Friday, January 05, 2007

How to be free - again

Alastair Appleton has a great post on the book where he posits that meditation sets you free.

"Hodgkinson is my age and the editor of the excellent Idler magazine. His answer to this back-breaking cycle of covert feudalism that the puritan work ethic has loaded us with is idleness. Express non-action. Laziness. Loafing. Taking the time to lie in bed and not stress about ‘getting things done’. Catching the bus and staring out the window. Growing your own vegetables. Not throwing things away all the time - being thrifty, because not spending so much money mean you don’t have to work so much.
He doesn’t mention it but meditation is a form of purposeful idleness. (He’s big on a jolly sort of existentialism - the tag line of the book is: ‘Life is Absurd. Be merry. Be free.’) But Buddhism offers a different take on the whole idle question.Over the years, with my experiences in Brazil and on the meditation cushion, I’ve also learnt to step back from what we assume is the correct way to live and acually ask: does this way of living really make me and the people around me happy? Does keeping up with the Joneses keep me smiling? Does the insatiable desire for new things, different things - the radical discontent which fuels capitalism - does that ever lead to permanent peace and happiness? Clearly not.
Sitting crosslegged and just breathing is a much more radical thing that it looks. We don’t need to spend any money. We don’t need to be discontent. We can be happy with so little.
Radical idleness will dissolve everything. That’s the core of the Buddha’s teaching. Finding peace means disentangling yourself from those inherited, brainwashed patterns that we swallow wholesale from our parents, our teachers and everyone around us. Perhaps it seems mad/selfish/irresponsible to be idle. But perhaps it’s mad/selfish/irresponsible to spend your whole human life doing something that harms you, the people around you and the environment. What’s altruistic about heart-corroding stress, no time for your chidren and a scorching hole in the Ozone layer?
The Buddha was quite clear about the need to disentagle. Meditation is all about dismantling of all the constituent bits and pieces of existence - form, feeling, perceptions, mental formations, consciousness - and noticing how they all work together and what they create. Sometimes what we see completely contradicts what we thought we’d see.
Just allowing ourselves a 20 minute breather twice a day is the cold-shower of reality that stops us walking sleepy-eyed into a hypnotic life of believing the hype. And those 2 lagoons of clear-sightedness also spill out into the day."

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