I’ve just read a blog post from one of my favourite bloggers – he writes with such devastating accuracy and unrelenting humour, I am at once uplifted and madly envious.
His latest contribution is about the art/practice of meditation Zen style.
(http://giaklamata.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/monkey-mind.html Here it is – copy and paste, I can’t make hot text.)
“Stilling the mind”. Uh-huh. I think, for what it’s worth, only we can do that. No amount of “coaching” or “training” or “instruction” will make it “go right”, or help you to “do” it. Excuse the overuse of inverted commas: they enclose words that we of a western mindset understand, but with which meditation has no truck. This makes me sound like “an authority”. Pfffft! Far from it. Because, you see, I’m a cheat.
Some 20 odd years ago, I was in – as they say – a fairly Bad Place: Things falling apart and the centre not holding sort of thing. I caught the Prozac wave and became mentally and emotionally anaesthetised. The only thing my “monkey mind” said was, “I don’t care; no really, I do not care. I couldn’t care less and I can’t be bothered to make myself care and go away and leave me alone so I can not care in peace.” Some dim, dark fragment of my brain fought valiantly and told me to “do something”. Randomly, I gave up smoking (extreme form of ‘doing something’, I admit), explored “alternative medicine”, spent huge amounts of money and trundled off to meditation. Except the giving up smoking bit, it was all vaguely entertaining. But being in the mood I was in, I decided that I was going to be The Only Person In The World who couldn’t be taught to meditate. “I CAN’T”, “How do I ‘Let the thoughts go as easily and they come?'”, ” I don’t WANT a mantra, I thought we stared at lotus flowers.” You get the idea…..
Then, because I THOUGHT I was being very biddable and “in need of help”, I made an appointment with a so-called guru, who was recommended for particularly “stubborn” cases. I had two appointments with him which have to rank as two of the most bizarre experiences of my life. He lived in fairly opulent comfort – probably off donations from hapless, pre-menopausal women. I was ushered with due reverence into a dark room which seemed to be holding a chain smokers’ convention. There the guru sat puffing away, which he had clearly been doing for some hours. The smoke was acrid and dense, there were cigarette butts everywhere, the ashtrays were jammed to overflowing, he had two fags on the go and was randomly flicking ash everywhere. This was not good for a recent quitter. As I sat down, he barked, “I didn’t tell you to sit.” Cowed and ashamed, I bowed and fumbled and muttered my apologies. He called in a youth of indeterminate age and sent him off to buy more cigarettes. He looked at me crossly, and gave me a 2 litre bottle of water and a collection of what looked like homeopathic pills. “Dissolve these in the water, take two tablespoonsful twice a day, sprinkle the water to East and West and come back in two weeks.This stuff is so powerful it will change your life.”
I stumbled out of the room, coughing and spluttering, eyes streaming, reeking of cigarette smoke but with my water bottle under my arm. I got home and proceeded to follow the guru’s instructions. After maybe half an hour, the monkey in my head laughed and laughed and said, “You really can’t be doing this. It’s too ridiculous for words.” I watched impassively as the powerful stuff gurgled away down the plughole.
Two weeks later I returned to guru man, pretending I had followed his instructions to the letter. He had quit smoking apparently as the room was cool and fresh and dark. There were quite a few other people in the room all kneeling in humble adoration. He immediately pointed me out. “YOU!” he shrieked, “you have not done what I told you.(How did he know?) You think I am a joke.(HOW DID HE KNOW?) You will get fat. Go.”
I left, shaking with fear, rage, embarrassment, I don’t know. And guess what? I started to put on weight. I had always been a 48 kilo wraith. I’m now what my grandson calls, a “comfy gran.”
But what about meditation? I read a book about it once that said, “Just DO it.” And that is probably the only “instruction” one needs.