Monday, July 13, 2009

It's More Like Driving

[cross-post from the Deming Zen Group website]

Last night, I was chatting with Tim, our neighbor across the street. Among other things, he was curious about the meditation group. At one point he narrowed his eyes and asked me in a voice wrought with suspicion, "What kind of meditation do you do?"

He did not need to hear much about the nuts and bolts of sitting meditation before he waved his hand and said, "Heck, I do that in front of the television every single night." He was all done with the subject.

It is a popular assumption that meditation is about going into a trance of some kind. If you watch someone doing formal meditation, that's what it looks like: they sit on a cushion or in a chair with their eyes closed or partly open, not asleep yet not doing anything. I once heard a story about some children who crept up and looked in the window of a Zen center and saw people meditating. The children yelled, "Zombies!!" and ran off. Adults sometimes carry this notion as well.

How can we sit there and not do anything? How does that help us or the world?

The meditation we practice is about waking up, rather than going into some kind of trance. Watching television is more conducive to being in a trance. Indeed, many of us go about our daily lives in a kind of trance, doing things all the time yet not feeling any happier at the end of the day. Television grabs our mind and pulls us around, selling us products and distracting us from our life.

The direction our meditation practice is headed is more like, to use another analogy, our mind when we are driving a car. Or rather, when are driving a car well. A very good way to drive is to put our eyes a distance in front of the car where we can see things in our peripheral vision, and easily check our mirrors. We sit up straight in a comfortable position where we can easily reach the levers and gearshift. If another driver behaves badly, we compensate and let the "bad behavior" go. We are calm, paying attention, driving efficiently and safely. With this kind of mind, driving can actually be rather enjoyable -- and the road is much safer for everyone.

To practice that kind of attention, we do sitting meditation. When we practice something, we get good at it. What do you think? Does the world benefit when there are more "good drivers" who pay attention, let negative stuff go, and find a way to be efficient and joyful in what they do?

1 comment:

Kelly said...

What a wonderful analogy!