tranquility space

Earlier today I attended a 3-hour virtual meditation retreat, with a group of random strangers across different locales. Surprisingly waking up at 3 am Turkey time wasn't as jarring as I thought, but maybe that has something to do with the fact that I slept at 8:30 for the first time since I was... a ripe age of 5?!

The comforting thing was that I knew the other 20 people staring into the Zoom call void with me were experiencing their own reality. An evening sit for the many folks in San Francisco and morning dips for new friends from Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Taipei, who all came to broaden their existing practices beyond the apps. With a focus on a heart-centered approach, the name of the game was cultivating compassion, tranquility, peace, stillness, and everything spiritual in between. I resolved to shake off any grogginess to ideally induce these states, especially since I knew I was in for intense hour-long sessions!

As I start to ease back into a more consistent meditation practice, I think back to the times where I felt the most in tune with my body and breath in the past. In other words, where I felt the most tranquil. In February 2020, my friend Angela asked me to join her in a drop-in meditation class at a studio in Toronto called hoame. I was so skeptical at first — why would we pay good money to just sit in a dark room for 30 minutes? — but knew I wanted to be open-minded about developing a worthwhile meditation routine. Turns out I was so hooked with the concept that I started going every single day for a month-long streak, before getting graced with Canada's first COVID case.

I think my relationship with meditation is complicated. It's quite polarizing: I've seen myself throw away my practice for months like a used stuffed animal that has lost its novelty, or I can religiously wake up at 7:30 am before the workday for 30 minutes unguided like a rooster on its morning mission. A spark of inspiration always manages to jolt me back to the practice, whether it was experimenting with Calm last year or relearning the fundamentals of shamatha and vipassana on this retreat. Somehow, I always find my way back home.

In addition to the sheer sense of calm that I felt from the different meditations — metta and tonglen specifically — one of my favourite learnings from today's retreat was the concept of pīti. The idea is described as a “tingling feeling", a type of body buzz you might get during a deep practice. I like this framing as an aspirational flag to help unlock our personalized tranquility spaces. The crucial part is to not aim so rigidly for some feeling that you think you should reach, but instead, you let the pure act of concentration lead you to that place organically.

Aside: One vivid memory I have regarding tranquility is how it can blossom from even the simplest encounters in life. Last spring I did a sensory walk around a secluded neighbourhood of downtown Toronto and found what I called: a delightful daffodil. It was sticking out in an open field and instantly caught my attention with its charming look, so I wanted to contact & survey it:

The Delightful DaffodilDrafted: May 5, 2021

A punch of pleasure hits my nostrils - an arousing aphrodisiac that transports me back to moments of young, tender love. Delicate in nature, yet deceptive in smell. 

A cocoon of layered flavours, refreshing yet mysterious. A cacophony of earthy tones, vibrant vanilla notes, and surprising subtle touches of tangy zest.

The flowers that acted as a constant backdrop, a supportive friend in the pursuit of fruitful romance. The springtime scent that symbolizes increased intimacy: with nature, with others, and with myself.

Digging up this flowery nugget pokes at an important question: How often do we literally stop and smell the roses? It can feel impossible to disconnect from so much stimulus at times. It can be so hard to truly relax. It can equally be as challenging to feel a consistent sense of happiness, joy, and bliss — all in increasing order of intensity and consistency. But as I learned today in this refreshing shamatha practice, “muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone”.

I know I want to keep my spiritual practice additive and generative: for the pursuit of raw truth. Just because I live in the Middle East now doesn't mean I can‘t access these guided group-based spiritual experiences. Healthy emotional work for me means finding my own personal entry and exit points; custom states based on inspirations from others; new ways to express loving-kindness. That’s what makes spending time in my internal playground that much more fulfilling; when I get to fill my soul with the presence of other thoughtful souls.

Here's to more meditative moments for January and beyond! :)

Published by Sam (samwong) 4 months ago on Saturday the 8th of January 2022.

To reply you need to sign in.