About a decade ago I meditated every day for a year, something like that. Now I’m looking for good habits to hold my day together. There’s meditation. I’m pretty sure there’s something to it. I couldn’t make a case, but I think. On the other hand, I did stop meditating.
Here’s a moment I like from my meditation period. My therapist was a meditator, and one time she heard out my thoughts on the subject. Then she said I was right, so the memory has stayed with me. My theme was how the mind crumples when one practices self-deception. Parts of what the person knows, of what they’re aware of, get folded out of sight. For example, Jerry Seinfeld’s joke about “Night Guy” and “Morning Guy,” which applies very well to my bedtime habits. Me-tonight and me-tomorrow are the same person, but I always forget that. I fold away our connection.
When paper is crumpled, one bit of the paper suddenly abuts another. In between them is a lot more paper, but that paper has been pushed out of sight. To continue my metaphor: one bit of the paper is me at 11 p.m., wondering how much more to watch of a movie; the other bit is me at nine a.m., listening to an alarm because I have to be someplace. My head at 11 p.m. contains both of these moments, the actual and the prospective. But in between them there’s nothing, not as far as my head is concerned. When I plan my going to bed and my getting up, I factor out that I’m the person who will be doing both. Really, I factor myself out.
That shows a kind of infirmity at the base of the spirit, I would think. On the other hand, there’re plenty of people making the same mistake. Get through a day and you see how people lie to themselves. Their mind senses something, but that thing is not allowed in the front of the brain, the zone where things are recognized. Their mind must contain the unacknowledged item, and also the belief that the item doesn’t exist. Parts of the brain are cut off from each other. More parts are cut off as more lies are taken on. Self-awareness gets creased here and here and here. We're back to the crumpled paper; that’s the self a lot of us wind up with.
Meditation uncrumples. What was folded away is brought back; what was bunched up is smoothed out. Points find their proper relation to each other, and this relation takes into account the whole. The sheet of paper is spread on the table. The person entire comes into view.
Neil Gaiman wrote a graphic novel (A Game of You) involving a creature that picked through people’s psyches. “They divide themselves up into such complex puzzles,” said the creature, musing on our ways. Our approach does seem odd, and I think I pursue it more than most people. My bedtime habits are a mere aspect of the problem; the ground rules of my existence are written along the same goofy lines. I wish I could switch to the better approach; so far I haven’t. I’m folded, not whole. Really, I’m crumpled. My back hurts and so does my spirit, and I wish I could stop being a fool. But I do have the memory of being right. When I told my therapist about the crumpled paper, she said I had got it. She was a patient and kind-hearted woman, and she was a meditator. Maybe there’s something to it.
—Follow C.T. May on Twitter: @CTMay3