Wes “Scoop” Nisker shares two poems on the powerful dance of mindfulness and meditation.
One day, in the middle of a three-month intensive meditation retreat, a friend tapped me on the shoulder and with a wide-eyed look, motioned me aside and whispered his great revelation: “It’s all so completely conditioned, all we can do is wake up in it!”
People who practice meditation are often shocked when they begin to experience the power of past conditioning and the limits of personal freedom. In meditation we discover how much we blindly react to the world, that our minds have minds of their own and act independently of what we will them to do. Here is why I meditate (after Allen Ginsberg):
I meditate because when I was younger it was all the rage.
I meditate because Siddhartha Gautama, Bodhidharma, Marco Polo, the British Raj, Carl Jung, Alan Watts, Jack Kerouac, Alfred E. Neuman, et al.
I meditate because evolution gave me a big brain, but it didn’t come with an instruction manual.
I meditate because I have all the information I need.
I meditate because the largest colonies of living beings, the coral reefs, are dying.
I meditate because I want to touch deep time, where the history of humanity can be seen as just an evolutionary adjustment period.
I meditate because life is too short and sitting slows it down.
I meditate because life is too long and I need an occasional break.
I meditate because I want to experience the world as Rumi did, or Walt Whitman, or Mary Oliver.I meditate because now I know that enlightenment doesn’t exist, so I can relax.
I meditate because of the Dalai Lama’s laugh.
I meditate because there are too many advertisements in my head, and I’m erasing all but the very best of them.
I meditate because the physicists say there may be eleven dimensions to reality, and I want to get a peek into a few more of them.
I meditate because I’ve discovered that my mind is a great toy and I like to play with it.
I meditate because I want to remember that I’m perfectly human.
Sometimes I meditate because my heart is breaking.
Sometimes I meditate so that my heart will break.
I meditate because a Vedanta master once told me that in Hindi my name, Nis-ker, means “non-doer.”
I meditate because I’m growing old and want to become more comfortable with emptiness.
I meditate because I think Robert Thurman was right to call it an “evolutionary sport,” and I want to be on the home team.
I meditate because I’m composed of 100 trillion cells, and from time to time I need to reassure them that we’re all in this together.
I meditate because it’s such a relief to spend time ignoring myself.
I meditate because my country spends more money on weapons than all other nations in the world combined. If I had more courage, I’d probably immolate myself.
I meditate because I want to discover the fifth Brahma-vihara, the Divine Abode of Awe, and then go down in history as a great spiritual adept.
I meditate because I’m building myself a bigger and better perspective, and occasionally I need to add a new window.
Lately I’ve created a series of meditations on my body as it ages. Here’s one that focuses on my thumbs—what miracles they are! Place your awareness on your hands, one of the great wonders of natural adaptation. Flex your wrist, move your fingers around, and, finally, wiggle your incredible opposable thumbs. Play with your thumb for a few minutes. Press it against each of your other fingers. Then reach out and take hold of your knee or your other arm, or the rim of the chair or edge of your cushion, using the full leverage of your thumb and four fingers. Then make your thumb immobile, either folding it into your palm or holding it away from the rest of your hand. Now try to take hold of something without the use of your thumb. It’s so much harder to get a grip on things!
The limbs of all vertebrates begin in the womb as fin-like buds. For most mammals, these buds will turn into limbs, and the bone cartilage at the extremities will grow five digits. For pigs, chickens, horses, and some other animals, a few of those digits will disappear by birth.
Take your hand. Maybe it’s holding this magazine while your other hand is eating a piece of toast or holding a cup, or even counting beads on a rosary or mala. You’re ambidextrous, and your wiggly, triple-jointed fingers and extremely flexible wrists are a wonder. It’s taken a half billion years to get our hands into this great shape.
AN ODE TO MS. MINDFULNESS
From the moment her eyes met mine
I knew that I was lost.
I could see that if I loved her, she would destroy “me,”
and yet, with her I can be
just who I am.
In the early morning and late at night we are alone together.
Usually our dates last only about an hour, me gazing at her
gazing at me.
And even though she claims to love me, Ms. Mindfulness displays nothing
but cool detachment.
Sometimes I wish she would snap out of it. I grow frustrated
with her lack of attitude and decide
I want to “live it up,” have big emotions,
dance and be wild, play the edges
of my obsessions and fantasies.
If I have to suffer for it I will make that bargain. Just let me go, lover.
But in the end I always come back to her sweet and easy ways,
and that sly little smile of understanding.
I sink into her love like a comfortable old couch.
A cool breeze flows across my brow and I say to her,
“Ms. Mindfulness, please be mine forever.” Whoops!
I mean “At least be mine for now.”
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for
the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is
only the dance.
— T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets
Ah, the dance! The cosmic twist and shout, the subatomic shuffle, the tango of intangibles, the two-step of non-duality. There is no way we can sit this one out, my friends. So, let’s dance!