I’m outside on the couch. Another glorious afternoon in LA.
And I’m thinking… about thinking.
About ten years ago, I did my first of two week-long, silent meditation retreats at a Jewish Center called, Elat Chayyim.
I’m far from an expert in meditation, but I did have a giant epiphany during that week of silence.
When I first started meditating, I thought the goal was no thought–getting to that magical place where all thoughts ceased.
And there was just… emptiness. Peace. Freedom.
Clear the mind, clear the mind, clear the mind, was my mantra.
But I found that extremely difficult to do.
What was helpful, however, was just watching.
To watch what happened when I just sat there (or walked around for the walking meditation) and did nothing. With no external distractions, it was easy to see all the internal ones!
Take away your distractions, and you’ll see your mind goes batshit berserk!!!
I started to get a glimpse of my mind as it normally is: CRAZY!
It was pumping out the most unbelievable nonsense.
We think we’re the ones having thoughts, but as Werner Erhard said, in truth, it’s our thoughts that have us!
Think about it…
Are most of your thoughts really of your own choosing?
Or, rather, don’t most of them just occur on their own?
It’s my experience, and probably yours if you take some time to observe, that they just seem to appear on their own volition.
Now, we may begin thinking about those thoughts once they come to us, but that’s after the fact. The fact is that they’re continually bombarding us.
There’s a difference between having thoughts and thinking. Gurdjieff, author of Meetings with Remarkable Men, believed that most of us are asleep.
Not just between midnight and six a.m., either.
Asleep, all the time.
A friend of mine asked me today what I’ve been up to, and I said, thinking.
Not a very good place to be, she said in reply.
I get why she said that, too. For most of us, our minds are like bad neighborhoods.
We try to get in and get out as fast as possible.
Stay too long and you might go bananas.
But that’s not because thinking (i.e., our minds) is the problem; it’s the swirl of thoughts that often make us feel like we’re going crazy.
A key aspect of meditation (which doesn’t have to mean sitting down with a slight smile on your face, as you seek out enlightenment) is becoming the witness to the fucking STORM going on inside your head.
It’s like a hurricane in there! But when we get still, and when we remove all possible distractions outside our little black box, we can watch our minds spinning and spinning as if we’re doing laundry and watching our clothes in the drying machine.
We can get outside our heads and watch the action like it’s our favorite TV series to binge-watch.
We become the literal and figurative “eye” of the storm.
It’s an amazing thing!!!!!!!!!
It’s amazing because it gives us perspective.
I remember all the crazy thoughts I was having during that retreat. It was particularly fascinating to watch how my mind made up whole stories about all the people at the retreat: which ones were attracted to me, who was good at meditating, who didn’t like me, who was a jerk, who was a show-off.
It was non-stop Jerry Springer in my head!
I realized, holy shit! This is not me–as in the real me–this machinery that’s making this shit up! This is the black box.
And I don’t know about you, but my black box has been spouting off crazy talk for a very long time.
And being able to see that is incredibly freeing.
Without even realizing it, we run our lives as if we–rather, who we think we are–and that black box are one and the same.
We are the black box!
If that’s true, and that’s how we live, then Gurdjieff was right.
Most of us are asleep.
Asleep in the sense that we’re confused about who we really are and because something that is not-us is running the show.
I’ve also heard it said (in that meditation retreat) that the mind is a great tool, but a horrible master.
For most of us, the mind is not a tool. We don’t use it; it uses us!
We’re being highjacked by that black box during most of our day.
It’s the subject, and we’re the object.
To be blunt: we’re its bitch.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’m thinking about thinking because I want to be free. And there is no freedom insofar as me and that black box are one and the same.
It’s not until I can make some popcorn, sit back and watch the screen of my mind create scene after scene after scene that I can truly be free.
And here’s the real value of that kind of practice: it’s not that the little black box stops working; oh, no, it’s ALWAYS going to do its thing.
The question is how I can be more aware of when it’s doing its thing–and not buy into the hype.
I can see it for what it is: just a machine doing its thing, churning out gobbledygook
(kinda like shlippity shlop, for those of us who remember The Lorax).
Let’s take a look at a couple verses from that book:
Your machinery chugs on, day and night without stop making Gluppity-Glupp. Also Schloppity-Schlopp. And what do you do with this leftover goo? I’ll show you. You dirty old Once-ler man, you!
He’s of course talking about the Onceler (bad guy in the story), and his factory that is making thneeds out of Truffula Trees (which everyone needs!), but doesn’t the metaphor work for our minds, as well?
You’re glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed! No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed. So I’m sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary. They’ll walk on their fins and get woefully weary in search of some water that isn’t so smeary.
Is that not our condition, too?
Isn’t our machinery also going non-stop, mucking up our heads?
Isn’t it contaminating our ponds–i.e., our lives?