Meditation… in Everyday Life?
I always hated horror movies as a kid.
I remember running out of the room screaming whenever a commercial for the latest Nightmare On Elm Street sequel would come on the TV. Those commercials were not just a surprise; they were a betrayal – a cruel joke. You’re watching an image of some idyllic suburban neighborhood, like it’s the latest advertisement for Country Crock® Spreadable Butter, and then – BAM! – Freddy Krueger’s face leaping out at you. I’d almost break my leg running up the stairs.
When we first start meditating we often think it should be a blissful escape. We’re on a honey-scented beach, pink sand as far as the eye can see, drinking scotch and lounging on a recliner while our ex-girlfriend fans us with an oversized palm frond. But meditation can be exactly like those Country Crock® commercials. All’s perfectly peaceful and then – BAM! – painful middle school flashback.
Maybe that’s why I resist meditating most mornings. I mean, why confront my worst nightmare when I can lay in bed an extra half hour, listening to another fascinating NPR interview?
Meditation is like being alone in a movie theater. The doors to the auditorium are locked, the movie in our head keeps spinning and spinning, and the usher comes by to smack us every time we check our watch.
And why do we always get the seat with the sticky floor?
Sometimes the movie is a gleefully violent, revenge-soaked action flick. We sit down and think about all the people who’ve wronged us (the guy eating lasagna; the nurse at the doctor’s office who weighs us, and then has the audacity to tell us exactly how much weight we’ve gained; our ex-girlfriend). In our mind we can pull out the big guns. I’m talking Schwarzenegger bazookas and exploding Death Stars®, taking down everyone who’s ever walked too slow on the sidewalk in front of us. The next time you’re meditating, visualize your middle school building. Did you know you can make it blow up? Over and over again. This is much more satisfying than just looking at the floor for twenty minutes.
On the other hand, sometimes the movie projector breaks and we’re just looking at a blank screen. We look back at the projection booth to see if everybody’s okay, but nobody’s home. We glance at the usher, who stares us down like a Kansas City sheriff. We look up and count the acoustic ceiling tiles to pass the time.
Then our foot falls asleep.
Then we nod off, jerk awake, and dare to sneak a peek at our Mickey Mouse watch while the usher is distracted checking the time on his Rotonde de Cartier®.
Then our other foot falls asleep.
Sometimes while meditating we venture into all-American pornographic territory. Especially if we’re doing a Dathün – a month-long meditation retreat in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. Minus the hour or two spent hiding, crouched in the bathroom, we’re basically stuck sitting all day for a month. After 5 days we start producing an Academy Award® – winning porno in our head. We’re talking full-on three act structure, complete with poetic symbolism. On day 6 we storyboard the entire thing. Day 7 is casting. Day 8 we compose the perfect bassline. And on Day 9… well, I probably shouldn’t go into detail about Day 9 here.
Here’s the point. When we start to meditate, inevitably our Country Crock fantasy becomes fierce reality: bloodthirsty, passionate, and exquisitely boring. But eventually we reach the act three plot twist; we’re laughing right along with Freddy Krueger. We’re in on the joke. The raw, wild, dark matter of our everyday lives is no longer a scary monster. It’s now a glowing woodland elf. Riding a unicorn. Who laughs at all our jokes.
And then she dumps us.
But I’m over it.
Meditation In Everyday Life is the NY Shambhala Center’s most popular introductory meditation course. Get in on the joke by joining one of our upcoming classes. Bring a friend and each pay half price!
Click here to see the punchline.
David Allen McKeel is the Director of Practice & Education at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York.