The Folly of Absolute Silence

•August 5, 2012 • 1 Comment

At this most recent Wellspring Gathering, Ian Corrigan presented a workshop on ideas for practices for those in ADF that have finished their Dedicant Path (DP) training, but have not yet embarked upon the Initiate’s Path, the Clergy Training Program, or any of the other study programs. About two months later, he presented the same workshop at the Eight Winds Festival, and while I was lucky enough to be present at both, I noticed a familiar topic come up in both workshops that I’ve heard before when it comes to the DP:

Peoples complaints about having to do meditation.

“I can’t meditate!”, “I have ADD, I can’t possibly concentrate for that long!”, “It’s too hard to completely quiet my mind!” Those are some of the usual excuses I and others have heard for not being able to (or, simply, just not wanting to) tackle the meditation or “mental discipline” requirement of the DP. And all those excuses are wrong. Simple as that. If you have five minutes of free time and a discursive mind (that chattering, hyperactive primate that we all generally think of as “myself”, the internal monologue, etc.), then you can do meditation.

I think where the complaints come from lies within the last excuse I listed above: “It’s too hard to completely quiet my mind!” That idea – that even the most basic of “non-trance” meditations entails absolutely quieting the mind – seems to be a fundamental error in understanding the thrust of basic meditation that we Westerners (particularly Americans of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries) have. I’ll state it simply: basic meditation doesn’t involve the complete silencing of the discursive mind, basic meditation is about training the mind to focus.

Complete silencing of the discursive mind is something that takes years (if not decades) of consistent and focused practice – or is simply a peak-state that people occasionally luckily stumble into (myself being one of those people – I’ve had one experience of “complete mental silence” in my entire life thus far and I’ve been meditating off-and-on for about the past 15 years). Why? Because it is the nature of the discursive mind to think, to observe, to give commentary. And I’ll say this: it’s perfectly okay for it to do so.

Expecting to stop something that is evolutionarily designed to do what it does within a few sessions of meditating is ludicrous. But here’s the rub: no one’s asking you to do that. No, basic meditation, again, is about training the discursive mind to focus. Rod Cox gave a good analogy at Wellspring in a discussion that he and I had with a few others: it’s like reading a book with a TV on in the background. Your intent is to focus on the book, on the written word on the page, but…every so often you will get distracted by the TV and look away from the book to see what’s going on. In those instances, you simply recognize that you’re distracted and bring your attention back to the book. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Simple as that.

No, really. Go ahead, try it. Give yourself five minutes (if you have a timer on your phone or a digital egg-timer of some kind that will help). I’ll wait.

You’re back? Great! Now, I’m sure you’ll say that your mind wandered and you really didn’t think that five minutes is long enough to get into a good state, yadda yadda yadda. Those are all valid points. But, much like weight lifting, you have to start small. And you can’t get discouraged that you’re not able to bench-press two-hundred pounds your first time lifting. You build up to that stuff. Same thing goes for meditation. If you do it regularly and consistently and don’t have unreasonable expectations of what you “should be able to accomplish” when you’re just starting out, you’ll do fine.

Why is it important to practice (and hopefully master) basic meditation? Because it is an activity that gives back more benefits than seems right for simply sitting still and following one’s breath for 10 minutes a day. Meditation has positive effects on hypertension and stress-response; simple practices like Buddhist vipassana (“mindfulness”) meditation can help increase the ability to concentrate and also disengage from one’s normal mental chatter – you know, the stuff that gets us tied up in neurotic knots because we usually don’t take a step back and call “bullshit” on them.

But, most importantly, it gives us all the simple opportunity to step away for a few moments and just be. To shrug off the pressures and the drama and come back to center. That alone is worth the effort of reining in the monkey-mind and getting it under control.
So, the next time you sit down and take a crack it, don’t say to yourself “I can’t do this.” Or, at least, if you do say that, ignore it.
Because you can. Anyone can. That’s the point.
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Sabbatical

•September 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Well, I’ve recently picked up stakes and made the big move to Pittsburgh to be with he fiance. That said, things are mildly chaotic around here and I’ll be taking a short leave of absence from red&yellow until things calm down and I have time to think, philosophize, and bullshit.
But, never fear: I *will* be back.

Slender Nation

•August 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Slendy

It seems like over the past year or so, that the Slender Man has become really popular.

It seems like at least once a month there’s a new blog or YouTube-based video series revolving around him, you can’t sneeze without finding new images (either photoshopped or done in a traditional artistic style like the above); there’s even a sub-reddit dedicated to Ol’ Longshanks.

Hell, one of the two most popular entries here at red&yellow is my previous one about the Slender Man (the other is my entry regarding the Moth Man and other tulpas).

And though I previously pondered the possibility of the Slender Man slowly but surely developing into a tulpa, I didn’t honestly think that it would happen any time in the near future. Now, I’m not so sure. Do I honestly think that I’ll wake up in the middle of the night sometime soon and see a tall, faceless figure peering into my bedroom window? No, not unless some jack-ass chaote somewhere decides to willfully shape the “Slendy Current” with some ritual working and actually make a Slender Man egregore.

But…damn, if Mr. Tall, Dark, and Creepy isn’t spreading like a bad case of herpes. It just makes me pause and think, that’s all

A Fable

•July 27, 2011 • 1 Comment

Before the Beginning and after the End, there is the Void.

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The Incidentals

•July 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

In the dialogue of Euthydemus by Plato, Socrates gets into a discussion with one of his associates, a man named Clinias, in regards to what is “good.” The two establish that the conventional concepts/objects that we think of as being “good” – wealth, health, a high-born family, a respected name, etc. – are not necessarily good in and of themselves, but are only conditionally good. They’re good if they’re used properly (e.g. – wealth used to feed the hungry, etc.) or, at the very least, not used at all as opposed to being used improperly (e.g. – wealth buried and not used is better than wealth used to fund the killing of innocents, etc.). What Socrates and Clinias eventually settle upon as being the true goods are the Virtues, specifically the Platonic virtues of temperance, justice, courage, and wisdom.

Every other type of “lesser” good – health, wealth, etc. – is seen as being “indifferent”. This is because their presence or absence does neither add to nor detract from, respectively, the innate goodness of a human being who is already cultivating the Virtues – those things that are truly good.

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Religion

•June 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Back when I was in high school, I remember reading an article in Discovery or some such magazine that anthropologists and geneticists had begun to determine one of the core reasons that humans (and other Great Apes) had evolved culture: a lack of mutative catalysts in our genes.

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The Mists – Part II

•June 15, 2011 • 2 Comments

Last time I mentioned how I’ve begun using the “Mists of Magic” as my primary form of visualization for energy-working, this week I’ll be providing some examples (I’d meant to include these with the last entry, but the writing of that one had been rushed, so…).

I’ll with a simple one:

Continue reading ‘The Mists – Part II’