It is hard to believe my meditation practice is only 10 days old. Already I can’t do without it. It is a necessary part of my day.
It is not easier and easier to do, however. In fact, it continues to be difficult to empty my mind of everything for more than a few seconds at a time. But the difficulty is also a delight, as Cynthia Bourgeault, author of Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, suggests, because each act of letting go brings a tiny tingling of the tummy, the opening-out of the solar plexus that signals rightness, ease, harmony. This is a way of knowing that the active mind can block out.
The catch is that if I focus on that reward or any other experience of the meditation—the swirling blues and greens that I eventually see when my eyes are shut and I have sunk to the place of no words; the ease of deep breath; or any other sense of myself—I am already back to nonmeditating mind. In Centering Prayer one must let go of these experiences, too. But the rhythm of experiencing and releasing is a kind of breathing; the knowing and the not-knowing, in and out like waves on the beach.
At the end, indeed, I feel washed, washed up like driftwood with all its rough edges worn away; smooth, easy, able to move through the day with fewer stops and starts and resistances and reactions.
Night is a different story, however. The practice has revved up my dream life, which had been literally dormant for some time. The dreams have not been poetic; they have been scatological. I have dreamed for several nights running about excrement. Maybe that, too, is about cleansing. It may also be, as the Jungians would suggest, about creativity. Shit is the human being’s first and most basic product. Whatever it signifies, I accept the Dreamgiver’s sense of humor.
Here is something I learned after my first few sessions of Centering Prayer: you need a timer. No sense guessing when 20 minutes might be up or depending on how you feel to decide when to stop. That invites normal-mind activity, which is what you want to get away from
I debated setting the microwave timer but that didn’t seem very spiritual. I thought, I need something that sounds like chimes or a Tibetan bowl. Surely some spiritual marketer has thought of this?
Well of course they have. I went online and searched “meditation timer.” You can buy timers with chimes, gongs, and singing-bowl tones. You can spend a lot of money on timers shaped like pyramids, circles, spirals, and portable alarm clocks. Practical mystic that I am, I was taken with one of the cheaper ones—at $59!—that doubles as a travel clock and alarm. I’d like it in Sage Green, please.
But here is another option. You can go to a couple of sites and download timed silence. This one gives you a choice of audio files that consist of various lengths of silence. A bell is rung once at the start and three times at the end.
It’s free, as silence should be. Download some now for yourself.