Spontaneous meditation. I was born knowing how to meditate. Meditation was unknown in my family and not part of my culture so I learned nothing about it. But Leela still found ways to wake me up a little. As a child I made progress with love by meditating spontaneously. As Alan Watts says in that talk, meditation isn't about accomplishing something or getting somewhere. Like music and dance, it is an end in itself. Meditation is deeply enjoying the present moment. Meditation means waking up a little, having success, making progress. It's not a technique, like sitting cross-legged or gazing at a candle. Any technique will do. Whatever it is, it has to be fun, as Alan insists. It has to be joyful, full of love. If I'm doing something that's supposed to be meditation but I find no joy in it, nothing that feels at least a little like being in love, I'm wasting my precious time.
Louisiana. I had many spontaneous meditations as a child in Louisiana. At age two, I encountered time and death for the first time in the form of a rusty tricycle. At three I had a memorable encounter with nature in the form of stump water. At age four I had a spontaneous meditation with my dad. I was an energetic little boy, always exploring and getting into things, often including trouble. One day I was being rambunctious in church. Of course you can't be rambunctious in church, not a Methodist church. But I did my best, fidgeting in my seat and fiddling with stuff in the back of the pew in front: hymnals, offertory envelopes, and those stubby little pencils. I believe the final straw was dropping a hymnal. That can make quite a noise if it lands just right. My dad had had it. He took me by the hand and marched me out of the church. He cut a long twig off a bush that years later I identified as spirea, and gave my legs a good switching. It was warm, as it usually is in Louisiana, and little boys got to wear shorts to church. I remember examining my legs later that day; the switch marks were little red stripes with fat welts on either side; striking. That switching definitely woke me up. It helped me get over the ridiculous notion of fairness. Life is not fair; never was, never will be.
Marianna. Spontaneous meditation faded in Marianna because of my age. Children are open to love and connection until the ugliness of human culture shuts them. And schoolwork. Learning to read and write doesn't fit meditation. It puts words and ideas front and center. Words and ideas are what I have to get over to meditate. It just doesn't work to try and get over something when you're learning it. Words have their uses. You can't have culture and art without them. I was having rich experiences with my dad that prepared me for future meditation. Like hiking to the river. And digging into rooting.
Asheville. In Asheville spontaneous meditation started coming back to me. I'd started integrating words with my nonverbal core by writing poetry and prose vignettes. Thinking and Leela were no longer necessarily at odds. I had many moments of spontaneous meditation during this part of my life. I've written about a number of these world-stoppers:
Kenya. In Kenya, alcohol and pot conspired to shut down my spontaneous meditations with a little help from tobacco to get things going. It didn't happen immediately. It took the full two years I lived there to shut me down good and proper. I still had a few transcendent moments, like when I encountered a cobra in the coffee, and art on trips through Europe. But eventually the drugs took over and I was stuck with formal meditation for the rest of my fifty-year detour. Traditional formal meditation practices like sitting cross-legged staring at a candle are very slow, laborious ways to make progress with love. The meditations Leela comes up with, spontaneously or via painstaking guidance via muscle testing and body sensing are more effective by orders of magnitude.
Tallahassee. As part of my ministerial training program I got initiated into kriya yoga. Kriya was interesting but it also felt unbalancing. As I mulled that over an image came to me. It was an illustration in a book I had about Taoist magic. It showed an ouroboros inside a human figure. I applied that circular image to how I was doing kriya yoga, and the feeling changed from unbalance to subtle pleasure. I loved how that felt. But the subtle pleasure still felt unbalanced because it felt like too much. It was more than I could handle. But that pleasure intrigued me, and I held onto it somewhere in my depths till thirty years later in Seattle. When Leela spoke to me in 2006, she pointed to that subtle pleasure as a clue: this is what I'm looking for: the simple pleasure of being. I wrote my first website about that pleasure. I found that pleasure whenever I tuned into my natural breathing rhythm and really paid attention deeply. The subtle pleasure of breathing launched the voyage of discovery that led, link by link, to where I am now. Focus.
Meditation in daily life. None of the meditation I do now looks like meditation. It's been that way since sometime in 2008. Instead of sitting on the floor or some other version of formal meditation, which I was never any good at, I use my internal connection with the pleasure of making progress to turn everyday activities into meditation. Like walking, cooking, eating, cleaning, lying in bed. I meditate a lot in bed: when I'm ready for sleep, when I'm about to rise, and whenever I'm wakeful in the middle of the night, which is fairly often. Listening to classical music is a form of meditation that was of immense value to me in the early months of the pandemic. Classical music helped me grasp my place in the world and accept my situation so I could benefit from enforced isolation. It's been of extraordinary value in dealing with all this. Tango and other forms of partner dancing are my favorite meditations of all.
Body engagement. Leela has started teaching me the practice of body engagement. It's similar to body sensing but much more strenuous. So much so I have to consciously relax my muscles, reminding myself that this is an exercise in focus and intention, not a muscular exercise. I mostly do it lying in bed, snuggled deliciously under the covers, but I've also done it while walking or sitting at my desk. I focus my attention on my whole body but then crank that up by consciously engaging my body intently until I feel a particular sensation, like a warmth or glow spreading through my body. At first I could only do it for a few minutes or a few steps, but I'm slowly extending and strengthening my conscious powers of engagement. I feel it most powerfully if I do the practice as I'm waking up, while I can still feel Leela's presence burning in me like sweet fire.