The Space Between Heartbeats

“I learned to meditate when I was 8 years old, though I did not know it at the time. I was beset by terrible headaches, and the doctors did not know their cause …

… I would lie in my bed in the pitch-dark and the silence … At first I dreaded the pounding of the blood in my head, because every surge brought with it a surge of pain.

But then I noticed that because it was pulsing, the pain diminished on the back stroke, and that in between the high points there were moments of less intense discomfort. I slowly learned to inhabit those spaces, to give my greatest attention to the instances of lesser pain … As my focus became even more acute, I would experience a single moment, really only a brief instant, when there was no pain at all …

… That narrow point of relief was so compelling that I would try to relocate it, to return to it again and again, and to focus my attention ever more precisely upon the quiet, sweet spot where there was no pain … After a while I would find myself able to rest there for longer and longer periods of time. It was almost as if with my mind I was prying open a place of refuge in the middle of the storm …

… And there would eventually come a time, usually about 20 minutes after I started, when I would lie there in absolute bliss, feeling the blessing of no more pain. The headache was entirely gone …

… Soon after, when I discovered Buddhist meditation, it felt very familiar … I think consciousness has no thickness and can therefore be inserted between mind objects to find spaces with plenty of room …

As attention cuts into that moment, again and again with each pulse of the heart, awareness slips effortlessly between the artifacts of our mind to find the empty space of simply knowing … ”

Andrew Olendzki, Tricycle Magazine

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