I rolled out of bed and tried to meditate this morning, for a grand total of .... drum roll.... 15 minutes (sigh). Did I say meditate? What I meant was I sat upright for 15 minutes with my eyes closed. There was no meditation going on there even though that was the intention. More experienced meditators have said that it's easier to meditate in the morning, when the body is stiff and the mind is clear. For me, it's the other way around. It's as if instead of dreaming, my thoughts that are supposed to be in dreams are triggered the moment I wake up. Plus it's not even the thoughts the bug me the most. It's the fact that I can't sit still. All my body parts feel creaky in the morning. I can't hold a straight back, body parts seem grumpy and not really under the control of my brain yet. Neither my body nor my mind wants to be in a sitting position.
What about doing some yoga warm up before sitting in the morning? Tried that. I did some sun salutations before settling down onto my meditation cushion. That made it worse. I craved to do a whole yoga sequence instead of sitting.
Things are different at night before bed time, especially if I just came back from a yoga class. All my nadi channels (meridians?) feel open, allowing my breath to flow freely absolute ease. I don't feel any kinks in my body (guess they were all taken care of during yoga). My back has no trouble holding the spine straight; I can actually sit happily for 30-60minutes. Scary part is, I can actually sit with alertness happily even if it's 12am.
This is going to be a problem if/when I sign up for Vipassana retreat, when meditation starts at 4:30am and we're supposed to go to bed at, what? 9 or 10pm?
I was reading this article called "Can Meditation Be Bad for You?" by Mary Garden. She mentioned that she used to meditate a lot (went on 5 Vipassana retreats.. must have had a lot of free time) and had experienced a lot of hallucinating experiences from it. At some point she finally gave up seeking for enlightenment and "returned to worldly life", when she also gave up on meditation. She also talked about cases where people became psychotic and/or committed suicide after long meditation retreats, which at first scared me a little (would I hallucinate and want to commit suicide after my Vipassana retreat?!?! Garden did mention that a questionnaire was implemented by the Vipassana retreat organizers to try to prevent further suicides and epilepsy-like episodes at retreats, but she questioned the effectiveness of the questionnaire (as a safety guard).
So I googled some more, and found forums with comments of frustrated people complaining they got rejected by Vipassana retreat organizers when they answered honestly on the retreat application that they perform erotic reiki massages for a living and use a lot of psychedelic drugs recreationally. Oh I laughed my ass off reading these comments. I think I'll be okay left alone with my brain and minimal external stimulations for 10 days, even if I probably won't be able to sit still for long in the mornings.
This quote by Arthur Chappel was mentioned in the article:
"Many meditation practitioners have complained of difficulty doing simple arithmetic and remembering names of close friends after prolonged meditation. The effect is rather like that of Newspeak's obliteration of the English language in George Orwell's 1984."
Hmm.. okay I originally started meditating to build focus and I didn't realize there would be this side effect. However, I wish somebody warned me before I signed up for grad school that spending too much time thinking about research questions may result in extreme absent-mindedness... effects include forgetting where I place my keys all the time, frequent occurrence of forgetting to place the milk back into the fridge before heading out to school, falling asleep in the afternoon and sleeping past the time I'm supposed to meet friends for dinner, started reading 5 different books but never able to finish any of them, etc. If you take a close look at a large group of professors you'll see that some of them have forgotten to brush their hair, or how to interact with ordinary people (ie. people who don't speak academic-babble). Some of them have this absent look in their eyes not much different from long-term meditators. I guess the difference is that the professors are madly processing a million thoughts on their research question (or grant applications) at all times, while the meditators are keeping their minds as free of cluttered thoughts as possible.
I set out to meditate so my brain can be "clutter-free" and be focused on a few important matters at hand, without forgetting to brush my hair or lose my keys every day. Now it seems like it's not possible. If I meditate too much I'll lose my arithmetic skills (gasp! I need that for my analyses!) What if I keep it down to only 15 minutes a day? Would that help with anything? Give me a year to work on it and I'll get back to you on that.