Angry Robot

The Model and The Shore

When you are meditating1 you begin to see yourself as another model. At first, you are attempting to calm your mind by concentrating on breathing, mantras, etc., depending on the school of thought. You want to retreat from the stream of thoughts that your mind produces. You let it go by, but you do not jump in.

As it goes by you get to know yourself better. If there are things on your mind, they cannot hide now. You’d be surprised at how obvious this can make some of your problems that somehow elude you if your mind stays in the flow of thoughts, without the vantage point of being on the shore, seeing things from a distance.

I tried to sit recently when a dispute with a neighbour had made me fuming mad. The exercise I use to get started and which I normally breeze through – counting breaths – was well-nigh impossible as my mind kept on drafting furious rejoinders to all these perceived slights.

The solution was to see myself as a character, as a model, so I could notice, “boy this thing really has him ticked off.” As long as your problems are not imminently life-threatening, this should be possible. It’s curious, observing yourself in that way. From the shore, the problems that seemed to engulf you become small and almost sad. Not sea monsters, giant whales, maelstroms, but frogs, goldfish, and eddies.

The epistemological questions come pouring down, now, like who is this waterlogged stream-creature that we normally inhabit, this model; and more importantly, who is this being on the shore?

1 I have been doing this for over a year but have not found a way to write about it. The world does not need another introductory guide to meditation written by someone who barely understands it; the books by masters exist and are surely enough. The word itself is one of those problem-words, like art, whose bad associations threaten to overwhelm the good ones (so I may just call it “sitting” from now on). And finally, it’s questionable whether writing about meditation is of any use at all, especially in the Zen context (another problem-word, Zen) where getting beyond the traps of language is one of the goals. Those are the hurdles, but the practise has become so important to me that it seems completely askew and rather cowardly that this site has more about gadgets than it does about sitting and thinking (not that I’m gonna go all Cat Stevens on you). So I’ll try and approach it like I did today, when a thought has come up that seems useful, I will record / share it. Sharecord.