Monday, April 30, 2007

Dying to see what's next...

I’ve started to look forward to meditation in ways that are confusing.

For some time, I’ve been relatively equanimous about life and death. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not self-destructive by any means, and I don’t mean to suggest otherwise. But in recent years, when contemplating death, I’ve not been particularly alarmed by it.

But that hasn’t been my situation forever. Most of my life, I feared death and tried not only to avoid it, but to avoid even thinking about it. When my younger sister died a number of years ago, avoidance became impossible, and I began a multi-year relationship with death – both her actual death, as well as my own views of my inevitable end at some point.

While I was in the throes of that process, I remember talking with a yoga teacher one day after practice, and in our discussion she remarked that she was pretty comfortable with the idea of dying at any time. Her remark was one of those crystallizing moments in my life. Not only had I never felt that way, I’d never even imagined that anyone would feel that way without the “it’s-worse-to-continue” situations of those in horrible cancer treatments or suicidal moments. The teacher, though, remarked it without any tone of pride or ego or concern. And it stuck with me.

So, like with most disturbing things in life, I found ways to practice it on the mat. The easiest: Savasana/Corpse Pose. As I breathed in, I allowed myself to experience the breath as the last one I’d take. And as I breathed out, I released it as the last breath I’d ever release. Sometimes, I alternated that practice with experiencing in-breaths as the first breath of a new-born life. With that practice, not only did I find that I paid a lot more attention to the breath than I had before, but I found that distress associated with releasing my last breath dissipated, as well. It is, after all, just a breath of air. A practice in letting go. Over time, that little breath practice changed a lot. I learned to relax my grip on things a little. I found myself more comfortable with the idea, off the mat, that the breath I’m currently drawing or releasing could be my last one.

In short, I suppose I found the balance of equanimity. In this particular dimension (heaven knows not all others) I became poised – not leaning backward toward the past, nor forward toward the future…

…which is why this morning’s realization caught my attention. I seem to be lean forward again. Or, perhaps, I’ve always been leaning forward, but I’d managed to delude myself that I was equanimous. The Yoga-Sutra teaches that “misapprehension is that comprehension which is taken to be correct until more favorable conditions reveal the actual nature of the object.” (1.8) Not sure whether I’ve simply regressed, or whether I’m just seeing a little more clearly what I’ve been doing all along. Either way, it feels a bit like standing before an open door. Just seeing the doorway open seems to create (or maybe just reveal) a kind gravity in my desire.

So this morning, thinking about my meditation, I realized that I’ve become attached to where I think/hope/wonder the process will lead. Partly, that attachment has been fed by my second read-through of Cope’s book, The Wisdom of Yoga, where he describes in both vignettes and analytic narrative the process of deepening meditation outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga-Sutra. As I’ve re-read the book, I’ve focused more on the events of my own practice that he accurately describes, as well as the events and developments that I’ve not experienced.


See? It’s that desire for more that so easily morphs into attachment.

Seeing it there uncloaked may be all I can manage. Perhaps it’s one of those things, like vampires and political corruption, that tends to weaken when seen in the light of day.

Not sure.

But worth watching.