Memories of oblivion

I’ve been asked to write a 500 word spiritual autobiographical essay, and this has me thinking about my experiences with Vipassana meditation. I only have room for a line or two on meditation in the essay, so I’m venting my verbosity into this post.

For me, the most surprising aspect of meditation was that “I” did not control my thoughts. Thinking would think, and something corresponding to “me” had emerged from this process.

Sometimes, if I managed to settle my mind down I could hear the stream of babble from which thoughts pop into my head. It sounded something like a murmuring crowd from another country. Some of the murmur was also visual, but all of it was a piece. Occasionally some random bit of murmur would spark recognition of some word. A word would sometimes spark a notion, and the notions would sometimes collect into an idea. An idea would occur, and then some stretch of time later — seconds, minutes or even multiple quarter-hours — it would come to my attention that “I” had stopped meditating… except there was no I who did the stopping. The I who had been posted there to do the meditating had gone non-existent, yet something had continued without it (recording memories) and something resumed my I-activities (my I-ing) once awareness came back. Part of that I-ing was gluing together all those memories to create the illusion that I had been there.

Consciousness is anything but continuous. It would be more accurate to say that consciousness is an effervescence of back-story and anticipation.

Or maybe it would be most accurate of all to say that I am a lousy meditator.

Meditation is only one of my go-to sources for insights into the workings of nothingness. Ocular migraines are another rich source.

I’ve been trying to write a prayer to my migraine wisdom. I think it might still suck in that way psychedelic stuff always sucks, but here it is:

You move from everything to everything, flashing across expanses of nullity.

Landing, standing on firm ground of  unruly particularity, blindness still clings to your heels. The shadow you cast is perfect: nothing there, nothing missing.

Then you leave, again, closing time behind you with a seal of oblivion. Wherever you go, after you depart you will always have been there, and will never have been absent.

Only those who move with you can detect your before or after, so I am attempting to trace your movements.

As we travel, please help me skim the churning chrome, and to not sink in it and drown. Please help me slip through scotomas and not collide with their nonexistence. Please face me forward, and guard my eyes from looking right or left, toward light or toward darkness, or glancing backwards into entangling comforts lurking in the familiar dappled shade.

Lead me to where my doubt fails.

Maybe I could call my kind of migraine o(ra)cular migraines. My migraines have taught me to notice the signs of blindness, which is the closest we can get to seeing blindness, which is not the cheap psychedelic paradox it might seem to be. You can detect blindness, but only indirectly and longitudinally, comparing moments with varying capacities to perceive (in the case of migraines) or capacities to conceive (in the case of Vipassana). But to do this, it is crucially important to not map these strange experiences to our old familiar distinctions. We will explain them away, extinguish them, sink them back into blindness, like how we forget our inconceivable dreams by crushing them into plotlines. The goal is to develop new distinctions that permit more kinds of reality to exist to us.

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Maybe I should set myself the goal of reinventing the psychedelic aesthetic, in a more substantial and durable mode?

Bonus: a portrait of me with migraine.

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