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Tears of Compassion

I mostly lost the ability to cry in the 90's (side-effect of Prozac, or just coincidence I don't know), but in the last couple of months I've shed a lot of tears while sitting in meditation. I get really opened up, and eventually I start feeling deep loving compassion for myself. That makes tears. Or I have a momentary glimpse of how much *everyone* is suffering due to the conditions of their mindbodies, and that makes tears. Or I see how strong and loving they are in the face of their suffering, and *that* makes tears.

They aren't exactly tears of sadness, and sometimes they are tears of love. When I do metta meditation ("may I be happy, strong, full of effort & compassion. May I find ways to share my happiness with others...") tears of beauty can fall.

Meditation is a strange practice. I sit on a cushion for an hour, and my mind parades its carnival-like garishness for 55 minutes. For 5 minutes the spectacle might slow down a bit and I become engrossed in watching the breath or bodily sensations. Perhaps for 5 or 10 seconds, if I'm lucky, all mental verbalization stops and it's just profoundly quiet. In short, I'm not particularly good at one-pointed concentration.

And yet the practice works. The ugly cognitive distortions of depression and anxiety lose a little force. Instead of the harsh language I sometimes use to address myself ("cunt, faggot": words I don't use on others even in extreme anger), I start addressing myself with love ("darling, I'm here for you"). I don't really do this consciously, and it's certainly not some kind of self-improvement trick. After trying to sit equanimously with my body sensation for long enough, love arises. My internal voice gentles.

For the most part, that love is still primarily self-directed. I have inklings of compassion towards others, but it's not easy for me yet to follow through on them. But I do recognize that my happiness is contingent on learning the dilligence to be strong and centered for others.

I cried during my August meditation retreat to think that I'd spend the next year and a half learning to skillfully touch people who are in pain. Learning to let the very flesh of my hands press down through skin and muscle and connective tissue, and help bring back circulation, un-set adhesions, stimulate hormones, and all the other physiological and emotional benefits of skilled touch. I started getting kindof attached to that idea of myself-as-healer till I saw the folly of it.

It's strange getting attached to the idea of being a massage therapist while practicing a meditative discipline that trains one to be cool towards bodily sensation. Much of the pain and fatigue I experienced while sitting up to 11 hours a day in meditation was due mental restlessness, and once I recognized this, the pain and fatigue transmuted into mild annoyances at worst.

Massage only treats at most an inch deep into the physical body (plus physiological after-effects), while the root/radical solution for alleviating physical and emotional pain seems to me neurological or psychological. Massage is a band-aid, and sometimes the wounds we try to cover require the mental equivalent of arterial cauterization. If not heart transplant.

Still, there is need for band-aids too, and there is need for feel-good touch. A lot of people don't get touched at all, let alone skillfully. It's fanciful egotism on my part to want to have deep healing impacts on people. It will suffice to merely touch them.

I've deferred massage school for a semester. I need to do more deep healing of myself first. I need to shed more tears on the meditation cushion, and learn to cultivate ardent habits of mindfulness and compassion. I will be spending the semester working at two meditation centers: one of SN Goenka's Vipassana centers and Stone Circles, a center for social justice activism and spiritual training.

I can feel so beautiful and empowered and full of potential when I sit in meditation with regularity. It's a wonder that I let my practice die these past two weeks, but I'm back. With a lot of help from a lot of people (authors I haven't met, one author I did meet, a meditation teacher who called me today, friends who themselves sit or have provided space for me to sit, the list is long...) I'm back on the cushion.