Meditation

This was a free weekend after weeks of un-free ones. I spent it indoors plowing through stuff – mental and physical. I was extremely lazy, or letting go – not sure which – did not do ages old laundry, did not even change out of my pajamas today. Did not practice at all either yesterday or today. Stayed up way late and slept in way late. Generally fell apart – that is, fell away from the regimen I have developed that I think is what keeps me feeling sane and useful. I’m not good with unscheduled time, I always say. It feels uncomfortable, endless, unaccomplished.

I experimented with creating a screen using a cutout technique that I intend to apply to some shiny plastic in this installation I have in mind. I updated my photography portfolio. Did not study as planned, although I did begin to outline what I’m studying for this upcoming course. I listened to my favorite radio shows for the first time in weeks. I don’t have a television, for some time now, because it’s too addictive. I can’t handle television. Lately, though, I’ve been curious about some of the programs I see advertised so I delved into the Showtime web site tonight and watched the first episode of Californication. And then proceeded to watch all the iTunes previews for this and Weeds.

There is no doubt after watching these that I have shielded myself a lot from what stands in for modern life in this cosmos. These shows have central characters who over the course of the seasons are up, down, up again, down again, basically in an endless cycle of misery that only partly seems of their own making, partly the influence of writers toying with them. It was all kind of depressing and yet it was hard to stop watching, another twist of fate just around the corner. How the characters relate with each other in these bumpy lives seems at once completely insincere and captivating at the same time. Going out into the world and facing real people is so much harder. But then this is entertainment, not real life drama.

I dived into meditation practice after leaving a really hard year of work documenting the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Whatever I had been doing to function in my life was no longer working. There were more and more things “going wrong” – illness, ill parents, tax problems, etc., and I did not seem to have any resilience to work with these situations. I had connections with buddhist wisdom in place after years of reading Thich Nat Hanh and Chogyam Trungpa’s books.

Five years later, I’ve experienced enough resonance between practice and life to sense its value to me, and have seen meditation become much more widely known in our culture. I began instructing beginning students in basic meditation technique last year at the center where I practice. One change I attribute to it is I am much less likely to be pulled around by my emotions, like anger, resentment, lust, or elation. When you start practicing, avoiding things or actions that create more chaos in your life and other’s lives is part of the view of how to begin working with your mind. But eventually, practice gets to a point where all phenomena – television, cheese, death – are seen with clarity and appreciated, even embraced for what they are. One of the downfalls of us lesser Buddhist practitioners is that there is just as much a tendency to engage practice as a shield from things that, like television, I feel I can’t handle. Most of the time I’m not aware of things I’m avoiding. (Isn’t that true for most of us?) So having a lazy weekend, where I don’t get basic things done which keep the engine running, spending hours following one thought after another, one program after another, always feels really uncomfortable, because the shield is down. And the chaos behind all that, it’s dramatic. Its overwhelming. And time consuming. Easier to just reject it, but then I’m just as caught by it, all the same.