Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why Wun Meditates

In a sense, Wun doesn't meditate because they "like to," Wun meaning me, but universalizing. Do you like cleaning your teeth thoroughly before bed? Sometimes not. You're tired. And as we age, by the way, it just gets more time-consuming, involving luxury products like a Rotabrush and floss, maybe a Waterpik. I was quite impatient with all this when I had to begin doing it fifteen or twenty years ago. Meditation is like that, too. A rebellious child within Wun thinks, I shouldn't have to do this. It isn't fun.

But Wun does it. I hesitate to say, Here's what I gain from meditation, as it is fatal to do a spiritual practice in order to gain something, such as EnLightenment or the best tree pose in the class. (You could read Chogyam Trungpa's Spiritual Materialism on this subject.) But I do meditate because in the long run, I gain from it, the same way I gain something from cleaning my teeth and sweeping the kitchen. It isn't a totally bad comparison; meditation is a kind of sweeping clean.

A story. When I sit, I usually use a small elegant Pyrex timer, the kind you buy where cooking utensils are sold. It beeps twice when there are ten minutes left, and again, when there are five minutes left - very useful for calling Wun back to the task.

Today the beep surprised me. Perhaps I had missed the ten-minute beep, I wasn't sure. This thought led to an impulse to turn my head and look at the timer. It's easy to do something like that when you're practicing alone. When practicing in a group, you hesitate even to raise your eyes to look at a clock, because everyone knows we are supposed to stay quite still. Peer pressure. And then, stillness leads to better meditation. This was explained to me initially as "The stiller the body, the stiller the mind."

But today I caught myself, and didn't look. I held still, while my mind registered the thought that not following that impulse was good for me. Practice in not following every little impulse.

You never know what a specific action will lead to; this might be one reason long-time meditators are often quieter than most people, say less, maybe do less. May be slow to leap into sub-prime mortgages or new clothes.

Thinking before you act can at least save you from trying meth. It might lead you to speak out when your impulse is to protect yourself; or not to speak out, say at the family reunion, when political argument is likely to lead to a fistfight. (This actually happened in my mother's family, a vivid argument between brothers about electing a Catholic to the presidency. I missed it.)

Meditation is far from the only way to stand back a little from your impulses. At one time in my life, during the hectic eighties, I took to carrying a little notebook in which I would write down everything I wanted to buy (groceries and gas excluded), and wait three days before buying it. This worked to stifle pretty much all my consumerist desires. They just drifted away down the stream of time, to be replaced by other drifting desires.

Impulse control. You can't buy it at Wal-Mart. On the other hand, stop and think what follows from shopping at Wal-Mart.

1 comment:

  1. I just found your blog and read your last post with interest. I have tried to meditate many times but I always seem to fall asleep. I was in Columbus about a month ago to visit relatives. We went to a quilt show and I wrote a post on it on my blog. I’ll come back to read more of your posts as they look very interesting.