|Author's note: I neither sit like this nor am I a woman|
I mediated today for the first time in over a year. (This time I mean to stick to it.) Coming back to meditating after a long lay-off is similar to working out after a prolonged period of laziness. It’s difficult to get back into a rhythm. Now that I think of it saying there is a rhythm to meditation is a bit weird but I’m sticking with it nonetheless. So what happened this morning when I gamely tried to meditate was that my brain — such as it is — immediately started flying off in all directions. Measured breathing, mantras, focussing on an image, none of these deterred my wandering mind. It got so bad that instead of focusing on my breathing I found myself planning to write this. I started observing all the various topics my mind was intent on addressing. This is not mindfulness, it’s more like mind full of nonsense.
I know enough about meditation to realize that what I experienced was not unusual — particularly for someone who is, let’s say, out of shape. It wasn’t a negative experience at all. It was a start. Tomorrow will probably be a little better, though maybe worse. Certainly if I continue daily meditation I’ll stop thinking about basketball, work, models, sex, Netflix, traveling and sundry other topics within a short meditation. One can hope.
Day two of mediating went just barely better than its predecessor. Actually there was a part two to day one that went well. If it gets better all the time then eventually it will be good and someday excellent with nirvana just around the corner.
So I suppose I’ve something of a meditation journal going on here. Maybe I could include other important daily practices like stretching, working out, reading, work, chores and writing. A daily journal in which I write about writing. Takes care of itself. Here I am now writing, Words. Sometimes a phrase. Occasionally a full sentence with a beginning, middle and end. Some of the sentences, like the preceding, will include commas. I may have enough sentences put together on one topic to complete an entire paragraph. Like so.
Writing has been a strange part of my life. It courses through my veins, makes me happy, alive, expressive. But I struggle with it so. Laziness and depression fight against my desire, my need to write. That deadens me inside. Like impotence. Speaking of impotence, the best cure for that is a good fuck. Not funny? Well, it’s just as when Groucho Marx recommended plenty of sleep as a cure for insomnia.
Yes, Julius H. Marx. One of my heroes. Like many really funny people (and he was among the funniest ever) he was extremely intelligent. See too: Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Woody Allen, Christ Rock, Bill Hicks, David Letterman, Dick Cavett, Dave Chapelle and many more.
I’m funny and intelligent too but obviously not on a par with the aforementioned gentlemen. There’s a point. I only included men, though I did include three men of color and two Jews. Anytime you write or say a list of people you’ve got to be conscious of being inclusive. Making it a rainbow. This can be tough. It’s hard to compile a list of your favorite British kings, for example, without it coming out all white, Christian males. (I here add that I personally have never listed my favorite English kings. Not, for that matter have I impersonally made such a list. Personal is an interesting word. Sometimes on public transportation you are reminded to keep an eye on your personal belongings and not to forget them when you leave. This would suggest that any items related to work need not be looked after. If you’ve got a laptop from your job it’s not as important as your own personal umbrella.)
So where was I? Where have I been? What have I been doing? All important yet unanswerable questions. I’m struggling with being mindful while just doing and not thinking. I’m struggling with living in the moment while preparing for the future and not forgetting the lessons of the past. I’m struggling with what I’ve done and my perceptions of what I’ve done and how other people have reacted to what I’ve done and how I should interpret all this and whether it’s worth my time to interpret anything at all. Sometimes there’s mumbo jumbo and sometimes there’s deep insight.
I need to understand Dharma. Which means the four noble truths and the eightfold path. This seems a bit overwhelming but…. But. But. But. You’re never too old, it’s never too late. You have to find the path and that requires effort and that effort is being awake to it all. I start my awakening through meditation. I read. I write. I let go of my ego and take hold of my mantra and breath. Always. It’s all laid out for me.
I feel like I’ve come to the end of this writing. You’ve got to respect the part of your brain that says stop just as you do the part that tells you to carry on. Right now my brain is saying that I’ve exhausted the topic. For now. So I stop.
On day three of my return to meditation I listened to silence. It is pretty loud. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a total vacuum of noise, not in the natural world. I heard some sounds, of course. The first was my wife starting the car as she went to pick up oldest daughter from yoga. The sound of our car is very familiar and comforting to me. It can mean someone is home, or someone is leaving — perhaps to the store to buy food! Sometimes the sound is a harbinger that I’m about to have the dump to myself for a few blessed minutes — or hours.
I also heard an airplane. I like the sound of airplanes, assuming it’s not some massive jumbo jet flying ten feet above my domicile. The problem was that it got me thinking if air travel. So I focused on my breathing. Focusing on breathing is not the most fascinating thing one can do but then again this is meditation, not a trip to an exotic isle. So as you can see I’m still struggling (what the hell, it’s only been three days). But I shall persist.
Earlier I missed a train by seconds that would have got me home 15 minutes earlier. After my initial stifling of expletives I decided to focus — in a very Zen sort of way — on the feeling of frustration. To detach myself from the feeling and just examine it. This actually worked pretty well.
Later I was walking home from the subway station down quiet dark streets enjoying my solitude, then a young couple fell in step behind me. They were chattering away. This broke my reverie. I crossed the street. Later they crossed the street and were behind me again. So I crossed for a second time. They turned down the street I was going to turn down so I took an alternate route. The nerve of some people not knowing I like a nice quiet walk home minus people yakking at each other.
I’m reading Moby Dick. All I’ll say is that it’s a whale of a book. No, I’ll say more. I can’t understand why some people have such trouble with it. It really flows along for me. This is my second time with it. Maybe I’ll discuss it more at a later date. Wouldn’t that be exciting?
Just finished meditating and I did it right here at work. All I needed was an empty classroom. Again the results were mixed. I focused on my breathing, then on the sound of clock, I tried to feel the lightness in my body then the heaviness. I tried counting. I tried my social security number (seriously dude, what were you thinking?). I tried a mantra of “no thoughts, no thoughts, no thoughts.” I thought about every thing under the sun but what was most notable was that again I thought about what I would write after meditating. This is a clear signal that I should cease and desist these meditation journals. Maybe when I finally have meditation “success” maybe I’ll try again. Meanwhile I’m going to try to find a drawing board to go back to. Which is to say that I’ll be reading about meditation again so that I might better practice it. Better. There’s no way I could do worse unless I started screaming and listening to heavy metal at full blast.
All that being sad I feel better after meditating than I did before. More relaxed and happy. I’m hoping meditation will help mitigate my depression. Nothing much else has worked aside from running. Certainly meds have not magically cured me. Meds do allow me to sleep and have warded off panic attacks and keep my acid reflux in check but seem to have done nothing over the years for my depression. I think I’ll have better luck with meditating. I’m also looking into practicing other Buddhist principles in my life. You’ll perhaps hear more from me on that topic. I was going to write “you’ll perhaps hear more from me on that topic in the future” but I realized that “in the future” was redundant. You can’t exactly hear anything new in the past. Although if the scientific community can sort out the whole time travel business, who knows?
I here close my “meditation journals” with this quote from the Buddha: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” I’m working on it.