A lightning bug lost
In the sunlight, still blinking
But dimmed by the day



Painting: Naomi as a Lightning Bug by
Kellie Hill, kellimarionhill on Etsy

~ by April on July 2, 2015.

11 Responses to “Instinct”

  1. Hi April, I hope this reaches you.

    I came across your “intimate act” post and wanted to say thank you for writing such an honest account of the purpose of your meditation. I recently left the Soto Zen community for reasons mentioned on Glenn’s blog, but I have continued with meditation. Your piece on meditation really inspired me; that meditation is an engagement with all aspects of phenomenology.

    I was just wondering what happens when you leave the cushion. You mentioned that the intimate act of meditation allows you to be intimate with your daily life; I was wondering does this mean everyday tasks?

    Have you felt that you are better able to cope with your trauma, as a result of your meditation?

    • Thank you for reading and for reaching out. Honestly, some days I think maybe it helps, and some days there is not much that will help but the going through it. I think maybe that meditation, learning to pay attention, has helped me to be a bit more self aware when an episode of anxiety, PTSD, flashbacks is coming. I think I am more aware of what is happening rather than just being so caught off guard. Maybe it helps me to go through it, feel it, and know that I am not going to die (which is what the brain tries to tell you in a PTSD episode.) I think that sitting, especially during a flashback, gives me courage to be with my body and mind while it’s happening. But, I have come to understand that there is no cure for PTSD and the results of childhood sexual trauma. Nothing, no amount of sitting, Buddhism, God, etc…is going to make it go away. But, I am ok with that, and I am ok with that being my life. Maybe that is what sitting still and silent has done. It doesn’t make it magically better, but it does allow me to notice my humanity and maybe be less ashamed of it. Actually I know it has helped me be less ashamed of it. Meditation has indeed helped me to know a bit more about who I am as a human being, and has given me the courage to be honest about who I am and who I am not, and the strength to not let others try to fix me. I hope that answers your question. If not, feel free to ask more. Thanks again so much.

    • I will also say that a pretty obvious/concrete difference for me, and for my PTSD, is that my startle reflex is a lot better. It is not gone completely, but I am definitely less reactive and if I do react it is slower to occur, I am more aware instead of just blindly reacting, and it seems to be less intense. My family can attest to this as well.

  2. Thank you for your dense response. I get the impression that it can be a minor form of psychoanalysis for you in the sense that your meditation cultivates attention into what you’re thinking, feeling.

    Do you think that your meditation aids attention in other areas, for example when you create, when you eat, etc???

    Also, that was me that sent you that request on Facebook. I just wanted to commend you and ask questions, pretty much like I’m doing now.

    • Well, I do not know much about psychoanalysis to accurately compare the two. I would say that, yes, it is a tool for self awareness. Also, it did help me to embody myself, by that I mean that I spent a lot of time in my past dissociated from my physical body, and sitting still and silent gave me the opportunity to feel my body with some sense of trust, and allowing sensation, even uncomfortable sensation. For me it is less about changing my thinking while I am sitting, as it is about observing sensorium and thinking, and embodying while I am doing that. And then perhaps training myself to do that while I am sitting might extend into my walking life. I have used a form of open meditation that helps me to write, inspires lines of poetry. But that is slightly different than concentration meditation. Concentration being mainly observing and focusing on one thing, breath. Open meditation being to watch things arise and fall without too much attachment to them after they pass.

      I don’t mind the questions or the chatting at all. Feel free to ask away. 🙂

      • Thank you so much for your response. Do you recommend any particular sources/books on open meditation?

        I’m really interested in the poetry you write. May I ask what the catalyst is for your creativity?

        • Let me think about that. I read A LOT of books when I was in school, got my Masters in Applied Meditation (with Glenn Wallis actually), so I’ll look through them and see. I also created a class and then ran a group that explored meditation and creative writing. I’ll look through that syllabus as well. We did an exercise where we had a prompt, wrote for twenty minutes, sat for twenty minutes, wrote again…and then discussed. I did that regularly for at least a year. That probably helped the most, just sitting and writing. Also the sutta that I mentioned (the instruction part not the outcomes part) is what I base my open meditation on. Right now I am not really reading anything except poetry. Mostly I have just spent the last 8 years experimenting with meditation and writing. I’ll take a look through what I have and see if anything jumps out that might help you. It may be a day or two…ya know…with crazy life and all.

          Sorry so verbose….that’s just me. If you don’t hear back from me, feel free to remind me.

          Thanks so much for reaching out and for reading my stuff. It’s nice to know it is finding an audience.

    • P.S. I would say that being more embodied and in contact with bodily sensations has definitely made me more aware of how I treat my body…with food, exercise, etc… But I must admit that being the flawed human I am, I still sometimes chose less than healthy things for my body. Then I just feel it more when my body feels bad afterwards. I have a motto, “All things in moderation, including moderation.” 😉 I never want meditation to absolve me of my humanity…I just want to be present with it…warts and all. 🙂

    • Do you mind me asking why you left the Soto Zen practice? I am just curious. I do not practice with any particular sect, although I do run a pretty bare bones group. But we don’t really do much to affiliate ourselves with any particular style, and we pull from lots of different ways of thinking like poetry, philosophy, etc. The only Sutta I still really pay attention to is the Anapanasati Sutta…simply because I like its pretty direct meditation instruction.

  3. Hi April,

    Sorry for my late reply. I left my Soto Zen practice very early. It is somewhat difficult to explain, but I felt confined by its religious elements. Does that make sense?

    I’ve been thinking about your comments on meditation and I get the sense that, either consciously or subconsciously, an element of your “sitting” is self-acceptance; that in “sitting”, you’re are accepting all of human experience – emotions, thoughts – as human existence encompasses a diversity of experiences. You’re not sitting to force a particular experience i.e. bliss, or contentment.

    D.W. Winnicott, a famous psychoanalyst, had a simple, perhaps obvious yet penetrative, idea: the healthy individual experiences fear, guilt, shame as well as positive feelings. The main thing is that one feels one is living one’s own life. I get that impression of you when you talk of your “sitting”. That you are accept that you are affected by others and circumstances, but ultimately its meaning and value will be dictated by you. Thus, I associate your “sitting” with self-acceptance.

    • Yes, I completely understand feeling confined by religious dogma. When I first started I was excited by the religious part, thinking maybe it had something to offer that other religions didn’t. I soon realized that it offered the same dogma, the same “not good enough” language, only it was dressed up to disguise that part. So I completely get it. And yes, self acceptance…as a flawed but perfectly fine human being…is what I am sitting with, having a look at, experimenting with. I am interested in a human practice, not in some uber-human, or better than human practice. Mostly because I do not think those things are possible and only serve to continue religion’s tradition of human shaming. I really do appreciate your conversation about this. Much luck with your practice, your observation, your sitting.

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