I usually find that I have little or nothing to say about meditation; maybe because many have said what I think there is to say, before, as in the last few millennium, or maybe because it feels too personal, too subjective. This week, however, I have something to say since my practice, over the past month, has been disrupted for reasons that made me think. To begin with, I moved. Boxing up my life and changing spaces has always been incredibly un-grounding. There is shift, it feels, in my total pattern of existence, which is sometimes good in the sense that I become aware of my accumulated possessions and my daily routines, most of which belong to a space. Only when I lost the room where I meditate did I realize the value of that space. Now I have a makeshift space, with distractions, but not a space I can devote to the practice entirely. But then a second thing happened: I got sick and have remained sick for almost four weeks. These were different illnesses, almost back to back, but one has held on, I suppose partly due to the stress of moving.
What does being sick and meditating feel like? It depends on the sickness of course but in my case, which is sinus related, my head feels like it’s in a bubble. Furthermore I become more aware of the general discomfort of my body, not the free flowing energy that usually comes with meditation. I can only hope that this feeling lifts next week so that my desire to meditate returns (I am still meditating, but against my will or desire to do so). Who, after all, would consciously want to intensify their awareness of pain? It makes more sense, at least when your body is sick, or feels pain, to stay distracted. Of course most of us have heard the opposite: that you should go into that sickness, that you should ask the question why? — since your mind and body are using that sickness, or that pain, to make you conscious of something etc. All interesting ideas, but ideas no less, most of which remind me of the story of Aesop’s “Sour Grapes” (cognitive dissonace).
So rather than looking too hard for a reason for my sickness, instead I have used this experience to reflect on things I took previously for granted, specifically a.) that meditation comes easy with a space devoted to the practice and b.) that meditation also comes easy when in good physical health. This is more interesting to think about when we realize that most of our species do not have access to a space without distractions or a physical body, free of sickness or pain. For example hunger is a pain and where I live right now, in America, which is often considered the wealthiest country in the world, we have approximately 50 million people who live in food-insecure households; that means 50 million people, on any given day, who might experience hunger.
Having read one of my collaborators blog entries – especially “My Garden”, in January — which describes his experience with meditation after open-heart-surgery, and mitral valve replacement, his words return to me. It makes me wonder what other obstacles people everywhere feel in relation to meditation; things that I have simply not thought about; things that I take for granted. Would love to hear what others have to say on the subject.