Mindfulness and Meditation: Not a Monk? Not a Problem

Author: Adam Abramowitz

Eyes are opened and thoughts of destiny, reality, and awareness flow through me. “Don’t give up”, the song lyric repeats itself as a mantra as I focus on what I want and who I want to be. The man in my head that struggles to break free. Everything is perfect as I view silently ahead to see, tapped into the infinite moment of a human experience… How did I get here?

Listening to the album, Dreams, by “The Whitest Boy Alive”, I contemplate the beauty in nature. I experience infinity in everything I see, feel, think, and know.

In this moment of awareness, a moment where my thoughts are being directed by the stimulation of my environment, I observe my own choice in mental dialogue. My mind directs itself to analyze the instrumentals of a song, how the simplicity of a guitar riff adds layers of open space for a rhythm to groove in. Almost instantaneously, my thoughts shift from analyzing the intricacies of music, to the beauty unfolding in front of my eyes. In an instant, my focus is redirected to the landscape. Thought guided from musical harmony, to a rose bush with bright red crimson flowers where color sprouts vibration across a myriad of thorny stems.

Now, I’m thinking of a bush and, once again, my mind begins to explore itself…

As humans, we are confined and defined by our own lens of perspective. Everything we see, everything we feel is happening directly to us. The daily stimulation of people, places, and things we see around us gets filtered by our brains singularly to our own experience, our own consciousness. Our brain acts like a computer that applies logic and statistic to the daily routine of making choices. The story we tell ourselves in our mind, the memories, mistakes, and learning experiences we have engaged in during our life’s journey, provides a template for processing our next choice. Our gut can act as a guide towards a positive choice, but there are many times when we just want to feel, want to experience. A choice based on selfish desire can act as an opportunity to better understand the voice in our heads, and the affect our physical presence has on the people in our lives.

Selfishness is a base human condition. Engrained in our DNA as a trait that keeps us alive, keeps us regulated to pursue what we need to survive, and what we want to feel better. Innately, we need shelter, food, and water: necessities that keep our bodies alive. Beyond that, the reality of our life consists of things we want, like friendship.

The idea of friendship, or any relationship, is selfish in nature. We find ourselves attracted to individuals that provide traits we wish to emulate, or traits we wish we had. Each new relationship formed acts as a mirror on ourselves. We see who we are in the eyes of the people we love.

Our humanity allows us the power of choice: to guide our will and our lives towards self- improvement. Each day, we have an opportunity to be better than we were yesterday. If we engage the voice in our heads and examine the way we think, we will notice the “self” that directs our choices each day. Once we are aware of how we think, we have the ability to establish habits and behaviors that will remove our selfish nature from our mental process. Given enough practice, we can begin to see life as nothing more than a choice in perception. With mindfulness and meditation, we have the ability to decide how we want to interpret the things we find “wrong” in the world. With practice, we can find serenity in the every-day reality of our human experience.

Mindfulness. The act of training our brains to interpret reality as a whole, rather than a singular state of being. These things aren’t happening to us, they are happening with us. It’s up to us to choose how we process the stimulation of other people’s opinions, beliefs, thoughts, and actions.

The trick for guiding a brain to an assumption of meaning and positivity is in routine. First, we should establish new habits in our life to implement on a daily basis.

Like the habitual use of excercise to strengthen our physical health, mindful meditation can be implemented to increase and expand our mental health. With mindful meditative practices, we can train our mind to connect with an intricately grandiose world of immense beauty at any moment. We can work our minds towards serenity and exist peacefully within the infinite uncertainty of our waking life…

A Buddhist monk approaches a shrine. Shrouded in earthly foliage, the monk kneels quietly on a mat directly in front of his place of meditative worship. Scent of incense floats rose bud into his nostrils as he begins to cross his legs and sit. Arms stretched towards his knees, the monk bends his wrist and extends his fingers to allow a greater connection to god, the universe, and an infinite moment. In his mind, the monk begins to focus on his breathe. He regulates breathing and his body begins to calm itself to the natural rhythm of his heart. He closes his eyes and begins to redirect his thoughts from the tempo of his heart, to the greater consciousness of life force that encompasses us all. His mind’s eye transports him from our physical realm, into a realm of the spirit, floating mystically away beyond the bounds of time and space. In a split second, the monk is gone…

Unfortunately, our friend, “the monk”, doesn’t actually exist. I know he seems like an awesome dude with a righteous grasp on spirituality, but I only created him so I could smash the idea that certain meditative practices must be implemented to acquire a state of Zen awareness.

The idea that closing my eyes, focusing on my breath, and staying silent would tap me into some sort of spiritual awareness ruined meditation for me for a very long time. I tried it, it didn’t work, and I resented it. First off, I’m mega ADHD. My mind is always moving and it’s difficult for me to sit still. I also get frustrated being around people who are trying NOT to think or move. Seriously, even if we try to be still, we are always moving. It can be mega distracting and frustrating. When I would close my eyes to attempt meditating, I would create a greater focus on every other sense I possessed. Sometimes, I could almost feel the people around me trying not to think. I shied away from any sort of meditation for a long time. It wasn’t until I began to practice positive thinking and gratitude when I became aware that I could make meditation work for me.

There are some practices that I began to implement on a daily basis that acted as a spring board into a mindset of awareness. Simple things that can be done at any time of day. By observing some of these practices, I began to notice that my mind was adjusting itself to enjoy the daily grind of life.

At first, my method for meditation started in the morning. I would get behind the wheel of my truck and drive an hour commute to work. I would play some music, usually something soft and groovy, and begin to direct my mind towards awareness. My body would navigate the streets in conditioned response to my vehicle, as I would focus my thoughts on the music that was playing out within my ears. I would hone in on sound and let lyric guide me into a world of feel. I would think about what I was grateful for: the music, the sunshine, and the cigarette pursed gently between my lips. I would find that I was lost to the music and engaging my senses to feel the warmth of an afternoon sun.

Frequently, I would find myself looking for hope. I began to project an image of the life I would like to lead within my mind. I would play with my own dreams and ambitions. I would see the man I wanted to be, living the life I dreamed of. I fantasized and played out scenarios where I would be engaging in new environments with people I had never met. I would think about whom I could help and what I could do to allow myself to be a better man. I gradually day-dreamed my waking life into a conscious state of awareness. I began to play around with prayer. I would ask for the ability to create, the ability to be happy, and for a better understanding of my place in the world and what I was meant to do. Mindful thought produced waves of gratitude as I day-dreamed mental projections of my future self.

After a couple of months in this routine, I was hit with a profound spiritual experience (alluded to in my previous post, Higher Powerlessness and the Illusion of Free-Will part 2). And now, I live constantly in a spiritual state of awareness. A mind set that views everyone and everything, including myself, as part of a cosmic life force that encompasses us all as we live and learn.

My grandfather sent me an e-mail yesterday full of quotes from notable people. One of the quotes was: “Jazz, like life, is best when improvised.” I added a bit to his quote…”but life, like jazz, needs some root notes to come back to; some daily habits and behaviors that establish a routine commitment towards success.” In my mind, the few things I do each day allow me to enjoy the full spectrum of life lived improvised.

I focus and meditate, I pray for positivity. How I can help, how I can succeed, how I can do the thing today while I’m able to breathe. Moving my thoughts towards the man I want to be.

I go for a run. The exercise gives my body purpose, allows my blood to flow. I am transported out of my mind and into the environment. Music pushes me forward and disengages my own concerns for anything but what is actually happening. I’m meditating in sweat.

I write my morning/afternoon pages and I work on an essay (like the one you are reading now) or my manuscript. I spend an hour, sometimes more, finding my voice. It’s not so pertinent, the time I find to do, in fact, if I’m alone, I’m creating or thinking about creativity. It’s not so much the output of words that make me proud, I have days of shitty writing. It’s the fact that I’m actually doing it, that I’m making it a priority. A blank page no longer scares me.

Most days, I flow my life like jazz, hitting root notes and improvising. The root notes keep me grounded in my own drive towards becoming the man I want to be. The improvised notes allow me to enjoy the fluid existence of a life lived for others, lived for me. Lived for creativity.

The monk opened his eyes. Decades had passed…wars were fought, peace was prevalent, and the suffering of humanity had quelled into a faint whisper. He stared ahead at his shrine, the mat he sat on now completely covered in brush and grime. The world he had left, a planet in turmoil and disarray, had grown through its madness. The monk stood up, brushed the foliage off of his lap, and began to follow his heart and his gut, into the future…

From my minds eye, to yours… ©

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