My process for writing is to contemplate during the days some subject as I’m going about my life, and then all at once I know I have inside me something ready fully formed to come out. I publish the first draft right away, then edit it. I compose this way as in my process I need the tension of it being an urgent live performance.
What I have to say now is not fully formed, and I have a kind of headache and body resistance telling me please don’t write yet, but I’m going to power through that. A lot of resistance to writing when it’s not ripe and ready.
In my early twenties I lived for a time in a Buddhist monastery, where we had some periods of about three months meditating at least 8 hours per day. Other periods we only meditated about 4 hours and that was not enough for me, so during the work seasons I moved out into the forests for my own solitary retreats, for periods of 9 and 11 weeks.
(Before going to the monastery I had also done a two week and then a month long group meditation retreat in Vermont, and a solitary retreat in a national park on an island in northern Ontario for about 3 weeks. Age 18.)
For the 9 week solitary retreat in Cape Breton I had as a companion the book Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness by Kyenpo Tsultrim Gyampso. I successfully achieved his first stage of Chitamatra and awareness became decentralized. I was basically enlightened for a while. Years later I actually saw the man in a talk, and tears were streaming out my eyes and he stared down directly at me with a huge loving smile on his face during the whole talk. Usually a teacher focuses on working the crowd, but this was an unusual exception.
For years and years I tried to regain what I had as living experience for a few periods of a few months. I did a 4 month seminary retreat in Colorado, and when back in Canada built and moved into a converted school bus, in which I lived as a yogi hermit. I got it back in very fleeting fits and bursts. I tried so hard – tried and tried. But I never got it back in a stable way.
(I did, however, start living a life with “awakened spinal kundalini”, and started in on regular kundalini sex with my BPD girlfriend who would visit me in my bus.)
But meditation is a type of accelerating of maturity. Age itself, if you are paying attention to your self and life, also matures a person. So even though I rarely do shamata/vippasana meditation regularly anymore, I had a peak experience recently that showed me the nature of my mind in a very personal and different way. Sort of Buddhist, yet also informed by what I’ve learned about psychology and science and just my own subjective being.
It’s reminded me of an old way that I used to hold my mind. But this time it’s more folksy. This is more along the lines what my guru/friend kept trying to teach me – something called one taste.
When you are young, emotions are overwhelming. Thoughts can be overwhelming. You feel as if they are happening to you and impinging upon your well being. You just want peace of mind; you just want them to stop!
But long term advanced meditators keep telling you to stop struggling. Which doesn’t work, because you can’t just daydream on the cushion. So you practice “tight and loose”, or concentration-mindfulness, and relaxing into spacial awareness with no goal. You alternate between the two. Eventually, after a length of time different for everyone, and possibly not even attainable by everyone, you relax and a type of non-dual insight where experience is self aware and not dependent on the bottleneck of an observer happens, and awareness relaxes into more and more perceptions. Things become vivid, and seem to look at you instead of you looking at them. This even happens with your own discursive thoughts; they also are just awareness that is self aware, and it’s an illusion that they run through a bottleneck of the perceiver.
So you get addicted to the meditation cushion, because heavy maintenance is required to keep coming back to this profound and pleasant way of being that seems so much more connected and dis-illusioned.
But then one taste.
After you get habituated to this, thoughts and emotions and even having a deluded ego aren’t so threatening anymore.
“First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.”
First your mind is overpowering and overwhelming, then it starts to co-ordinate with itself and you learn to trust all the various working of it to hang together and make a workable friendly big fun picture. Then you can have emotions and thoughts again without even worrying about if you are “holding the view”, or being enlightened or not. That’s not Buddhist teaching, but it’s true. A lot of long time meditators eventually sort of give up, as they feel better already.
So now I’m coming back to the original non-dual way to hold the mind, but not as a 21 year old in a tent on someones abandoned farm by the ocean. Not as a 22 year old living in a rudimentary hunters shack in a forest a 10 minute hike to the frozen ocean. Just as a guy. There is no urgency to fix anything, or to avoid rebirth.
It’s just my experience now, that I have a relationship to my sort-of-unconscious. I let him talk to me, in his many different ways, and we share awareness – sometimes dancing and blending; especially if we are visualizing. And lately more I’m seeing and realizing that even my internal dialogue is also the same nature.
It’s a similar path to what I had to work so hard to find in that grove, staring out into the field, with the living guidance of that book.
I’ll leave this here, and maybe come back to it.
By the way I rarely mention any of my past lives of being a meditator or husband or traveling salesman or multiple business owner or several periods with multiple girlfriends and so forth to girls. Stuff slips out from time to time, but I don’t tell stories about it. I’m more of an in the moment guy. And I doubt most girls would be interested or be able to relate.