A Week’s Sitting Journal

This is a week’s journal from late 2014, when I was journalling relatively extensively. My practice at the time was basically to sit and do nothing, Zen-style. I hope it gives an idea of what meditation is actually like. I have deliberately not cherry-picked the most interesting days, but just chose the first week I saw. Note my complete inability to sit daily and also how boring reading other people’s experiences is.

 It’s been a grim day, emotionally messy, tight. I plonk myself down and don’t do anything special. The attention fastens on the breath which is soothing, then to tight sensations in the chest, then a bit of internal moaning begins, fantasy-spinning. Awareness seems to open up as the witness state pops up strongly, effort seemingly objectified. Just as I start enjoying that sense of release, I start dozing off as is par for the 15 minute mark. Noises from outside break in and make me twitch, reminding me of outside concerns. I almost fall off the cushion a couple of times. The desire to get up and see whether the alarm has failed to go off passes on through. The mind is busy dribbling on constructing weird dozy phrases (why is the syntax always correct even when it’s gibberish?) when the alarm goes off and I don’t want to get up, it’s relaxing here…

Wednesday: My teacher instructs me to sit in the knowledge that I am as enlightened as I need to be for this moment, and to sit every day. I become aware that I’m waiting for the sweet spot when the surrender kicks in and it becomes pleasant. I let go of even trying to administer the process and there’s bittersweet relief; it gets warm and fuzzy, with little jabs from the body and mind that protest that this isn’t good meditation, what about getting concentrated and being present? I can’t resist at least straightening the posture. I’m tired after a busy day and I start to drop off, almost literally at one point, and every time I wake there’s a little unspoken complaint that being asleep isn’t practice. A few kriyas pop up out of nowhere, head nodding, wincing, with little in the way of narrative. I want to get finished with this thirty minutes already, and when the bell goes I leap off the cushion to write this. It’s pretty amusing.

Saturday: A day off work and I make myself sit after the most minimal few hours of procrastination. I dedicate the sit to the benefit of all beings, and make sure I’m included in that set. There’s instant focus and mental distance from the sense doors. A charged, embarrassing memory pops out of nowhere and the cascade of reactions is seen minutely, as the mind makes an attempt to leap off this touchy subject but stays with it in this observer state. Instead, the body cringes in a set of twitchy kriyas [involuntary body movements]. It seems to tap into some deeper well of disgust and evasion, and I huff and gurn for several minutes as it works its way out. Eventually it all dies down and I start to doze off. The urge to take control of the situation and apply some sustained attention, vipassana style, comes up every time I come back to myself. I remember that not every second of a sit is going to be revelation and that hindrances aren’t really hindrances. The bell goes off and the urge to curl up and go to sleep right where I am fights with the knowledge that the washing up ain’t gonna do itself…

Sunday: I am immediately bored upon sitting, which is unusual and fascinating… it’s restlessness. The body tenses up, preparing for a fight for surrender, but there’s nothing to fight for. A calm and open attention arises that seems to have nothing to do with the tightness pulsing in the midline. An internal narrator kicks in and there is an echo of its words in my mind as I try to co-op them as ‘mine’. I absorb into thought but am still aware, I absorb into the body but am still aware, and none of this is my choice. I feel like an observer caught in a crossfire as even within this objectified state, there is a fight to get somewhere, a desire for something special to happen, for reality to break open. It suddenly seems right to take the Five [Buddhist] Precepts again, gently but seriously, after over a year of not committing to them formally. When the bell goes, I take them again, mulling over the implications, the grey areas I slip up on, how I respect myself and others when I keep them. I thank God for all of these gifts.