“–the water’s free, the well is deep–“

Going to a weekly meditation group has been a useful perspective-adjuster for me. When you’re brought up in a religious tradition where you attend a service weekly Just Because, it’s easy to lose sight of why it’s important. Especially if no one ever told you in the first place. It’s important because left to our own devices we’re not so good at keeping things in perspective. We have to re-align with the axis mundi, recenter ourselves within eternal time, periodically in order to remember ourselves. And somehow that can be a lot easier when we’re not alone.

Meditating to a Ram Dass kurta last night, I realized that that’s all I ever really wanted to do. To make sacred music that projects love and warmth and draws the hearer into a profound experience of communion with the divine and with everyone around. And otherwise to create powerful experiences that draw people together, bring light to their eyes, light a fire in their hearts, and give them a vision of the divine potential within themselves and their neighbor. To be a living inspiration. When I come back to myself I know that this, more than anything else, is the secret desire of my heart. And then I forget, once again…

How could I have spent six years barely picking up my guitar? How could I have grown so distant from myself?

Meditation also gives me the cuddles something fierce. When I meditate deeply I usually find myself just radiating love and affection. Once I get into that eternal headspace, and out of mundane habit of thinking of love in terms of scarcity economics, I want to just reach out and embrace the people around me, share some of the love that’s welling up within. I’m very thankful that the group I’ve been meditating with has gotten into the habit of hugging when we meet, and there are some very fine huggers among them. I’m thinking of introducing Thich Nhat Hanh’s “hugging meditation” to them; I think it would go over well.

I still miss cuddle piles. Another part of myself that I thought I was growing into at one time, and instead stepped away from. I know some of the causes of all this self-distancing, and I’m working on reversing it. It’s a long road. One thing I am more and more certain of every day, though: life is too short to let anything stand in the way of becoming who you truly are.

Even if you do intend to live to 1000.

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  1. “Thich Nhat Hanh’s “hugging meditation” to them”

    I would be interested in more information on that 🙂

    1. He tells a fun story about it. When he first came to the States, back in the 60s, to speak against the Vietnam war, a woman he was staying with wanted to hug him, and he declined. In the culture he came from in Vietnam, hugging just wasn’t practiced among adults the way it is here, and the idea made him uncomfortable. But after that experience he realized that he had hurt her feelings, and that now that he was in a different culture he needed to learn new ways, and so he determined to learn to hug. He says it took him a few tries to get the hang of it 😉 But eventually he not only became comfortable with it, but decided that it was such a wonderful practice that he made a meditation of it.

      Thich Nhat Hanh is all about mindfulness, so his “hugging meditation” is really just mindful hugging. You hug someone close, and you focus your attention. The simplest practice is just a single breath in and out:

      Breathing in, say to yourself “S/he is alive in my arms”
      Breathing out… “I am so happy”

      And that’s all there is to it. The longer version is interesting, though. It goes:

      First breath: “S/he is alive in my arms, and I am so happy”
      Second breath: “I see him/her already dead in my arms, and I am still alive”
      Third breath: ” I see myself already dead in his/her arms, and s/he is still alive”
      Fourth breath: “S/he is alive in my arms, and I am so happy”

      This seems a little morbid at first. But it can be a powerful practice. Notice that the first and fourth lines are the same. But by the time you get to the fourth line, it has far deeper meaning than the first time, because of the intervening thoughts.

      I like Thich Nhat Hanh’s take on hugging, partly because it parallels how I’ve always felt about it. The most important ingredient of a good hug is attitude: for that brief period, the person in your arms should become the most important thing in the universe.

      1. that is cool…

        I like that meditation.. 🙂

  2. Coolness…

    Although I cannot say I feel the same way.. I am happy for you that this helps you reconnect to yourself and helps to strengthen and rebuild your connections to the world around you..

    I must also say.. that because the feeling you express here is so totally alien to me on so many levels–I find it fascinating.. I don’t know what it is inside me.. but I’ve never felt any desire to, as you put it, commune with the divine and with everyone around..

    I do understand what you mean.. and even though I never felt the need to–I have been in situaitons where I have tried to do such a thing–retreats/meditations/what not.. –but it never really felt like me when such things were going on.. in fact.. most often afterwards–I got a somewhat “hollow” taste in my mouth in the sense that my reflections about such experiences told me that my attempts to do such things only made me move farther away from whom I really was…

    In any case.. that is why I find your writings on such things to be so fascinating–because on some fundamental level of our core beings–you and I are so different.. and yet in so many other ways we show remarkable similarities.. and parsing and reflecting upon this state of affairs provides me with much to think about…

    Basically it helps me to add in the needed complexities of the web of reality that I consciously (and subconsciously) build within my mind..

    Thanks for sharing…

    1. Re: Coolness…

      I wonder if it is as completely alien as you say, or if it’s an experience you have in different contexts and use different terms for than I do.

      I’m still a little uncomfortable bandying about terms like “divine”. Strictly speaking, I don’t think that I Talk To God, as in communication with some higher being, or even with some universal energy field. But I’ve come to understand that certain feelings are generally described as the experience of the divine, so those are the words I use.

      Have you never experienced a tremendous outpouring of love for someone, or a sense of an upwelling of love, strength, peace, or inspiration from somewhere within?

      1. it wasn’t the word….

        that made it seem alien to me… I know I’m an atheist–but I understand the perception of “the divine” as what you describe as “a tremendous outpouring of love for someone, or a sense of an upwelling of love, strength, peace, or inspiration from somewhere within?” without getting all picky about the use of the term divine…

        In any case.. to answer your question..

        no. I have never really felt those feelings. There have been times when I was in the kinds of situations that you described where some part of me knew that these kinds of feelings were what I was supposed to encounter–and sometimes I pushed myself to feel them..

        But they were never really there…

        In any case.. besides these situations.. I can say that I’ve never actually felt the “outpouring/upwelling of love” in any other context either… That “wave” of emotional power/divine love/whateveryouwanttocallit has never struck me ever in my life…

        That’s why when people tell me about such experiences.. I cannot, on some fundamental level, relate… I don’t get offended–but find it fascinating that other people do feel this way….

        Two points that I should remark upon here..

        1. Whenever I do feel love–it is a very specific and focussed experience–when I love a person–it is concrete-direct-and I know all the reasons why I love that person… In a sense.. this may seem like a too “rational” perception of love–and perhaps it is.. but it is just what I feel…

        2. The only kind of feeling that does hit me like the kind of “wave” that you describe is sorrow. Like what you have described with certain songs.. and whenever I encounter death and suffering in a way that is personal to me.. I can be washed away with sorrow–an experience that is extremely rare for me and most disconcerting when 99.9% of the time you are so inherently rooted in your world and then having the feeling of been washed away as if the ocean moved up and erased the land you’ve been walking on all this time…

        Knowing this feeling, however, I can intellectually construct that the “divine” feeling that you talk about–must be of a similar kind … just with a different emotional flavor…

        While I can imagine this… I have never felt it..

        Personally.. this is why I think I’ve never inherently ever been able to believe that there are anything like “gods” … I just don’t seem to be able to perceive/experience what other people do…

        anyway.. just some food for your thoughts… 🙂

        1. Re: it wasn’t the word….

          Fair enough. Thanks for the perspective!

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