As a psychologist, I evaluate the moods of my patients as well as the emotions they share with me and exhibit during each therapy session. Recognizing moods helps me ground into my patients’ experiences of their lives and to understand better the events they bring into each session for discussion. The moods are real in that they define how my patients are functioning in the world, experiencing themselves and those around them and what their unique healing process will look like. But are moods real, really?
This question arose for me during meditation. I was sitting on my meditation cushion, watching my thoughts come and go as they tend to and I realized that I wasn’t in any particular mood while meditating. Before I sat down for meditation, I could gauge very clearly the mood I was in. Likewise, after I arose from my meditative seat, a mood settled once again, eventually, but not during the meditative process.
What was this mood-absent experience I was having? Emotions certainly came and went, thoughts too, ideas, memories, the full scope of human consciousness showed itself and disappeared, but not the mood. This made me wonder if, while helpful for evaluative purposes, communication with others and even understanding ourselves as we live our lives, it was not actually necessary in understanding the real present moment, a moment that repeats and is accessible to us every time we choose to center ourselves into it. Not only is it not necessary in the latter experience, but it doesn’t seem to exist in it at all.
What exists in the present meditative moment in addition to the mental states described above, are all the things you sense from the outside (your sensations): the things you see in front of you, feel against your skin, inhale through your nostrils, touch, taste, and all the things you sense from the inside: our orientation in space and sense of balance, our awareness of our muscles, joints and our internal physical bodies (if you’re curious about this you can explore: Your 8 Senses | STAR Institute (sensoryhealth.org), although it isn’t pertinent to the discussion at hand.).
Over the years, meditation has always been available to me as a way of centering myself, but it is less of a thing that we do and more of a state that we bring ourselves into. It is less of a state that we bring ourselves into and more of our own unique human being, always present, but not always accessible. As I write this, I feel the warm breeze against my arms, hear and see the rustling of leaves, smell the earthy air of the outdoors and notice the slight weight of breakfast in my stomach, still being digested. I am aware of a mood, yes: a combination of peace, gratitude and inquisitiveness. Clinically speaking, I would be described as euthymic. But when I return to my meditation cushion tomorrow morning, whatever mood I might be in will eventually fade away and I will near myself and the world that is actually around me, nearing the experience of bare attention. Spiritually speaking, I will get closer to what is real, to what is true and to what is sometimes elusive, but always present within me and all of us.
I honor the light within you that is also in me.