23.02, Monday 28 Nov 2005

Meditation, day 4. Or rather, "sitting". Much better than yesterday. I tried 20 minutes this morning--a few people have recommended that that's the minimum to do. This is my first time trying that long, and the time tension got pretty bad when I couldn't remember whether I'd unmuted my laptop in order to hear the end chime. At 18 minutes I broke and had to check. The sound was indeed turned off, but breaking off like that made the last 2 minutes almost intolerable.

I know it sounds like I'm unable to wait for the end, just sitting there in frustration the whole time, but it's really not like that. The nervousness that I've been sitting too long (or only for seconds) comes on very suddenly, and goes just as quickly. My interruption was actually reassuring on a couple of counts. First because I guessed the elapsed time accurately before I checked (which will reduce my nervousness in the future); second because the experience of resuming was so different from when I paused, and I got to notice that difference.

Here was today's big step: Peter Lindberg sent me a timely email about these meditation notes, and asked By "concentrate on my breathing", do you mean just concentrating or counting? (I've been doing both.) From the rest of his email, I got the impression that there was something much bigger in the counting that I was missing. Indeed there was.

I've been concentrating too much on the breathing, even concentrating too much on the counting. I was using it as a distraction technique. This morning I tried to just count, just count my breaths as they happened, for the whole time. I realised very quickly that it's a hard thing to do. How can you count your breaths when the observation itself changes your breathing? Aside from the usual thoughts and interruptions (which I've decided to not care too much about for the moment), the first quarter of an hour passed quickly, and I had moments where I glimpsed what it could be to be counting and breathing separately: My body is a bellows, an automatically moving, rhythmically puffing sack. Along with this came a more vivid impression of the shape of my head, chest, and general body. How is this different from my breathing-as-physical-sensation experience a couple of days ago? Well, it's a lighter touch of my focused mind on my behaviour, I think. I'm not sure. But it felt different, and I'll be trying the same tomorrow. It's something that could definitely improve with practice.

These meditation folks are tricksy. Many times I've read advice that I should be counting my breaths. I just didn't realise it was so literal.

Anne Galloway (in IM) commented on my documentation of the experience. This really is a worry for me. I feel that dwelling on the sitting practice might run counter to the whole thing: 1 step forward, 1 step back. I'm going to carry on. Regardless of the changes I report each day, nothing much is happening. The differences in the experience, day-to-day, are fine-grained, and it's thinking through things (I think with my fingers) that gives me understanding and direction. I don't think I'll get very far on my own, maybe just a recon of the start of the path.

Also, I'm gaining a general impression of the experience I'm circling (but haven't reached). I'd like to be able to touch it deliberately, and I think that involves some kind of contemplation.

I've had many great links to advice in email today. I'll note those down tomorrow.