Showing Up In The Moment

when the sun shows up
I’m not 100% sure that my meditation practice is changing my life. Nevertheless, every day, I sit down, check in, and do it.

Perhaps meditation helps some people rein in their egos and emotions. With proper technique and significant time investment, maybe it will give me superpowers. But I suspect that meditating for personal gain, or with an end objective in mind, is missing the point.

I drive myself crazy with thoughts, desires, and attachments. I’m not just talking about the distractions that divert me from pursuing my goals; I’m talking about those goals themselves.

The pain comes not from the way things are, but from the idea that this moment should be different from the way it is.

I will never be able to fix this. The point of mindfulness practice is simply to notice it. There can be great power and relief in that noticing, but, again, that’s beside the point. The point is noticing itself. The journey is the destination. The objective is to rest in awareness of the experience.

Meditation doesn’t stop negative thinking — it exposes it. It doesn’t come with valuable stock options, but it gives me the insight to see how much of my pain and frustration come from ego, ambition, and status anxiety.

Sigmund Freud said that “the only thing about masturbation to be ashamed of is doing it badly.”

This is not true of meditation. There’s no need to be ashamed of doing it badly. The “aha” moments come when I realize I’m lost in thought. I’ve failed to cease thinking. I’ve screwed up. But every moment offers the possibility of coming back to the practice, back to the moment.

If I realize I’m thinking, I know I’m right on schedule. Each slip is an opportunity to start over, which is the greatest blessing I can expect.

The bad news about meditation is that it’s a pain in the ass, sometimes literally. The good news is that it’s simple.

I take a seat, either in a chair or cross-legged on a cushion. I close my eyes or let them droop at half-mast. And gradually I turn my attention to my breathing. I give the breath the gift of my full awareness.

There are many ways to meditate, including walking meditation, guided mediation, body scan meditation, and life practice, which involves integrating meditation with everyday activities. But this simple sitting practice is a fine place to start.

Dark AlleyWhen I do this, the first thing I notice is that my mind is firing all sorts of thoughts at me, including mundane worries, petty jealousies, thousand-dollar business plans, and some truly dark and crazy stuff. When this happens, I acknowledge it. I say to myself, “thinking,” or I visualize a bubble floating up through clear water. And I bring my attention back to the breath. I continue until I’ve utterly lost my mind or my ten-minute timer goes off.

When I started this, I believed, straight away, that I had put the brakes on my brain. This is because I was so used to thinking that I was thinking I was not thinking. As I kept doing it, I lost a lot of that confidence. I experienced breakthroughs and disillusionment. And I kept coming back for more experience.

90% of success is showing up, and meditation is the art of showing up.

What I bring to the cushion is not special. I am a writer in my 30s living in Los Angeles. I have a degree in journalism that is not worth much on the market but did help me hone a relentless curiosity, which led me here. Like a lot of people, my interest in meditation started because I noticed I was suffering.

In 2012, I began to experience crippling panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. Thanks to an unorthodox therapist, I discovered the shamatha practice (akin to what is typically known as mindfulness meditation) and began to meditate in earnest.

On my way to developing my own practice, I used guided meditations from Susan Piver, Sam Harris, and the Insight Timer app. My wife didn’t get it, but she tolerated it. Gradually, I became less and less self-conscious until I could meditate in public, downtown. When strangers interrupt me to ask for money, I politely decline, then return to the breath.

I’ve been doing it for some time, and I am still a basket case, tortured by rumination, grasping, and self-aggrandizement.

The only difference is that I’m a lot more comfortable with that now.

Breathe InI’ve learned some humility. I’ve learned to regard my thoughts and emotions with healthy skepticism and to take a second to breathe before I lean on my car horn, snap at my wife, or walk out on a job or a friendship. Sometimes I will do those things anyway, but that’s how it goes. I have had fleeting moments of experiencing the world beyond selfishness and judgment.

I am a sloppy sack of feelings, organs, and outmoded instincts, and I’m okay with that. When I try to fix myself, I’m wasting everyone’s time.

The objective is to show up. The goal is to eliminate the need for a goal.

My daily to-do list is simple enough. Show up. Be human. Be a small, flawed person who forgot to rehearse, but show up anyway.

There is no guaranteed ROI (return on investment). As I’ve learned to acknowledge that the stories I tell about myself are fiction, I’ve noticed that that my life does not fit into a clean narrative arc.

I just show up for this moment. And the next.

Whatever happens, I’ll be there to be with it. Whatever happens next, I’ll witness that and be with that too, in a new way. I’ll be there for that poetry, paradox, and change.


Emerson Dameron lives in Los Angeles, where he writes about consciousness, depression and other absurdities.

Follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/emersondameron) or read his essay “Self Care for the Self Loathing.” (http://www.emersondameron.net/lp/we-met-on-the-internet/)

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