I set my timer, sit my ass down, and go. Or really, I don’t go – I stop. What I am actually doing when i sit my ass down, is much less important than what I am not doingâ€”which would otherwise be, letting my thoughts and emotions chase each other around my brain like a room full of enraged cats. Which would otherwise be: making a superhuman effort to ignore the pains in my body, the twist in my belly, the heaviness in my heart. Which would otherwise be: frantically trying to solve problems. Which would otherwise be: distracting myself with work and entertainment. Which would otherwise be: trying to sort out a closet full of densely packed junk, without taking any of the junk out of the closet.
What I do, when I meditate, is I try to wedge open the closet door and make just a tiny bit of space in my madly cluttered mind. Hoping to find even one millimetre, one moment, of wiggle-room. When that moment comes, at the far end of a tortuous stream of memory or fantasy or analysis, it arrives as a tiny flash of light. Not a firework; barely a matchstick. Just a wee puff of fresh air, loosening the solid mass of my busy mind. And then, when the match strikes, I go back to my breath and start againâ€”sometimes even with a little smile, that I imagine to be buddha-like. But I’ll tell you this: it is a smile of pure relief, like the contented smile of a baby passing gas. Bliss, it ain’t.
Personally I think bliss is way over-rated. Bliss can be got from an orgasm, or a chocolate bar, or some good party drugs. Bliss is fun, it carries me away. But meditation brings me home.
I can’t say as I’ve ever felt blissful during meditation. At best I’d say it sometimes feels good, but even that is rare. Shining a light into my messy closet can be purely horrific. Noticing the pain in my belly doesn’t feel good at allâ€”in fact, it makes me feel nauseous. Noticing how constricted my breathing is can be suffocationg. Staying with those feelings is scary, and it takes a sheer effort of will. It has been a while since I last failed utterly, and jumped off the cushion, but it happens. But I know that if I stick with it, the pain will abate. My breath will deepen. My body will relax. And the knot in my body/mind will loosen up.
I try not to count on it, but sometimes, when the timer rings to release me from meditation hell, a creative idea or solution will spontaneously arise. Sometimes the spark will arise while I am still sitting, and like a good meditator, I do my best to put it aside (but secretly shelve it for future reference). In any case I know that whatever it is I am doing in this ridiculous activity, is as good as any other way I could be wasting my precious time. And when that bell finally rings, and I think oh thank god! and slide off the cushion, I am more capable of facing my day with courage, or of slipping into my dreams without fear.