Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Watching Me Watch Myself: A Meditation on Meditation

A quiet mind has never been my hallmark. It reels with proclamations, self-judgements, to-do list items, conversation reviews, philosophical meanderings about time, diatribes on appliance repair, scraps of poetry and song, floating dream images, and survival thoughts — like what might be for dinner. I should go to the grocery store.

When my sister suggested a “Movement Meditation” class at the Satoyama Design Factory during our visit in Kamogawa, I said “Yes! I can do that if there’s movement!” She said she thought it might be about a half hour of dance followed by a half hour of quiet. I wasn’t sure about the quiet, but thought I’d try.

I’ve never done any kind of long meditation before, but I once attended a yoga class that had a guided visualization the end. “Imagine a boat at the shoreline,” the soft-voiced instructor intoned. Lavender misted out of a diffuser in the corner of the room. The set-up was lovely. Instead of relaxing into the image, I argued with myself over which color the boat should be. Blue? No, too on the nose. Red? Too alarming, this is supposed to de-stress. Wait, what is that over there by the cattails? A dead fish? I never got out on the boat. I ended up poking at all the fish that were belly up in my mind.

The idea of combining movement and meditation, where flinching might be allowed, perhaps even flailing, appealed to me.

Our instructor explained in Japanese that there were five stages to this type of meditation, all of which were to be performed with our eyes closed. Kristen translated for those of us who didn’t understand. This class was actually Dynamic Meditation, a registered trademark meditation in a series of offerings from Osho, who was an Indian godman and founder of the Rajneesh movement. During his lifetime he was viewed as a controversial new religious movement leader and mystic. There was a little color photo of him in a frame on the shelf facing the open space where we’d practice.

The first stage of the meditation consisted of ten minutes of breathing through the nose while keeping your knees slightly bent and movement natural. I made short, staccato like breaths, with a focus on the exhalation. Osho’s website describes it as “chaotic.” We were instructed to blow our noses beforehand, but my experience with this stage got messy anyway. I had to wipe my nose on my sleeve a couple of times.

Stage two was “blasting off like a rocket” or “exploding like a volcano.” Ten minutes of vocalizing from the depths, holding nothing back. Wail, scream, cry, sing ... anything goes. Your mind isn’t supposed to get in the way, but I found myself on the floor at one point, recalling a movement theatre class where we were all monsters.

Stage three was jumping with arms up in the air for ten minutes with a mantra of ”hoo” on each landing. You are supposed to let your flat-footed landing “Hammer deep into your sex center.” I think that was lost in translation for me, or I was zoned out when it was mentioned. I just got exhausted here. You’re supposed to “be total.” I felt about half, maybe two thirds, worrying about the blood flow to my arms, and wondering if my ankles would swell up from all the jumping.

Stage four was standing still for 15 minutes in whatever posture you found yourself in when the bell rang at the end of stage three. My arms were up in the air. You are not supposed to move. No coughing, fidgeting, anything. My arms began to sag at about the five minute mark, and were left halfway up my torso, palms facing out, like I was being held up in a robbery. However, this is the stage where I saw color, and felt a really strong energy flow, and my brain finally shut off for a moment. I cried. Then my brain was back on.

The fifth stage was 15 minutes of dance. A celebration. An ecstatic end to exit with.

It turned out flailing was encouraged in this meditation. The stage where I saw color left an impression on me, although I’m not sure what to do with it. Let it flow through me. Observe.

Osho said of this meditation, “… bring your total energy to it, but still remain a witness. Observe what is happening as if you are just a spectator, as if the whole thing is happening to somebody else, as if the whole thing is happening in the body and the consciousness is just centered and looking. This witnessing has to be carried in all the three steps. And when everything stops, and in the fourth step you have become completely inactive, frozen, then this alertness will come to its peak.”

Tod and Dan arrived at the door at the end of our meditation, dressed and ready to go to the onsen. I was glad the next thing on our agenda was a trip to the public bath, where the water would be steamy and melt my muscles. I was ready to relax after all that meditation. Maybe I’d even imagine an invisible boat on some unnamed shoreline.

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