First of all, I thank you for the public and private support for my determination to head off into the wilderness and experience the sound of silence. In a word, it was fabulous. Over the new few weeks, I’ll share what I learned (too much for one post!) One thing became abundantly clear – I am driven by the clock, and I didn’t realize it until I was disconnected from the clock.
With little prelude, I’m going to drop you into the mid-morning meditation. Our instructor, Carol, removed four or five beginning mediation students from the rest of the group (I think there were about 25 of us) and took them into another part of the building (a Quaker meeting facility out in the deep woods outside of Chelsea, Michigan) to give them some basic mediation background and techniques. When she left, her parting words were, “I’ll be back in 30 minutes to let you know it’s time for the walking meditation.” (The class was a combination of silent sitting meditation and silent walking meditation in the wilderness).
I’ve been meditating for some years as part of my martial arts practice. 30 minutes isn’t easy, but I’ve done it before. I settled in, closed my eyes, and focused on the inhale and exhale of my breath. If you close your eyes right now, you will notice that there is no up, down, left, right, forward, backward – and there is no sense of time. Eventually, I began to feel tension in my stomach muscles which was making my breath shallow. I released those stomach muscles and felt a combination of weirdness and relief – those muscles had been tight for a long, long time (I probably sit with them tight all day long in front of my computer.) Then I realized that the same amount of tension was in my shoulders – also probably from sitting in front of my computer. I focused on both areas, reminding myself to relax, only to find a very short time later (how much time? 30 seconds? I don’t know.) they were tight again. Eventually, with enough reminding, enough breathing, enough letting go, they were relaxed. This felt great.
I also began to wonder where Carol was. (If you’re wondering where Carol is, you are by definition, not meditating.) I told myself to let it go, who cares, relax, breathe… there was no clock and I didn’t have any idea how much time had passed. I felt a lovely wave of well-being fall over me as I sat there relaxed, breathing, and losing myself in the nothingness. I sat in that sense of well-being like one relaxes into a hot, silent bath.
When Carol arrived, I was sorry to stop. I had finally achieved what I wanted – quiet, soft, sweet well-being. Carol apologized – she had forgotten to tell us that it was time to do a walking meditation. I’ll never be sure, but I believe we sat in silence for 75 to 90 minutes. It seemed like forever and it seemed like 5 seconds. There was no sense of time… It had stopped.
Carol’s mistake was a huge gift to me, and was one of the highlights of my day. I’ll share more down the road (I’m running out of time as I write this at 6:27 am, which proves I’m back on the Hamster Wheel at least for this morning.)
I want to contrast my “time stood still” experience with something my brother, Matt Monte, created. Remember I talked about being up north in Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula, being in snow last fall? The image from my Wonderland post was shot there (I’ve included it again for today’s post). He lives right on Lake Superior and as such, has access to amazing views of the universe that most of us will only see in National Geographic.
He owns a communication company so he has fine video/photo equipment. He shot a time lapsed exposure over night and “got lucky” (luck happens when you show up) when the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) appeared. It’s a deliciously weird, dream-like montage of stars and galaxies and snow and clouds and green dancing light. Dusk to dawn in under 18 seconds. Time is truly flying by.
Click on this link: http://vimeo.com/90164737
Password is snowman.
Isn’t it marvelous?
18 seconds or 10 hours? 30 minutes or 90? Try sitting quietly for 5 minutes, eyes closed, while the voices in your head protest the time out. It will feel like an eternity (I know from experience.)
Whether time stands still or time flies, it’s all in your head. It’s worth exploring so that you control it, versus it controlling you. Gotta run!