Nebulæ: my meditation experience

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Readers of earlier posts will know that over the past few months I’ve been eagerly contemplating the writings of philosopher Andrew Taggart on the concept of Total Work. As a Zen Buddhist Andrew regularly meditates, and, although I understand that Andrew is going way, way deeper in his explorations than this, I thought I would try to meditate to one of Andrew’s online contemplations in order to relax and see where my thoughts took me. This was my experience:

As Andrew spoke about bodily sensations and emotions being akin to pulsating and vibrating energy, an image formed in my mind of a black space-like void with a fluctuating multi-coloured nebulous form hanging in the middle of it. This nebula was a representation of my emotions, and the different colours corresponded to different emotions rising and falling in my experience: red for anger, blue for anxiety, etc. The predominant colour seemed to be a soft yellow which I took to stand for calm. However, as my attention followed the nebula’s surface it was as though these different emotional states were in a slow battle with one another. At one point an arc of blue anxiety would emerge from within the slowly swirling maelstrom, threatening to turn the whole nebula blue, only to be chased and dissipated by a plume of yellow calm; like the gaseous discharge of a solar flare from the surface of the sun.

At some point a qualitative difference in this experience took place. Drawing from my own everyday example to describe this, it felt like I had gone from watching a 2D cinema screen to an Imax with 3D glasses. I actually felt like I had crossed some barrier from the outside to the inside of this image and that now my consciousness was not only a disembodied observer of the void and the nebula but was now actually the void which was all around observing the emotional nebula. It was as though my body had dissolved and all that was left was my observation and the emotional shadow play. Was this an intimation of what it is like to pass from the perspective of the “I” to the self? Perhaps this was the point that I fell asleep and entered a dream state?

What I take from this experience is that I need to more deeply examine what emotional triggers are causing me distress in order to establish what is external and therefore what practical steps I can take to turn away from these stimuli, but also what level of anxiety is an internal part of me and how I need to accept this and in doing so overcome it to a certain degree.

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