Meditation and dissociation… A couple of years ago I attended a sonic meditation exercise.
In a partially darkened room, we were invited to find a comfortable position on the floor, while sounds–bells, soft cymbals, tapping on wooden blocks, were alternated, as the guides circulated around the room. At the time, I choose to sit, rather than lie on the floor, because it was easier to breath (allergies), but now I believe there was more to this.
I first practiced meditation when I was 18–motivated by reading about Zen, and have, off and on over the years– since… but never sustained it for long. I was thinking about this at the end of the sonic meditation exercise. I had found it, unsatisfying… more than that. Disturbing. What was it that I was feeling?
In looking back at times when I meditated in the past, I recalled, that when I had finished…( I started to write, ‘recovered’) — I would at first feel transported, removed, elevated–but should I be disturbed in that state, interrupted–I would often explode in anger. The meditation, which at first made me feel at peace, left me more vulnerable, less able to deal with normal irritations. Something connected in this sonic exercise. I even wrote about it to the leaders of that evening, and not long after, to Timmy Dunn, on why I didn’t think I could join in the meditations he was hosting at the time at A-Space… that it felt — or seemed as though — meditation, rather than integrating my mind-body in the present, was wakening latent trauma–and the feeling I’d come to identify with mediation, was more like… no–was, in fact, a state of dissociation–very like what happens in situations of crisis, where one’s full attention is demanded. Emotional response will be, for the time, repressed. Then, when the crisis is over, and it’s safe to let out feelings that had to be withheld while dealing with it.
What then, was the connection, between meditation–the emotional reactions that would often follow–reactions all out of proportion to their provocation, and the healthy flight-fight suspension of emotions in a crisis… followed, by normal, healthy release? Could it be, that the mental state that had become familiar to me in meditation–was dissociation from trauma or crisis, remembered, and unresolved, and the post-meditation vulnerability, was emotional release–misdirected? I’ve wondered since if this is something that’s been studied?
Today, I found the article in this link.
243 years ago, a bunch of white slave holders, declared independence from the English prohibition of the slave trade, waged genocidal war on native inhabitants, and created what has become, the most violent and destructive nation State in history.
11″x 15″ watercolor, pen & ink. On Fabriano 140lb coldpress. Yellow-orange, blue-violet, yellow-greet triad.
Art is a rupture in the established order; a work of art is a tear in the net we cast over the perceived world– while the ‘Art World,’ in the guise of celebrating the rupture, works tirelessly to stitch it back in place. The Art World uses a capitalist idea of success to train artists to heel, like dogs on tight leash.
In April, 1988, standing in our kitchen in NE Philadelphia, it came to me that for the rest of my life I would follow whatever course best served my desire to write. And by that, I meant–to make art, to be an artist, though I wasn’t yet ready to accept that name for myself
I was 47, two months short of my 48th birthday. It wasn’t that I hadn’t done these things before, I had taken courses in art from childhood, at the Chicago Art Institute, Nelson-Aitkins Gallery of Art and Kansas City Art Institute. Later, majored for for time at Wichita State University. I had written stories and poetry from the time I could write, but this was new. This was something else. Like a conversion experience. A sense of accepting a calling, making a commitment. If I could live to work another 20 or 30 years, I told myself, I would have as much time as many who had begun in their youth–to leave a body of work.
Maybe it was the feeling that time was running out. Or was it that to my mind, being an artist was something too grand, that I wasn’t worthy? I thought of what Cezanne had written: ” Why so late and with such difficulty? Is art a priesthood that demands the pure in heart who must belong to it entirely?”
Yes. I thought. It does.
Though not so sure about the “pure in heart” stuff. A bit too 19th Century.
But with humor, yes. And this new sense of freedom from any judgment not my own–this was what I was going to do.
It will be 27 years come April. Some of them–pretty rough going. But I can call myself an artist now–a novelist, a poet–and not cower in shame lest I be found out as a fake. And I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life.
I kinda like this, being a Late Bloomer–of just warming up when most people are winding down, of not having to hang it up, rest on the laurels of what I accomplished in my youth. Life is just beginning. Every day. Every day, a new beginning!
A blog post is as ethereal as the trace of dancing particles though a cloud chamber, and yet in the universe of the web, seemingly always there, as though cyrogenically frozen beyond time, perhaps sprung to life at the mistyping of a search word, or preserved on old UBS drives at the bottom of a landfill, like mineralized imprints of the first self-replicating cells that drifted in Precambrian seas.
I don’t trust the impulse to preserve. nursing as it does, a delusional wish for immortality, and yet, like: Shakespeare’s 64th Sonnet, the wish to have that which we fear to lose, nudges aside good sense, and I go back into the old blog, searching for scraps–what, had I not written them, would have been likely nothing more than trains of thought, passing time on the el waiting for my stop, forgotten as soon as my foot touched the station platform. Here, then… from my birthday, June 22, 2008.
Ulrich went on: “Every great book breaths this spirit of love for the fate of individuals at odds with the forms the community tries to impose on them. It leads to decisions that cannot be decided; there is nothing to be done but to give a true account of their lives. Extract the meaning out of all literature, and what you will get is a denial, however incomplete, but nonetheless an endless series of individual examples all based on experience, which refute all the accepted rules, principles, and prescriptions underpinning the very society that loves these works of art! In the end, a poem, with its mystery, thousands of words in constant use, severs all these strings, and turns it into a balloon floating off into space. If this is what we call beauty, as we usually do, then beauty is an indescribably more ruthless and cruel upheaval than any political revolution ever was.”
From chapter 84 of The Man Without Qualities.