Thinking. Is it a sense?

We say we have five senses.  There are many more than five, but all the others are aspects of the sense of touch:  we have the sense of distance, the sense of balance, the sense of movement, the sense of the atmosphere.  We also have the sense of thinking.www.thinkingwriting.qmul.ac.uk

When we think, we can feel it.  Thinking is not just an antiseptic machination of abstractions.  Concept come into the brain and braid around each other, twist, knock one another out, and soon another thought or concept or image enters the fray to capture attention and sometimes to carry us away.  Thinking is a very active process, and not always pleasant, for some of the thoughts are judgments, fears, shocks.

Why this cacophony, this arena for concepts to work out, this contest, this presentation.  Why?  I think it is to achieve balance, albeit balance is probably rarely achieved.  The end product of any bout of thinking is probably more likely just to be a distraction, a change of venue from thinking about this to thinking about what to have for lunch or whether you should feel guilty that you do not really like that other person, or wondering who will win the presidency, or if you should keep more water on hand.  So if I am right about the point of thinking is to find peace, maybe we could consider that we are going about it wrong, for rarely do peace we find.

Is meditation different?  Sometimes I think that one thinks of meditation as a really penetrating form of thinking.  When we say “I’ll meditate on that,” I think we envision closing off all other topics and really diving into a certain topic, proposition, or plan.  We think of it as a pure, directed version of thinking.  We think of it as extended contemplation of something.  But I do not find that is what meditation is.  I am not sure the word meditation helps us meditate.  I do not mean to be cute about it, but I call my meditation “sitting.”

I wake up, take out the dog, set a timer, wrap a blanket around my shoulders, and sit in the same chair in the dark and close my eyes.  Already I am in the position to do this thing we call meditation that I call sitting.  I have had quite a few good “sits” in that chair in the dark, so psychological association kicks in.  I know to survey the insides of this body for tension and to let it go away.  I know that this is aided by a search for symmetry, so I adjust my limbs to mirror one another.  I know I do not want to be cold, so I have adjusted the thermometer and the blanket.  I want no wrinkles or folds to distract my attention.  I almost want to float inside my skin.  I am told my breath is fundamental, and sometimes I remember to “watch” my breath.  It cannot really be watched, of course, so this must mean simply to put my attention on the feeling of in-out-in-out.

thinkingSometimes some key words come up.  Attention is one.  Consciousness.  Awareness.  Peace.  These words can be tumultuous and accusatory even though they are “supposed” to be about nice, expansive valued things or states.  One spiritual leader, Jeddah Mali, gave me the other day a great way to keep these words calm and behaving.  Awareness, she said, simply is.  Is is simple existence.  It is just there.  It is that which allows everything else.  It is the container.  I am adding to her words; she kept it very basic.  It simply is.  What varies is our consciousness of this is-ness.  Consciousness is like — or includes — paying attention.  So the “trick” according to her, is to pay attention to awareness.

This, I think, is the center of sitting.  Paying attention to awareness.  It is a kind of a juggling of just two, not three balls.  These two balls face each other and keep each other “up.”  When I am lucky enough to attain this energy in a “sit”, the sense of peace is there.  I can well see how the enlightened or realized one does not wish to use the pronouns “I” or “me” or “mine”, for the energy between these two–awareness and consciousness–simply is.  i It is not “mine.”  To make it mine is to drop the ball and it is the maintenance of the ball-in-the-air that is the heart of sitting.  I view it like sex:  it’s having sex with God.

For a girl (I don’t know about being a boy) having sex involves a certain paying attention.  There is a working about this and that and a sense of reaching a certain teeny tiny spot and, once it is reached, to stay there.  Elusive it is, but compelling, welcoming.  With sex, sure one wants to linger and stay there forever, which is why a little nap afterwards is so delicious–as if you could hold it.  With a sit, too, one comes upon the meeting of consciousness and awareness and one wants to stay.  The characteristics of this meeting are that thoughts are missing.  Thoughts which otherwise collide and chase each other around the feeling arena that we call thinking have receded.  They are not.

By this time, 30 or 40 minutes have passed and it is time to get on with the day.  Thoughts return to accomplish that.  This is life.  But if the sit was a good one, some emptiness comes along to stay.  Entering back into the arena of “regular” life (not sitting) we can remember the moment of release, yes, but we are likely attracted to this filament of thought or that.  The dog, the dentist, the bill, the manuscript, the dirt on the kitchen floor.

So it goes.

I trust that the habit of sitting will continue to convey its pleasures and treasures and will not die out and fade like so many other habits, good or bad.  One tires of the gym, of eating well, of keeping a schedule of this or that.  But to sit is to enter the infinite.  While there are no thoughts about the infinite because those would be the room of the finite and bring all kinds of collision and conflict–the place where we FEEL thinking–the simple meeting of the consciousness of the awareness is the gentle air of infinity.  It is the sweetest caress.  It is the universe.

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