Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reading Assignment 1 - Attention

I prepare by paying attention to my breathing, eyes closed. I am immediately distracted by how funny it is to have to prepare to pay attention, but come back to me breath. I feel the cold of the wood floor, smooth, almost soft, as a sink my weight down onto the soles of my feet. My body feels heavy and taut, my head cloudy and eyes shot from too much TV and the photon emissions of Portable Display Format text projected by my computer screen. I concentrate on my feet. They are planted firmly on the wood, warming it, about shoulder width apart. My heels are turned out and toes turned inward, like a snow plow skiing maneuver, but the tension is in the other direction, trying to rotate them out like a ducks feet. I feel the skin on the pads of my feet tugging at the floor, almost creasing or pinching with the tension. I feel tiny muscles on the top of my feet. I lift my pinky toes and spread them further, trying to get my entire feet on the ground, trying to feel it from heel to toe. From my ankles up to below my knee I feel my muscles and tendons straining, a cold/hot tingle. It looks whitish blue in my mind.
The sound resonates through my body and I tense with surprise. It is tinny and sharp and has a spike that rises up above the rest of itself and pierces the ear like a needle popping a balloon and then a ring that is deep and vibrating. The light on the backs of my eyelids washes from red to yellow/white through black and red and yellow and white and back to black. I feel energy rush from my feet up into my head as I relax again. The sound continues with several more loud attacks and then the usual drop off into small bangs, and then silence again.
I hear the click-clack of un-cut, over-fed and under-exercised cat-claws to my right. And now I hear a lot of things, the refrigerator bouncing through the room behind and to the left of me, the hum of the computer monitor behind me, the sound of birds chirping outside. Two kinds, one with shorter chirps vocalized two at a time, and one with longer trills. There are kids yelling though it sounds joyful. And my breath. I focus back on my breath and concentrate on my body. My lungs expand and it feels like I could breathe in forever.
Twisting out at the knees, each in opposite directions, I drop my sacrum and push it out, imagining that a tail extends from my tailbone to the ground, acting as a post and as a place to rest. I lift my hands just in front of my pelvis and imagine a glowing blue ball that I support between my hands. I breathe in deep. I relax and find I can't. My shoulders feel slumped forward so I move them in several circles. It takes muscles from my lower back almost down to the kidneys, muscles in my neck, my pectorals, my arms to make it happen. I realize that I have let my sacrum relax, so I drop it again and reengage my knees. I slowly try to stand more erect, breathing into the base of my spine and working up vertebrate by vertebrate. I focus on it and then can't find it. When I do I can't tell if it's there or if I am imaging it, and finally I let it slip away. My mind starts wandering, picking over readings and planning a class.
Before long I remember to pay attention, immediately feeling a burning in my hips. Or not actually my hips, but my side-thighs, the muscles right below my hips on the outside of my legs. And my knees. And it's sharp, yellow. I direct my breath into my lower body and try to push the discomfort out with its force. As I breath in I visualize the air filling my lungs and my muscles relaxing as a exhale out. I breathe in through my mouth and taste my breath, stale and thick, mouth dry. I consider stopping to get some water, but decide to try and stick it out for a couple more minutes.
The breath comes in, muscles from chest and abdomen expanding, and goes out as they contract. A cold and dense sensation begins climbing from the base of my spine up my back. I try to feel it without losing focus on my breath. Which makes me feel the tension in my back, right at the small around the kidneys and, now, all the way up into my shoulders. I try to focus on the breathing as my mind tells me to go ahead and stop. The pain in my shoulders builds and I can't divert my attention. Finally I raise my arms above me and shake it off. I lift my feet and rotate them around the ankle, flexing and stretching my toes, first the left then the right. The pain moves from sharp to soft, from icy to warm. This is so much easier when I do it all the time!

Much of this experience is very close to my memory of it. I am not 100% sure about the chronology of all sensations, but the physical sensual experiences are all accurate recountings. I wrote it in first person because it helped me reconnect with my memory of it.
The activity was a simple standing meditation practice and the loud clanging was a water hammer problem with our radiator. I really enjoyed this exercise and was particularly fascinated by the way that many of my sensations had a visualized component when I had my eyes closed. The experience of tuning into and analyzing a subtle feeling to the point of not knowing if it was real was also really interesting. Another thing that struck me was the impact of the sound of water hammer, a sound that is extremely jarring but that I have become totally accustomed to in my day-to-day life.

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