Facing facts

To me, meditation is about staying with the psychological facts of daily life. I try and watch the currents of my mind closely in two ways: without indulging them and without enacting them.

For example, I find that much of my psychological life goes in wishing that life were different, in subtle and important dimensions. I might want a better job, or a “better” romantic partner. I might want more or less sugar in my coffee. It comes to the same thing. But daily life presents me so much that I need to be at peace with. Maybe I need to stick with my current job for the financial security it offers to support my mother. Or if I break up with my current partner, the pain and emotional havoc would be tremendous. I need to watch the urge to escape into fantasy, and I need to stay grounded in ordinary life, mentally and socially.

This movement away from the present into the past or the future, into romantic memories or regrets or into a frenzied planning for the future, removes the energy to watch the present and respond to it with depth, awareness, compassion and creativity.

The other aspect of our psychological lives that is so challenging is the very stuff of emotions themselves: the way our organisms are caught up in them, enacting them. If I am very angry with someone, the mental movies and chattering generates so much angry energy that I want to find the guy and punch him. I obviously restrain myself, but in anger I will try to hurt him. The late David Bohm said that emotions and moods are like weather systems. We ought to just watch them pass through us, without the contradictions involved in enacting them in. That way, I can learn a tremendous amount about the contours of my mind and not cause problems in my social life!

All of this meditation stuff is obviously extremely challenging. But really, do we humans have any choice about it?




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