Sunday, September 21, 2008

'Beep, beep, beep,' the world is calling

One is unlikely to read about the 15-22 year age cohort without encountering the word ‘multitasking.’  When students are using their computers, they often have several ‘windows’ open simultaneously.  There may be additional intrusions from a cell phone call or text message.  The television, too, may be turned on, providing yet another stream of information, entertainment and commercial messages.  To goal of commercial messages, whether on television, website or cell phone is to intrude. If successful, they divert our attention, motivating us to to reach for our credit card, head for a fast food outlet, or satisfy previously unrealized needs with a trip to the mall.

In his book, How to Practice: A Guide to A Meaningful Life, the Dalai Lama proposes a very different lifestyle grounded in centuries old disciplines of Tibetan meditation.  The ultimate goal of Tibetan meditative practice is enlightenment, not for oneself but ‘for the sake of all sentient beings.’  The intermediate stage is to achieve ‘calm abiding of the mind’  or ‘one pointed concentration.’

A commitment to attain calm abiding is not to be undertaken lightly.  The Dalai Lama reports that he devotes several hours each day to his meditative practice, arising at 3:30 each morning to begin. He advises neophyte practitioners that they may be able to move to the next level of practice when they have been able to sustain calm abiding continuously for four hours.  One monk, who had attained this goal, told His Holiness that the task was more arduous than enduring torture in a Chinese Communist prison.

I have been seeking to follow Tibetan meditative practices for about a year.  I made this commitment after beginning to listen to audio books of the Dalai Lama’s writings on my iPod. On mornings when I have kept my resolve not to work too late, I arise at 5:30 and practice for an hour or more.  On days when my self-discipline has weakened, practice time  may be as little as 45 or even 30 minutes.  At the end of day, at 9 or 10 PM, when my body is exhausted and my mind cluttered, my resolve is rarely strong enough to end the day with an additional 30 to 60 minutes of practice.  The Dalai Lama counsels aspiring practitioners to be patient with themselves and not to abandon their resolve.  Attaining calm abiding, for a sustained period, may take years.  As I progress down a difficult path, with baby steps and backward stumbles, this is reassuring.

In the early morning, I sometimes forget to mute my Blackberry before beginning my practice.  On a typical day, I may receive more than 100 messages.  Since they come from all over the world, they arrive at any hour of the day.  “Beep, beep, beep, the world is calling,” says my Blackberry.  A year ago, I would have ‘just taken a quick look’ to see who was messaging me.  Now, I simply ignore the beeping or, if it becomes too intrusive, I switch my Blackberry to ‘mute.’


Post a Comment

<< Home