I am thoughtful, open-minded person who believes in the values of calm and stillness, who understands the neuroscientific studies on the way meditation massages our grey-matter, and who really wanted to be a Jedi when I grew up.
And I refuse to meditate.
The core of most meditation, part of its intrinsic value, is to calm mind down and then step outside your emotions by fixating on your sensations. The quiet mind is free to simply experience existence without the running commentary of consciousness. (The “dish of mold” as described in I ♥ Huckabees.) There’s easily dozens—if not hundreds—of techniques for reaching this state, all of which ask for patience as the practitioner learns how to operate their brain in a new way.
Much of meditation asks the practitioners to bear witness to their emotions as feelings manifest through their bodies. By understanding what anger, fear, sorrow, and joy feel like and knowing where their edges are, the practitioner can gain a new level of emotional control. It’s a way of training the self to understand that a fleeting state of grief is finite and will move on, that the hot pulse of anger is that pressure in your jaw—right there, no, up a little bit and back, there—but it’s not the world-blurring threat it seems to be. These lessons are valuable and in some cases, life-altering.
All of meditation seeks to wipe out those chaotic little thoughts: I need to start a meal plan for next week. Maybe hummus. Oh wait, the kiddo won’t eat that yet. When did I start eating hummus? Man, that kid in third grade was so weird. Did he always have ringworm? I think he did...
Meditation, like many things that resonate so beautifully with virtues Obi-Wan or Yoda would extol, can be a powerful tool. And it’s a tool that does not belong in my hands.
I’m an aspiring novelist. Those random threads of thoughts and meandering internal conversations are how I work. When I sit down with a blank page, or brainstorm while I drive to work, I take a deep breath and wait for one of those thoughts. I call up an observation or ask myself what my mind’s eye sees. Then, when the right impulse comes along, I grab it by the throat and make it into raw word count. Or, even better, one of those ideas wraps itself around me like a great vine and demands to become the solution to my impossible plot snarl-up.
There’s plenty of stereotypes and real biographies that demonstrate how plagued by angst and riddled with depression we writers are supposed to be (and often are.) I’ll confess that I do wage a pretty consistent battle with anxiety, but I’ve come out the victor far too many times to let it put a dent in my day anymore. But, I don’t believe that all writers must suffer for their craft. Though, the craft does offer some the chance to purge their demons.
Even so, I know that perfect emotional control is boring. Spock was great because we could wait for the moments when his half-humanity bled through.
In writing, I understand where my emotions pool in my body and I use that to anchor my readers within my characters’ skin. I also imagine where those feelings might settle in someone else. That nail chewer’s hands might become hot and sweaty while mine get cold and clammy in the same situation. I need to feel those emotions when they happen without shying away from them or freezing them with cool cognition.
I once tried to resume a discarded meditation practice at the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. Afterward, I sat down to write and couldn’t feel anything. My placid mind didn’t offer a ripple of errant thought for me to use. The only emotion that arose was patient compassion for my inability to find the threads I needed. Didn't make word count that day.
I’ll wager that writing serves as my meditative act, and it will not tolerate competition for my neurons. In order to lure my muse, I’ll shun meditation. She’s more easily entertained that way and so am I.