I thought I should explore that idea of spaciousness (from yesterday's entry) a bit further, because I continue to find it a useful and challenging one in meditation. First, I want to be clear that it's not about "spacing out." The popular misconception of meditation as a pursuit of bliss is a deeply mistaken one, in my experience. True happiness, yes--the kind of happiness that results from a release from those fabricated identities and reactive patterns that we too often allow to define who we are. But "bliss," to my way of thinking, has more than a suggestion of denial, and meditation is the work I personally use to bring me out of denial, another small step toward enlightened clarity.
The kind of spaciousness I'm talking about is something quite different from bliss, though it may bring with it a pleasurable serenity. Quite literally, "space" in our common language describes the infinite vastness that lies beyond our little earth's atmosphere. That humankind can now travel into space is one of the miracles of the times in which we live. And thanks to our ability to reach unimaginably far out into space to probe its depths with our advanced telescope technology, we know that it is far from empty. Not only are there billions of galaxies with their stars and planets, even the spaces in between them are crammed with matter. In meditation, I have discovered, the human mind is capable of infinite expansion, allowing occasional glimpses of this external space to flood it with a dazzling clarity that feels at once like understanding and acceptance. The resulting sense of being one with everything is at once powerful and incredibly humbling.
And then there is the space within, the microcosm that resonates with the universe's macrocosm. Again, with microscopic technology that rivals that of astronomical telescopes, contemporary science has allowed our human species to explore these inner spaces of the body and make mind-bending discoveries about the stuff of which we're made. Those spaces, too, are now open for more voyages and further discoveries; the adventure, we might say, has just begun. I can't lay claim to great expertise in this area, but I have noticed in meditation that the mind can be tuned to serve as an internal space ship, transporting me through these body spaces--particularly, when I manage to find the focus and the concentration that I need--into areas of joint and muscular distress that manifests as pain.
To explain a little further: I was writing yesterday about the chronic ache between my shoulders, at the base of my neck. In the normal course of a day, when I notice it, the muscular structure there feels dense, impenetrable, knotted. What I'm learning--and the point of yesterday's entry was that I was helped enormously along the way by Tsoknyi Rinpoche's Open Heart, Open Mind--is that it is possible to loosen some of those knots by using the mind to penetrate the area and locate the spaces in between. It's a little like untying a stubborn knot, which requires the use of subtle fingers to tease out the spaces that have become impacted and congested. It takes patience, careful attention, and intently focused skill before the strands of twine loosen and fall apart. The same process can be brought to bear on those familiar aches and pains in the body that seem intractable: when we worry at them with resistance, the knots simply tighten; when we are patient in our search for the spaces, we succeed.
That, anyway, is my experience. I am not, I repeat, proficient in the skills required for this healing art; but it's good to know where--and how--to start.