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A Meditation Sitting With Focusing

A meditation teacher I have worked with, Jason Siff, suggests writing a journal sometimes of a meditation sitting - I resisted this when he first told me, but since then I have found it often to be useful. This is an account of one particular meditation sitting during the period when I was working with Josiah of bringing Focusing into my meditation practice.

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Morning meditation, Aug 10 2004:

Began by being aware of my body, and my breath in it (I describe how I do this elsewhere on this site). On breathing in felt belly rise a little, and felt the air fill my whole upper body, including chest, in a very natural easy way - no more restrictions in the abdomen halfway through the in-breath.

After about 20 minutes of this, I expanded my awareness to include the body, and all its inner feelings and sensations, of which the breath was now just one, albeit a fairly prominent one. It felt as if I was looking at a whole world, that my inner sensations comprised a whole scene, or field of activity, in and of itself.

Then I realised that the outer sounds I was hearing - rain and traffic - were part of this inner scene as well, and in fact it was not specifically inner, but that inner and outer had merged into one, a world or universe of sensations - kinesthetic, breath, sounds etc.

I sensed this universe as not only a number of separate things, happenings within it, but also as a one. My awareness not only included them all, but also bundled them all up into one thing; and yet even when that was done, it was not that the oneness was simply all the separate things combined, but the oneness existed in itself, apart from them, and they were contained in it.

Although I was feeling this, I was also thinking about it as well, and both my feeling (awareness) and thinking about the feeling, were both things within the oneness as well examining the oneness, or at least what the oneness was. I was also thinking that in traditional meditations thinking is a no-no, and that was also a thing within this universe of oneness. I was a little surprised that the examination of the oneness, in effect trying to look at it from without, was in fact so effortlessly included in it.


Then I thought of the Focusing conversations I have had recently, and I realised that this was in essence what I was doing, but I decided to do it more consciously.

So I was aware of this universe - containing everything I sensed, felt, heard and saw (I opened my eyes momentarily, and what I saw was automatically included in the universe, and the oneness did not have to do anything, like expand, to include all the hundreds of new inhabitants my eyes let in).

And quite separate from all these things, there was a oneness in which they existed. So I took various words and concepts to see what fitted best.

'Universe', the word I have been using in this writing, fitted well (Webster: unus one + vertere, versum, to turn, that is, turned into one, combined into one whole) . I tried some of Douglas Harding's concepts: Aware Space felt good intellectually, but somehow did not hit the spot. I was definitely aware, and there was a space, so as a phrase it was not inaccurate, but it did not capture my experience. I felt the same about 'the real Me'. Again, I can't deny that it was me that was the oneness, and it felt real, and it was an exciting feeling; so it was again accurate, but that was all.

'Containing' or 'Container' was a fair fit. There is no doubt that the oneness was containing all the 'many' (the Tao containing the ten thousand things) but it was an attribute, a quality, rather than a complete fit.

The word I instinctively use in this journal entry, and the one I used at the time, is 'one' or 'oneness', and I took this word to what I was feeling. It is correct to use it, the experience was (and still is as I write) of oneness. But could I do better?

The phrase which really hit the spot was 'Cloud of Unknowing' (I am currently reading that book - OK, none of the words or phrases I took to the felt-sense were original, but so what?). What it was that contained my universe of sensed things had a reality (hence 'cloud') but it was a threshold, a boundary between the perceived and sensed things, and something else, totally and utterly different from the things themselves, whether experienced singly or as a group. And the plain fact was that it was unknown, even though I was aware of it - it was known as it was, but any thinking of it, or any mental activity other than direct perception, turned it into the unknown!

One final refinement: 'cloud' seemed too vague, too wispy - after all, this oneness was real as real can get. Then I hit on the phrase that truly resonated - it was a Wall of Unknowing.


So what was the point of all this? A few concluding remarks:

First, I was not intellectualising, although as a piece of writing it may seem so. I was not trying to 'explain' my experience in words, to capture it in a net of concepts, like a butterfly-catcher with his net. The feeling or experience was the arbiter of which concept or phrase worked, and which did not. So I took to this experience of oneness each word or phrase, rather like a slightly nervous servant would offer dishes to his master, to see which he liked and which he did not.

Secondly, what was the outcome, what did it achieve? Well, I certainly had a profound experience which was sublime then, and has had a long-lasting afterglow. I cannot say how my Focusing within this very beautiful experience affected it. However, I did learn something from it, which I do not think I would have learned without the Focusing aspect:

Throughout my meditating life, I have always thought of the goal (whatever it is, call it even the goalless goal; where it is I have to get to) as 'within' - some part of me. The naive view (which I held for a good while, without really thinking about it clearly) is that buried inside me, amongst all the inner things, of whatever kind, is the one thing I need to find - the 'heart' of Maharaji, the pearl of great price, or the diamond buried in the dungheap. A slightly less naive view is that what I have to find is a door, or portal, which leads to a realm that is not 'inside' me in this sense; but nevertheless the door still is inside, the one thing among many.

This attitude has lead to rather like looking for a lost item in a crowded and untidy room, or the proverbial needle in a haystack. Sometimes frantically moving things around, and always a never-ending search for better and more efficient looking techniques or strategies. And of course the main problem being that I didn't know what I was actually looking for. So it was not in fact like looking for a needle in a haystack, since I have clear idea of what a needle is, and I am in no doubt that if I found it I would know that I had found it; whereas in looking for this unknown thing, if I had found it I would not necessarily know that I had found it (although my belief system of the time assured me I would know).

This particular meditation sitting, and the Focusing part of it, made me realise clearly this process of the 'spiritual search', and made me feel differently about what I had 'found' (if that is the correct word, which it isn't): It is a wall, a boundary, the door or portal mentioned above even, separating things (inner and outer) from no-thing, the Tao, the One, whatever. It is obvious and clear and unambiguous and I can be aware of it anytime I turn my mind to it. It is not 'within' in the naive sense - I don't know what spatial analogy to use - but it is something I need to know further.

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