Day 8 of the Year Long Blog
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Meditation has always been a challenge for me.
Okay, I suck at it. This is mostly because I’m very unbendy, meaning that I don’t bend, at all. I’m like an I-beam with legs, walkin’ through life. Or like Treebeard from the Lord of the Rings, who slept standing up. That’s me; I’m fuckin’ I-beam-Treebeard.
Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but only just. I’ve never really been able to sit in the traditional lotus position, like you see the big, fat buddhas do.
Hell no! Not Steve Bivans. I don’t think I could do that shit even when I was 2 years old! I’m pretty sure I never sucked on my toes, for instance, which is pretty fuckin’ disgusting anyway, and not a childhood memory I really want to dredge up, even if it happened, especially if it did. If you’ve ever seen my toes, you’d know why.
And that brings me to another question, “How do those old fat guys get into that position to begin with?” I mean, I’m fat, and old! Maybe it’s just my genetic makeup, I reckon. Doomed by DNA to a life of Unbendy-ness.
No, I don’t bend. But I’m still seeking Zen for the Unbendy.
And I think I’ve found it!
Not that I’m all enlightened, and Zen. I’m no fuckin’ Zen Master, that’s for sure. Is there such a thing as a Zen NOVICE? Like the yellow belt in Karate Kid? Maybe that’s what I am: a yellow belt, Zen Novice. Wax on, Wax the fuck off. No, I’m not the master, not yet anyway, but I have found the path to the sound of one hand clapping, I hope.
As you may know, if you’ve been reading along on this series of Tick Tocking, I’ve struggled with meditation for many years. I know I should do it, but I really suck at it, or sucked, I should say. Now, I’m beginning to ‘get it’ if that’s possible.
Enter Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle.
I talked a bit, last time, about Watts and his use of Daoism and Zen to interpret Western science, religion and philosophy, and how that helped to slow down my Waring blender of dog shit n crackers. Now it’s more like cat shit n crumbs, or maybe even rat shit n rice. How’s THAT for some alliteration to put in yer coffee?
Watts also helped to demystify meditation for me, as well. He often mentions in his lectures, which you can find on YouTube, that people would come to him to ask him ‘how to meditate.’
He would promptly ask them,
“Why do you want to meditate?”
“Because I want to attain enlightenment!”
“Who is this ‘I’ that you speak of?”
And you can guess where THAT went.
Watts often said that he would never tell a student or follower how to meditate, because they’d go off and start a ‘school’ of that particular form of meditation and call it the Watts method, or something absurd like that. He was fond of quoting another Zen master who said something to the effect, that “If you can’t meditate while standing on a busy, city street corner, then you don’t understand meditation.”
This resonated with me, somewhat, but it was while listening to Eckhart Tolle, one day, that I realized exactly what this meant.
Mini Meditations and the Master of Dao: Mr. Now, Eckhart Tolle.
Eckart Tolle employs meditation all the time, and like Watts, has no problem with the traditional styles of meditation: i.e., human pretzel, kama sutra, spine-snapping, lotus position stuff. You know, Zen for the Bendy.
But Tolle’s philosophy is that you can and should turn everything into a meditation, or at least, be able to meditate on anything, or on any action at any time, what he calls, mini meditations. It was Tolle’s explanation of meditation that has resonated the most with me, because it isn’t about not thinking or eliminating thought or staring at a fucking candle flame for 20 minutes in a position unfit for the human anatomy.
It’s simply about being present in the moment, not letting the mind wander to the Past, or into the Future. Meditation is simply about being in The Now. Experiencing the present moment. That’s it.
How fuckin’ simple is that?
Dirty Hands, Soapy Water: the Path to Zen?
Tolle’s favorite example of mini meditation is washing your hands. Feel the water and the soap. Focus on that moment, even for just a few seconds. And then do this as often as possible during the day, in as many other actions as you can.
Focus on your feet as you walk around the block, on the feel of your toothbrush, the sounds of the house, without labeling them. Listen to those sounds as if they were a symphony, music.
This is the coolest way to meditate, ever! Because you don’t have to sit still. You don’t have to stare at a fuckin’ candle! And you don’t have to wrap your legs behind your ears and throw out your fuckin’ spine and spend millions of dollars at the chiropractor to straighten that shit out later!
The Dao of Dishes
One of my favorite, Tolle-esque, mini meditations, is what I call the Dao of Dishes.
This one is simple. I turn on my mega boom, bluetooth speaker in the kitchen, bring up Spotify on the computer, find my ‘China: Land of the Dao’ mix—a collection of Chinese traditional folk music—and push the play button.
Then I do the fuckin’ dishes.
Now, trust me, I really don’t like to do the dishes, but now I’ve turned it into a meditation! The music is very calming and brings my attention, my cat-shit-n-crumbs brain into the present moment. I then get into this really cool flow of doing the dishes.
I focus on the feel of the water, of my hand holding the plate, or my steps from the dishwasher to the pot rack. But instead of calculating my every, future move—like I used to do when I was tick tocking all the time—I’m just enjoying the motion, in the present. I don’t even have to think very much. It’s very Dao-y, very flowy, like a river moving through a valley. There’s no coercion, no resistance.
It’s fuckin Zen for the Unbendy; it’s the Dao of Dishes man. Dig it.
So, next time you’re thinking you can’t meditate: think again! Or better yet, stop thinking, stop wrapping your ankles around your head, and do the Dao of Dishes. Try some mini meditations. If it works for Steve Bivans, it will work for anyone.
Read Pt VI, Darth Vader & the Return of the Balrog Blender