Waking up, Day 20
It is Friday, November 16th, as these things are reckoned on planet Earth. I’ve just finished my morning meditation, Day 20 of Sam Harris’s Waking up course. I wrote about the course a week or so into it. I’d found it worthwhile. It is 5:52 AM as I speak these words into my phone, intending them to appear, in this blog, sometime in the future, and your brain, now. I am changing my review fro from “recommended” to “Holy fuck mackerel! This is awesome.”
I’ve read books about meditation since high school and I’ve thought it was a good thing. I’ve tried developing a daily practice, starting more than 50 (note: WTF?) years ago. I’ve never managed to sustain anything for more than a couple of weeks, usually quitting after only a couple of days. Something about ADD, I suppose. But this time, so far at least, it has been different. Day 20. Thank you, Sam Harris.
The course has guided meditations, and lessons. Lessons are monologues in which Sam riffs on some aspect of mindfulness. A few days ago I heard one in which he revisited his own path to his own state of understanding. He had spent years doing vipassana meditation. That’s the kind most of us know about. You sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, follow your breath and…sorry, did I just fall asleep?
Sam’s a serious guy, not a dilettante like Past Me. Thank you anyway, Past Me He studied for years with teachers in the US and in India. He went to classes, and to retreats, including a year on a silent meditation retreat. Way beyond what I could have done. Thanks, though, Sam.
In the lesson, he tells the story of meeting a teacher in the Dzogchen tradition. Dzogchen teaches that you don’t have to spend years of meditation to reach enlightenment, or whatever you call the state you’re trying to attain. We are already enlightened. We are simply too stupid to realize it. All it takes is a single insight. You get a glimpse and then you realize that you are already at the destination. Dzogchen masters are skilled at giving “pointing-out-instructions” that can give you that all-important glimpse.
Once you have a glimpse the insight usually doesn’t last. But once you see where you are trying to go, and see it clearly, it’s easier to get there and can learn to stay there. Sam Harris gave me my “pointing-out-instruction” in Waking Up.
I’ve tried other meditation apps with guided meditations. Meh.
This one is different. It is a sequence of lessons, not just a collection of guided meditations. The lessons build, one on the other. They’re each about 10 minutes long with a little intro at the start and an outro at the end. Ten minutes is about all the time that a crappy meditator like me can tolerate. So, perfect.
Except for me, today, ten minutes were not enough. The contents of consciousness kept changing and I kept going. Can you imagine being fascinated by is going on in when all you have to see is the back of your closed eyelids?
Imagine it. Your eyes are closed. What do you see? Nothing, right? Well, not right. It’s the back of your eyelids. But that’s not very interesting, is it? It’s all just black or pink or something. Or is it? (Hint: if you really pay attention, you might notice that there’s a lot going on in consciousness. There’s a lot to see!)
And sound! I didn’t realize that my life has a soundtrack? Right now, as I am voice typing this, I am walking. And I notice that each time I take a step, my foot makes a sound! And my pant legs rub against one another and that’s another sound! And there are other sounds.
I’m not deaf. I’ve heard sound. I listen to music. I hear when people talk. If you ask me to listen for a sound, I can probably hear it. But I’m mostly unaware of ordinary sound and I’ve been missing a whole dimension of experience. There are sounds around me, all the time. My every waking moment is filled with sound. And now I’m hearing it.
The course has been good, well worth doing, but last night, Dan 19, was an inflection point. Things really changed. I caught a glimpse of something else, really important.
And this morning, Day 20, anither change in trajectory one that provoked this. And now that I think of it, I was on a different trajectory on Day 19, before I listened to the Day 19 lesson. So Day 18?
If you do the course, day-by-day as I did, I don’t know if you’ll have a similar experience by Day 20. But if you do, awesome!
You might wonder “what’s so special about Day 19 or 20,” and skip ahead. I recommend against it. There’s a strong chance that what I experienced was because I did the day-by-day, slow-but-steady route. And if it that’s true, and if skipping ahead causes you to miss what I got, that would be too bad.
So take the course. If you take it and get to Day 20, comment back, or email me, or something. I moderate comments, so if you say: “Don’t approve,” in your comment, it will get to me, and I will not make it public. I’d like to hear what happens, either way. If you have a similar experience, it would be a joy to share it. If you don’t, I can tell you what I experienced and perhaps it would act as a pointing-out-instruction that would help you.
I hope that you get to experience what I have—either this way or in some other way.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled lives.
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