An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]
As I was meditating this morning, I came up with a new practice metaphor. There were times when I was clearly in the flow of my body, very attuned the myriad body sensations and there were other moments where I was somewhere else or trying to manage some aspect of the moment, almost as if I was trying to push the clock forward to be finished.
That in-flow feeling reminded me of being in the fall line while snowboarding. The image works for skiers too. When you are in the fall line, you are flowing with gravity and heading in a parallel fashion down the mountain. It’s exhilarating and requires skill to maintain a sense of control. This control can feel effortless and preconscious. In fact, it is best done without narrative self-consciousness. This starts to sound like meditation.
That fall line experience is always present since the body never stops generating rich sensations. It gets obscured by the activity of the mind. I notice there are two types of obscuration: micromanagement and macromanagement.
Macromanagement are obvious gestures of resistance: shifts in postures (for me it is usually cracking my neck), checking the clock, or some other outer action. Micromanagement happens with attention. Instead of enjoying the fall line, I am rehearsing some future scenario or reviewing some past one. I am trying to get everything just right and this effort gets in the way of that flow.
Recognizing the similarity between practice and riding helped to keep me in the fall line. I know from snowboarding that fear or a lack confidence keep me from the fall line. I am braking excessively and sometimes instead of having more control, I have less, perhaps even falling as I linger too long on my heel-side edge. Physics is begging me to let go but sometimes the mind does not want to release. Sound familiar?
When you are in the fall line either on the mountain or on the cushion, time passes more quickly since there is no self-consciousness marking time. You are in a natural state unencumbered internal dialogues and their incessant wish to control things. Releasing into the fall line requires confidence that relinquishing the micro and macro attempts to manage are not required.
It is a spiritual experience because we have transcended our individual narratives for at least a few moments. Chance are, things will be okay if you relinquish thinking for the moments that comprise a practice session and just enjoy the subtle thrill of the fall line.