30 October 2010

Inner Reign

My introduction to meditation came through a Unitarian Universalist lecture in which the speaker asked his audience to close their eyes and count to thirty, slowly -- focusing on nothing but the counting. The author's and my own experience confirmed that in trying this, the counter will be distracted by passing thoughts -- thoughts that pop up from nowhere. The lesson he took from this is that we are not always in control of our own minds -- but, he added, perhaps we should be.

The idea of holding the reins, of establishing dominion over my own mind, appealed to me. Already a freethinker, I began studying Stoicism and Buddhist meditation in the pursuit of mindfulness. Henry David Thoreau introduced Walden by stating that he wished to live "deliberately". I like that choice of words, for to act deliberately implies a level of control, of focus. Maintaining such deliberation is difficult, for while we possess the capacity to order our lives, we seem to be primarily emotional, instinctive creatures.

A common strength  I derive from freethought, Stoicism, and anarchism is power: power over myself, conviction that I believe and act as I do because I have ruled deliberately over my mind and established rules based on reason and empathy.  Marcus Aurelius advised himself to be like a citadel, which the waves crashed against but did not break, and I see my mind as a sanctuary and a castle, guarded by stern guards who do not permit unconsidered thoughts and malice to enter. In meditating, I see myself pacing the halls of such a fortress, throwing out flaming torches or dismissing aggressive courtiers. My aim is sovereignty: self-possession.

One of the difficulties in maintaining sovereignty is recognizing the emotional games we play with ourselves. I take note of them when I spot them at play in my own life, and this post is an introduction of sorts to a series of musings and articles on 'inner reign', on spotting  games like self-righteousness, tribal mentalities, and the like. At the same time, I will endeavor to steer clear of the abyss of puritanism. The goal is to be free and at peace, not possessed by the unattainable. 


No comments: