Good morning! If yesterday was great, go ahead and think back a bit. It’ll start us off with good feelings. And if yesterday was one of our more difficult days, then breathe in this new one deeply and gratefully. Because like a fresh sheet of paper, we’re still up in the top left hand corner.
Today is filled with room to tell any story. In fact, that’s exactly how we should think of our day. Because that’s what every life is –a narrative in our heads. That’s how one person living in luxury, and deeply loved, can go on to commit suicide; while Victor Frankl was able to find healthy minds in people who had essentially lost everything in a Nazi death camps.
MORNING MEDITATION TWELVE
For this meditation, let’s divide the content of our thoughts into three broad groups. There are ‘neutral’ thoughts that don’t impact where we are in relation to others at all. There are ‘come here’ thoughts, that draw others or the universe in. And there are ‘go away’ thoughts that push other aspects of the universe away.
Today our job is to maintain a mental ledger. We don’t want to think about our thoughts, we only want to drop them into one of those three buckets. So whether they are in-our-heads ego-words, or if they are out-loud words to the people with us, our only job is to ask what the essential quality of each thought was. Gravitational? Or Repellent? Or Neutral?
Examples of neutral thoughts would be things like stating the temperature, or time because someone asked us. Unless we approve or disapprove of that number, it would be a neutral thought. It’s merely a fact. But…
If our ego layers us into the fact –and we either approve of that weather or don’t approve of it– then all we want to note today is that the fact is neutral. After that we only need to note that it was us that bent that neutral fact into something with, as Robert Pirsig described it in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, ‘a quality.’
Note, our job isn’t to judge where we put it. That misunderstands the exercise. This is about teaching us about how much we torque reality with our minds. Trust me, once everyone starts to meaningfully pay attention to the fact that they do this, we all immediately realize there are choices in every moment, even if only because we can imagine the three categories in our heads.
Rather than doing what our ego usually does, which is to hear or see something and then to react as though the basket we put the fact in was the only one there was, when now we consciously know that’s not true. At that point we naturally start to slow the world down and we start more consciously doing our ‘filing of reality.’ This is what it is to be aware and in-the-moment.
The truth is, it is a very simple meditation. The hard part about it is that, when we’re new, it feels huge and complex and everything seems to happen too fast to really do this with. But that’s where I started too. I just had that accident that lead me to start at five years old. But that was fluke.
If my accident hadn’t happened, I could still go through the same reality-realization exercise I did as a kid, but at 28, or 43, or 77 –just like anyone reading this can start it at whatever age they’re at now. It’s not about our age when we start, it’s about the altitude and perspective gained in the climb (the mediation) that matters.
Do the same meditations I did, and you’ll have the same thing happen. Yes, I did do zillions of meditations, pretty much every single day, all day. But trust me, once you get good at them, you’ll do that too. That will be what replaces what our egos do now, which is just tell us one story as though it was the only one possible. This is living in the present.
Eventually you get so good you can come up with your own very sophisticated meditations because by then we enjoy the process of taking reality apart. It’s fascinating. And really fun to do, even if we’re suffering.
If that idea seems impossible, remember, we’ve all paid good money to see movies where we enjoyed a storyline wherein characters we cared about were in danger and we were tense and scared. We chose that.
These sorts of meditations can often be the best parts of the aware person’s day. Because once we know how to steer our reality, the universe sure fills it with opportunities to find joyful and rewarding experiences.
Once we do this, our priorities shift in meaningful ways. Other’s egos may actually deem our lives as ‘less successful,’ or they mind find us ‘less accommodating,’ but that will only be because they are evaluating life based on thought and before, rather than being free, we were strange slaves to other’s approval.
Once we’re conscious, we’re basing our days on the moments of experience that actually form the fabric of every human life, whether a person recognizes that or not. In reality, when we’re conscious, we will be more compassionate and engaged than we will have ever been before being conscious.
Remember. All day. However many thoughts we manage to catch, put them in their category: Gravitational? Repellent? Neutral? That’s it. Nothing else. Just watch what bucket the thoughts go in and then trust our innate wisdom to see the patterns and to come to wise conclusions.
It’s how we operated until we were about five, and just think of the fantastic things we learn in that short time. We all learn a language before we’re four. Yet that’s apparently so ‘difficult’ that many people never learn another one after that. So no one should be underestimating their potential.
Enjoy your days.
EVENING MEDITATION TWELVE
Since it can take some time to get good at even catching our moment to moment thinking in action, this morning’s meditation is worth doing all weekend or longer if possible. In fact, each of these 12 meditations would ideally be done for a week each.
Tonight’s is designed to get distance between the real us –the thinker– and the content of our thoughts. We need to see our ego as the shadow of our consciousness.
It’s like our consciousness is a film projector, and our day was the filming of our thought-script. So as our thought-film runs through the projector in our soul, it comes alive thanks to the light of our consciousness.
As a result of that process, we become conscious of a ‘quality’ of life –either a comedic or tragic– as it is beamed onto our internal ‘screen of reality.’ That image –which has been totally influenced by our ‘scriptwriting’– is what Buddhist’s call ‘the illusion.’
So tonight, we’re a film critic and we’re reviewing the screenwriter. We want to look back at each segment of our day. And do try to do the entire day –even all the strange in-between times in our cars or bathrooms. We want to know what our minds do in every moment, not just some.
So now, our job is not to love or hate the producer –our soul. Our role is only to evaluate how positive or negative the director-ego’s film was today. How did we do? Do we see a tale where we constantly took neutral things and thought them into being negative?
Or did we face negative things that we managed to convert to positive things? Did we tell ourselves a story we found rewarding in some way? If Mr. Rogers could, surely we all can too.
Between the morning and evening meditations, this is a powerful combo. One allows us to recognize choice, and the evening meditation allows us to see what those choices add up to in terms of our lifetimes.
In the end, life is just us stacking moments into days, which are in turn stacked into weeks, months and years. It doesn’t matter when we start being conscious, things improve from that point forward.
Have fun with this one. This is really worth doing in a serious way until we’re good at it. It can expose amazing things about ourselves and our relationship to what we’ve generally seen as an out-there ‘unaffected by us’ reality.
Once we start to see how free and powerful we are, we tend to find the best in ourselves. So enjoy the process.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.