October 21, 2019
Ok. This really is a talk about uncomfortable silences. I’ve been subjecting myself to these silences for over 20 years; you could say I am a connoisseur of silences.
Sitting without idly consuming is a creative moment. It is a moment I take a break from other people’s noise - a space where I can hear my own voice and yield to the fulfillment my human capacities.
Meditation isn’t just a series of uncomfortable silences that later yield to excitement. Meditation is an attention on that which supports me.
When we look, we find that making the world non-threatening is not a sustainable strategy. Working with our mind is the more sustainable option. The relationship we have with our mind is challenging one. But it is the relationship.
We can feel that the support of gravity working well. Autumn has spontaneously arrived. Plenty of oxygen to breathe. You don’t have to do anything to deserve any of that support. It’s already present. Relax into the reality that you’re already being supported. Feeling supported opens up an opportunity to notice freshness.
Freshness — I think, what we are looking for in our lives. By freshness, I mean the direct experience of our life energy.
Compared to promises that pop culture meditation makes, just the simple practice of being aware, discomfort and all, is a hard sell.
People spend a lot of time and money to dissociate, and for good reason. Historically speaking, life on this planet has been a disturbing trial for most organisms.
Many people already have their minds made up that something is inherently missing and needs fixing.
The notion that humans are inherently broken is a formula supported by marketing spin. There is something wrong with us, we can fix it, and then we will have a special credential.
This formula results in the adoption of a fantasy of invulnerability.
We want to live our best life, but who is telling us that? Who tells us how to do that? There seems to be a vacuum in how the west culturally frames meditation – a vacuum that marketers and app companies are happy to fill.
The accompanying marketing message often preys on our deep feelings of deficit. Pop culture’s advertising messages helps us find evidence of our shortcomings.
And as we all know, our attention has become equivalent to dollar signs. The more primitive the messaging, the more compelling the message feels. Sometimes we see hundreds of targeted ads in one browsing session. These are rough waters for an organism that has a brain that is shaped by language.
‘Doing nothing’ augmented with capitalism’s admonition to ‘be happy’ presents a very interesting cocktail: doing nothing turns into a pursuit.
An effort to enjoy.
There seems to be something fundamentally incompatible about this formula - are we doing nothing or are we creating new cultural vistas? The answer is not black and white. The answer, like everything on our planet, is complex.
The ad world eschews complexity in deference to reaching a broad audience. I think the ad world defines meditation as preventative medicine. I think a more accurate framing is that it is a practice that aides in our recovery and restoration.
The question is: what is it we are recovering to?
We recover to full participation in our immediate experience.
We recover to participation in what is already happening. We might discover that this field of present experience is a source of healing, problem solving, and kindness.
We will also find disturbance in the present. Intense life energy. We tend to avoid disturbance at all costs. As children, this was a very intelligent strategy. But now we are grown ups and we can extend our capacity to experience intensity and still behave with kindness and wakefulness.
In fact, planetary health is demanding this effort to engage compassionately.
This mind renders as unconstructed experience. Devoid of location. The mind’s sparkling and vivid refractions are juxtaposed onto our lives.
We may find that it is not the world we’re afraid of, our own mind is the source of the scaries.
Even so, this moment is 100% fresh. Even our resistance can only be experienced in a fresh moment. The fresh moment provides precision.
And I think we deserve to have a precise relationship to our lives. This sort of precision nurtures resilience and kindness. Freshness supporting sanity. Freshness supporting healthful dissent and personal accountability.
Ok, I think I just caught myself making marketing promises. It’s an easy thing to do!
Faced with a challenge, humans so easily regress to child-like thinking and behavior. Pop-culture meditation does not offer many tools to prevent these regressions.
We not only need to ‘take hold of our minds’ but also grow our willingness to return to our adult capacities when challenged.
I like to think we can act with a regal attitude towards our frailties. We can invest attention in openness and, when necessary, pass sentence on the troublemaking aspects of our minds.
From this vantage point, tolerating uncertainty and intensity can be construed as a superpower. We’re responsible for the health of the inner realm. We alone are responsible for waking up, growing up, and showing up.
t takes real fierceness to move against the tide of survival-level threat we often experience. We must challenge fear and panic by staying embodied and asking ourselves, ‘Is there a real threat in this moment?.’ To cultivate this attentional superpower, it is essential to understand that this effort goes against our biological makeups much of the time. Our mammalian biological organization is not going anywhere. Fear and anxiety have been on this planet far longer than humans. We can’t transcend our biology, but we can integrate it with our human capabilities.
This is the royal practice of integration, of integrating the animal and the imaginal.
Final critique… Often meditators appropriate cultural habits at the expense of being present.
Often meditators appropriate cultural habits at the expense of being present.
So the moment I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for.
What the hell is meditation good for? I’ve been pretty critical of the whole scene!
Surely, we all start on this journey of uncomfortable silences to improve our experience.
On the positive side, working with your mind gives you the confidence to fully participate in your experience - resistance, discomfort, and all.
Meditation supports the confidence that our lives are workable, that emotion is workable, and the recognition that anxious feelings arise in myriad forms whether there is a ‘real’ threat, or not.
At the very least, meditation reveals that we may have conflicting feelings about dissolving chronic patterns of unhappiness and struggle. We may start to see our problems as a form of entertainment.
Viewed through the vantage point of freshness, we are presented with a choice. We can choose to indulge survival-level drama, or note that there is no immediate threat.
Why meditate? Because awakening out of a trance is an incredible attainment.
If something feels like it is missing, maybe what is really missing is full participation in your experience.
Maybe the fantasies of peace and the cessation of anxiety that marketers shill are what fuel our feeling of deficit.
Meditation will not ‘make you good’. You’re already good.
Enlightenment is not a manufactured achievement.
It is something we can notice right here, right now.
Use your anxiousness, your fear, your self-critique as a prompt to remember the freshness of experience.
Catch yourself in the act of using a meditation formula and instead simply return to the present moment.