Friday, May 14, 2010

meditation, submission, and trust falls

I am very tired this morning. I would have liked to have slept another couple hours, but the alarm went off and here I am. I also know that deeper stuff tends to come out when I am tired and my defenses are down.

I am trying to get back to that place I was in January when I was doing such marvelous stuff with my spiritual growth. It was hard work, but I remember that it felt really good. I want to get back there, to be again at that place where I was figuring out what I know of god and of worship and of the world.

My desk is in a prime morning worship kind of place. It faces a window, and the window faces south (mostly). My view is of my yard, a nice lawn edge by tall firs and a rail fence at the road. Across the road, majestic pines tower 60 or more feet in the air and they move with the slightest breeze. There is no wind outside this morning and the trees are very very still.

The idea of meditation appeals to me, but rituals make me feel just a little bit silly. I understand that they are important and that they can trigger all kinds of things, but I just feel silly doing them. Perhaps if I understood the purpose of the rituals in different kinds of meditation, I might feel less twitchy about it. I don't know.

I know that physical movement, or physical enforced stillness can be powerful triggers for the human brain. I know that our brains respond chemically to things that the body does physically. Why, then, is it so hard for me to let go and do the things necessary to meditate? This stuff is science. It makes sense. Why do I fight it so?

I know there are ways to slow down brain waves. I think that's part of what meditation does - it slows down the body's rhythms until a person reaches a trance-like state. That's cool. I know how to do that to my body and my mind in other circumstances. Why can't I do that in meditation or prayer?

The thing that just sprang to mind but was nearly quashed was trust. When I am in that trance-like state, it is generally during some pretty intimate and physically demanding sex play. I have to be with someone I trust explicitly in order to feel safe enough to let go and float in the world of subspace.

So is this where I realize that I do not trust god enough to let go and float in that in-between world of consciousness and enchantment? Is that it? That I am afraid to let go and float? I can let go and drop into that marvelous trance easily with the right play partner, and less easily, but still dependably and surely with a partner I know less well. But to let go and submit to god? That seems beyond what I can do.

And I have to say that sounds utterly silly. Sillier than any ritual designed to help the faithful worship in a meaningful way, sillier than any ancient phrases chanted in Latin that people have long forgotten the meaning of, sillier than incense and oil and holy water. I do not have enough faith to submit my will to god the way I can submit my will to a sex partner.

See what happens when I am over-tired and write without the benefit of coffee? Yikes.

I guess the next question is "what must I know of god in order to trust him/it enough to submit my will?"

The first three steps in my 12-step program talk about (1) acknowledging powerlessness; (2) coming to believe in a higher power than can restore balance; and (3) turning will and life over to that higher power.

So now here I am, with a quarter-century of recovery under my belt, and I find myself in a place where I am revisiting step two. Do I really believe that there is a power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity? Of course I do. I believe in a god, for lack of some other less cumbersome word, who can restore me to sanity. I have seen it happen in recovery. I have watched people come in all jittery and rough, at the very bottom of what could be called human existence, and I have seen them transformed into clean, healthy, rational, sane, productive members of society because they asked for help from outside themselves.

I know that there is a power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity because it has happened. I asked for help, even when I did not believe in a god, or that any god would believe in my, and I was helped. Shit came around. It worked out. And it was not my doing. I believe that there is a higher power. I know this in my bones. It is real. I have seen evidence in my life and with my eyes of what faith can do.

Is it faith, then, that makes all this possible, and maybe not god? Is it the act of faith that makes the powerful and miraculous happen, or the deity itself? Is that where I am? I have always said that a placebo is a powerful thing. If you believe it is a cure, it can cure you. Sometimes.

So, is there some part of my brain, then, that doubts the existence of a god? Is there some part that believes in the ritual but not the object of that worship? Is that what is preventing me from submitting myself to god and letting go enough to get to that marvelous trance state? That I don't trust whatever construct it is that I have of god enough to be vulnerable in that way? Or am I afraid that if I let go that completely that I will be changed in some, huge, permanent way? Do I fear losing myself in this? Do I fear losing the parts of me that I know are unhealthy but which I still enjoy? In terms of step parlance, am I willing to have god remove my defects of character? Am I really, truly, willing? To let go of them all? Hmm. Perhaps there are some that I still cling to.

I would like to have the kind of faith that would allow me to do a meditative kind of trust fall into the metaphysical arms of god, knowing I am safe and that I will be held. I can do it with a lover. I can do it with a less intimate sex partner. But I cannot do it with god? How does that make sense?

This is tough stuff for a tired head so early in the morning.

More to think about today and tomorrow. Stay tuned.


AndyC said...

I wish you could meet my friend Mark the Buddhist. Mark is, by most accounts, a bit of a nutter. SO not my normal friend. We met working at a summer camp four years ago. He never raised his voice, never said anything insulting, never let an angry face show. And it didn't seem like he was holding back. It seemed like he just had no desire to feel those emotions.

We were talking once and he mentioned that he woke up every morning at 4am to meditate. Prior to coming to camp he'd been living in a buddhist monestary and, while most of the other things from there had fallen by the wayside, the meditation before anything else had stayed.

And then he started describing how some of the monks would contort themselves into yoga poses or stand on one foot for hours to meditate. I kind of just stared at him and asked what he did. He said he sat on a metal folding chair. I asked what he did to be still and quiet and centered.

He sang Mariah Carey songs in Polish under his breath.

There are all different ways to meditate.

Anonymous said...

AndyC--thank you for that image of meditation--a metal folding chair at 4am...wonderful. Dawn, I'm relishing your post. If I was to write my own about this topic, I'd talk about my challenge of nurturing trust and wonder within my natural reticence. Granted, the more I risk, the more alive I become--the struggle gives my life meaning. But aren't you talking about a relationship here? Maybe about giving yourself the freedom to make a fool of yourself in that joyful way that comes from stretching beyond one's limits for connection to another--for you,god? One of you best posts, imho. Thank you, Deb

Anonymous said...

For me it isn't about trust in God or anything outside myself. It is trust in myself and letting go of control-my need to control my experience. With meditation you don't always get to control what thoughts and feelings surface. Noting them and letting them go takes practice. Judy

Jim And His Karma said...

I just came across this entry in a web search.

"But to let go and submit to god? That seems beyond what I can do."

You're closer to complete surrender than you realize. The answer is, cornily enough, prayer.

Why has prayer has been recommended by so many sages through the centuries across so many traditions, when it appears to work so poorly? We pray and pray, but we don't get the new car or the job promotion or the perfect lover. We don't get world peace. Prayer seems like an obvious crock.

But here's the thing. Prayer is actually startlingly effective for one thing, and one thing only: prayer for the capacity to surrender more completely is always granted. You're facing the sweet spot!

I'm not sure praying to God would be best. Like a lot of people, you seem to have baggage with that term. So maybe forget about Him and pick another. "The Goddess". "Infinite Love". "Awareness". "The Boundless Universe". "The Great Pumpkin". It doesn't matter. Choose one that won't distract your brain. Your soul will understand perfectly well what you're getting at, regardless of the term used.

So...pray for greater capacity for surrender. Make it fervent. Make it juicy. Most people meditate quite dryly, which is a mistake. That's why you can get there during sex but not during meditation: you need to be stirred up. Of course, it needn't center in the groin. One's entire body, one's heart, can be stirred. Allow it. Ask for it via fervent prayer (circular, yes; like many of the best things. Abandon yourself to the paradox).

" I can let go and drop into that marvelous trance easily with the right play partner, and less easily, but still dependably and surely with a partner I know less well."

Everything and everyone at its core is an expression of That. You're currently very occupied with picking and choosing. In fact, you've gone nearly as far as one can with the picking/choosing mind. A glance at your self-profile makes that abundantly clear. But you are not your preferences. That's just a function of nattering mind. Pray to discover that you prefer loving surrender to neurotic nattering distinctions. That's another prayer that will be granted.