March 25, 2011 § 6 Comments

I am sitting in meditation (sitting practice. I hesitate to call what I do “meditation”), it is a new technique to me and I am having a hard time.

I am to visualize a bright white light at the center of my chest, feeling love, compassion… I am not visual in my thoughts – they come as words. So I am trying and have been for a few days now, but no visual comes, no white light condensing in my ribcage, radiating warmth. So I’m just holding my attention in that space, directing my breath there. Breathing the word ‘LOVE’, trying to capture the feeling, and not doing very well with this either. Why am I not able to conjure this feeling here? I am fortunate to have so much love in my life. I continue to sit and observe as I try to do what I think I’m supposed to do.

And then, there’s this hollow, dark space, that is my chest cavity… I am floating in it. It is warm in here, but it is very very dark. This is at least an improvement, I am visualizing SOMETHING… So I look around for the white light. Why is it so dark? And then I see there IS a ball here, hovering in the center, not of light though… It is dark in color, very rough around the edges… It looks like it’s made of wood, or rather branches.  It seems pointy even – My breathe sharpens – Are those thorns?! And my eyes well up. Is this what I think of my heart? No! Surely no.

My teacher has told me to try to sit with it when an uncomfortable visual arises – it has happened very rarely for me and to date they never repeat. My word-thoughts make me uncomfortable regularly but maybe I am getting a tiny bit better at watching them without buying in. Somehow it feels easier to release the words in my head than a disturbing visual… On the occasion that there is a happy-making picture, I’m glad to play along for a bit, let it go, and feel the residual warmth that came along with it. A provoking visual on the other hand gets shut down almost before I realize I am doing it – I completely miss that split second space between the stimulus and response where I can intervene. There is a lesson here for me in how I deal with uncomfortable emotions in my life, of course there is.

So I breathe with the feeling: fear and despair (I am shocked by this image). I know that they will pass if I give it a little time. I breathe more deeply, mentally rub my eyes and tentatively peer a little more closely at this ball… and see that it is not so sharp as I thought. In fact, there aren’t any thorns at all. It begins to come clear and I see that it is a ball woven of twigs. Hmmm. I sit here, in this warm dark space, with this ball for several minutes, waiting. And nothing happens. The emotions faded with the thorns, and I am level-headed, calm. At least my heart is not barbed, I suppose…

But now here come the questions – I want to understand – what does it MEAN? My cynic says it doesn’t mean anything, my brain just came up with this based on some stored memory or information, but being human I am looking for the meaning anyway. Is it a barrier of sorts – a protection maybe? But not a shell and not a fortress. Why sticks? I don’t feel like I am holding back on love in my life… I even feel that I have made strides in the uncomfortable area of allowing love for myself. I can’t even analyze this one, it is so foreign. I will get stuck in the wondering. So I let it go instead. And breathe. And my timer goes off.

And I wonder what really goes on in my brain while I’m distracted with other things.


I have a bit more than my normal hesitation in posting this, because I am a beginner and I think what happens in meditation is individual and personal (what happens in sitting practice stays in sitting practice?) I don’t want to induce the human tendency to make comparisons & judgments… But I also think that maybe talking about the practice, what we do, how it works-or doesn’t, and experiences that we have might take some of the mystery out of it (I’d love to hear… please share if you are so inclined). Or Not. Because who wants to wonder about a bundle of sticks in their chest? (me, apparently!)

§ 6 Responses to Sticks?

  • Elizabeth says:

    I don’t often see things in meditation (usually, it feels more like thinking than meditating) but the other day, I saw an image of my heart. It looked like it was covered with concrete (or plaster) and was all dusty and grey. I immediately got caught up in .. “Oh no. Does this mean my heart is that closed off? Am I going to have to break through concrete to open it? Argh! What does this mean?!” That’s still where I was when I finished. (And clearly I still want to know what it means. 🙂

    • Mel says:

      So interesting Elizabeth, thank you for sharing your experience. It’s fascinating to me that we each had kind of alarming heart images. I wonder-wonder. Maybe it is because of working on heart opening things? Maybe they are raw materials… Plaster, wood. Maybe I’m not supposed to wonder/speculate so much!?

  • Heather says:

    Isn’t it a nest?

  • julochka says:

    i think the fact that you’re seeing anything at all is marvelous. i try to sit and meditate and find it infuriatingly impossible. yet, like you, i’d love to know what’s going on in my brain while i’m distracted with other things. i suspect it’s manically counting…*sigh*

    • Mel says:

      I often find it infuriatingly impossible too! I’m working on the letting it be what it’s going to be and today focus seemed so far out of reach. It’s all very confusing to me at this point, I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing (or just “a thing” hey?) it’s just so interestingly different from how my thoughts normally operate. I’m trying to remember what you were saying before about the manic-counting? Was it a technique you were trying or a thought habit?

      Do you follow @spiver (Susan Piver)? I have not read any of her books, but was just recently pointed to her, and I’m really loving her words about meditation not being about stopping the thoughts, or about being good at it/self improvement etc.

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