Running Further In

Yesterday I meditated for the first time.

This was sort of the last gasp of well-being for me, the crystal meth of developing a personal self. I was in keeping with Stephen Fry when he explained on Sam Harris’s podcast that there was so much to read and experience, and meditation felt as though it would simply get in the way.

But yesterday I did it, and let me tell you, I want to keep doing it.

But why? Let me see if I can address the process.

The first thing that happened is that my habits went wildly in disarray. Going back to work, giving feedback to student writing, while playing some YouTube video of Ray Dalio in the background, it spun everything out of control. I was hardly writing on my own projects, and although I was working out regularly, I noticed that my brain was having a hard time keeping up. I was trying to write my fiction, and the result was decidedly uncreative.

That was the second point. It was like it had been in school: my brain was erratically giving its attention to everything at my fingertips. Even just sitting down to read for a brief moment gave me all kinds of electric impulses to think literally any other thought than the one I had explicitly dedicated myself to thinking.

The third thing that happened was reading the reports from East Asia about a lockdown in Singapore and the possibility (not confirmed) of getting reinfected with coronavirus. These are countries who had an admirable response to the virus, and they are still having difficulties returning to normal.

The realization that we still do not know so much about a disease that haunts our health, economy, and politics, combined with the dismay at having my brain coopted by any number of needs, wants, desires, made me finally say that enough was enough. I could not bear being trapped, not just in this house, but in my own body.

So I tried meditation, and it turned out to be something of a revelation.

It was only five minutes, but I really did develop at the very least a sort of calm. I was able to process my thoughts better, and I was able to write some stuff that felt, to me, so much more powerful than what came before, and it happened to be much more than what I had written before. The volume and the quality was there.

I’m using Sam Harris’s app, and I am really sorry that I keep bringing him up like a little fanboy, but I didn’t know who else to go to for this project. I am slowly realizing that I have had so few intellectual role models in my life that I have sought after public male intellectuals like Sam. But I digress.

It does not have to be meditation, but at some point, this crisis should remind us that the totality of our response to experience occurs in our mind. And while we have spent years training the mind to do all sorts of things, we haven’t really trained it to live with itself.

All of my pursuits recently have been inward. I cannot wait for the day where I can finally go out into the world and share the explorations that I have done in my own psychology. But for now, this is all I have.

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