April 24, 2004 spout

Freeing My Mind

Saturday, April 24, 2004

I’m a sucker for new experiences. It’s not that I believe that you only go around once,” because I don’t believe that. I believe that our job on this plane of existence is to raise our level of consciousness to the next level and that our souls are recycled from life to life on this plane til we’re ready for the next. So, I figure that anything I don’t get to do in this life, I can do in the next.

And yet, I’m still a sucker for new experiences. In any given 10 years, most folks get 1 year of experience 10 times, but I think I’ve done pretty well at squeezing quite a bit out of my last 10 years. And I hope to continue to do that. For example, this year my wife and I will be attending Burning Man. We’d never been, but a couple of my friends from MSDN are helping us find our footing at what promises to be a very unique experience indeed.

MSDN is, in fact, a haven for unique folks willing and able to help me try new things. As another example, last week I had a private meditation lesson from Henry Borys, MSDN editor, book author and meditation teacher for the last 30 years (he’s been teaching meditation since I was 4!). He runs weekend seminars and even a yearly trek to the Himalayas and while both sound attractive, my Redmond travel schedule almost never brings me there over a weekend (let alone to the Himalayas : ), so he invited me up to his place for a private lesson. It was beautiful. It was 30 minutes north of the hustle and bustle of the MS campus and right on the shores of the Puget Sound. We sat on his back porch, watching the sun set over the water and talking about his experiences in meditation (mostly in variations of transcendental meditation [TM in meditation speak]) and my experiences applying what I’d picked up on my own reading Meditation for Dummies (I have come to love the Dummies books).

We spent almost two hours meditation and discussing meditation. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Meditation should be effortless. If you’re working at it, you’re not getting it.

  2. Don’t fight the thoughts to clear your mind.” That’s a sure way to keep them bubbling in your head. Instead, think of thoughts as the by-product of the purification of the mind that happens when you meditate and let them happen w/o paying them any attention.

  3. When you find yourself dwelling on your thoughts, go back to your mental mantra. Henry, as is traditional in the meditation teacher-student relationship, assigned me a mantra. Mine is a general-purpose and commonly shared amongst TM parishioners, but is still darn exotic to me, being in Sanskrit. The mere sound of it helps me and, since I don’t really know what it means (although I’m hoping it’s not send Henry money” in some subliminal form : ), it doesn’t distract me from the meditation (unlike my previous, self-chosen mantra free your mind,” which, while very meaningful to me, did tend to hinder).

  4. You’re not meditating for the act of meditation itself, but the benefits it adds to your life when you’re not meditating. While I’ve grown to like the act itself, I have also been enjoying a more peaceful, less stressed perception of life since I started (although it’s still too early to tell if this is merely the placebo effect).

  5. Don’t judge your meditation. Let it happen how it happens.

  6. Your meditation may uncover some deep-seated sleep that’s necessary for your body to experience, so if you feel yourself falling asleep while you meditate, that’s OK.

  7. Take 3+ minutes to come out of your meditation to avoid the bends.” Otherwise, you could easily come out of it too quickly, giving yourself headaches and/or making yourself irritable. I find that 60 seconds is enough for me, but I’m sure I don’t get anywhere near as deep as an expert, so I always take this process as slowly as I can.

And one of the most fun techniques that Henry introduced was to realize that thoughts are merely interactions with your consciousness. This realization can make your thoughts abstract, which can actually push you deeper into the meditation itself. In other words, when you think of thoughts this way, the more you have of them, the better, which was non-intuitive to my previous understanding of meditation. Hearing this was a very there is no spoon” kind of moment to me.

I was actually looking for some kind of introduction to meditation for months before I learned that Henry was a teacher, even though I’ve known him for more than a year, showing that once again, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I look at this experience as help along the way to a higher plane of existence, which I believe is defined within. And while I’m not a practitioner of any religion (I’m ex-Catholic), I do see this as a spiritual pursuit, blending the beliefs I’ve picked up with my brief brushes with Gnosticism and Buddhism and as popularized in The Matrix (although lost again in those stupid sequels). Free your mind, indeed.