Meditating on the Effects of Meditation

I'm four weeks into a six-week beginning meditation class taught by an experienced local hand, Rodney Smith, under the auspices of the Seattle Insight Meditation Society. He's a white guy who spent several years decades ago in Burma and Thailand as a monk. He worked for a long stretch in hospice care. He's an intriguing fellow, especially in that he openly says he never planned to teach, but his teachers insisted that it was part of the tradition in which he was practicing. He lays no claim to be a guru, and has only some big questions, no big answers.I like the class quite a bit. He talks about dharma in a non-religious context, and largely helps us explore the notion of why we cannot be present and how to overcome that through meditation and thoughtful self-awareness. There's definitely a bit of psychoanalysis thrown in there, but given that he is having us focus entirely on the present as expressed in the body (which has neither a past nor a future, but only its current existence), he doesn't ask us to find antecedents for emotions nor plan how to deal with them. What I find most remarkable about the course, and which I didn't entirely expect, is how rapidly my brain and temperament has changed without me feeling as though I've gotten very far yet (of course) into understanding how to meditate in a thorough and engrossing manner. Rodney asks us to commit to 30 minutes a day in a particular fashion (essentially still, but comfortable, with a few postural suggestions) through the class. We also meditate about an hour or more within the two-hour class, sometimes with him giving dharma or metta talks. I've meditated perhaps on 30 days since starting the class. I've only missed a night or two along the way. Lynn says she notices a difference. I have certainly softened in some respects, and I can summon the ability to center and present myself in the now much more than I could before. Before I was a parent, I thought I had an infinite reserve of patience. It lasted quite a while into parenthood. But at some point, I lost that. I lose my patience. I get tired of endless wheedling and questioning and resistance by the boys, who are astonishingly great the vast majority of the time. There are time when I just want to say, "no, no, no, no, we're not doing that, the car is turning around, we're going home, that toy is going away…" All the poor tools in the parents' arsenal that don't solve more than a very short-term set of problems. Long term, they are no help at all. This lack of patience is entirely my issue; the boys are normal kids. They are not difficult by any stretch of the definition for kids their age. They are supremely easy in so many ways, notably going to bed without a fuss. (Seriously. They do that. Every night.) The meditation has clearly helped me reach beyond those, sometimes to an amazing extent. I am much more peaceful inside my head and body, which is a great relief. As a damned intellectual and someone who makes his living sitting at a computer and writing or programming, I spent much of my time in my head, disconnected from the now. Rodney makes some lovely evolutionary points about how symbolic thinking is what led humans out of the savannah and into huts and skyscrapers. But that symbolic thinking doesn't have to rule us all the time. He seems to view his job as allowing us to choose to unlink our abstract selves, which are too aware of the past and future, and at will focus on the present and the real existence in which we find ourselves, but which is too often hidden. It's obviously taking hold. I do find it is sometimes difficult to concentrate on my abstract tasks, however! The class leaves my head buzzing on Monday nights, and Tuesday morning I had what could only be described as a meditation hangover. This is a positive thing, in that I retained that sense of mental and psychic growth. But it was hard to look at a screen. To top it off, I saw my chiropractor Tuesday morning, and after such sessions, I often find emotions released and my mentality dulled. Tuesday night, I was a bit of a wreck, but, with Lynn's marvelous and constant support, emerged feeling better than I had in weeks about myself, my life, my choices. Wednesday and Thursday were engines of productivity, and some long-running projects are coming to fruition. I love my work, but I also love developing a way to have non-work. (Play? Fun? Or just a space in which my brain isn't full of thoughts all the time.) I am curious what another two weeks of class will bring, and then how I sustain this practice thereafter. I have long thought about meditation, and now I am in the now and doing it.