I’ve been mediating a lot lately. I attend a regular mediation session which involves some discussion – we read a passage, meditate for twenty minutes, talk about our meditation experience. I’ve also been meditating at home for about 30 minutes a few times a week.
The group is made up of a couple dozen people from different backgrounds and with different spiritual identities. Some are Christians; the others are I don’t know what. I doubt that anybody there is as nontraditional and ecumenically pagan as your humble Espresso Shaman. Without putting on airs, I think it’s safe to say nobody there has logged as many hours in meditation or spirit traveling as I have either, but they’re good folks and participating in the group helps me to remember to sit still once in a while. I tend to approach life like I’m storming the beach on D-Day, which is a lot of fun and the proper approach to some situations, but not all.
Joseph Campbell defined meditation as “the intentional stopping of the spontaneous action of the mind stuff.” I think that’s in The Power Of Myth, but I don’t remember which episode. You’ll just have to watch the whole thing. The benefit in stopping the mind stuff, he explains, is that it allows you to see things as they are. He uses the image of a lake: as long as the surface of the water is being rippled by the wind, all reflections are broken and fragmented. Only when the water is still are things reflected clearly. As long as the mind stuff is agitated, the mind cannot perceive anything but broken and fragmented perceptions.
That sounds pretty good, but it’s never worked for me. I have a frantic and frenetic mind, enhanced by the liberal and frequent application of bitter, black beverages containing the best of all possible drugs, caffeine. My mind stuff doesn’t stop. I have multiple tracks, all playing, all the time, a constant gamelan of brain noise. This isn’t unusual. Everybody at the meditation session talks about the difficulty they have getting their mind stuff to stop. Everybody has some brain noise. Most people just live with it and don’t even notice until they get to a mediation session and start trying to make it stop.
I don’t try to stop the brain noise. I just let it go on and on, unimpeded. The clatter and din inside my head are just part of how I perceive reality and it doesn’t matter. When I’m working on visual art, I sometimes have music going, sometimes not, but when I do, it’s usually of the long-form, instrumental variety, the kind of stuff that can easily be tuned down to a low buzz. Some reviewers have mentioned the fact that some BDSR releases work better when they’re background noise, which is true. I don’t know if those reviewers knew or guessed that that was deliberate. The background noise application is something I’m actively striving for, without eliminating the possibility of active listening. It’s a fine line, but there’s good on either side, so it all works.
The brain noise doesn’t mean anything. The stuff that happens inside the head is not real. If you can’t tell the difference between what’s happening inside your head and what’s happening outside your head, then you, my friend, are a schizophrenic. This is a very basic observation, but it’s one that had to be pointed out to me. Several years ago, I was talking with a knowledgeable friend about the noise in my brain and he said “So? Just ignore it. It’s not real.” I was somewhat blown away. It’s so obvious. After that, mediation became easy. I stopped trying to accomplish anything with my mind stuff. All I need to do to meditate is to sit still. That’s it. Sit still and let the mind stuff/brain noise do whatever it does. When I meditate frequently, ignoring the brain noise becomes automatic. I’m sitting here right now with all this jibber-jabber happening behind my eyes and I have no idea what the voices are saying.
People at the meditation session talk about how hard it is to stop the mind stuff. When it’s my turn, I say I don’t try. I just let it roll on. They look at me like I’ve just said something that’s so fucking crazy it just might be right.
That’s my only contribution to the group. Other than the possibility of ignoring the brain noise until it subsides to a low and easily ignorable drone around the edges, I have nothing to say about meditation.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.