I can still feel the texture of the couch under my fingertips. I didn’t have a bed in the summers with my mom and I was the smaller sibling so I got the love seat, my sister took the full size couch. It was deep blue with red, black, and yellow threading in a random but linear pattern.
It wasn’t until I was twenty-four years old, sitting crisscross applesauce on the first bed I had ever purchased while Sam Harris’ voice guided me into a meditative state that I remembered the significance of that couch. I had accessed this open, focused headspace before under much different circumstances.
I don’t know where the emptiness came from. That’s an odd phrase to type because it seems to me that emptiness is the original state from which we all begin. Perhaps the better ponderance would be to say that I don’t know what should have filled me or why those things seemed to never materialize. I was ten years old and I felt entirely hollow inside.
I remember many instances where I sat on that small couch clutching a pillow to my chest as I gazed straight at the wall. My mother asked what was wrong with me and I found myself unable to speak. This annoyed her and she assumed I was being difficult on purpose. When I found myself in this state, I would allow my eyes to defocus like a camera lens as I paid close attention to each breath. Every time I got distracted, I turned my attention back to the breath. I would do this over and over until strange imagery would appear in my mind with bright colors and fascinating patterns.
Does this sound familiar? If you’ve ever sat a formal Vipassana session, you will recognize this as the same instruction that has been given from meditation masters to their students for centuries. When one becomes skilled in the practice of meditation, the brain can access states similar to that of a mild psilocybin trip. I found myself able to achieve this level of focus much earlier in my formal meditation practice than is typical.
Those sad nights that I spent on the couch roaming the universe inside my mind laid the foundation for my now rich internal life. We ought to teach children to meditate in order that they might enjoy the benefits that I accidentally obtained.