Thursday, September 9, 2021

Two ruts

 Listening to a Zen talk today I learned of the two 'ruts' of meditation. In the first rut, we settle into this moment in a more accepting way; opening to a sense of Self where the self is less present. Using other words, it's the well known form of meditation where we get in touch with a sense of peacefulness and presence that is always there, when we allow it; when we relax into it. In this state of mind, the Self isn't so present, if it's present at all. If you close your eyes and focus on the blank dark screen in front of your eyes, you will see that you aren't present in those moments.

Thoughts become less noticeable, less present as mind and body relaxes making way for a sense of peace to become visible to us. It is always there, of course, but hidden behind thoughts and sensations. And so, by allowing thoughts to drift in and drift out, not clinging to them, but allowing them, the mind sort of opens up to something that feels calm, restful; open.

It can be difficult to explain meditative experiences, but a simple way to put it is that when the body relaxes and when the mind is focused on something such as the breath or sounds, the mind wants to think less, at least eventually, most of the time. When we are all stirred up, it isn't going to necessarily go as we want it to go. 

In the second rut, there is a second way of looking at the meditation experience. Basically, the central tenet of Buddhism is that there is suffering. There's no-one likely to disagree with this at this time in history, except perhaps if you are deeply in denial. And so, in the meditation we allow it. In essence we use the seed of suffering to germinate and bloom into a hidden potential. Perhaps, is the thought, that by allowing the suffering in, a shift might be experienced where our hearts break open into something that could be expressed as grace.

Personally, I think it's a real game changer to blend Buddhist/Zen practices with our knowledge of the brain. We know that the brain actually wants to be balanced. It wants to achieve homeostasis. Sure, we are going to have all kinds of experiences in our lives from deeply sad to profoundly joyful, but the brain and body look to return to homeostasis. In other words, things will happen in our external world, but our brain and body want for there to be a continual return to a balanced internal world.

This kind of sounds like Rut 1, I think.

But, when the internal world becomes unsettled, or, as I see it, your gut instinct is screaming at you to investigate thoughts and sensations, it's less likely you are going to have meditations where you can just ignore those troubling thoughts and sensations.

When these thoughts and sensations showed up for me, I tried to go to a sort of Rut 1 meditation but sometimes found that I was using a visualization to do in my mind what I wasn't yet ready to do in real life. It was like my gut instinct was telling me what was the right thing for me but another 'part' of me wanted what I wanted and refused to listen. So, the meditations were like a half way house, inching me closer to acceptance of all kinds of realities.

I was trained eventually to keep a journal and write in it immediately after meditating, so there's a big book somewhere here where there is evidence that my brain was coming to terms with the issues that came up for me. And, yes, over time there was plenty of resting in a big open space, with a wide open heart, but at the same time, I was growing some adeptness in acceptance; of what it was to be me without adequate opportunity to express this.

Last night, I had at least three discombobulating dreams that I remember quite vividly. This is quite rare and I think I may be getting more REM sleep time. I think the dreams were confirmation of the growing realization that what I need to achieve - a number of goals - will only be achieved on my own. That is, as much as I love the idea that there can be this great love affair with another human being - a meeting of minds and shared intimacy on all sorts of levels - that's not my lot. 

I was very angry in the dream about this at the same time as I experienced the sense that I was being unreasonable because the other people in the dream were clueless to help me. I wanted guidance from people who had no sense how to help me. As well, they were otherwise engaged. What was so important to me barely registered on their radar.

To put this altogether, meditation and research into the brain, clarified for me what I wanted and why I wanted it. It illuminated that characters come into one's life that in fact are more like characters from one's earlier life and less like those characters that can fill your cup; a cup that needs a lot of filling since it was only ever half full in terms of childhood needs.

I think of it like a wall. There you are on one side wanting to merge and there is the other person on the other side, maybe wanting to merge in some way too but not able to, due to drivers that lead in other directions. Sometimes you see over the wall, or that maybe in a moment here or there you can go around the wall, but most of the time, the wall simply stands in the way.

In real life, it can feel like the frustration that comes upon me when I can't speak another person's language. We both try in our own way to bridge the gap but we can never truly overcome the lack of language.

But, it's not anger. Not any more. It's not resentment. It's an opening up into a sense of life and all it's complexities; the frailties of being human; the appreciation of trauma and the mark it leaves on all of us. Meditation, just being, tenderizes the heart, increases compassion; allows one to merge into acceptance; softens and opens the heart.

At the same time, it encourages, deeply, self-compassion. Here I am on this side of the wall wanting with all my heart to merge in with the experiences of other human beings; human beings who find the idea of merging, of being wholly seen, quite terrifying. When one accepts, the relationship with self is entirely authentic. I have wanted what I didn't get as a young person, that's clear to me. Loneliness can envelop me. And yet, I feel stronger than I have in many years. 

My cart functioned best when I made two distinct ruts in the dirt - going to a still mind and going into the suffering. When so much trouble in the external world abounds, it's a timely reminder, that the very beautiful lotus grows in mud.