And now, the fun begins. I am home sick from work and around noon, decide to take a break from email and give it a go with the meditation. Please note that despite my immense enjoyment of the book so far, I am still 100% convinced that I am way too practical, rational and high-strung to be able to talk myself into believing any of this malarkey. And from what I can tell, I'm pretty sure you have to believe the malarkey to be able to achieve anything, from a meditation standpoint. So this is all more or less a ridiculous and completely pointless waste of time.
And yet, here I am.
I flip back to a few chapters to page 45, aptly titled 'How to Start.' Erich (we're on a first name basis now) is pretty cool about cutting right to the chase, which I appreciate. He outlines two different techniques for developing stillness, both built around breathing exercises (typical yoga). In the first, you count backwards from fifty on your inhales and exhales, while sitting still, stiller than still. Not holding still, just relaxing and dropping into the floor and being still. In the second technique, you take three deep breaths, hold them each for a moment, and exhale them out slowly, thinly, over the course of a few seconds. After the three breaths, just sit and breathe - with an IN-OUT mantra, if you need it - and regard what it feels like to breathe, what happens to your body and mind as you inhale and exhale. In either scenario, I'm to try to notice my thoughts as they come floating up. Once I've noticed them, I am to dismiss them and return to the mantra and the regarding of the breath and the effect that the breath is having on the body. And the mind. AND THE VIBRATIONS IT CAUSES (come on now). While sitting straight and relaxing and being still. For six to seven minutes, or longer.
So, I grab a blanket and close myself into the study, where I perch on the floor, cross-legged on my folded blanket. I spend a few minutes getting situated, straightening my spine, sending my head to the ceiling and my sitz bones comfortably into the blanket. I rest my wrists on my knees, palms facing down (no reason, just felt comfortable). I make a note of the time (11:57 AM - and yes, I do intend to judge my meditation on whether I can last the seven minutes prescribed), remove my glasses and let my eyelids float shut.
As I begin to count, I work on stillness, actively relaxing into my bones in an attempt to recreate that sinking, heavy, falling feeling I can sometimes find in savasana after a particularly taxing practice. It pretty much works, if slightly less comfortable from a seated position. After a bit, I can feel that my back has started to slacken in an attempt to get comfortable. Erich said to sit up straight, so I go to work restacking my spine, but slowly, in line with my exhales. It goes against everything I know to do this instead of snapping into posture, but I am trying really hard not to lose the sinking and the stillness, so slowly it is.
Now I'm sitting straight again, but I am still for only a second or two before the thoughts start to pop up. Once I realize that I'm lost in conversation with myself, I clear my mind and go back to focusing on the breath. My eyelids are awash in color, reds when my mind is flitting about but, for those brief seconds that I can focus on breath, a nice, cool green-blue. Blue is good. I work on keeping the blue in sight for as long as possible. Sometimes for two, three breaths at a time.
More of the thinking, noticing, clearing as I run out of numbers and sit in stillness. A good portion of the time, I'm thinking about how surely it's only been a minute or so, because I am definitely way too anxious to be able to sit still for any noticeable portion of time and I probably was counting too fast. I can't be counting fast if I expect this to go on for seven minutes! I sense this judgement and notice it, clear it away, back to the breath.
I am so relaxed. I am so heavy. My mouth is open a little bit. I don't close it, can't close it. Too still. I wonder how long I've been sitting slack-jawed. Surely not more than two minutes, because surely I could never sit still for more than a minute or two. Because surely I - no. Notice. Clear. Breathe.
I begin to develop an itch on my left hand. As soon as I start to think about the itch, a million other itches pop up, the same way they do when I'm sitting at the dryers in the nail salon, freshly manicured and no way to scratch. Well hell if I am going to scratch now - I am MEDITATING, damn it. So I work on noticing the itch and sending my breath towards it (something I read about in Eat Pray Love, so it must be true). I breathe in so deeply, focusing all my energy on my hand. Nothing happens, obviously, so I begin to exhale.
As I exhale, a tangible wave of energy flows from my sternum up into my shoulder, down my arm and out my finger - the one that itches. When it does, the itch subsides, but returns again as the energy flows out of my hand. I breathe in again, sending another, stronger, more noticeable wave of energy down into my hand. I shift my focus to the other hand, my stomach, each of my feet, and send waves their way. It takes a bit more focus to send breath to my feet, but after a few exhales I can feel my feet pulsing, just as my hand did. You might say I could feel it VIBRATING.
Erich, if he had a smug bone in his body, would be dying of smugness right now.
That's pretty much it for technique number one - once I realize what I'm doing, my disbelief sends me back to earth and my eyes flutter open. I paw for my glasses on the rug and check the time.
Eleven minutes!! I was meditating for eleven whole minutes! ME - the non-believer, was caught up in new-aged hoo-ha for eleven whole minutes. I could die of happiness. I shake it out for a moment, walk around a bit, then get myself settled right back in for technique number two, making sure, once again, to note the time (12:10 PM).
This time, I have less to do - the deep breathing. Last time I needed all that counting to get myself centered - how am I going to do it again with nothing? So I start again with the counting backwards, easier this time, and lose track somewhere around twenty three, or maybe seventeen or so. I am lost in nothingness for a few seconds before I remember what I'm up to: three deep inhales, long slow exhales.
Everything is faster. My stillness comes quicker, and I am immediately able to play with those pulses of energy, sending them around my body with the breath. I am regarding and noticing and clearing and breathing. Between frenzied red flashes, I am blue, all blue. I feel different all over. But I begin to tire faster as well, begin to feel pain in my spine from sitting too straight, pain in my ankles from having my legs crossed. The pain sends me out of it this time, and I immediately console myself at having not been able to sit for long. Having tried at all is admirable and I should be happy with that.
I fumble for my glasses and my vision swims into focus. Defeated but curious, I can't help but glance at the clock.
12:23 PM. I blink once, twice.
It's 12:23 PM, I have been meditating for THIRTEEN MINUTES (twenty-four if you add the first round) and already I feel different all over.
I could just burst.