I’m definitely not an expert in meditation. In fact, I think that there are are as many ways to meditate as there are people on the planet. So I really can’t tell anyone how to do it. But maybe I can share why, for me, mediation is important.
In a way, when I meditate, I’m lending my mind to God. You may say: Fuck that. I won’t lend my mind to anyone. My mind is mine. It’s what makes me me. True enough. I shouldn’t lend my mind to anyone, or I become their slave. But let’s take a look at what I do lend my mind to.
They’ve done studies, and the majority of mental content is negative. Why? The brain is designed to protect us against danger. If you’re like most genetic males, then when you walk into a room, your basic brain, the reptillian part that hides underneath all the other matteresses of brains, does two things without you even knowing it: It looks for potential mates, and it assesses for threats.
Threat assessment. My mind is always trying to warn me against danger. That worked great when I was out among the tall grass on the savannah, taking a piss, and a lion was sneaking up behind me. But today, when there are no lions roaming around my bathroom (last time I checked), what’s that little inner reptile in my brain supposed to do? It’s out of a job. It needs something to do. So it assesses for threats that aren’t really threats: He snubbed me. She won’t go out with me. Oh no, I’ took my Metamucil and I’m out of toilet paper. You get the picture. And the reptile within has absolutely no social nuance. That’s why it’s always getting into bar fights. It can’t tell the difference between a cold snub and a stalking lion.
And my brain is always thinking something. It’s very active. It think’s its trying to help me, by warning me, by protecting me. I was on an L train once during morning rush hour, and all these other commuters crammed the train car with me in downtown Chicago. I scanned the crowd, and almost everyone had a silent, sullen look, a frozen gaze of depression or desperation or worry. Maybe it was because I was hungover, I don’t know. But it hit me that morning years ago that the majority of what we think disturbs us. Ansd we’re the ones who think it. We make ourselves miserable with our thoughts. We’re always thinking something, and what we think usually isn’t very nice, very helpful, very positive. Most of our thoughts are either fearful – because our heads are living in the future, warning us against nonexistent threats – or they’re angry, because our inner reptiles are in fight or flight mode. Or their resentful, which is anger that that’s more than a day old, because our brains are constantly rehashing the past.
And we don’t seem to have much control over it. If our minds are constantly thinking and we’re not paying attention to those thoughts, then our thoughts end up thinking us. It’s the automaticity of thought. Programs we design, recordings we make inside our heads, endlessly replay. They may be memories of things that might have happened the way we think they did, or maybe they didn’t. They may be fantasies of future events that may play out the way our heads tell us they will, or maybe they won’t. And most are negative. Whether it’s a bad experience in the past or some danger lying in wait in some possible future, most of what we think isn’t positive, or even very helpful.
And we’re not very conscious of much of what we think, or very intentional about our thoughts. Our minds are a garden in constant need of weeding, and we just walk past without looking. We choose our thoughts, but we decide on the content of our minds implicitly. Most of the time, we delegate our choice of what to think to our own little apps and algos that run automatically in the background. Our own little operating systems of negative content.
Maybe we let others dowwnload our programming into us. We watch TV, go online and look at the news. We watch commercials about garlic knots pizza crust (no shit), listen to love songs about how she done me wrong and oh I’ll never fall in love again. Maybe it’s the spyware of infomercials or the malware of fake news that we tune into because we want something, someone, to fill our minds for us. It’s like not doing our own cooking. Or maybe we want someone to agree with out predetermined stories about how the world works, about how the world is. It doesn’t matter. We may be empty. We may be lazy. We may be just plain old tired and disillisoned, so we let the world select for us what we’ll think, what version of ‘reality’ we’ll see.
So you see, if you’re like most of us, youre already renting your mind out to something else, to many something elses, and they’re not even paying you for it. Whether its your own programming endlessly re-looping, or the propaganda fed to us by our channels and websites, we let something or somebody else do our thinking for us. We meditate alright, but often on the wrong things. We’re always meditating. And we’re usually lending our minds to something which really doesn’t have our best interests at heart.
All that meditation is, in very general terms, is emptying the mind of all that content, if even for a brief span of time. It’s to empty the mind of its thoughts and feelings, of its urges and insistencies, and then looking at them. It’s like a house cleaning, without judgment. Just looking at what it is we think we are, since most of us begin to confuse what we are with what we think. And since what we think is often negative, we see ourselves and others as negative beings.
Our problem is that we think that what we think is real, and that it’s true. I saw it on a bumper sticker once: DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK.
Meditation allows me the freedom to see that I am not what I think, that my thoughts aren’t real. And that not everything I think is true. In fact, almost every thought I have is derived. It’s given to me by something or somebody else: my parents when I was 4, TV, the internet, a critical lover, a book that told me about the Civil War. I assume facts not in evidence, as they say in courts of law. And almost everything I think is a rerun. It’s an old thought, sometimes a rerun I’ve thank (that a word?) many many times.
And what I think becomes what I believe. And what I believe becomes my life. From these small bits and bytes of thought, I build my stories. And from these stories I construct the walls of my life. What I think determines my whole destiny, and it all starts with what I’m thinking about when I’m on the train on my way to work.
That’s why I meditate.
© 2019 by Michael C. Just
Mike’s novel, The Dirt: The Journey of a Mystic Cowboy, is available in softcover or eBook formats through Amazon.
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Mike’s other titles, including The Crippy, The Mind Altar, and Canyon Calls, are available through Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002LFMXAW