Saturday, August 13, 2005

"The Magic of Meditation"

The stuff I teach and write about on these pages and through I Ching Counseling's various programs is not mysterious, arcane, complex, difficult, or mystical. It is just what we can do to make ideas and action flow a little more smoothly through the often rock-strewn stream of Life. For that matter, it's not even "magical," though it may often appear that way (which is one reason why I've written about the connection between the life guided by meditation and the themes of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter stories).

I was reminded of this by a Newsweek feature article about film director David Lynch. Lynch, of course, is the creator of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and the TV series Twin Peaks. He has discovered that a simple daily practice of meditation opens the gates of creativity in every corner of life (both the common tasks of daily living and the areas we normally think of as "creative"); and keeps them open. This is what Chinese medicine refers to as "opening the microcosmic orbit"—a reference to keeping the flow of life-force, or chi, unobstructed in the vital neurochemical energy paths that are distributed through and around the body-center.

Lynch also makes an important point about how the societal institutions of education have utterly failed us in this regard. He says:

My schooling was a total waste of time, even though I went to what was a very good high school. I wish that I’d had consciousness-based education. I would have been a lot further down the road. The problems and the stress at younger and younger ages--it’s getting worse instead of better.

Compare this with the discussion of the school experience in Western culture from my new book, Drinking From the Darkness: Living Completely in a Time of Estrangement:

For most students in school, the day starts in a hilariously misnamed place called “Homeroom.” Most of us would feel more at home inside a refrigerator. Anyway, the first activity of the day in Homeroom is usually a collective reading of a nationalistic catechism, which goes as follows:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the Republic
For which it stands:
One nation, under God, indivisible,
With liberty and justice for all.

By most accounts, this is the creation of a radical socialist ideologue named Bellamy—a man who seems like the type of fellow who might get a White House press pass these days. Why he thought that children needed to begin their day by pledging allegiance to a flag is as opaque to me as the notion of placing one's hand on a book filled with the stories of a violent, deceitful, and vengeful God while one promises to speak the truth in court or serve one's country as an elected official. But if we as supposedly mature adults have given up questioning such practices, how can we expect a six year old kid to do it? So we have to examine carefully the effects that this sort of a daily ritual has upon our psyche, and how it becomes generalized: from the understanding gained, we will be better able to disperse the falsehood projected into us by this bizarre rite.

As we do throughout this book, we begin by making sure we have a clear grasp of the meaning of the words employed. “Allegiance” is defined as “the act of binding yourself” or “the loyalty that citizens owe to their country or subjects to their sovereign.” So, in pledging allegiance, we are binding ourselves in payment of a perpetually recurring debt (“owed loyalty”) to a nation, a Republic, a flag.

Yes, a flag: a colored piece of cloth. Not to the Earth; not to the Universe; and least of all to ourselves and our unique and indissoluble connection with the Cosmic Source of our being. No: we are pledging a presumably eternal, or at least lifelong, debt of loyalty and attachment to the flag of a particular tribe and its state. Everything points toward a collective—the in-group and its binding claim upon our psyche—even “liberty and justice” are “for all.” But not for each. This is the suppression of the individual at such a comprehensive and fundamental level that it can be said to lay the groundwork for all future “pledges of allegiance” to come in the life of each person who accepts their unyielding terms. We have seen this narrow projection at work already in the marriage vows and the Cult of Hard Work; we will meet it again in the discussion of Fear and Competition in Chapter 5. Not merely does it set the tone of the child's day—it sets the tone for his entire life.

What if kids started their day with a one-minute meditation instead of being forced to mouth a "pledge" to some industrial-strength sewing? There needn't be any particular instructions or ideology accompanying this minute of silence—in fact, it would be just as bad if there were any such pedantry attached to it, no matter how holistic and well-intended its direction. If the experiences of David Lynch, myself, and many other people are any indicator, such a simple practice might be a formative element in a revolution in education, and therefore in society. This is why, by the way, I speak of "Daily Revolution" in this weblog.

What's keeping us from such a revolution? Is it the fault of government, of corporate or political leaders? Well, not really. In fact, to look for someone to blame for all this is sort of like looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It would be much better if each of us looked within himself and herself for the obstruction preventing the flow of progress and the way clear of that blockage.

In the matter of educating our children, that's where we have to begin. As I also mention in the chapter of my book that I quote from above, if we can't clear the mud of conditioning that defines our own inner darkness, then we can't expect our children to follow us out into the light.

We, the so-called grownups—have to turn within and heal ourselves. If we do, then our kids will naturally follow us, and each will learn his and her own unique path into the light of creativity, learning, growth, and healing. The first step is to discard all those inner and outer voices that tell you, "this does no is impossible to transform the world by looking within yourself." For indeed, there is no other place to look for the kind of change we all desire.

1 comment:

Freya said...

I had a terrible fight with my mother once, during the start of a 4th of July parade, in front of about 300 people. My youngest son had asked why everyone stood when the flag passed. I told him that he could stand or not stand if he wanted to. That the American flag "says that everybody here has a choice and we love it so much, most of us choose to stand...". My mother then decides to brainwash my flesh and blood and told him that no, we have to stand if we are "good Americans" and that he is a "bad boy" if he doesn't..."get up".

Thus the fight ensued.

Thank you very much for posting your insight on our 'tradition' of the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms. Hopefully, it wil encourage people to THINK.