I began learning and practicing meditation four years ago. At the time I was emotionally and materially wealthy, but I felt wretched throughout the day. Especially when I was alone in a public setting. It is hard to explain why one feels lonely or sad, or even happy and excited… when one lives whatever thought stream happens to exist at the time without being aware of it. It’s similar to being on a boat that is buffeted by strong currents. Only the experience is heart wrenching if we have no navigational skills. You get pulled in different directions, at nature’s mercy. The reason why I am talking about this, is that four years later my relationship with this thought stream is very different. Let’s go over distinct experiences that I had which seem to have a lot in common.
Three weeks ago, we were launching a new website at work with a fixed deadline. On launch day, my boss was having minor panic attacks, he was swearing and basically asking us why some technical aspects of the system weren’t working yet. I remained stoic and calm during this situation, being very careful at whatever thought was arising. In this sense I managed to remain very confident and assured in my position. I kept wondering what point would there be for all of us to get angry. His behavior did bring up a healthy amount of urgency to our situation, but that could have been introduced in a myriad more effective matters than to start blowing up in small, directs bursts.
Then last Friday I went to get laser eye surgery. The day of the surgery one of the specialists was taking 3D retinal scans of my eyes. He asked me how I felt about the surgery. I told him I had a soar throat from a flu that I had caught a week prior. Slightly surprised, he then asked me the same question with more emphasis on his words, what ABOUT THE SURGERY? I gave him a wry smile and said, somewhat passively, we’ll see when we get there. Again, I didn’t feel like identifying with an unknown future would do me any good. I wanted to remain calm and collected. Plus, I felt cool as fuck. This could have been considering careless, but I had already done my research and visualized the worst possible scenario and how my life would go on after that. In other words, I fully understood what my decision meant.
So far you could say this is awesome. You get to keep your cool on demand thanks to a consistent practice and a better understanding of your mind, but there seems to be more to it than we think. I have a hard time being exciting for just about anything these days. Everything is an experience, but I don’t have expectations and therefore there seems to be a lack of a build-up of what we could call energizing anticipation? For example, I was talking about long distance hiking with my yoga teacher and she said it must be a wonderful experience. I firmly agreed with her, but it didn’t sound very fervent on my part. Within seconds… I was uninterested. I was just as passive as I would be in any other situation. I don’t know what to think of all this. Perhaps I have become too objective in my approach, perhaps my approach was initially rooted in fear, therefore I looked at my thoughts with much skepticism and even a hint of retribution as I slowly started stripping off each layer of the onion. There’s this lack of vibrancy. I am nowhere near the picture of a monk wearing orange garments jumping around with a smile that is backed up with megatons of compassion and joy(maybe that’s just in the movies). The zest for life has somehow slipped away. I don’t think it’s apathy since I do not feel or show signs of depression. Nor do I lack energy. In fact I feel very functional, physically in shape and emotionally stable.
I suspect that my first stance, which was about waging war on thoughts and a strong focus on dispelling the self also flushed out the power of imagination, the power of wonder and of curiosity. I have pondered on this a few times now. There is a narrow line between imagination and projection of self in the future.
My plan for now is to look at practices that might help me with cultivating a sense of engagement, while still keeping up with my profound interest in self-understanding. This reminds me of something that Alan Watts once talked about in one of his audio books. It was his description of what a distinguished individual would be like. He said that this individual in question would live on two levels. First, he would know, at a deep level, that there is no self. Secondly he would know that the ego, or a constitution of self remains remarkably useful in day to day living. The second points to the idea of forging an identity that suits us in our daily life within society. He said that the ego ideally resembled a measuring unit. Undeniably useful, but it remains a fiction, an invention that simply facilitates a process. I would love to get some feedback on this. How do you manage non-attachment while being engaged? Has anything in particular helped you when you felt like you slipped into apathy or carelessness?
To that, I am going to listen to some jazz and sip some tea. I wish everyone a great evening.