Things got in the way of writing blog entries lately, partly because I got in the habit of trying to give useful advice in it, and then ran out of advice to give.
No advice here.
I have been meditating every day since last January, using an app on my phone. Mostly I use guided meditations designed to help me sleep, and I rarely hear the end of them because I’m asleep already, but for the last month or so I have also been trying to do a morning meditation. As Dan Harris says in 10% Happier, meditation does improve the mood perceptibly, but not drastically. I am still cynical, impatient, disorganized, annoyed, sad, and dismayed on a regular basis, but it just doesn’t seem to matter as much. More often, though, I remember to take a deep breath, even despite the political events of late, which this last couple of weeks seem to have tipped a number of my friends and acquaintances right over the edge into black despair.
This morning’s meditation told me to let “the divine light” enter me, and I had to repress irritation. I don’t know why I don’t like the word “divine.” I was raised a Quaker, more or less, and the “inward light” is part of my conception of human beings; I am a lapsed Episcopalian now, and despite my fundamental agnosticism I never had a problem praying to a god of someone else’s understanding. But “divine” makes me raise an eyebrow. It’s sappy, and a little sugary. It smacks of sanctimony. *
As someone with seasonal affective disorder, though, light is more than a metaphor for the ineffable. It is the thing itself. A sunny summer day is glory. When the light goes away on gray winter days, I enter a half-life in which everything is effortful and the world is a dingy, unsatisfying shoebox. I once wrote a story (it got published) about a world in which immortality had made humanity indifferent to pollution and the world had become dark. The protagonist invented a disease that would kill all the immortals so that she could make the sunlight come back.
So when I meditate and am invited to think of the air entering my lungs as light, I visualize sunlight.
I also envision cleaning out a fountain pen cartridge (I have a collection of fountain pens). The clear cartridge adapter gets full of old ink, and to clean it I insert a blunt water-filled syringe and flush it out. Miraculously, the water clears and all the purple, red, or turquoise cloud rushes out. The image is uncomfortable, though, because the ink generally stains the sink and I don’t want to pollute the air around me with all those sad, stiff, awkward inky feelings. And when I open my eyes after meditating, the first thing I notice is that things in my study aren’t squared away. The books are all leaning this way and that. There are dustballs on the floor.
I am, in the process of clarifying my perception of my inward light, apparently emitting the spirit of disorder into my study.
So I spent half an hour this morning tidying my clothes closet.**
*Also, I’m a Philadelphian, and Father and Mother Divine are part of our weird and wonderful history.***
**I told you. No advice. Just noticing that despite my commitment to rationality, logic, and system, I operate instead on the basis of snap judgments, personal history, and irrational aversions.
***His full name was Reverend Major Jealous Divine. Golly.