Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Today the world: Meditating on an Empty Stomach

Sitting still with spine erect and calves folded under, I canvass my skin for itches. They're there all the time, scientists say; you just don't always notice them. I know this to be true. Meditation introduces you to your inner workings--the little twinges and gurgles in your belly, each itch and tickle along nerve lines and veins, bone ache, muscle stab, heartbeat. Sending fiery energy up your spine wakes you up momentarily, but it doesn't last.

Concentration on counting your breaths, timing the outward flow to take twice as long as the inrush, or staring at lightness in the midst of darkness, rolling eyes, clenching and relaxing muscles, silent whistling . . . . these all work for a time. Then the stillness demons come rushing back. Go away, I shout mentally, I'm doing this to get rid of you. But they stay. And my spine begins to tingle, the knots in the wood floor to move about, and all around me other people are sitting perfectly still, doing the time, holding on quietly.

My nose tickles again. The itch has travelled from left armpit over across to right shoulder now. I need to blow my nose. How much longer? Ah. Suami has looked at the clock. He usually does that 346 counts before it's time. I begin to count. I concentrate on counting as s-l-o-w-l-y as I can. I labor over each number, drawing out the sound between my teeth like background skat. I'm halfway to two hundred now and there's fire boiling up both arms past the elbow, on to the shoulders, neck, face, out the top of my head. I'm burning up. I need to take off some of these layers of cloth. Help! When can we get a drink of water!? When will it end? How many more minutes.... CLONG! The striking of the bell makes me jump out of my skin.

Where was I that I lost track of the silencing of breath, the settling of my jerky mind, the dismissal of all worries and hilarity, flicking them off like so many fruit flies in my face. Now it's time to chant. Great. That's the last thing we do before GETTING UP OFF THE FLOOR. H'rayyy! I'm almost done. I feel great, and capable, grateful for arms and legs and feet and .... Oh no! Suami is asking me to see him after. Cripes. I knew it. My breathing was too loud, I wiggled and shifted and he saw it. The itches probably caused more movement than I thought. The creeping of flesh, the growling stomach, the pains in my hamstrings, the weight of the world....