The Imagination Modification

My on-again off-again relationship with meditation is back on, for the time being anyway. I appreciate Brad Feld for recently writing about his meditation journey and inspiring me to start meditating again. For the last week, I’ve meditated almost every day.

In a previous post I wrote about the Patanjali Yoga Sutras and how Patanjali teaches that yoga is about stilling the five modifications of the mind – memory, imagination (fancy), right knowledge, wrong knowledge, and sleep. At the time, I was fascinated by the predominance of memory in my meditation. I have noticed that my tendency now shifts toward imagination – thinking about the future, or watching visions/dreams play out in my mindscape. Today, I even imagined writing this blog post, until I stilled that thought.

I also learned a lesson about being gentle in meditation. When it comes to discipline, I’m usually a bit harsh – on myself, and others. In meditation, I’ve learned that when one of these modifications arises, it’s a good practice to bring your awareness to your breath. Today, rather than abruptly trying to bring my attention to my breath, I first noticed my breath was there, and this of course brings attention to it. I then gently let my mind go of the modification which was consuming it (imagination mostly), and brought more awareness to my breath. In doing this, I noticed that even when the modifications came back, there was more space in my mind. Every time, there was less and less of a crowd.

That additional space kept me absorbed in watching. I usually set a timer to make sure I meditate for a certain amount of time – usually twenty minutes. At some point in my meditation, I have the thought “I wonder when the timer will go off”. This morning, that thought never came, I was absorbed watching all the way until the timer emerged.

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