Saturday, May 16, 2009

What the heck is it?

Oof. What the heck is meditation? I was born in the early 60s; I was a kid in the 70s. In those hazy, colorful decades, meditation was just something in the air. It was the incense smoke left behind when conformity was thrown into the fires of the counterculture. Meditation? It just was. It was something that helped you. It was a way of life. It was a way out. A way in. The solution. Something exotic—the secret of Hindu Yogis and Shaolin monks. It brought wisdom. It brought eternal life.

Did any of those answers help you? I thought not.

I got my first taste of meditation from a buddy in elementary school, who was very taken with the hippie ethos. It went like this: “OK, clear your head and tell me the first word that comes onto your head.”

I took a moment, closed my eyes, and though of empty space.

“Space.” I said.

“That’s your word forever, now. For the rest of your life you’ll meditate on the word 'space.'”

Waitaminit, I thought, I didn’t want the word ‘space’ for the rest of my life! I wanted something strong, powerful. I didn’t want empty space, like the place in the closet behind the sneakers! What a stupid exercise!

And that was the last of my formal exercise in meditation for a long time.

Or maybe not, really.

At the same time, I loved to draw, and could spend hours, even days, on a single picture. I went to an art school on Saturdays where we sat and drew or painted, for four hours at a time, with a five minute break every half hour. We worked mostly in silence, because there was nothing that needed saying, and I loved it.
I also loved reading, and tore through every science fiction book I could get my hands on. I went to summer camp, but I wasn’t very athletic at the time, and since most of the activities there were sports, I had a lot of time to explore nature and to read, and read I did. Roughly a book a day. My record was three paperbacks in one day.

And when I was a little older, I often came home from school, threw an LP on the stereo, and zoned out on the couch while my imagination transported me wherever it wanted to take me.

Was any of that meditation?
Isn’t meditation some exotic import of the East? I mean, there have to be all sorts of formalities, right? You have to sit a certain way, you have to sit on certain special things in certain special positions, burn special incense, and chant stuff out loud, right?

Well, yes, and no.

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