the Guide: "Energy to sit, relief to not"
(In Our Practice, Fall 1999)
By Cheri Huber
Question: When I meditate at home, I often notice a part of me who can't wait to get off the cushion. I also notice the reactions that arise in response: sit a little longer, identify with the one who wants to get up, hate it, love it, accept it, wonder what to do about it, how to fix it, etc. I would say there is almost always relief when the bell rings. Conversely, there is almost always relief when I first take my place on the cushion.... something I just noticed. It doesn't take long before the conditioned voices begin to try to distract, as in the following example.
I notice that when I find myself lost in thought and bring myself back to counting,
it feels like such a small, unforced energy compared to the place I have just
been. (Is that true or is that someone's idea?) I'm out there in fantasy land
and I wake up, bring my awareness back to the breath and start counting again,
and the voice that counts "One" feels really small compared to the energy of
the voices and thoughts in fantasy land. When I return to the breath and counting,
it feels to someone like an uphill battle.
Answer: Have you ever gone to the beach or to the woods for a picnic, and about the time you get your feast spread out, a group of teenagers parks right next to you, portable music blasting, everyone shouting to be heard over the din? You went there to enjoy yourself, and part of the reason you chose that particular location is the quiet. You wanted to eat to the music of the birds singing and the rustle of the trees in the breeze.
Having discussed this with a number of teenagers, I think I can project with some accuracy that your idea of a good time-a quiet meal in a peaceful setting-for them ranks right up there with flossing and recycling on the excitement scale. All that silence is boring. There is nothing going on!
Is that true that silence is boring? Depends on who you ask. For the person
who is used to yelling over loud music (try it sometime and you will get a
feel for how active it is), the absence of that energy, that effort, and that "presence" feels like a quick trip into a sensory deprivation tank. For a lot of people, a lack of distraction means, "There
is nothing here but me, and that is an experience I emphatically do not want."
For the person who hears the sounds of nature, who enjoys the sounds of silence, "artificial" sound
sounds a lot like noise. For that person, it's too much. It jangles the nervous
system and produces sensations in the body that are not welcome. This person
not only does not enjoy the music, the experience is one of torture, of victimization.
I feel quite confident that you can draw the proper conclusions from this little story!
There is one additional point I always wish to make: None of this is something that anything needs to be done about. Just notice. If I were on your cushion, I would be pretty fascinated by that feeling of relief. What is that? Where is it in your body? What does it mean to you? What happens inside when you feel relief? Again, not analyzing, just noticing.