I tell you, left to my own devices I’d probably spend most of the day (not to mention the night) meditating. The place I go to makes much more sense than the ‘real’ world around me. But we live in this world and have to be of it while we’re here so, sadly, it’s not really an option.
‘I sometimes think you’d be happier in a monastery,’ said Adrian the other day. ‘Or tucked away in some cave.’
I paused and frowned, pondering the question.
‘Oh God,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t serious.’
‘Well, ’ I said, smiling. ‘It would have to be a very warm cave. In a desert maybe.’ J
But really…I go through phases – of engagement and disengagement. And I think that’s okay actually. It’s part of my process, what I think of as my alchemy. What people often don’t understand about alchemy (magick, personal growth, call it whatever you fancy) is that it isn’t a linear process; it spirals; it loops back on itself. You often have to repeat the same stages over and over on different levels of that multi-dimensional labyrinth; each time slightly differently, with new insights.
Anyhow, process work is another way of navigating through the labyrinth. I’ve mentioned Arnold Mindell before and now I’ll try to explain a little more. If you find ‘normal’ meditation tough, this might be the key. It’s a bit complicated so, if you’re interested, I’d really recommend you read Working on Yourself Alone, the most accessible of his books. Mindell was a physicist who became a psychoanalyst and he marries science and psyche in a way few can with any aplomb. He believes that the key to change (should you want to change, of course, and many don’t) is not to dampen down the ‘lower’ drives (greed, jealousy, anger etc) but consciously to identify with them; to allow the troublesome parts of the personality to express themselves. Hence, he feels, Eastern meditation practices which focus on detachment are not necessarily advisable for most people.
|Riding the horse backwards...|
‘A possibly new dimension in meditation would be to accept and process all events, including anger, jealousy and greed, in order to reveal their life-giving potential,’ he says.
So, we don’t reject the shitty bits of ourselves; we don’t stamp all over our anger or fear; we don’t hate and reject our pains, our flesh, our illnesses, our weaknesses. Instead we use those feelings, we amplify them to discover what they’re trying to say.
It’s basic alchemy. You take the signals you receive (from your body, your thoughts, your senses, other people, the world) and apply focus (meditation) and by amplifying and cooking them you bring them to completion.
‘The alchemist’s gold is greater contact with experience of, and sometimes even insight into, our own and other’s nature,’ says Mindell.
But what is process? Basically it’s the information that comes to you, from all kinds of directions. Mindell identifies six main ‘channels’.
1. Body feeling – breathing, sensory perception, aches, pains, body awareness.
2. Visualisation – seeing with the mind’s eye.
3. Hearing – what you hear…externally and internally.
4. Movement – spontaneous movement, tics, twitches, spasms.
5. Relationships – how you and other people relate, including transference
6. World phenomena – how you and the ‘outer’ world interact.
Meditation, says Mindell, is a multi-channelled process which is at work all the time. I love this. It means you take meditation out of the lotus position and into the world, into every moment of your day. Actually, in his later books, he describes how you can take it into the night too (learning how to meditate while asleep – that’s my next challenge).
But to start, close your eyes. Ask yourself, which channel am I in? Start with just three – inner seeing, feeling, hearing. Are you feeling something in your body? Seeing something with your inner eyes? Hearing something (maybe even just your breathing?). Don’t use your outer eyes because looking happens too spontaneously – your eyes are too busy noticing things, being fascinated by what you want to become. Equally, normally our bodies are constantly shifting. So, by closing your eyes and not consciously moving, you become aware of other channels. Whatever you see, hear or feel -amplify. If you have some ache or pain, focus on it, check out where it’s coming from, where it’s going to. If it becomes uncomfortable, you may find you switch channels, to avoid the confrontation – you may stop feeling your body and instead ‘see’ an image in your mind’s eye or become aware of your breathing. For now, that’s fine. Just see what comes up. Don’t judge, just become aware.
Mindell often finds that by working in this way, people not only gain insights into their psyche, their bodies often heal too. He has even worked with people in comas – strange but true. Of course, some people resist change, even when they hurt (psychologically or physically). ‘Pain is not enough to motivate people to change,’ Mindell says. ‘There is something else, a strange, unpredictable element which is required before people can work out problems and alter their lives. This element is a mixture of discipline, love and enlightenment.’ Interesting.
But should we work on ourselves? Actually yes, we should probably try. If you consider the earth is a system, a field – then you can’t just throw stuff out. There’s nowhere for it to go - you’re simply putting your crap out into the system. We all have a duty, really, to process our psychic waste just as much as we should compost our peelings and recycle our bottles.