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good for nothing

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Nor sure who said it first, some ancient zen master for sure, but there’s this quip that “meditation is good for nothing.” It leads nowhere, offers no reliable outcome and, should not be approached as a remedy or solution. Instead, as best as I can imagine, it is a way of being in the world, moment by moment. It offers the chance to glimpse what’s called our ‘true nature’ or ‘essence.’ Just don’t count on it.

But go looking for it and you’re sure to be disappointed. Yet day after day, in all corners of the world, individuals will take a seat, on a cushion, bench, or chair, cross their legs in some contortion or another, lower their gaze, bring attention to their breath, and … begin to witness the unfolding and dissolving of thoughts and sensations. Not striving to achieve anything, they nonetheless aim for something. It’s that “aim for what” that perplexes me.

Most of my dreams are marked by anxiety. I’m always running after trains, getting caught without a ticket, walk around crowded places without pants on, get accused of wrongdoing, run from one authority figure after another, and so on. Years of meditation (and psychotherapy) haven’t cut down on the frequency of such dreams, but helped me recover more quickly from the panic once I wake up. This morning, once more in a state of agitation, I sat up in meditation posture, hoping to calm my fast-beating pulse and get a nearer to the source of this anxiety.

What I found was that … my heart was beating rapidly, my breaths felt short, and the cause of anxiety … is a mystery. That’s it for today.

image: “The Thinker” bronze sculpture in the Musée Rodin in Paris.


2 responses »

  1. GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) is (apparently) the number one emotional/mental problem in the world. In the US it is the main reason for work absenteeism. From my experience and research, there is no particular reason for the anxiety. Of course, chemical imbalance in the brain and social-environmental factors have a significant impact on one’s sense of well being.

    The best relief that I have experienced has come from meditation, exercise and nutrition. Even then, Anxiety and his sidekick, Depression, seem always to be loitering on the sidelines, hoping to get into the game.

  2. In my expierence, anxiety is always ponting to where I am holding on to something tightly. The focus is always narrow and directed at the small self. An idea of who I am, should be, how life should be, what I’m missing. It’s the gap between what is and what I think should be. I find it emerges a lot in my own experience. Working with anxiety is what brought me to sit in the first place. So, I have to be grateful to anxiety as one of my root teachers. I find relief comes as soon as I turn the gaze away from protecting little self and turn outward to embracing everything…anxiety doesn’t exist without the thought to fuel it.


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