MS and Meditation II
Makyo, Killer of the Unprepared
When I started my lifelong practice of Meditation, I was in College and tried to begin a regular practice of Breath Counting. I had seen a news snippet a day or so before in which a good-looking, thirtieth man in SoCal was talking about his own meditative regime. He sat quietly by himself for fifteen minutes bid as we say in Medicine and this led to his ever-smiling, self-satisfied demeanor and his obvious Life Success. Good enough for me.
I sat in my large, comfortable reading chair in my dorm room, in the quietness of the early afternoon, looked at the bare, white-painted wall across from me and began to count breaths one to four repetitively. For the first minute, I was fine. My mind concentrated on the Task and the wall I stared at provided the empty external sensation I thought I would need to hone my mind.
The crenellations of the painted surface made a pattern in my mind and as I Counted my inhalations. I began to see changes in the pattern of irregularities, no actual physical change in the painted surface but in my appreciation of it. Velly lntelesting! I began to look at the self-constructed pattern changes. I kept counting but no longer concentrated on the process, on the numbers, on the breaths. It's embarrassing to say but I must be truthful. I fell asleep in my chair. The process of meandering from the work of Meditation is Extremely Relaxing. If you need rest, it is a good way to do it. You don't need to engage it unsuccessful meditation regimens; As a high schooler I would regularly go to the communal Reading Room at the Multnomah County central library, connected to the Fiction Stacks, pick out a book, sit in a comfortable chair and quickly go to sleep for an hour. I was not alone. Probably 30% of the men (they were all men!) were also consulting their various Muses.
These mental episodes of Straying from the Path are, as I found out when they became an obvious problem, known as Makyo.
The first time they happened to me I could imagine them as an external attack on my mind from, What? Whatever it was, it was Bad and meant me No Good. As a more-or-less practicing Catholic, I found I could imagine various Demonic Influences trying to take charge but I quickly found This was a problem common in all meditative practices throughout the Ages. The first Trick I learned to regain Control of my mind was to simply close my eyes. No paint patterns seen! Spanish nuns, falling asleep during stringent recitation of the Prayers of the Hours (look it up) took to using gifts from their American lands to their advantage: Cocoa, Coffee and their God-Given pharmaceuticals theobromine and caffeine. Ah, methyl xanthines, don't we love them!
Meditating on the Desert
How it Has Proceeded.
The next problem I encountered in my juvenile voyage into Enlightenment was an extension of the first problem. When I closed my eyes to meditate I would start to construct interesting patterns on the inside of my eyelids. It took a little while to develop, five minutes or so early on. This wasn't going to work. I went back to the original manual I used (see my blog, 'Meditation and MS I') and looked up Makyo. It was suggested that mentally forming the numbers in my mind might solve the problem. The free-form 'one to four' numbers I was using then allowed new Makro to arise. Bigger, smaller, different forms of the numbers, even different colors. I needed something else and found it, in all places, in the Golden Book Encyclopedia my parents had bought for my brother and me when I was three or four in Cincinnati.. I had kept our copy as a treasured artifact of an older time and remarkable for its copious and beautiful color and black-and-white Illustrations. Here I found pictures of Arabic Numerals, each from one to nine plus Zero, drawn in circular compartments themselves self-divided with X and Y lines, within which the numbers were drawn. I promised a picture to illustrate this in the previous meditation blog and I Will below. Using these elegant numbers as mental forms, monochrome without color, I have been able to perform classic one-to-nine-plus-zero breath counting, simple and allowing me to concentrate on the breathing. This has helped me keep my team of unruly horses on their road going the Right Way.
Another Family Member
Meditation: Another Way to See It
Adults seem to be more Formed, better Put Together, less Chaotic, Further-Seeing than children. When someone is missing these attributes, we say he is acting childish. 'Grow Up, act your age,' we might say. On the other hand, if a young person makes decisions as we would expect from a far-seeing, calm and sober, older member of the community, we will comment on how Adult the child has acted. With Approval.This process of maturation is a universal feature of childhood-to-adulthood. But what is it Really? It is the 800 pound Gorilla in the living room, unnoticed if it makes no fuss. The process of maturation in us is one of centering the mind more and more as we grow, the gradual honing of the mind, exactly as meditation hones the mind. The difference, I guess, is that this process of growing is within the context of Real Life in the Open, rather than a quiet sitting in my dorm room, breath-counting and trying to stay awake.
Any work of close attention is a meditation. Thus seen, an evening of settled Reading, of any writing, time spent walking in a peripatetic muse, repairing an engine, my practicing self-important Fuddy-Duddyism in a morning coffee-making ritual,
Any religious ritual is a Meditation. Any Prayer is a collection of thought, a meditation. The Rosary is a Prayer as is the Catholic Mass. So many common things in our lives have meditative qualities. As a kid, watching Johnny Unitis Throw The Bomb and our utter concentration then and its gleeful culmination when it resulted in a Touchdown!...makes me sweat to think about it...
Our Lives are Meditations. Every concentrated, considered thing we as individuals or as a culture and society have done is a meditation. I think.This opens a giant can of worms I don't really want to get into. Was the conception and execution of the Nazi 'Final Solution' a Societal Meditation? Sweet God. I'll stick, I think, to breath counting, my directed meditative walks through the forest and to my Special Place, attending to my work and 'Tending my own Garden.'
Arabic numerals, at last!
More by this Author
This is a previously written blog that glimpses at a fellow, an active physician, whose life course could be stymied or maybe not.
Using the simplest physical devices to ease life in MS; a use of Habit and invention of Protocols; Mnemonics in MS; why Playing the Piano, Reading in Foreign Languages and the Daily Crossword help.
'No Man is an Island.' Everyone must 'get along' and there are many devices and techniques by which daily life with others is made easier. I'll talk about a few and involve my MS in it somehow.
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