Here’s another installment in a series of emails that took place between Michael and one of his senior students beginning the Summer of 2009. May you find the exchange interesting and enriching.
November 4, 2010 (#45)
Student: What do you think about all day when seeking is dropped and the story is not taken seriously? What does it look like inside your head?
Michael: I don’t really know how to answer that other than to say that I’m guessing that there’s nothing remarkable or special going on in my noggin. I would say that there is much less “thinking” going on that there used to be. Sometimes, for example, I’ll go for extended periods of time without thought. There is just a felt sense of Being, for lack of a better word. In other moments I experience bondage. It’s just that after all these hours on the cushion, bondage doesn’t last for very long anymore.
Student: When bondage does come up is it like experiencing “phantom pain” after losing a limb?
Michael: I guess. Phantom Bondage: bondage that’s not there but you’d swear that it is.
Student: Yes. Like recently I’ve been experiencing certain manifestations of depression, but not the depression itself. Like I forget where I’m driving or forgetting what route to take to certain places I’ve been millions of times. Some stuff more dramatic, some less, but it’s like “Phantom Depression.” Either that, or I’m getting early Alzheimer’s.
Michael: Maybe even “Phantom Alzheimers.” It’s hard to say, but there is a reconfiguration that happens when deeper and deeper insights begin to settle. For the record, this reconfiguration can get weird. All I can say is that continuing practice and getting curious about all of it is as it’s happening is really important. This curiosity will act like a compass when the seas get rough. For me this was especially true for friendships that had to be retooled at various levels as my practice deepened. But even as relationships were reconfigured I saw that the open, and curious, relationship that I had to them allowed for a peace in the middle of it. I remember not feeling alienated. Nor did I feel lonely even as a solitude took center stage in my experience. Fascinating… all of it.
Student: I’ve experienced the same thing. Sometimes there’s loneliness, but not the all-consuming kind like I’ve known before, which tightened around me as I struggled to throw it off. Often, in terms of the depression I just described, I’ve notice a waiting, for what I’m not sure… a deeper expression?
Michael: Who knows? The inertia of that expectation will ease, most likely, the more that curiosity takes the place of fear.
Student: At some point does reconfiguration stop?
Michael: I’ve experienced it in waves. Bursts periodically. Doldrums at other times that feel like the “waiting” that you describe. Both are cool. And it’s still going. Moment to moment. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s so true. The settling of the immovable through the always moving, consciously, is the most amazing journey.