I set out earlier this month to discover what sort of themes might emerge from daily writing on this website. Music (and its philosophical intersections with my life) is the first one. The second one is meditation (and mindfulness), an idea that I return to when I write about habits. There are a few more that are brewing, I can sense, and I’ll get to those in a few days.
And so I’ll write about meditation every now and then. This is Part I.
That’s from Chögyam Trungpa, who reminds us with his words that meditation doesn’t take place solely on your zafu. It is something that you take with you into the world. It is the act of “appreciating sacredness,” he says.
You could read David Foster Wallace’s seminal 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, where he describes how “unimaginably hard” it is to say conscious and alive. It’s the same idea, I think, one that reverberates constantly among the living. If you tune in, even a trip to the grocery story can become the most vivid and life-affirming experience. And if you’re able to maintain that sense of being, then all moments in your life will blossom into beauty.
That said, yes, it’s very hard. The world is a chaotic ecosystem in most instances, and the mind has a way of throwing you off your intent with ease.
My intent is to meditate twice each day, usually in 10-minute increments in the morning and at night. I started doing this in 2009, with fleeting moments of success and plenty of failure. But even just a few minutes will clue you in to how frantic the mind can be, how painfully demanding it is.
If you can bring your mind back to a center — to the breath, to the dantian — then you’ll quickly see how often you find yourself doing just that, snapping back to a focal point. Just when you get back to the breath, the mind will wander back out into the ocean of thought. And when you realize that, and you snap back, the mind will once again try to slip away into the waters. It’s an amazing process to watch, and it is surmountable.