Meditation and Irony
by Michelle Welch, Phoenix
I’m a writer, for those who don’t already know. There’s a big dichotomy between being a writer and being a meditator, namely that writing requires you to be stuck in your head, conceptualizing everything, nearly all the time.
Over the last few weeks I had a specific brainstorming experience that really called attention to the irony of the situation. A lot of my free time – time not spent at the computer, actively writing or editing, that is – is spent brainstorming, or what some might call daydreaming. I get an idea and turn it around in my head for a week or four, run all sorts of scenes, play out imaginary conversations, and so on. It’s the Sakyong’s concentric circles of shamatha, the one about fantasies, and I can use the convenient justification that I’ve got to do this, because I’m a writer. The more one of these brainstorming sessions hooks me, the more compelling it is and the longer it lasts, the more I know this idea is a keeper and I should devote some writing time to it.
I write primarily science fiction and fantasy, so the somewhat far-fetched premise of this brainstorm involves a character who, for various reasons, has had his mind literally separated from his body. Another character is treating him, and has the ability to put them back together. As part of this treatment, she continually asks him, “Where are you?” until he’s finally able to answer, “I’m here.” Sounds very compelling to me, especially being a meditator. But here’s the most ironic part: I keep having these characters tell each other, over and over, “You’re here,” when all this mental writing is interfering with my own ability to be in the present wherever I am.
This, of course, is one of many reasons writers write: to teach our characters lessons we have trouble learning ourselves. Now I just need to figure out how to let go, thank my characters for their help, and get back to my own lesson.
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