I’m sure I learned what meditation was sometime before college, but I didn’t spend much time absorbing the concept until then. I had an Eastern Philosophy teacher that is still probably the most self assured person I’ve ever met. He genuinely did not give a shit about what anyone thought of him, as he said, “other people’s thoughts are none of my business”. I found him to be hilarious, and always unintentionally so. The best kind of funny.
He discribed the purpose of meditation as widening the gaps between thoughts to allow spirit (the universe, God, Allah, the magical unicorn rainbow, whatever) to enter. He shut off the lights, had us put our heads in our folded arms, and asked us to focus on our breathing. Whenever we had a thought we were supposed to acknowledge it without judgement, let it go, and return to our breathing.
Most of the time I thought about a guy, wondered if he liked me. Thought about how cute he was. Replayed our recent conversations. I kept returning back to my breath just to be interrupted; “oh that crooked smile”.
Then I thought – “…..”
“And he’s sooo smart!” But it had happened, however briefly; I experienced my first sizeable gap between thoughts. I wanted more of that peaceful feeling. And, apparently, whoever that dude was.
That same teacher spoke about the amazing transformative qualities of meditation and let us know to get to these things may take a long time and at first, “It’s gonna be really fucking boring”. He is correct. I now love sitting meditation, now. It took me years to get here.
I was introduced to the concept of walking meditation around this time. Try it alone at first, then once you get it down you can do it all of the time. Walk slowly, feel the ground on your feet. Notice, without words, the sensation of the ground pushing back. Feel the muscles in your legs as you move forward. Notice how you hold your back. Notice everything about the simple action of walking without labeling any of it. As thoughts come in, acknowledge them, don’t react, let them go, and focus on your body. It may feel ridiculous as first, it did to me. But then, “…..”.
The first useful thing meditation taught me was how to get rid of the hiccups. I drank a lot of cheap beer quickly in those days, and I would get the hiccups pretty frequently. At some point I realized that all of the solutions offered up, “swallow a spoonful of sugar”, “stare at the ceiling whilst hopping on one foot”, “BOO!”. Were all various ways of not thinking about the hiccups.
The more you think something, the more you think something; neural pathways are created, making it just easier to think repetitively. By thinking about the hiccups you will continue to have the hiccups. They will not go away until you think about something else. Or, “…..”.
In those days most of my meditation was done in graffiti-covered toilet stalls. Focusing on my breathing, calming my mind, and dissolving those cheap beer hiccups! Works for ringing in your ear too (why does that happen?).
After a few years of meditating, to get rid of the hiccups, or for it’s own sake; “…..” became the most prominent activity in my mind. I became less clumsy. I became less neurotic. I started to use my mind as a tool, rather than some ego-ridden chamber I couldn’t escape.
Notice I said that this took years, years. Maybe it was being in my early twenties, maybe it was all of the booze and drugs and sex; but for some reason there I just had a hard time focusing… I would have blips of consciousness, a dreamy sort of preview of how I could experience my mind and life. Then onward to unworthy suitors, and unworthy beer!