Have you ever meditated?
$ No, I haven’t. I find it a waste of time: you sit idly and so many unfinished things are waiting.
$ Gandhi said: Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. I suggest you take off your shoes, undo your trousers, do your best to feel comfortably. Try out as many blankets and cushions as you need till you find a comfortable seat. Put a cushion against the wall, behind your back so that you don’t feel the wall is hard or cold. It is warm today, nevertheless you can cover with one blanket. Are you ok?
$ Yes, I am. Now I’m yawning all the time.
$ You’re getting relaxed. Meditation is among other things about emptiness. Lao Tse said: Thirty spokes unite at the single hub; It is the empty space which makes the wheel useful. Mold clay to form a bowl; It is the empty space which makes the bowl useful. Cut out windows and doors; It is the empty space which makes the room useful. So while meditating, be in the emptiness, don’t develop the plots that come to your mind in the shape of thoughts, ideas, recalls of the things you’re supposed to do. E.g.: there comes a thought: I need to go home and fetch something and I let this thought flow; something is itching, I can scratch or wait till it passes by; I want to check what time it is, I open my eyes or I leave it alone.
$ By the way: eyes closed?
$ You’ll find it out for yourself. Generally, with open eyes you can see many things around you and they basically distract you more than engines revving outside the window, dogs barking or bells ringing. Completely closed eyes favor falling asleep and meditation is not sleeping, it’s a state of full consciousness. In the Chinese tradition they talk about eyes open at the width of a cotton thread.
$ How am I supposed to measure this?
$ Lower your head a little, as much as it goes down unforced, open your eyes to be able to see the upper part of your thighs, not more.
$ It is difficult for me to keep my eyelids open like this. It is a real effort, they are trembling, tears are coming into my eyes.
$ So close your eyes. A sentence, an expression repeated in your head, observing your breath can help you let go of your thoughts. Let’s try doing this: breathe in through your nose and say: I am, breathe out through your nose and say: here and now.
$ I am here and now. I am here and now. I am here and now.
$ Repeat it only in your head, don’t even whisper it, as if this sentence replaced your thoughts.
$ Is it called a mantra?
$ Labels are the least important. What you call mantra will eventually become useless: you will be in the emptiness, no thoughts, no feelings. Maybe it will last only for a moment, maybe longer. Every experience is all right. I am setting the alarm clock for 25 minutes. If during the meditation for any reason you come to the conclusion that you want to give it up, give it up without hesitating.
$ What do I do with my hands?
$ You certainly saw pictures of meditating Buddha etc.
$ Yes, I did. His palms were joint in the shape of a bowl.
$ Put your palms on your legs, on your knees, the way you remember from the pictures of meditating Buddha, whatever makes you sit comfortably. Let’s get started.
25 minutes later
Are you all right?
$ It was weird. First I wanted to protest: why did you talk me into this? You know, I’m supposed to learn Catalan and you are telling me to sit down, not to read, not to write, not even to think. Then I left it because you are famous for a revolutionary approach to teaching foreign languages. Some time ago we spent half a class visualizing. In no way it looked like learning Catalan to me then and today I can see a deeper sense of getting ready to learning like this. Next, I reminded of the mantra. And I was convinced that although I could hear in my head: I am here and now and observe my breath, there were thoughts running on a second track: I wonder how much time is left; o, I’m yawning again; am I sitting straight? I opened my eyes to see how you were sitting. After all, what day is it today? What time is my meeting with the client X? Have I confirmed the appointment? Did he want me to confirm? I’ll check it after class. I am here and now. Then this running on two tracks tired me. Only breathing remained. And I am here and now. And I started falling asleep. At least that was my impression. My eyes were perfectly closed and suddenly I saw brightness. As if somebody switched on a lamp under my eyelids. I needed to make sure my eyes were closed. Yes, they were. Oh, probably the sun has come out of the clouds. But that didn’t matter because I was sitting with my back towards the window and it’s early in the morning and we are in the southern part of the building. I had these arguments in my head for some moments and then I only enjoyed this cream warm light. And I saw the following picture: I am sitting behind a door and there is a huge key hole in this door, for a huge ancient key. And I can see somebody observe me through this hole. I am coming closer, I stick my eye to the hole and I can see a giant brown eye on the other side. With long straight eyelashes. Then I could see the owner of the eye: a giant mammoth or a similar animal, they have been extinct species for a longtime. And I have a closer look at it and I can see that this animal is me.