This past weekend I meditated for 48 hours as part of the EnlightenNext Meditation Marathon. Aside from short breaks on the hour and 3 breaks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I was glued to my meditation cushion for two days straight directing my attention on empty awareness.
I wanted to share a few reflections from my time on the cushion. Doing extended periods of meditation like this makes you feel a little like an explorer mapping new territories, albeit we are talking about an inner landscape. And as I write these words, I can feel the deep echo of those meditative hours reverberating in my being. Deep ease, unthinkable stillness, emptiness and fullness, delight…all of these are qualities I would use to characterize my time in this two day meditation vortex.
There were some challenging moments in the early hours, but in truth, the overwhelming experience was one of deep and total resolution without much of a ripple. And that is part of what I find very interesting.
Where did this resolution come from and what was it? Why didn’t I experience much fatigue in the second 24 hours? I didn’t sleep for two days straight, and yet I came out feeling fresh and light and ready to go. That just doesn’t seem to line up with everyday reality.
One thing strikes me right off the bat. I went into the marathon having made up my mind that I was going to sit there for 48 hours no matter what. Nothing was going to change that, and I had no ambivalence about the mission. I was totally resolved that no matter what my experience was, I was going for it and it was going to be incredible. The longest I had meditated before was for 36 hours and that was great. But unlike that previous 36-hour stretch, this marathon vaulted over a whole second night session from midnight to 6am—always the toughest hours. And yet somehow, I knew before I started that it was going to be great. And, in fact, it went way beyond my expectations. I didn’t budge from that deeper position for 48 hours.
I tend to think of previous extended meditations as letting go and dropping ever more deeply into myself, but this had the quality of becoming ever more still. The more I let go, the more there was a sense of totality and completion. I was no longer moving at all, outwardly or inwardly. My mind was distant and irrelevant. It was definitely active and in motion, but I was not. I was completely still and in some way it was like I wasn’t there anymore, but I was aware of everything.
During this process, my mind moved to the background, and something else moved to the foreground. It was as if there was only awareness, but without a vantage point or perspective. In that awareness, I could feel everyone around me was in the same state, almost like we were breathing and being as a single entity, as awareness itself. For hours and hours on end I was incredibly awake and my awareness seemed to expand the more deeply still I became. At times, I could feel compelling trains of thought come roaring in, but I resolved to keep letting go and not move and the thought streams always passed and faded. After about 30 hours, this stillness and panoramic awareness became the predominant experience.
Experiences like this one always remind me that we live in the middle of an incredible mystery. Things seem one way, but experiences like this open up new dimensions and realms of consciousness that seem to operate according to different rules and standards. Time doesn’t pass in the same way in these states. Often it would seem like no time had passed and the session would suddenly end. Forty-five minutes passed in what seemed like 5 minutes. And energy…sometimes between sessions I would feel exhausted like I was going to collapse but as soon as I sat on the cushion I would be energized and ready to go. How does that work? I don’t pretend to understand it, but I have experienced it enough now to know it’s real.
Another thing…there is incredible intimacy in doing this with others. When we slow down this much and drop into such deep and profound states of liberated awareness, the feeling of shared depth and space and consciousness is very poignant. You don’t need to talk or make eye contact to feel where someone’s attention is and if you have your attention on the same thing. It’s like being together in a pre-verbal knowing where there is no awareness of separation. This type of being together has the effect of reinforcing and amplifying the meditation. You are so open that without a word or a glance, you know that you are fully connected at the deepest level. It is, perhaps, the deepest form of communion I have ever experienced.
There is more to share, but I wanted to write a few words while the experience is fresh and thank the many incredible friends who supported me in meditating for 48 hours. Your support made this experience a genuine labor of love and I would do it again in a second.