This week Steve will lead on Thursday and Wasu will lead on Friday. Our topic of the week is experiencing sleepiness or boredom during our sitting meditation practice. Sometimes, practitioners call this experience “sinking mind”. The mind seems unfocused and disinterested. If we bring careful awareness, we may find what is blocking or surpressing our liveliness. Often, the mind’s activity is more subtle than normal. So we listen.
From Steve: When I encounter that sinking feeling – perhaps a bout of discouragement or being worn out, sometimes physically, other times mentally – the predominant emotion is a quiet flatness. Last night, for example, I was exhausted from operating a concrete saw all afternoon, the exertion, muddy dust and slivers of broken cement. So I sat and mindlessly watched an old Clint Eastwood flick, High Plains Drifter. There is a cinema noir downer.
When I sit with sinking mind, I try to pay attention to the whispers of the out breath. First I worked through the movie images, which cluttered the mind. Then the attention focused on the quality of the in breath. I was still for the out breath, so the whispers could be heard. As often happens, the thoughts and feelings buried inside were soft and tangled together. The mind perked up as it paid careful attention, trying to catch glimpes of understanding.
The other night, PBS showed a documentary on enhancing the Hubble telescope during Shuttle flights. The Hubble images are breathtaking, with formations and colors beyond normal experience. The mind patiently greeted reliving those images of space and time – the living universe.
Gradually, the mindfulness training on the preciousness of life entered the awareness. Life is a rare and miraculous gift. That is why we are careful to protect insects, spiders and even ticks. The entire universe is delicately and almost impossibly configured to allow each of us life in this moment. The mind was no longer sinking.