The Tao of the real “Sacred Cow”

“We don’t practice meditation to make things better.” Charlotte Joko Beck

That’s one of the sacred cows of meditation. Better. Somehow, even after decades of practice, most of us who are willing to admit it, are still attempting to make life seem “Better” than it is right now.

Sitting and just being with what is can be excruciating. And it’s easy to forget that “I” am also “what is.” Sitting and being. I often fall into the trap of thinking meditation needs to produce results, but what kind of a result happens when I’m paying attention to sitting on a cushion moving back and forth between streaming thoughts and presence?

Well, when attention is on streaming thoughts I can experience that they repetitive, demanding, critical, judgmental, opinionated, mean, needy, and selfish. And all, thought centers around being a separate self thinking. And I notice little themes and stories that repeat. Most based on injustices or insults, not getting needs met, or feelings of always being “Not Good Enough.”

And after meditation one day, as we contemplate our experience, this comes up. Attention doesn’t have to pay obsessive attention to streaming thought. I notice for a second that thought is primarily this useless repetitive soundtrack that is constantly redirecting attention back to it’s endless blithering about life.

And, I comprehend that if there is something important to my well being, it will be attended. “I” will notice without the need of incessant obsessive monitoring of constantly flowing thoughts. What a relief.

What we mistakenly call “mind” is like one of the political entertainment channels always frantic, always dramatic, always trying to gain your attention onto something besides what’s directly available right in these moments.

Except in attention, you notice if you don’t watch or listen to the broadcast, you never miss anything important. The big stuff stands out, I don’t miss the big stuff. It’s the endless little repetitions that are useless content, trying to fold attention back onto the separate conditioned self. Does a good job, doesn’t it? Hammering us with endless advertising about how we are not equal to our own lives.

But that’s odd, isn’t it? Because when I stop attending to streaming thoughts and pay attention, I notice that I am equal to my own life. And, in fact, always have been. How do I know that? Because I’m here. No matter what event has happened, no matter the level of pain and drama, here “I” am. (In this case the idea of an “I” comes in handy, it proves a valuable point as a perspective.)

Yesterday I had MOSE surgery, some skin cancer removal. And before leaving I experienced so many stories and questions. Stories that I needed to be afraid and feel anxious. Images of how I would look. Somehow a small patch on my face had turned into major reconstructive surgery.

And this time, just this time, I knew it was bullshit. (Every time is “just this time.” That’s why practice is never ending and has no goal, just paying attention.)

I had a good time. Really. I read some Joko Beck. I chatted with the nurse and the physician during the surgery, and learned all sorts of stuff about skin, getting an RN degree, and why it’s a good idea to avoid paying car insurance and the difficulty of getting Ohio plates for a Michigan car. And why someone might love a lying politician. I’m starting to suspect that all politicians are bought and paid for liars.

(Remember though, to be happy just cease having opinions. Evidently I haven’t gotten that far yet, I still have them. And so do all those people who suggest dropping them. Where do we come up with silly shit like, “Don’t have conditioned opinions that will appear instantly out of nowhere before you’re even conscious of them?” Just start ignoring them when they appear, after all, they are useless. They fade and disappear. And they always repeat in case you get worried you missed something.)

Conditioned separate self hangs onto wanting “mediation” practice to make “my” life better. Like everything it does, if it’s not about me it’s not about anything.

But for a while yesterday, it wasn’t, and I had fun moving from attention on the self out into the world.

Take care of you today,

Bryan Wagner

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