Sunday, December 23, 2007

Solstice and darkness and shadows

Meditation sometimes leads to the quiet still point of mind watching consciousness watching mind watching the waves and troughs of mind itself -- Patanajali calls this dhyana.

But not usually, and not recently. Recently, it’s been a cycling sequence of distraction and a strongly a coerced concentration I can muster. When the mind quiets, I release the straitjacket and off the mind goes, less like a puppy than a rhinoceros. And when it tires of rhino behavior, a persistent cramp in my right rhomboid creates enough affliction that I find myself corkscrewing my spine to stretch the cramp before I even perceive the intention to move. Once the Kripalu-experience-borne depth and peace subsided after my return, this has been my meditation practice.

The cramp, itself, has become something of a story, but one that is terribly bland and normal. The relevant point for this post – the acupuncturist I’ve had working on it has diagnosed me with a yin energy deficiency – yin being the female, dark, stable, solid counterpart to yang, which is the male, white, willful, airy energy. Without enough yin, he tells me, your muscles lack the energy to relax and release. Hence the relatively constant cramp.

Final piece to today’s experience – I’ve been conducting the choir and assembling the Christmas program for my congregation’s Christmas service, which we presented earlier today. What is conducting a choir? It is an exercise in maintaining energy, inspiring work, maintaining attention to black dots and lines on pages of music, being in front, in charge and on display.

Knowing that the program is set for the 9:00 a.m. service, I get up early this morning, just before 5:00 a.m., so I can meditate in peace. It’s pitch dark, and I re-remember that it’s still the longest night, not yet morning.

I’m tired enough of straitjacket dharana meditation work. And it occurs to me that perhaps its time to resume a loving-kindness meditation. I begin, as I learned, first for myself. Then I’ll get to a loved one, then a neutral one, then an adversary.

That’s the sequence. I’ve done this before. Sometimes just a repetition or two at each stage, sometimes a week’s worth of repetitions.

I practice the meditation for myself. Then I choose a loved one – a happy child of some friends who likes to be tossed up into the air. Then I choose a neutral one. Then I pause for a moment to allow my mind to draw up an adversary. My mind discards the usual suspects. They don’t seem right, less substantial this morning. Then my mind shifts a bit, consciousness shines in through a crack and I see the adversary.

I have an adversary. But it isn’t another person. It is me. Jung called it the shadow. The straitjacketing-front-and-center-choir-director part of my mind scoffs: You can’t do a lovingkindness meditation for yourself.

But, of course, I can – the meditation starts exactly that way.

I allow consciousness of shadow within me – of darkness, of inertia, of stability, of grounding, of emptiness, of yin. And I extend loving-kindness to it.

On this, the darkest night of all the year.

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Jean Vanier, founder of l’Arche, has said that we will continue to despise other people until we come to see within ourselves the despicable.