Saturday, May 10, 2008

A taste of freedom

You decide you’re going to watch the breath for 20 minutes. You crack your knuckles, sit cross-legged, and put a blissed-out look on your face. Today is the day you’re going to meditate, dammit!

Thirty seconds later you’re wondering what’s for dinner. Wait a minute! What just happened? You’re not schizophrenic, are you?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but in the Buddhist view of the world, yeah, you are. We all are. Deep down we want to be compassionate, saintly souls, but man! did you see that jerk just cut me off?! I want to clean my room but ooh I wonder if there’s anything new on the Internet! It’s so natural to intend one thing but do another that we figure c’est la vie, que sera sera, jeena isi ka naam hai, it’s one of the cute little perks of being human. Tee hee!

But what if there’s another way? What if by slow, unrelenting perseverance you could marshal the forces of will, waging a silent, invisible coup against the cold, neurological machinery of habit that would keep you not just away from the helm, but blissfully oblivious of and inured to your very impotence?

Contemplatives claim that a taste of free will is blissful and liberating, that mindfulness is incompatible with boredom, fear, and anxiety. Bit by bit, I am becoming more inclined to believe them.

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