Moving At The Speed of Self

I’ve talked about meditation in previous writings. On a simple level I do breath and simplified energy work mostly derived from Taoist sources. These are things that can be described in a sentence – or not described completely in a book. In the spirit of that paradox I’d like to share a deep slice of an insight I’ve had over the years – the role of speed and self.

More than a sentence, less than a book.

Most meditations I do involve a certain level of slowness – of breath, of feeling the bodies energies, etc. The slow even breath in my beloved Cleary translation of “The Secret of the Golden Flower” or slowing so one senses the bodies energies all involve some form of calming, focusing, and not running around in your brain. In these modern times it can almost be shocking to just slow down for a few minutes.

As you may know from your own works there’s a peculiar point in meditations where you slow down and suddenly you’re not you. In fact you might not be there at all.

All the chatter and sensations, dialogue and tensions just sort of goes away. I mean you’re there but you aren’t there. Somehow when we slow down, “we” goes away – which is quite disturbing sometimes as who’s doing all of this?

Thinking over these experiences – without trying to grasp them too hard – I’ve come to realize how much of ourselves, our identity, is a matter of speed.

Thoughts racing ahead in a relay race. Desires we grasp as soon as possible. Tensions that rage through the body as soon as triggered. There’s so much of our identity that relies on fast reactions and immediate thoughts that to slow it even a bit feels like we’re falling apart.

Perhaps that’s one reason relaxing can be hard for some people – even a moment of slacking and you’re falling apart in your head because so much of you is speed. Relaxation for a harried person might feel like an existential threat.

It’s an interesting insight. When you’re used to meditation, going to therapy, etc. it’s easy to see ourselves as complexes. We are thoughts and reactions and memory, crystalline memories on an erratic web, like rock candy on a string. It’s not hard to see yourself as bits and pieces when you do any form of self-exploration.

But the speed? I think that’s harder to see. You can see all the bits and bobs of your identity, but the connections and the rapidity of them? That’s a different thing to observe – moreso when it goes away in a slow breath or graceful meditative movement.

If you’re one thing because of speed – who are you in slowness?


I Am A Whirling Thing

My meditative practices mostly come from Taoist, Buddhist, and psychological works. My goal is to sit there with myself, watching in that focused-yet-relaxed state that is hard to describe. Note of course, I do not say I want to reach a checklist of mental states – doing comes first, and I could probably write a lot more on that.

My practice is also simple – sitting cross-legged, back straight, breathing in a slow constant cycle, mind resting on breath. This is advocated in my oft-mentioned The Secret of the Golden Flower, and like that lovely manual it’s simple, yet you could also discuss it at endless length. We humans love words, and we love to use them to describe the hard-to-describe.

You’ll notice despite my love of words, I’m often cagey about discussing these things. However, there is one insight I feel fine holding forth on as it is interesting and won’t put you, my reader, at risk, of trying to force yourself to experience meditative states.

Slow, regular, even breathing is a fascinating thing to watch because it’s a cycle. As I’ve practiced in my return to meditation, I’ve realized that everything is a cycle. Breath meditation isn’t that special, really, which is why it’s so important.

We live in an environment of cycles. The seasons go in their circles, water evaporates then precipitates, animal populations rise and fall. We depend on these great circles to live – and as we have seen, ignore or alter them at our peril.

Our societies and histories are cycles. There are times of taxes and of building, of growth and contraction. Civilizations come and go – often in depressing predictability in hindsight. Humanity’s “journey forward” even seems to be a spiral of repetition, though our ignorance of our environment suggests we’re heading for a nasty swing.

Human relations are cycles. We are born and grow, roles changing and expanding. Students become mentors to other students. Children become citizens. Someone at the height of their achievements will retire (well, if they’re smart).

We ourselves are cycles. Our daily waking and sleeping, eating and digestion, birth and death. Even when we end, other cycles begin – decomposition, and some would believe reincarnation.

I can see the cycles of my life and my behaviors when I pause. There are great circles and spirals of growth. There are predictable life patterns you can see in others. There’s even simple things like foods I like then leave then like again.

Then there’s meditation.

I am a cycle of cycles and part of cycles. I am a whirling thing.

– Xenofact

Meditation Is Rebellion

Like many people I meditate. My specific technique is based on Thomas Cleary’s translation of The Secret of The Golden Flower. I breathe slow and regular, mind on breath, tuning it all the time, returning my mind to the breath when distracted. There is more to be said – I mean this is from an entire book said to be written by Lu Dong-Bin himself – but that’s the basics.

I often think about meditations (and yes, I realize the irony). Recently, I realized this simple process sometime feels like rebellion.

I’m sitting there just breathing and watching myself breathe. I’m not busy trying to be my idea of myself. I’m not trying to be what other people expected me to be. I’m there, but I’m not being any one of the me’s I could be. Just breathing.

I’m not doing anything but breathing and watching. I’m not doing anything or taking any action or making anything. I’m not a job or a position or part of the economy or whatever. Just breathing.

I’m not “doing it perfectly.” I’m just doing what I do, mind on breath and breath on mind. There’s no “perfection” or someone else telling me what to do. In fact, The Secret of the Golden Flower doesn’t even talk perfection (it’s a very pleasant read, honestly).

I’m not even doing some deep metaphysical analysis or exercise – that’d be a distraction from my mind on my breath and my breath on my mind. There I am, engaged in what some would think of as a mystical act, I’m not particularly mystical or acting. Yes, things may happen, but it’s not the goal.

There’s something incredibly rebellious about just being there but not trying to be or do anything. The pure realness of the experience is unclassifiable.

So, that’s a small bit of sharing from me to you – I assume if you read my writings you mediate or consider it. Maybe it’ll give you a way to look at your meditation with a fresher, different, view.

And you can also ask what you and I are rebelling against.

– Xenofact