Thursday, February 25, 2016


Meditation goes back to before Buddha, to a time where writing was not general public information. Memory and speech were the only communication tools. Drawings we crude, and at times just lines in the sand. It was common for the older people to wander off and become part of the contemplative ascetics wandering about, living off gatherings and handouts from the locals. It was the form of retirement for those how were driven off from their families, and those who were really "put out to pasture." Entire books like stories, histories, and the like were memorized, and repeatedly turned over in the mind to keep them fresh (chanted).  Meditation is a form of contemplation, and there are some freaky things that happen to the mind. Some is observational and develop out of concentration, and the collection of experiences. We learn to concentrate well, but that is only one of many things we can learn that are mostly virtuous to have learned.

Patience is one of the first things. It takes patience to sit for hours, without any activity beyond thinking. There are many forms, open eyed or closed, formal sitting or just flopped down, walking, exercising, watching the breath, or navel gazing, body scanning, pain spot examination, thought examination. If we pick one of the noting the though and returning to the object of concentration methods to explore, we can modify that method to one of writing each observation down, and then returning to the object. Using a candle in dim light, writing down thoughts, can clear the mind of random and troubling thoughts.  Using an external object draws ones attention away from the self, and this is a good practice. We humans are to self centered anyway.

Persistence is another skill that has uses. We need to persist, to continue at many things we find difficult, to achieve both in the working life, and personal life. We need persistence to learn things we find difficult, writing for example. I struggle with writing, and I know many struggle with mathematics and following clear directions. Making directions clear is a different problem, with which everyone struggles. When we have failures, or are not seeing the headway or purpose, we may have doubts, ill-will, get distracted with cravings or other people, get restless or impatience, or just give up. These are typical reasons we just give up anything. Persistence is the act of overcoming all blocks to our progress and  returning to our pursuit, in this case concentration on the object or effort.

Serenity is a mental state of calmness, infinite patience, where the urgency of the next action or demand on our time is just not important. It is relaxed state of being, where there are no other demands on our state of present time. It is letting go of the other demands on our time that gives us serenity. Serenity is the most important single thing in my life at this time, without exception type of thinking. It is this time management skill of throttling urgency, the rush to achieve, the desire for fame, wealth, power, greed and yet achieving enough for satisfaction, joy, positive emotion, and adequate security. 

Self control is a good skill to learn for many reasons. The Stoics consider two vices worse that all others, lack of persistence and lack of self control. (Epictetus F) To have self control, we must have a burning objective in front of us to pull us forward, and clear sides to tell us when we are off the path. We must be watchful for these and stop before we run off the path. We can be dragged through life, as a dog on a leash or run along on the path, pulling on our leash. The easy way is to walk along, smelling flowers briefly on our way through life. This is self control, knowing how fast to go, how much to take on. Not so much that we become exhausted, nor so little that we become bored or have time for torpor; And all the while maintaining interest and enthusiasm, and not getting taken off by distractions. Too much, too little, of anything can take us out of the hunt.

Maintaining present time is another concept that we humans have an issue with often. We are living in the past, could have, should have, or in a fiction of our delusions or expectations of outcome off in the future. There is nothing wrong with reviewing and evaluating our past performance, but then we need to return to the present. We do need to lay out a plan or direction for the future, but not in outcomes, and things beyond our control. Some things are up to us and some are not. We need to stay within those thing within our control, our opinions, our beliefs, our thoughts, our present skills, our judgements, our impulses, our desires, our mental facilities in general. (See Epictetus D1, E1)

Meditation is a state of mind, regardless of how we get there. It is a form of concentrated directed contemplation, or just contemplation. The ease that various people can drop into this is variable; some have difficulty, and for others it is near automatic. The depth varies and changes over time. After a bit we start to see thought objects and the gaps between thought objects, feel sound, and learn to look where thought objects come from. We may even learn to deselect thought objects and put them in other places. I do not have the vocabulary to describe some of these effects. It is not of the physical world, but seems very real and is in the realm of concepts and concept objects, X files sort of stuff, but short of fancies, but like useful fancies, conceptual black boxes). It needs to be experienced, not intellectualized. It is a state of mind, and if you mind, it does not matter, for it is mind over matter, and long as the matter does not mind. 

Anyways, the solution to all my problems today may be to go meditate. What do I know?

1 comment:

  1. I know my sleep quality improves immeasurably after a "moving meditation" like yoga class... The sitting still part has never worked well for me (not that I don't need to go back & try it some more ;-)