This morning I had a two-hour conversation with Daryl which for a while was about last week’s experiment with a meditation for Stoics that I presented to our study group. That was the second time in a week we did it as a group, but instead of just moving between inner tranquility with oneself, simply observing present reality, and then thinking of contentment with the world three times, we added a time element. Thus this second meditation included tranquility with one’s past, tranquility with one’s present, and tranquility with one’s future, and after a centering moment after each one moving on to present reality, then moving to contentment with the world of the past, the present and then the future. It takes three swings back and forth to do the meditation so far, and it was done with the eyes closed. That portion of the meditation was immediately followed by an energizing of the self in preparation for personal action, with a pulling in of energy to our heart, mind, and center.
What we discussed today was upping the challenge to the meditator by introducing a distraction. The intention of introducing a distraction is to prepare the person’s spirit to be able to do this meditation, or any meditation or action, when there are ongoing problems. The usual method for meditation is to retreat to a solitary place when having a problem and do a quiet self-centering meditation. That is fine, but to be able to do a meditation while functioning in a world of turbulence would give a person greater control over their own spirit in the living moment; and, as every moment is a living moment, it needs to be dealt with properly with all that one can bring to the moment. So, if they can do this meditation while engaged in a difficult practice event, they will be able to respond to a non-practice event more appropriately. Responding with tranquility and contentment permits a more flexible approach to whatever problems are actually present. This new procedure eliminates the fear and anxiety and defensiveness that typically arises when a person is challenged by another person or gets into any dangerous situation. In that defensive mental state the natural action is reflexive, routine, rigid, and non-adaptive; it’s similar to the type of reaction to circumstance one has when slipping on ice and falling.
The procedure we are going to propose to the group next time, and discuss, is that we will close our eyes when doing the tranquility thoughts and the contentment thoughts, but we will open our eyes while looking ahead during the reality observation. Now comes the challenge, which Daryl said he is willing to provide at our next meeting. He will provide some not too difficult to ignore, but unique gesture, such as spinning his fists around each other, so that when the meditators open their eyes that simple distraction is what they will see. Then a few seconds later they will go back to thinking of their next eyes-closed tranquility or contentment meditation sequence exercise. Thus a person might just have finished doing “I am content with the world as it is in this moment.” and when they open their eyes there is Daryl shaking his fist angrily at them, or someone else. Their goal is to simply attend to this behavior, and then to move on to their next meditation, which in this case would be, “I am tranquil with what will happen to me in my future.”
We then proceed with the self-energizing sequence and end with some statement such as, “I am present, paying attention and eager to participate.”
The goal is to learn to calm oneself and then act promptly with appropriate actions.