Friday, 18 January 2008

Meditation session

Tie and Smith's mum and Tie's dressmaker friend are coming down today to buy fabric for Tie's wedding dress! They should be here in about an hour. I'm pretty much ready, I've got the towels in the wash and they'll be ready to hang out before they get here, so I can write about stuff until then.

I didn't end up sleeping well last night, after all. Probably something to do with the fact that I took a nap in the afternoon, plus reading all those forums. I was going over and over the arguments in my head (yes, xkcd forums are my new addiction). Finally after a while, I decided it was as good a time as any to try and meditate.

I haven't actually managed it in years. Last time I tried, a few days ago, I ended up falling asleep. But since I wasn't tired last night, I made a good effort, and ended up doing okay.

My session is based on a tape that an English tutor gave me, long ago. It involves progressive relaxation, descending into a meditative state, and focussed visualisation. I dunno whether it works in achieving all that it's supposed to, but at least it's good at making my mind calm.

The first part is the progressive relaxation. I've always been pretty good at this bit. A knowledge of anatomy does help a little :P Anyway, the way I do it is to slowly relax each part of the body in sequence, then to become aware of which parts are still tense, and relax them more. And breathe slowly the whole time. After that, if I've done it right and I'm not asleep, I'm usually happy not to move for the next hour. (Sleepiness tends to interfere with this step, because I start moving around involuntarily trying to get into a comfortable sleeping position rather than my meditation position.)

It does take some concentration when your mind's racing, though. For these occasions, I have an unspoken mantra. I don't expect it to do anything except push all my other thoughts out of the way, so I chose something I'm happy with: 'Love Smith' (except I use his real name). First word on the in-breath and second word on the out-breath. If I can focus on that for long enough, my mind gradually becomes emptier.

The next step is supposed to clear your mind even further. It involves slow visualisation of the colours of the rainbow (I don't know, I took it off the tape). It goes something like this: 'Now visualise the colour red. Red the colour of (something, I forget). Now visualise the colour orange. Orange, the colour of (something else).' I lost the tape years ago, so last night I just tried naming the quality of my thoughts as I went through each colour. It ended up like this:

Red, the colour of concentration. (It took me a very long time before I was content with the quality of my red last night, and I took a while over each colour before moving on.)
Orange, the colour of worry. (There were worrying thoughts about.)
Yellow, the colour of analysis. (I was analysing my own thoughts.)
Green, the colour of nature.
Blue, the colour of eternity. (I dunno. Eternity is blue, for me. It just is.)
Indigo, the colour of concern.
Violet, the colour of calm.

I didn't entirely succeed last night. When I've done it properly in the past, I can hardly feel my body at all, and my senses are muted. Last night sensations intruded quite often, sounds and my body telling me it still existed, and the knowledge that Smith was lying beside me asleep. But my mind was pretty calm.

The next visualisation step is to make your mind comfortable. The tape just kind of says 'Okay, visualise a garden ... make it as detailed as you like' and gives you a couple of minutes. I think last night I took 20 minutes to get it right, and even then I didn't feel like I was really there. I tried everything: the feel of damp grass under my back, the shape and textures and scents of the various trees and bushes I put there, the personalities and habits of the animals there, the layout of the garden and direction of each item in relation to me lying there on the ground. In the end, I could get up and move around there a bit, but it was still difficult to 'see'. I was pretty happy with my surroundings, though.

The last part is to imagine going into a room and using it to sort out your thoughts, visualising each one. I dunno whether it works, but I tried it out. The choice of room was easy:

The sunlight streaming into this room wraps itself around you like floating gossamer. It does not seem inclined to touch your skin, content to simply warm and welcome you. Several wicker baskets, each overflowing with orchard fruits, lie gently bathed in the glow. Nearby, a few fluffy clouds of carefully gathered radiance drift around a mahogany desk. Its centrepiece is the figurine of an elf leaning forward in a cushioned chair. One hand is draped over the shoulders of a much smaller elf who sits at his feet, her head resting comfortably against his knee. He gestures with the other hand towards the middle distance, both elves smiling at his unseen observations.

I just kind of experimented with putting notes into various drawers, and turning concepts into various shapes, including glowing auras. One I wrapped around me, and I turned the concept of 'energy' into green balls of light that I handed out to various friends. I don't know if it works in organising my mind, but it was worth a try.

Then I reversed the process - going back out into the garden, then visualising the colours in reverse order, and finally feeling out my body and what it wanted to do. In the end I was calm and ready to sleep.

I guess I've got to practise a lot more to get in the habit again. I'm pretty happy that it worked, though.

That's all for now,

the angel Jean

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the angel Jean