When Worlds Coalesce

This train of thought starts off Saturday morning on my way to Shaking Meditation.   As I was walking down the long 31st floor hallway to the apartment home of our Saturday morning meetings I was joined by Eleonore, a fellow shaker.  Eleonore is both an intellectual and a woman of heart.  My guess is that she’s older than I. She dresses better than I ever will, has far more energy and far more brain power than I will ever have, is originally from a German-speaking country, has an Italian surname and, guessing from the amount of traveling she does, is retired. She looks and moves like she plays tennis.

Eleonore studied philosophy.  She studied philosophy deeply enough to write a paper on Immanuel Kant.  The only thing I can remember about Kant is having read, perhaps in his Philosophy of Pure Reason, a single sentence which ran for 4 pages followed by an asterisk.  The footnote noted: “The verb ‘cannot’ in this sentence has  also been translated as  ‘can.'”  Hmm… Eleonore and slouches have nothing in common.   She is courageous in ways that only the truly fearless and fearlessly true can be.  Eleonore seeks the answer to “Why?”,  pursues ultimate Truth and is not afraid to say so out loud.   I, on quite the other hand, confine my interest to how whatever I might learn may be applied on the most practical and ultimately mundane levels.   She wants to know why Shaking Meditation works.  I want to know what I can use it for?  Will it help me to sleep or ease the arthritis in my right knee or relax the tension in my addicted clients?  Will it help me to accept the aging of my body and the gradual disappearance of my memory or to master the smart phone should I ever get one?

We talk about our varying concerns, Eleonore and I, until it is time for us to join the other meditators.  In the group discussion before meditation begins, she talks of her frustration in locating a concrete spot in the body on which to center her self and her meditation.  “Everything feels like it’s floating,” she says.  “There is no center…no me.”  My jaw drops.  This is the mindset I have been striving for ever since learning of meditation and the Buddhist concept of no-self.  I strive and fail to get rid of my self.  She complains of having succeeded!

“Yes,” she continues.  I learned to do this when I studied Kant.  He talks of being the observer of the self rather than being that self.”  Kant said that?!  Why the hell couldn’t he have said it in a way I could have understood it.  I mean, I read his crap all the way back in 1960! Why couldn’t he have said it then?!

“But this is now,” the better part of my brain whispers.  ” Be that observer of the self rather than the participating, involved, engrossed self.”

“Yeah, right,” the usually engrossed part of my brain responds reflexively, but then, most unexpectedly follows with,   “”Maybe I can do that…maybe I can.”  So during the 45 minutes of Shaking Meditation (It really is no more than that, by the way.  You stand and shake while chanting a mantra and offering it all up to whatever you understand as greater than yourself.)  I step back from the ache-infested body, the voice chanting “Thank you” and the interaction with all things irrelevant.  I simply watch it happen.  And here there’s a bonus: occasionally I notice me praising myself for my meditational efforts or criticizing myself for getting caught up in some usually lustful distraction and–in either case–break out  into genuinely gleeful laughter.  At first it’s laughter at, then, and I have no idea of how this happens, it becomes laughter with that me I’m watching.  More often than not this leads other meditators to join in the hahas and hohos and even the heehees, and that’s just fine.    In Shaking Meditation laughter is part of it.  In fact today when we finish we are led in an introduction to Laughter Yoga (http://www.laughteryoga.org/) by Jonathan who wears tee shirts advertising Laughter Yoga.

When it’s all over Eleonore and I resume our conversation briefly. Worlds apart we are.  Each of us following our own path with no concern to convert the other.  Just mutual respect and the belief, at least on my part, that there is much to be learned from the other.   Lunch together is out because she is attending a discussion of  Theories of Meaning and Motivation being held at The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination. This being said, she notices that once the ideas in a conversation become resolved and settled, the energy of that discussion fades.

“It becomes–” she begins.

“Dead,” I interject.

“Yes,” she responds both surprised and saddened.  “I never thought of it in that word before, but yes.”

Back on the ground from the Shaking Meditation on the 31st floor of the very proper building on the corner of Broadway and West 96th Street, back on my bicycle in the traffic of Saturday at one p.m.  Focused utterly on the streams of traffic moving to and from the West Side Highway, I head toward the bike path along the Hudson River.  No Shaking Meditation, no laughter, no Eleonore.   No center.  No me at this moment come to think of it.  Just eyes and ears and legs.  Just open spaces and closed spaces.  Just motion through the warm afternoon.

Published in: on May 8, 2011 at 9:14 pm  Comments (5)