Invisibilia: Martin P. "Trapped in his bed"

katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 9 Years ago at 1/9/15 6:31 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 1/9/15 6:10 PM

Invisibilia: Martin P. "Trapped in his bed"

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I heard this story on National Public Radio's new broadcast called "Invisibilia" tonight while making some coffee:

The piece is an interview with a man who was for more than a decade, starting at age 12, perceived by the community around him as apparently as having entered a vegetative state, a life of a sort of coma-shell. However, during that time he was quite aware of everything happening around him, but he could not communicate his awareness or the people around him had naturally written him off as a "vegetable" so they may not have noticed small improvements in his condition, things on which he eventually trained his will power and mind to develop. 

There are many reasons this is an amazing story, but I wanted to bring it up as an example of how many many mental phenomena happen in an effortful, all-in meditation practice, including at first dissociation with one's emotions and ability to see emotions arise and pass without reaction and then occurences of sustained periods of cessation of thoughts. And wondering what makes "me" me, etcetera.

And the reporter wonders if such states brought some peace and Martin P. replies something like, "Not much" or "Not really" (please listen for yourself). As in meditation, a person also learns such mental events do not automatically bring any peace. This person, Martin, who is obliged to deal with his own mind constantly as there seems to be no one else interacting with him as a sentient being, has events like this and, in the Invisibilia interview, it's clear the cessation of thoughts and dissociation with emotion were not inherently peaceful. So, too, many, many, many mental phenomena may occur in meditation and fantastic though they may seem, there are few things that rattle one really skillfuly back into a life that's moving towards less tension, struggle, towards more direction/confidence in being alive/autonomous/a friend/alone/ a neighbor/a being that passes away/a being that doesn't understand sentience even and may experience distance with the sentience around it/peace and action in conditions.

However, what this Martin P. does land on eventually is what seemed to me to be a profoundly engaged sincere effort. And this sincere, persistant all-in effort expanding sometimes over time is also what may happen in a meditation practice working to understand own mind by just noting it and the body sensations... when one does not give up despite the hours and months and years of trying to just sit with mind, sit with new techniques, sit with same old techniques, sit with skilfull teachers, sit unskilful teachers, sit with skilfull self, sit with unskilfull self, sit in near-sleep, sit in alert attention.  And then some helpful learning shifts happen according to the practitioner themselves, the sole judge of their own shifts and the sole judge of is one finding reliable peace, reliable contentment, reliable-life with things as they are (which is not at all necessarily passively recipient and un-influential in the world).

So while the story of Martin P. is not given by NPR, or even the subject, as a story of a "meditator", the process of his experience and his learning his mind and conditions may be relevant and inspiring to meditative practitioners.