love. week forty.
city. new york city
I just made love to myself in the bathtub. I was so excited that I ran to my laptop right after to write about it.
Today was a particularly shitty day. I don’t want to talk, write, think about it right now but, high level, I’ve been pretty anxious for the last few weeks with apartment shit, dating shit, work shit, money shit, medical shit. Yup, pretty much all the shits.
And today, someone at the store said something unfriendly to me and the force of all of it all nearly made me break down crying in the changing room. Not great. But I took a few deep breaths, pulled myself together and got on the train home. Of course the train chose tonight to delay itself for 45 minutes. Okay, I can handle that. I pulled my hood up over my head, turned up my music, and let my mind wander out of the train, even as my body stayed trapped. Finally made it to my stop, popped into the Thai place for some takeout, mulled around until it was ready and then found myself walking up the stairs to my apartment.
I wanted to relax (“why don’t you just relax?!”) so I scarfed down some of my chicken fried rice, chugged some beer, blasted some Kanye, smoked some weed, set the kettle on the stove to make tea, and went to draw a bath. I mean, this is the fucking relaxation olympics over here. Oh, I’ll relax alright. Whether I’d like to or not.
Propped my tea and phone on the wall of the bath (is it a wall? A side? Mouth??) and slipped my body into the misty water.
What to listen to? Kanye is too jarring now. Let’s try some piano. Nope, let’s meditate! Ha! Fuck you, anxiety! I’m gna fucking meditate!
I have a guided meditation app, so I clicked on today’s meditation and this is what I heard Sam Harris say:
Okay. Just take your seat.
(Or tub :P )
And close your eyes.
And see if you can immediately commit to this period of non distraction.
Your day will be waiting for you, or your night, in mere minutes.
And just recognize consciousness itself as this open space in which everything is appearing spontaneously.
(Deep, ragged breaths. Innnn. Outtttt. Come on, man. You can do it. Innnnn. Outtttt. My arms slip beneath the surface. It’s just my head above water, propped against the back of the tub. Notice the sound of Sam’s voice. Notice the warmth of the water. Notice the feelings running through my body. Notice the thoughts swirling through my mind. I’m all of this. This is all me.)
And as you notice whatever you notice, pay attention to the attitude in your mind, if there is one. Are you in any sense waiting for something to happen? Are you waiting to feel calm? Or some sort of meditative state?
(Oops. Motherfucker caught me.)
And if so, simply drop all that and rest as that condition in which everything is already appearing all by itself.
(My attention, or my efforts to pay attention, begins to ‘let go,’ to ‘relax’. My mind begins to let go of itself. No, not of itself of course, but of all those things that it took itself to be. It begins to let go of this meditation. Of this attempt at relaxation. It begins to hover, homeless, bodiless, all around the room. And, just like that, I begin to see myself.)
For the purpose of recognizing the nature of consciousness, the contents of consciousness simply do not matter. Any experience is as good as any other as a context in which to recognize the openness and centerlessness of awareness.
So there really is nothing to change here. Or to improve. Or deepen. Just recognize that as a matter of experience you are this condition in which everything is spontaneously appearing, including this next thought.
(I see my body. This body. This human animal body thing. And this human is coming home after a long cold hard day and is trying it’s very best to relax. Oh, look at it try. Trying so very hard. Look at it lay there, curled up in the tub, seeking peace and solace from the world. Look how hard it’s working. Listen to all of its thoughts. Just darting around like angry flies. Here’s a worry. There’s a hope. There’s some sadness. Oh, but so much effort. What a burden this person carries. Just like those dj displays that try to depict volume with dancing columns of light which spring up, up, up into the darkness, and then just as quickly sink away, this child’s mind throws itself right and left, up and down, desperately trying to orient itself in the darkness. Beating back the formless attacks that lunge at it from all sides. This noisy mind is afraid of being quiet, afraid of the dark. Like a child, it’s terrified of the monsters that live under the bed.)
Once again there’s no change in experience that is worth waiting for. Everything necessary is right here. Even if you feel restless or uncomfortable. Even if that last minute was just a chaos of discursive thought. In this instant there is simply this bright circumstance where everything is appearing and being known effortlessly. What effort could you possibly make in this instant? And where would you make it from?
The feeling of making an effort itself, to pay attention, to notice one thing over another is itself an appearance in consciousness.
Just drop everything. And rest your mind.
[This body is suffering. It’s scared. It’s hurting. This small boy, this small child is scared and anxious. And then suddenly…. Compassion. Compassion for this poor child fills me. Never mind that I’m talking about myself. I also need some compassion from time to time. I also need some love. Oh, how much I love this boy. How much I care about him. I spend my every day worrying about him, arranging for his every need, providing him with his every wish, but what about love? What about love? Remember all of that love that you seek from others. Call them to mind. How badly you want their affection. How badly you want their caresses, their pity, their understanding, their love and care. Here. Here it is. I’m giving it to you. Feel my hands stroking your body. Feel my love filling your heart. Feel my sympathy billowing with your suffering. I love you. I see you. I know you’re hurting. It’s okay. I’m here for you. I’m here with you. It’s okay to cry. I won’t judge you. I understand. I’ve got you. I won’t let you go. Ever. I love you unconditionally. Everything will be okay.]
In the last minute of the session pay careful attention to the breath. Notice the next inhalation the moment it appears and follow it through to the end. But rather than aiming your attention at the breath, simply receive it. Notice that it too appears spontaneously in the space of awareness.
[I notice that I’m laughing and crying at the same time. I notice that my head has slipped to the side, pressing my right cheek up against the tub. I laugh some more. I wipe aside the tears. I feel so happy. So lucky to be here with myself. So lucky to have this child to care for. I’ve been waiting to meet that partner to love, to have that child to love, but it really is possible to love myself. I have a lot of love to give. I just haven’t been that great at giving much of it to myself. But tonight, tonight I made love to myself in the tub.]
Okay. Before you get started with the rest of your day or night, I just want to remind you that there really is no boundary between what you just experienced and the rest of your life. You’re always in this condition of simply noticing whatever arises all but itself. And so much of our suffering in life is born of not recognizing that and not experiencing the freedom that emerges the moment we seize to contract and resist and push and pull in the midst of ever-changing experience. So once again I’d encourage you to not make much, or really anything of this apparent distinction between formal practice and normal experience.
When you are
you'll find it
right there inside you