I tend to imagine meditation, as done by “good” meditators, as something they do actively, even aggressively at times. They have a keen memory and clarity of their deepest desire. They have a strategy on how to work on their main problem. Daily they deliberately carve out time to meditate, and warrior-like they stick to their commitment despite their changing moods and external circumstances.
But in meditating, a fearless, disciplined warrior is the least I feel about myself. And my imagination or presumption about what a good meditation is, is often used as an excuse I use to beat myself up and not meditate. The most effective motivations that bypass all excuses and get me to meditate are fear of impending death and frustration, and my topic here is the latter. I am talking about those moments when it becomes clear to us that there has been a single motivation for nearly all of our activities, physical and mental, mundane and spiritual–––and that is to quell restlessness. Suddenly we become aware that our heart has always been drenched in a vague but persistent complaint, dissatisfaction, longing, desire, lack. Alongside this, however, is the realization that all our activities and pursuits have been missing the mark. Whatever is missing has become so abstract that the intellect is grappling in the dark, struggling to come up with words to describe what is wrong, or to pose a question that feels to the point, personal, and honest. Whatever words we hear are not our words, except for “I have no idea.” But my feeling is, this is precisely when there can be intensity in meditation, though we cannot honestly say we have a hand in making the meditation happen. Compelled by speechlessness born of frustration, meditation seems to spontaneously turn on. This is meditation as a response from the honestly ignorant: we cannot define the core of our problem, so we feel we do not know how to properly respond.
At last in touch with that parasite,
That merciless leech on my heart:
Angst and disquiet,
That never relent and doggone frustrate!
Finally I see why,
Why the mind ever rotates, the feet always fleet
To what will divert next, but meet always defeat.
Why I am never home.
After all distractions lose their charm,
and meds can no longer numb,
After I exhaust myself running round,
And having racked my brain it pounds,
No Satisfaction is found.
Is there a stone unturned,
something yet to try?
What else to do now that it’s the end of day?
Where did all noontide frenzy flee?
Where else have I not peeked?
Drained, I sit and rock my chair.
Listless body, befogged mind,
What is left now but to stare
At where else now but that Great Ache,
Here where I am?
Strive for words to vent but can’t,
Only an elliptical “What?”
of a frustrated sigh.
It’s dark now, and though still I want to flail,
Body, mind, I know to no avail,
For all my limbs have failed,
And the mind feels like a jail.
At a loss,
Stranded on a last resort,
I stare and meditate.
And maybe, just maybe, there at the peak of ignorance and powerlessness, automatic meditation is the most direct response to answering the question of what it is we really want, to look for and at what is missing. And maybe, we have then meditated successfully.
Coda: My friend Charlotte K said that desperation is a gift. Have you considered that? Any comments?