Ultimately, all our difficulties arise from one basic illusion. We believe in the inherent existence of ourselves and all other phenomena. … We each believe there to be an essential and continuous “me” pervading the physical and mental parts that make up each of us. This essential quality is merely imputed by us; it does not actually exist. Our grasping at this inherent existence is a fundamentally mistaken perception that we must eliminate through meditation. Why? Because it is the root cause of all our misery. —The Dalai Lama, “An Open Heart”
OK, I can do this thing. Just quiet my mind. Breathe in, breathe out. Just shut out all external thought.
I didn’t realize our refrigerator was so loud. Wonder if it’s dusty behind there. Hmm, I guess I really shouldn’t give myself a pep talk about meditating, since it implies the intrinsic nature of “me.” Plus, it’s just kind of weird. Damn, I can’t shut off my brain!
Whoops. “I” implies an essential and continuous “me” again! Why does “my” brain keep doing that? Arrrgh. OK, starting over. Breathe in, breathe out. Ya know, the lotus position isn’t really the most comfortable position in the world. I wonder if I’ll be able to stand up after this. I wonder if His Holiness could be mistaken about the root cause of all our misery, because right now this lotus position seems to be the root cause of all my misery. OK, time to focus on not focusing.
Breathe in, breathe out. Mind over body. “My” knees are killing “me”! I know I can make my mind rule over my body because I could do it when I was 13. During Mass, when Father Marcellus’ sermons on the ninth commandment or Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians got too boring and I caught a peripheral glimpse of Sherri Bellinger, which resulted in a spontaneous erection, I could always make it go away by thinking hard about Christ on the cross. So I know it can be done.
Somehow, despite the nails in his palms and feet, it was that stab wound in Jesus’ side that always got me. I guess I was just lucky there was a giant, graphically violent, lifelike rendition of a barbaric execution hanging behind Father so I could blot Sherri Bellinger’s fuzzy sweater and stylish go-go boots from my mind’s eye. Ask any 13-year-old boy, and he’ll tell you church boners are the worst kind. Breathe in, breathe out.
I wonder what Jesus thought when he was stabbed. He must’ve been like, “Oh, come on! Really? What’s next, an atomic wedgie?” Breathe in, breathe out.
I should focus on letting go of my attachments. As I get older, it seems easier and easier to do. Silly material objects and vain pursuits are detrimental to our happiness, and they anchor us ever more securely to the fallacy of the inherent existence of ourselves. Breathe in, breathe out. Did I remember to turn off my phone? I hope it doesn’t ring and blow my concentration. Hey, you know what looks intriguing? That Google Android OS. Oh, no. There “I” go again. Breathe in, breathe out. No attachments, not even cool ones. Especially not cool ones.
As a nation, we seem most attached to fear. It’s the price we pay for being the greatest nation in the history of nations insecurely claiming greatness in the face of obvious decline. It’s thrilling to imagine that meanies like terrorists, immigrants, China or the monogamously gay are going to knock us off our perch. I should try to focus on giving up my attachment to my most terrifying fear: deli meats.
I gotta hand it to Buddhists for meditating in the lotus position. I don’t see how they do it. I’m more contorted than Rick Pitino in a Porcini booth after closing time. I’m more contorted than Barack Obama explaining his Afghanistan strategy. I’m more contorted than a KFC campaign against cancer. OK, breathe!
Here’s a prediction: Don and Betty Draper are going to get back together after they drop acid and listen to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in the season finale of “Mad Men.” Here’s another prediction: In 2025, the leading cause of death will be multitasking. Here’s another one: I am never going to quiet my mind and unshackle myself from “me.” Must persevere … breathe in, breathe out …
Jim Welp is the author of “Summary of My Discontent — Constructive Criticism for Discerning Americans,” now available at Carmichael’s Bookstore or Amazon.com.