Tuesday, August 23, 2016

It is the Mind that is the Mind that keeps the Mind from the Mind Do Not Mind the Mind Oh Mind

Because I didn't know what to call this post and still like. I took the poem from the Yagyu's treatise on the art of war.

I used to keep a pretty rigorous discipline of meditation, my best run lasting for over 100 consecutive days. I'm not going to lie to you, getting into the present moment has all kinds of amazing and positive effects, the benefits of meditation and many of the revelations are actually quite accessible to a beginner. It profoundly changed my perspective, and was good for my health all round.

But I am not without some misgivings, or rather, some 'okay-lets-calm-the-fuck-down-about-mindfulness'. I would for example say that the goal of cessation is not only undesirable, but bullshit too, though you can find youtube guru's that preach it. (although I couldn't find one to link to, I swear they exist, I'm not crazy)

I'm one of those lucky people that do not find my own thoughts unpleasant. Though I can get anxious, and sad and all the generally negative states, it's no big deal. For me meditation is in fact most useful in slowing me down enough to notice that I am tense, or stressed. I generally don't realise it.

So it is easy for me to say, meditation ain't all that. It's everything just about that it claims to be (though having never taken MDMA or it's much less cool rave culture associated branding of XTC, I can't quantify that you can achieve the same high through meditation. I have certainly blissed out though.) It just isn't everything.

I wouldn't say meditation is so much better than thinking, in no small part because meditation has thinking in it. You are just paying attention to those thoughts.

But my experience yeilded some misgivings, my personal working theories of what one has to not get carried away with the current wave of mindfulness.

The first is considering it as a drug. Not doing meta meditation to achieve xtc like highs, but like when you are stressed out and take a glass of wine to take the edge off. Or the nerves. Substitute any drugs you like. They can solve states like stress, depression, nerves, rejection, heartbreak. Except drugs just remove the symptoms of whatever your problems are. The drugs wear off and you are only better off so long as the effects of the drugs last.

Meditation works like that though I would guess slightly better. I mean you tend to be calmer after a meditation session in a lasting way. But if you have a presentation coming up that is emotionally challenging and you sit down to meditate, it doesn't get that presentation done for you.

When I do it well, a meditation session arrests my tendency to project forward in time to the actual event that is stressing me out - so that I can take stock of the time I have to be resourceful and handle that situation. It is like waking from a nightmare to realise you still have your limbs in tact and an ordinary day ahead, just muted in both directions.

Having said that, time travelling into the situation that has you stressed now can be immensely useful preparation provided you have the imagination. What Robert Downey does in all his fight scenes in the Sherlock films.

Then there's this video, which makes another argument better than I am going to typing.

Lastly, I'm a fan of the explanatory power of the theory of evolution. Particularly evolutions abhorrence of waste. And namely that theory tells me, we evolved this yammering inner monologue for a reason. Miserable as it makes us, it's useful.

I mean evolution rewards surviving, simply what works at getting you to stay in the game. Not necessarily happiness, self fulfillment, self-actualization. Fucking a stream of people who mean nothing to you can make you miserable and ensure your genes carry forward into the future.

But I don't think it's necessarily irrational or sickness that has our ambitions oriented toward more stressful careers and accumulating resources that make us happy in diminishing increments. Because it is useful to surviving. A form of fox gnawing it's foot off to escape the trap. Trading fear for misery.

Meditation for me is a useful tool for tempering and balancing those considerations. To not have my doubts shatter my sense of self so much as reinforce it. Like an athlete improving their performance by incorporating rest days into their regimen, my mind runs all the time, meditation has allowed me to rest it, and improve its output.

So I mean, I see the temptation to get carried away with mindfulness, but just make sure that you aren't doing it simply to maintain a lifestyle that involves a smart phone. You may be better to throw the smart phone away.

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