Meditation As Rebellion
by Alex McAfee
I am a sinner. I am a sinner because I sit still, I try not to multi-task, I try to pay attention to the conversation I’m having with the person in front of me. I also meditate. This is my rebellion. I sin against the church of the busy.
Remember just hanging out with your friends at a coffee shop or on the back of a pickup, just talking, and not taking selfies or any of that shit? Remember the days where you were ok with just living life, rather than documenting the minutia of your meals or workouts or morning coffee? Back then the things you did capture meant something: graduations, holidays, marriages, births, and deaths. The internet is how my head used to be before meditation: memories of trivial things, to-do lists, the last song I heard, people I needed to talk to, celebrity gossip, gossip framed as important news, etc, etc, etc. It was the trivial shit that just kept my mind busy, and by keeping it busy, it kept me from paying attention. Not paying attention is for the worker bees, the drones pushing buttons and pulling levers.
I find it hilarious that we have actually come to a point as a society where we need to pay people to teach us to sit still. Are you proud of your guru? Are you enlightened yet?
I have a few gurus, a few teachers, and I’m not sure I’m enlighten, but I did lighten the fuck up, and in the process somehow became more aware than I would have liked, or was comfortable with.
Before my arrival at meditation, I had done things, accomplished things, been places, taken the substances that blast you into another dimension, and because of this, I thought I knew things. But I didn’t, I knew nothing, my life before waking up was like watching TV or playing a video game with a character acting as my avatar. This is what happened when I took the red pill and danced my way down the rabbit hole, and I did it without drugs - I did it with meditation.
Shit is about to get esoteric, so just a heads up.
I used to climb mountains to find out what I was made of, now I sit still. What I am made of and what I perceive to be made of are two very different things. I perceive the things I think I want to be, and that my family, friends, and society want me to be; but in the end, I am what I am, it is what it is, and that is that. Meditation helps me see this. This is truth. I was Alex before I was named Alex, I was something before Alex. So who am I now, and who am I with money, without money, with a wife or without a wife, with a job, without a job… with either/or all these things I am still me. There is the truth in me, of who I am at this very moment, without the external perceptions acting as my own internal perceptions of who I am, based on the relative things surrounding me, rather than the true me that is. This can be very uncomfortable.
Seeing yourself in the truest way is something I often avoided, and I assume most people try to do the same. For a long time I looked to play the roll of who I was supposed to be. Now, I sit around Los Angeles and look at the people playing the roll of the actor, the roll of the barista, the roll of the tortured artist, the roll of the surfer bro. These people are often playing out who they think that roll should be, rather than who they really are – their True Selves.
Being your true self is painful. Telling the truth is hard and uncomfortable. Being honest and humble about your strengths and shortcomings is crushing, even more so if it is a limitation on your dreams. At the extreme it would be the delusion of a 5-foot tall man growing up believing he would play professional basketball, and then being spiritually crushed by the realization that it was all just a fantasy. What about all the hard work he put in? What about all that emotional and spiritual energy he put into developing his persona around that dream? Without the dream who is he? In my opinion he is who he was before his dream of being a basketball pro existed, and he is who he was while he was living in that delusion - he is himself no matter where he is.
In climbing mountains I did find myself, it’s like meditation in that way - waking up long before the sunrise, stomping up the crisp frozen earth as the alpenglow comes up like the curtain call, exhausted but excited and breathing heavy, the altitude forcing you to concentrate on the breath like the poses of a yoga class. Hours into it you are exhausted and still must focus, letting thoughts drop away so you can focus at the task at hand with no thought, as your life does literally depend on it. Later and later the day gets and your body breaks down more, but you still need to move, you need to let go of the fear or you will be stuck in it, and you have likely let go of the worries that await you on the ground, as they seem rather trivial at a time like this. This is life stripped down to the present moment. As you make each move you concentrate not on the top of the mountain, or the moves you have already made for the last few hours, but of the moves you’re making right now, as thinking of the future or the past doesn’t really matter right now, because right now is right now.
Right now is all that there really is, and this is where meditation brings me, it brings me back to where I already was.
Beginner’s mind is often talked about in meditation as having the openness to see things for the first time again. When you strip down your expectations there is the ability to see things as new and fresh without the distortion of your lens of experience, and your biased paradigms. In the world of addiction and alcoholism, you often have to hit bottom to give up. This is true in many other areas of life – you have to get a divorce, have someone die, or lose a job to hit a bottom low enough for you to have the humility to admit you don’t know what to do next, but within that humility, you have the ability to see with the fresh eyes of a beginner’s perspective.
What if you could choose to have beginner’s eyes and a beginner’s mind all the time?
This is where meditation helps me, when I sit, I feel my thoughts and emotions drop, the channel changes, and I feel like a blank palette again. When I have this, I can see the truth in things: it is what it is, I am what I am, and that is that. I become aware of how to make decisions because I am looking at the data sets with an unbiased opinion, rather than an expectation of a dream or paradigm as I wish them to be.
This is what it is to just hang out again within my own mind, with myself, watching the thoughts and emotions float by. When I meditate it takes me to the place of a beginner’s mind without hitting a bottom, but the bottom itself is the blank state of the pause within myself. The ability to pause instead of reacting, for me, is like a boxer who can move around his opponent and get in three extra punches without his opponent even seeing it. Really, it’s having the luxury to take those three extra punches, but choosing not to if I wish. Meditation for me is both performance enhancing, but spiritually enhancing as well, as I might even have the pause and insight to win before I get in the ring in the first place, or the removal of the desire to even move towards the ring, and in the end to see the ring as quiet silly in the first place, though it might be interesting if I decided to go take a look. For me, that’s where the performance enhancement comes in, the pause, instead of the reaction, of having to beat my thoughts into submission by my unconscious actions. Would you want to go through life in a blackout drunk, and living the life with the results that come from that blackout living? That’s what life was like for me without meditation, whether I was drinking or not. My life was a series or reactions, rather than decisions. I lacked the ability to pause and decide.Now that I have the ability to pause and decide, even that seems silly, it’s like watching a game show on LSD. So I just sit here, watching and enjoying, living this moment, buying the ticket and taking the ride I choose, or not.