I have begun to notice a comparative difference in the presentation, subjective quality, and interactivity of at least two kinds of thoughts or modes of thinking. I suspect there are many more and it’s most likely a spectrum of qualities but for me at the moment these two are standing out. They are Mantra space and Dream space.
My experience of meditation so far, typically involves an amalgam of these two states. The latter dream space being the species of thought which is uncontrolled – The former mantra space being the species of controlled thought. Each space is intimately engaged to the other in a gentle dance, or tug of war in some circumstances. There is no preference or hierarchy for me, at first I would try desperately to maintain the dream space because, as I will describe below, it is fascinating on many levels. But I soon realised that a detached balance between the two has benifits and merits that far outweigh the fantasy of any one.
I would like to tell a story about the spark of insight which lead to my delineation of these two internal phenomena.
It happened during a meditation class, my regular teacher was off galavanting around the world so we had a sub and the class was unusually full. Arriving on my bicycle through a gentle, warm rain in the early evening; The moisture being a welcome change to the heat of the ride. Having fasted the day I was already quite space headed when I sat down on the cushion, and quickly began my warm up ritual with little fuss – Gently massaging my fingers and hands.
Closing my eyes and finding my breath while the class slowly began filling up with the sounds of students meandering in from the wetness, I suspected there was some energy in the rain as we’d had a hot, dry day and the buzz in the room reflected that intuition.
Coming from a Perth climate, I found it endlessly fascinating the effects the chaotic weather of Melbourne has on its inhabitants.
What was typically a circle of no more than ten had expanded to fit at least 25 students. From my eyes closed position, I imagined the room filling up with crystal clear blue water coinciding with the settling and silencing of the yogis waiting for class to start. A fun little game I like to play with my imagination.
The class began with some Nadi shodan pranayama, but instead of externally blocking the nostrils, we were guided towards internalising the alternations in the left and right nostrils with our awareness. We then settled into our meditation, consisting of the repetitive mantra aham in our minds.
I don’t know if there was something in the water, but I fell into a trance a lot faster than normal.
From behind my eyes I repeated the mantra softer and softer as instructed, it transmuted from a sound to a memory of a sound until it was synisthetically attached to vision, call it sound/light. As if on cue, my old friend mental chatter with all its neurosis and judgement came forward with force, more than usual it seemed. Quickly grabbing the reigns of the mantra and taking over with all of its “important” messaging. But I had been playing this game for some time now and began repeating aham with equal fervour to distract the chatter.
Previously, I would have engaged in a mental joust with my neurosis, reasoning back and forth with it. But since learning meditation, my toolbox is growing ever larger, mantra being the Swiss Army knife of choice.
Having distracted ol chatterbox with a fresh round of aham, I eventually fell into the first of the dream space experiences.
This is the stuff dreams are made of, the only suitable analogy I can come up with is a liquid. Imagine yourself at the boundary of sleep, perhaps you are snuggled up in bed listening to the white noise of your environment. You feel a familiar heaviness roll through your body, maybe the visions behind your eyes increase in magnetic intensity, drawing you deeper into their narrative. You’re not quite asleep yet, but another few minutes without external distraction and you very much will be.
Within my mind, I became aware of a collection of focus grabbing boundaryless spheres of thought stuff. They were morphing and changing, popping into and out of existence. My subjective proximity to a sphere was proportional to its ability to draw my focus into it – Like little black holes. They were polysensational, unlike the mantra space which dealt only in sound/light, these thoughts were like HDTV – Fully immersive, and inclusive of both my chemo/somatic sense and the dimension of feelings too; just like a dream. I had no sense that I was consciously interacting with any particular narrative in these dream space thoughts, there appeared to be no free will here – More I was just observing, but with my full sensorium switched on.
Please understand that I am writing this from the privilege of hindsight, these are the metaphors I use to describe the indescribable.
Having the wherewithal at the time to realise I might have just fallen asleep, I promptly snapped out of the dream space and back into my body through the breath. But I wanted to experiment more and I suspected there was some time left before the gong so I settled into repeating the mantra once more.
The familiarity of the two spaces opened up with ease this time, it’s like a magic eye book – Once you see it you can’t unsee it. Except the geography had changed.
This part is difficult to pin down with words, if you imagined the boundaryless fluidic dream spheres floating in sound/light mantra space before – take a giant fork and whisk them all around like a marble cake.
My internal vista was chaos incarnate, I had to ramp up aham in both frequency and intensity to maintain a sense of stability. Dream space thoughts were flying at me from all sides, small changes in the angle of observation caused whole new thought trees to open up before me.
It was like a herd of buffalo had stormed through the perfectly organised library of my mind.
Now these dream space thoughts were not merely visions, when they passed through me I felt them in my body. It was the strangest experience. What is curious though, is the power of mantra to deflect and perturb the the charging thoughts. I discovered I could duck, dodge and weave with ever more effortless ease by merely repeating aham. It became like a game.
I distinctly remember at a certain point having all the dream space thoughts corralled in a great water wheel like object spinning around, each paddle of the wheel connected to an individual thought was smacking my forehead where the third eye sits – I could actually feel the somatic sensation of feathers brushing my face with each though. The mantra had evolved to suit this particular task, I could sense the repeating aham was intimately connected to the wheel but had a distinct character of its own. I found myself lost in these strange happenings.
Wait….. I was lost in thought.
I had inadvertently stumbled into a new dream space thought were I was under the illusion that I was controlling a bunch of unruly dream space thoughts. As if a veil was suddenly lifted at this realisation, the vista dropped away and I found myself back in my body in utter shock and awe at what had occurred. I was vibrating pretty intensely. Moments later the gong sounded, signalling the end of the meditation.
We were asked about our experience and I remember uttering a few disjointed sentences about seeing a difference in thoughts or some such thing, I was electrified by the experience.
Having the luxury of many months to ponder this meditation, I’ve yet come to any concrete conclusion as to what is going on inside my mind.
All I can say is that while there appears to be a separation of mantra space and dream space, the boundary between the two is very fuzzy and intimately connected. Perhaps the difference is merely a trick of the senses.
With more time, I hope to convey this phenomenon with higher clarity and fidelity.