 'Arabic Numerals.'
Andrew Weil is an interesting guy to read. His way of breath counting, again a classic, , involves a count with slow intake, a holding of the breath for a counted time and a slow counted exhalation. Placement of the tongue upon the Alveolar Ridge, the gum-covered Bony edge of the inner mouth behind the upper incisors. This latter I do; Dr Weil tells us this completes a circuit of Chi-Passage, which I could have explained at length years back. Now, for me, it has become a quiet and convenient place to harbor the tip of the tongue while I am breath counting.
More involved and Arcane way of classic breath counting may involve the repetitive placement of fingers or a finger on the nostrils during the breathing. This can be done. I used to do it. I don't do it any more but simply sit with my eyes closed to prevent Makyo (see below) and imagine the regular production of Arabic Numerals 1 to 10 until I have had enough. Ten to Twenty minutes, usually. It turns out this is very restful, very settling.
'I vill a little tink'
The title of this capsule is a quote of Albert Einsiein, often said as he settled for a while to consider a problem. A period of meditation.
My own favorite meditation forms are few but I will try to outline them.
1) 1 to 0 through 9 breath counting. With each breath, the next Arabic numeral is imagined and concentrated on.
2) a river is imagined with occasional pieces of flotsam moving by. Each branch of other Thing, is concentrated on as it passes by. When it has passed, I settle into a vague consideration of the river, until another twig, or whatever, floats by.
3) I walk on a well-known path to a 'Special Place", where I can talk to myself for awhile and address particular problems which have arisen and then decide my course. If I am particularly worried about something, I will see it as a small thing and decide not to let it bother me any longer. I will work to heal some aspect of my MS, my ataxia, my leg weakness, my incoordination with the use of my right arm. My special place is a lake deep in the forests of the Cascades and in my mind, connected with the stream flowing from the lake (which I do my River meditation by), a side path in the woods leading through Large metal Uprights and taking me to the entrance of the main Multnomah /county Library, which contains no one and is a 'clean, well-lighted place' and finally, a steep set of stairs, the entrance to these various places, left to the river, right to the library, to the library turnoff then to the left and so to the lake. Confused? Welcome to my Memory Palace.
The Memory Palace is a nifty place. Anything can be kept in it. My palace, based on a simple hike from the second floor of our old house, now torn down in reality, into a favorite camping spot and a 'sitting and thinking' place on a favorite lakeside, where I 'review the bidding' and plan my Life Course. Or else, once arriving I can turn from the lake to the shore of a rushing stream, down a few hundred feet from the lake, and practice another meditative form, in which occasional logs or detritus flowing by lead a random thought through my mind until the thought vanishes around a corner with the flow of the stream that brought it. This is Very relaxing. Or, walking toward the lakeside, my tent is set up on my right side and I pass it Heading for my sitting place. If I need to leave the meditation quickly, I can dive into this tent and be instantly delivered to the top of the stairs in my old house, ready to awaken and end the meditation. Lighting, wind, background sounds and so forth are all in my control.
in Thomas Harris' book,'Hannibal', the reader is led through part of Lector's own memory palace. I am proud to know that I already had and had used my own Palace before I knew of Dr. Lector. Please read the book if you are interested. Being a little sociopatic, as most doctors are, I love it. I'm too tired right now to outline the history of the MP but you can easily Google references which will afford hours of reading, which I have already been over.
I may have other things to say about this topic but I must publish. The Arabic Numeral Pic I will save for another blog. To make it. I would need a sheet of paper and a drinking glass. I would outline the base of the glass ten times, subdivide each with abscissa and ordinate lines then draw the numerals into these circles from 1 to 9, then finish with a Zero, the most critical numeric invention the Arabs have given us.
You know, I just changed my mind and will include pics of the Arabic numerals I use in meditation.
Meditation as Method
This is an important part of my life. Please Publish this completed piece!
Again, 3/29/17: please publish this completed, important piece of work!