Mom. Dad. I believe in meditation.
I know this may come as a shock to you, and I want to explain how this came about. But I also want to reassure you that you raised me in the best possible way and that this is just who I am.
Friends of mine: I believe in meditation. I know it isn’t exactly what you were expecting. We were many of us raised in agnostic homes, educated in sciences and rationalism, Western tradition and facts. None of this whacky mystic stuff. We might have dabbled on the side with scented candles and books about paganism, but that was partially a curiosity for the forbidden, for the ignored.
I’ve always been taught to look for rational explanations, to deny feeling spooked by creepy places, to believe that dreams are chance combinations of electrical activity, that the world is over 4 billion years old and never have there been ghosts, nor spirits, nor angels. Chemistry made emotions. Prayers statistically were never answered. Thus spoke television, novels, textbooks, friends, society.
No one ever said that any beliefs or faiths were inherently wrong, foolish, or inappropriate. On the contrary, they were loving communities, full of life and full of reason. But if nothing rational or logic could prove that there was a God – that there was a subconscious – that there was reincarnation – and that many things seemed to disprove it, one had to face facts and bravely wrap one’s mind around the concept that the universe is unfathomably big, uncaring, cold, and meaningless.
For meditation to then be a treatment for sickness (a sickness caused by biological factors, hormone imbalance, neurotransmitters, conditioning, electricity, etc.) was not only unscientific, it was culture shock.
Even yet, mental health treatments like behavioural therapy and mindfulness are developed as ‘alternatives’ to medication, as if we simply haven’t got the scientific breakthrough yet to make a medicine that works properly. Compare the treatment explanations for medicine and mindfulness:
– Medicine X contains these chemicals which block/inhibit/enhance/propagate/destroy/open/activate brain and body chemicals W, Y, and Z, the effects of which are blah, blah, blah, dry mouth, and blah.
– Mindfulness helps you to be aware of when you are committing thought errors. It is a practice, not a cure. You practice focusing on parts of your body so as to help your self-awareness, practice relaxation, and proactively change your thought patterns.
When do we get the hard tack science in mindfulness? Most of all, we do it because science shows it works.
But everyone, it does work. The mumbo jumbo of ‘scanning’ your body from your toes to your scalp, of ‘breathing into’ different parts of your body, of ‘feeling not visualizing’ each aspects – it helps. By practicing breathing, and focusing on my breathing and breathing alone, I can be healthier.
Since I’m divulging, I might as well let you know I believe in other things too. I believe in acceptance. Me – control freak Christina – I believe that accepting reality as it lies is making me healthier. Instead of actively fighting it, actively turning my reaction into acceptance (that I, for example, just got the doors shut on me by the bus driver, which broke my banana and was generally really freaking irritating) helps relieve my pain. And yes, I realize that from some perspectives, I am turning myself into a passivist and suppressing my justice seeking desires. I’ll just go ahead and accept that too.
You see, I haven’t been able to rationally convince myself that everything is going to be ok. I can’t let go all the time of my anger, or fears. I often cannot reason myself into believing that my brain chemistry is essentially making shit up. I can’t use science to calm my worries that a) you’re dead, b) you’ll be dead before I can see you, c) every time I fly in an airplane or ride in a car I am playing dice with death. Science sides with my anxieties, guys.
The only alternative I have is faith. Faith that I can trust others when they say I’m worrying too much. Faith that there is goodness in all people. Faith that practicing this seemingly really random mindfulness exercise will somehow, via not fully understood brain pathways, make me healthier and stronger. The only reason I get out of bed is because somewhere deep inside me there is faith. It isn’t just hope. Hope and worry are the yin and yang of anxiety. Faith isn’t stronger, but it nods along in its rocking chair until hope and worry are too tired to play any more.
Patrick. Love of my life. Atheist. Rationalist extraordinaire. Skeptic. Disliker of organized religion’s doctrines. I think you’ll chalk this up to too much time spent singing in a church choir. Please remember that I’m not trying to change. I’m trying to understand. But, Patrick: I might believe in God.
I don’t know if it means I’m not strong enough to deal with a world without meaning. I don’t know if it means that, after all, a lot of time at church is slowly changing my thinking. I used to just think that it didn’t really matter one way or the other, if there was a (or many) God (s). It didn’t interest me. Now there are all these unexplainable things, now there are these meditative states, now…
Now I sit here and I hear music in my head because I feel that, even if I cannot love myself, God might. God might actually, potentially, know about all the existences everywhere, and spare a shred of thought on each one. Maybe. And even if a God didn’t bother, it still could.