Thinking about not-thinking

June 21, 2011
Many times when I meditate I engage in a struggle: "Okay, count from 1 to 10 while breathing in and out ... 1, 2, 3, ... oh man, I forgot to do xyz at work ... it's kinda bright in here ... pay the credit card bill tomorrow ... darn neighbor's dog is barking, why don't they let it in? ... Oh, crap, I forgot, I was counting ... 1, 2 ...", and so on. It's not always that bad, but if you've ever meditated, you know how it goes some times. Last night was the total opposite. As I was preparing to meditate I thought about a story where a Zen master talked about meditation being like a rock at the bottom of the ocean (me paraphrasing again), and as I began meditating, I imagined that a little bit, and then whammo, there was no-thinking, none at all, as in "I couldn't think any less if I was dead." If somebody was checking my brainwaves at that time and told me they just stopped, I wouldn't argue with them. Usually I get upset when my meditation is poor, but last night I freaked out a little because it was so good that there was no thinking at all. There wasn't even thinking about not-thinking, it was just ... nothing. I wasn't even thinking that I was meditating or breathing, it was just a total brain shutdown. For the record, it wasn't sleeping either, it was just meditating, and then nothing. I guess I can't say how long it was because there was that whole thing where I wasn't thinking, but I don't think it was very long, and I'm very sure I wasn't sleeping. At the very least it seems like I would have fallen over if I was sleeping. Having experienced nothing for some period of time, my brain and I freaked out when we began thinking again, and then we started thinking about what the heck just happened. After I calmed down I started meditating again, and as I felt that feeling of not-thinking starting to come over me, I freaked out again, got up, and walked around for a while. I decided to not to meditate any more last night. I don't know if I'm supposed to not-think at all while meditating ... my understanding is that I'm supposed to be hyper-aware of the current moment, at least in Zen meditation. (Yoga meditation is different.) This is one of those times where I could use a Zen Master to guide me. Am I doing something "wrong", or something "right"? I've read that Zen Mind is "the mind that is before thinking", so is "no thinking" the same as the mind that is before thinking? It's just a bit scary. A friend told me a long time ago that he'd be afraid to try to shut his brain down completely, and now I know what he was talking about. If it happens again tonight I'll try to just go for the ride and see where it goes. Of course the problem with that is that I may not know where it goes, because I won't be thinking ... hmm, I think I'll keep a clock nearby tonight.
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