When you meditate, you learn your own brain. What it does and how it does. It’s a kind of self-study that progresses even without a particular goal. As you practice, you notice and as the observations persist and increase, you notice patterns.
Now, judgment and self-critique do not benefit this process. Statements that begins with “I should” or “I wish I could” set up a cause-effect sequence that yields nothing positive — and may prove harmful. Let silence be silence. Let the lotus bloom.
All that being said, I have noticed that I have a brain that chatters. My particular chatter pattern flows in sentence starters. I hear my mind form six or seven words of a sentence. Starters that suggest, but provide, no ending.
In my meditation practice, I have learned to sit in a nook that provides me with safety. One such nook is the corner of the sofa in my Mission flat. I can lean back into it and feel held. I can forget about holding a posture. I can allow my breathing and my mantra to become the only focus.
In my descent into a meditative state, I first heard the chatter in my brain. Over several months, I found this chatter to be something separate from me. And, the discoveries continued. I observed that brain activity occurred at different levels. In terms of a body of water, I called these the surface, just below the surface, and deep blue.
Chatter transpired on the surface. I had to learn to drop below the surface. Silence and a mantra helped. That’s when I found that what my brain said stood apart from who I was — and that discovery proved to be an important key. I was not the words and sentence starters.
I also learned that the chatter did not cease. Ever. People talk about calming the mind. That I can embrace. But if anyone tells you that he can empty his mind of all thought, he may be lying. Once the brain adopts language, chatter becomes a constant. It never ends.
Then came a set of questions. I asked, who is the “I” that noticed I was not the noise? I know that I am not the first to ask this question, but that’s not my point. I am asking this question of myself because it emerged as an essential and a personal one.
My discoveries continued. For example, beyond the first question — who am I beyond the chatter — I noticed that the sentence stems my brain generated lacked endings. They were fragments — conversation starters that lacked any commitment to a particular conclusion.
A progression may be unavoidable once one starts on this journey. I, for example, found that my thoughts sometimes came on like strong beliefs. Other times, they sounded like excited epiphanies, but as my breathing and chanting continued, this energy dissipated the way sage smoke might. I found myself stumbling to the edge of an empty place.
When you stumble onto silence for the thousandth time, you surrender to it. The silent precipice does not require any sort of dogma to interpret. Declarative statements are a form of noise and all forms of noise, or so I have learned, mask this silence. Silence just is.
To the things I felt certain I believed. To convictions I have declared with fervor. To the moments, whether in the present, in imagination, or in memory, that bring me to tears. What gives rise to these deeper currents? What exists beyond that? And what about the realms where I perceive no current whatsoever?
As I sit with chanting and allow my “me” to disappear, I am still here, but I am less explicable in words. I ask what existed before this beginning? I ask what touches me when the words have left and I am nothing more than a slow pulse on a single cushion in a quiet room.
Is this something that I need to explain?