Monday, May 12, 2014

Silence is a Mirror: In Defense of Meditation

Tom Robbins' Support for Meditation in Fierce Invalids Home from Hot ClimatesSilence is a mirror. So faithful, and yet so unexpected, is the reflection it can throw back at men that they will go to almost any length to avoid seeing themselves in it, and if ever its duplicating surface is temporarily wiped clean of modern life's ubiquitous hubbub, they will hasten to fog it over with such desperate personal noise devices as polite conversation, humming, whistling, imaginary dialogue, schizophrenic babble, etc...

This is how Tom Robbins praises meditation in his novel Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates. A recent Mindrolling podcast with guest Joseph Goldstein emphasizes this point by saying that the only way to know the mind is turn inward and observe it, and that it takes not effort but courage to do so. It's all semantics really, as words mean different things to different people, but to many of us effort implies striving for me, myself and I, while courage implies encountering the unknown with an open mind and an open heart, being reborn in every passing moment, opening one's metaphoric doors to let the rush of beauty that is existence come flowing in like long overdue deluge. Challenging for all of us, yes, but worth a try.

Robbins continues:

Only in sleep is silence tolerated, and even there, most dreams have soundtracks. Since meditation is a deliberate descent into deep internal hush, a muted stare into the ultimate looking glass, it is regarded with suspicion by the nattering masses; with hostility by business interests (people sitting in silent serenity are seldom consuming goods); and with spite by a clergy whose windy authority it is seen to undermine and whose bombastic livelihood it is perceived to threaten.

In short, meditation slows us all down and allows us to understand each other better. In a society that is largely still built on a hierarchy, bureaucracy, and an individual mindset that pits itself against 7 billion others along with Mother Earth herself, it easy to see how meditation gets shot down in social circles as wishy-washy or escapist. That said, it will take courage to defend it, to stand up to the nay sayers and refuse to allow others to remove this revolutionary practice from the intricate puzzle that is social evolution. Make it a corner piece. Make it obvious for all to see its value. This take courage. I think that Bertrand Russell said it best on how to have the courage to stand up to those that point fingers, to defend life's best practices against those holding us all back with a snide remark and a belly laugh. The following are his Ten Commandments of teaching. Pay particularly close attention to numbers 7 and 8, though all can really apply to this cause:

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

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  1. Nice write up. I keep hearing about Tom Robbins from people, maybe that's telling me I should check him out.

    Of that whole list, number 10 got me the most. On some days, when everything just seems to be stacked against me, I find myself wishing I could go backwards, sometimes even envying the "fools paradise." But on good days, I look on the same spectacle with compassion. I see in a friend or family member the desperation for a true tale, the meaning they are just barely managing to create as the rug continues to slide out from underneath.

    I don't really take anyone seriously who scoffs at meditation. I have meditated enough to know that only sheer ignorance could look upon the power of a clear mirror and laugh with contempt. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen all the time though. I constantly find myself in unwanted engagements, needlessly defending meditation from the attack of a "skeptic". Most often, the skeptic has never actually tried it. Dogmatic skepticism is too comfortable a plateau in a Richard Dawkins world to give up.

    So, I guess I'll go meditate.

    1. Yeah, but I think there's a barrier that goes up when we look down at people who scoff at meditation, psychedelics, etc... And that barrier doesn't help progress. You know?

  2. Maybe it is a looking down upon situation, in which case I suppose it's mutual. Just a nice little egoic ricochet. And I don't know if that barrier goes up every time. I just spent 2 weeks with two VERY dogmatic scientific materialists and while it was tough going at first, we all came to a state of much more openness around contradictory ideas. It ended up a really nice time. That's probably an exception to the rule though.

    1. That's cool. I find it hard to get along with people who don't have a spiritual side (not necessarily religion, but anything creative would count in my book). So many people I run into seem to be nothing more than workers and consumers. They live for society and nothing else. But, like you kind of said, if you spend a little time with people, parts of them open up that are pleasantly surprising. Life can't be spent in bubbles of likemindedness. That's for sure. If we're not trying to find IT in everything, then what's the point?


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