A couple of things were on my mind during this morning’s meditation. One, being meditation. Well, meditative techniques that is. And the second thing is minimalism. It could appear that these things are connected, but outside of both being thoughts within me and the goals generated they aren’t really. One notion has been with me for a very long time (subjective considering the length of my life). The the other hasn’t been in my mind much until the last 8 months. Neither are very western concepts, and I imagine my social and familial environments will openly support the new, and already do the old, but both are made more difficult by the environment.
The old is meditation. I have been thinking about, attempting, or practicing meditation for over twenty years now. It is no surprise that I am able to meditate without much difficulty despite the western culture’s remaining misunderstanding of function, although it seems slowly but surely change is happening one mind at a time. Still, the battle to condition a western mind to a regular meditative practice must be waged.
Today, I thought I’d share a little trick that works when I am using mindfulness meditation, the simplest type of meditative practice, but it comes with the one of the highest levels of difficulty for minds in American culture, if not the whole of the west. The difficulty is instinctual, as the left frontal lobe is a chatter box. When someone stops for a moment and tries to notice only their breath, a funny (obnoxious) thing will happen within a minute, for most it happens within seconds. The brain kicks on its internal dialogue and future seeing functions. In other words, we start thinking about things. There are many neuroscientific reasons why this happens, but the result is undeniable. Our brains never shut the fuck up. When I began exploring mindfulness, I found great difficulty in this regard. My mind would say horrible things to me when it became anxious. Almost as if it knew (which in a loose sense it does) that I wanted it to stop. But brains being brains, the instinctual drive for each part of the brain to function, regardless of desire, takes automatic precedence. Some of the things my brain would say, for lack of a better word, were absolutely demonic. I tell the story a lot, but I know why people believe in demons, because I have heard them screaming into my ear so loudly I could feel my eardrum vibrating. The experience left me shaken for the rest of the day. How did I get rid of them? Well, I haven’t, because you can’t. They are all in your mind. That’s right—you are the demons of this world. And to vanquish them is easier than the exorcist would want you to believe.
I use sound. Most teachers of meditation tell you to find a quiet and secluded spot to practice in, but this is not possible in the world we live. I guess you could find a deprivation tank, but even then we have internal sounds. In this culture, the hum of AC units and traffic are inescapable, especially if one lives in an urban area. I use these to my advantage. There is solace and solitude in these environmental sounds. The way my mind harnesses them for inner quiet is, I let them become my voice. When sound is all around let that become you: the breeze, the feel of the ground, the position of your Zafu, or the feeling of your wrists on your knees. You can even practice this without meditating. Stop reading for a moment and let your mind imitate the nonvocal sounds around you (if a video with voices is on, try turning it off or all the way down). You may notice that while doing this internal chatter will try to break through. Simply replace that with the sounds from your world. It seems very simple, but it does require practice to maintain the behavior for more than a couple of minutes.
If any of my readership would like more advice on this, please comment or send an email. I would be overjoyed to help.
The newer and less complete thought is minimalism. Just recently my television went out. This is an older TV, but you can tell it was a transitional unit. The last efforts of the dying tube technology had put two 6 inch subs mounted inside the TV, as well as an amplifier capable of running 5.1 surround. In response to getting the behemoth electronic device, I also mounted two rear channels and a front channel, pretty cool stuff, until the screen goes out. Gratefully, everybody and their dog tried to figure out a way for me to keep a television in my room. Thinking about my evolving lifestyle, I made a very un-American choice: I am not going to replace the thing. In fact, today I am pulling down the speakers and wires. I am also moving the Xbox into the living room. If I must watch Scrubs or Deadwood (the only two non-documentary I watch) I have the laptop to facilitate. In truth, it has taken me a while to come to this decision. I thought, maybe, I’ll salvage the speakers. But no, I don’t think I will.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be orthodox minimalist, but if I scale down to books and office supplies within my room, maybe the trend will spread outward into the rest of my home. Perhaps even into my progeny. She seems to have really taken to the smoothies over the last year, so maybe if she sees me getting rid of things, she will have a hankering to as well. Ultimately though, this is about me, and what I want my world to be like for writing and doing. Both of these subjects seems to support more of both, so that will be my direction.
An interesting beginning to a day which, thus far, has promised absolutely nothing.