Getting Back on Track: Meditation

My decision to start mediating came while I was tailgating some jerk on a local road. I was pissed because I had almost pulled out in front of him while he changed lanes and gunned his engine to make the same green light I was trying to catch. If I had not checked before I pulled out, he would have hit me. Clearly, he had wronged me, and needed to be punished.

At the time, I was been reading How to be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci. As I was trying to show this moron just how dangerous he was driving, I remembered a quote by Marcus Aurelius.

“Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together.”

As I pulled around the impatient, inconsiderate idiot, I realized that just maybe he did not realize how he had provoked me, and I that I was overreacting. I thought to myself, “Maybe I should have remembered this advice two minutes ago,” as the guy sped off, shouting something about me being an asshole.

The final realization of this encounter was that Stoicism was good at giving advice on what to do when someone pushed your buttons, but maybe it was better to turn off the buttons in the first place. (Also, that I may have some irrational rage issues.) I knew from previous reading that Buddhist meditation was one way to keep from automatically reacting to every little stimulus.

My return to meditation came after listening to The Art of Manliness Podcast interview of Dan Harris. In his book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, Dan Harris makes a good argument for the practical benefits of meditation. Since then, I have been able to keep up a consistent meditation practice for three weeks, and I am already starting to notice a difference. Mediation is the biggest reason I returned to writing this blog.

While being a better person is my main goal, there are a couple of other reasons I am meditating. The first is to lower my stress levels. In addition to being relaxing, meditation is supposed to teach the impermanence of everything. There is no sense in stressing out over something that will eventually go away. The other reason is to learn to disengage with distractions and focus on what is important in live. I have noticed that my YouTube time has greatly decreased since returning to meditation.

The technique I am using for meditation is based on the Vipassana teaching of Gil Fronsdal. I first discovered Dr. Fronsdal on the Zencast podcast. I have been using his introduction to mediation classes, provided by the Insight Meditation Center, to get started. Originally, I started with Zen meditation, but my impression is that studying Zen requires a teacher. Zen teachers are hard to find in rural Kentucky. Vipassana seems to be less teacher dependent and fits my personality better.

Moving forward, I intend to include elements of Stoicism and Ignatian Spirituality into my practice. Getting my mental house in order through meditation is my first goal. Inviting other people into my world and finding a direction for the rest of my life will come later.

Meditation has already made my life better. After restarting practice, I have not had a road rage flareup like the one that started my journey back to inner tranquility. Getting stuck in YouTube or news rabbit holes is less frequent. I am getting (most of) my important tasks done. Meditation is a practice I look forward to doing for as long as I am able.

 

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