Zen & Dharma

Bliss is over-rated

450_messy1_0805162When I don’t know where to start or what to do, I know exactly where to start and what I need to do.

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 doing—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 again—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 all—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.

2 Comments on “Bliss is over-rated

  1. The photo attached with this blog is so appropriate! Sometimes, zazen does seem like a chore. Some days I skip it. Of course, I always go back because the days that I don’t meditate are not as peaceful. LIttle frustrations crop up that shouldn’t be there. That is, I don’t handle them with wisdom. Some of the introspection is missing. Thank you for the reminder. There are sooo many things that I should do right now on a Sunday afternoon: test the soil in my veggie garden, work on the homemade gifts I’m making for Christmas, get back to the book I’m currently reading. But instead of all that I’m gonna sit zazen. Thank you, Roshin.

  2. O love is the crooked thing,
    There is nobody wise enough
    To find out all that is in it,
    For he would be thinking of love
    Till the stars had run away
    And the shadows eaten the moon.
    Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
    One cannot begin it too soon.

    William Butler Yeats

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