Saturday, March 12, 2011
As illustration for this essay I am using a panel of our dining room sideboard that was particularly ugly and deserved what it got. It got several decades of kids growing up and pasting anything having to do with bicycles on it.
I considered this in two ways: it would decrease the resale value of the house and thereby keep me from getting snagged in the recent real estate crash; it gave the kids something meditative to do while I meditated and their mom bounced off walls taking care of everybody. If you would like audio accompaniment as well, I suggest Olivier Messiaen's (1941) "Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps", in which Jesus is a broad phrase on the vionocello, a Word --Logos-- to express infinite slowness, which is how light experiences time. But you can substitute anybody, even yourself, who wishes humanity would realize the universe speaks through us too, whether we like what it's saying or not.
In physics we learn the universe is composed of events. In broader philosophy we learn matter and mind are two ways of organizing events. Matter exists without biology; mind does not. We can safely infer the universe uses both organizational modes to communicate with itself. Because both combine in production of meaning, we assume the universe is getting to know itself in greater detail. It seems to be having a childhood. What further cosmic devices it develops by the time it begins dating are as yet unfathomable. Our job is to puzzle it out and help.
Here's how some Eastern groups go about it. They concentrate on the purposes of meditation, which are to live in the moment, pacify negative emotions, attain physical, mental and emotional health, live non-violently, purify consciousness, balance action, reaction and inaction. Modern medicine has ascertained this discipline improves the neuro-endocrine system, regulates emotions and hormones, reconciles subconscious mind and personality. Not bad.
Here's a generally Indian procedural list: Kayotsarg, relaxation and self awareness; Antaryatra, exploration of body & consciousness; Svash Preksha, perception of long breathing; Sharir Preksha, perception; Chaitanya Kendra Preksha, perception of psychic centres; Leshya Dhyan, subtle perception; Anupreksha & Bhavana, auto-suggestion; Asana & Pranayam, postures and breathing; Dhvani & Mudra, healing and hand posture. The goal, briefly, is transformation of negative emotions into positive ones. Lot of terminology but simple enough.
Here's how it translates into Western Dialogue, at my house anyway:
She: Wake up! Wake up!
She: You're asleep in your chair.
I: I was meditating.
She: You were snoring.
I: Chanting sub-vocally.
She: People who sleep in chairs fall out and hurt themselves. You were about to fall out!
I: You know Norma, this is the reason monks don't usually have wives.
She: Nobody'd marry them because they're always asleep and falling over.
I: Meditating, prostrating.
She: So you'd rather be a monk than married to me?
I: Uh, I'm all enlightened now. Think I'll go outside.
And I do go outside, usually to think. In thought, one solves --but with each answer more questions present themselves. This makes life marvelous and frustrating, so many people wisely stop thinking before it gets out of hand. I, however, have learned to shuffle off to the pumphouse where, among other philosophical instruments, I keep a humidor. Nicotinic meditation tends to clarify facts at hand even if it does not pull them out of thin air. It does not unify one with the universe or smarten one up, but it does calm one down during spousal bickers and successive attacks by offspring upon the paneling.