#28: The not so magical voodoo of meditation
Meditate so you can imagine a better world and a better future
This week, after taking a two month hiatus, I started to meditate again. I’m using the Headspace app and it was free with this link.
Headspace allows you to choose your teacher. I chose Eve - a woman with a very pleasant and calm voice. The other day, I joined a live gratitude meditation session where I got to see Eve in the (virtual Zoom) flesh. No surprises - she looked like I thought she would: pretty, with straight black hair and a short haircut that gently wrapped her face.
I’m working through the series on Acceptance, and Eve is the teacher I chose. She opens up each session with a prompt to focus on the following question: ‘Who or what are you resisting?’ Don’t use ‘I’ when you ask yourself this question, Eve advises, because ‘I’ narrows your mind. Instead, use the third person, ‘you.’ Next, don’t search for an answer. Instead, focus on the question and on your breath, and an answer may naturally arise.
It kind of sounds like some magical voodoo. I don’t ascribe to any of those beliefs, and I don’t think any of my readers do either. But, meditation is not magical voodoo. It’s just a way to stop intellectualizing every little thing, to stop thinking so much, and to stop hyper rationalizing.
Wait a minute. To stop thinking so much? But Descartes said, ‘I think therefore I am’, and there are Internet blogs and communities about how to be more rational. You might be thinking, If I stop thinking, I will just be a blob of bones!
Ha-ha - a fair concern, indeed, for someone who intellectualizes everything (myself included!), but I highly doubt you will become a blob of bones because it’s impossible to be alive and to completely cease thinking. Thoughts will always come, whether you want them to or not. The question is, what do you do with those thoughts? If you like science fiction, you can imagine a thought uploader machine, like in Philip K. Dick’s book A Scanner Darkly, where you can leisurely view your thoughts on a nice, big HD TV. Perhaps the next step would be to choose which thoughts you want to keep, and which thoughts you want to discard, so that unhelpful thoughts don’t clutter your mind and distract you from your goals.
I don’t know, it’s just a thought.
Meditation helps us to differentiate the helpful thoughts from the unhelpful thoughts. I’ve written before about the neuroscience of meditation: how different neural pathways are created in the brains of meditators, helping to regulate emotions.
I don’t plan to dive into the science in this post.
Honestly, I didn’t enjoy reading through academic research, full of jargon, to write that post, and I now realize that writing about reappraisal strategies like REAPSit and REAPSelf, didn’t persuade anyone to start meditating.
These academic papers can make meditating seem like a bore and a chore, and when that is your mindset, meditation becomes something you feel you must do or should do.
Don’t meditate because you think you must, or you should, or it will be good for you. Meditate because you want to de-clutter your mind so you can free up space for healthy thoughts. These thoughts may very well help you imagine a better world and a better future. And share those thoughts.
Here’s the link again to a free subscription to Headspace.
Take care, and be well. 🧘
P.S. I know some of my readers are fans of George Saunders; I got something for you! My friend and amazing storywriter Sylvia shared with me Story Club, an experiment in story reading and writing from George himself. I’m curious, and plan to test it out for the first free month, then decide if I want to pay to get through the paywall overlords.
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