Sitting down, shutting up


I need to calm myself down!  If you sometimes feel like that, you may want to read this. If not, you may NEED to read it…

I was thinking to write about the two brainwave entrainment systems I have tested this spring, Holosync and LifeFlow.  However, I realized that this should come first.

As I said already when I was reading up on Holosync, before buying the first (and for me, last) module: Personal growth and transformation will come in some form to virtually anyone who sets aside an hour a day for a monotonous task with a noble purpose. Or to put it more bluntly:  Sit down and shut up, and you will become a better person.

I do not know if it has always been like this. Probably, for in ages past, the day often went with simply working and caring for the most immediate needs. Only a few had the leisure to choose between wisdom and debauchery. But today, the whip we crack to keep us running is inside us rather than outside. The ever running, hectic mind will not be quiet. We work only half as much as our ancestors, and still we have barely time to sleep.

If you have been running around like that, not able to sit still for more than five minutes at best, doing “nothing” for an hour (or even a half!) can be a harrowing experience.  Bill Harris of Centerpointe and Michael Mackensie of Project Meditation both speak of “resistance” as being common, and even “upheaval” being possible, and they give much similar advice on how to deal with it.  Many of these things will happen even if you just sit there, say I.  Memories you had forgotten return out of the blue. Feelings you cannot explain suddenly arise, whether happy or sad.  You become aware of many bodily sensations that you did not notice before.  You suddenly think of a lot of things you should have done. You suddenly miss an old friend or relative that you could phone, or you realize that the house badly needs cleaning.

(Actually, unlike some respectable sages, I think the cleaning urge can be a good sign.  Sitting exercise increase the order within you, so the disorder around you become more obvious and contrary to you. I have good experience with doing some modest amount of cleaning and then returning to my position. But it is also possible that it can serve merely as a distraction, if the need is not real.)

More obvious hindrances are the intense feeling of boredom and urge to be entertained.  Normally people who have nothing else to do will sit down with the TV.  Failing that, a computer will do. It has endless entertainment and distraction.  (I feel the urge to open City of Heroes even now – I guess Goodwin is right that blogging can also be a form of spiritual exercise, “blogio divina” I think he calls it, although Google seems to not recognize that phrase.)

Failing any of these outlet, the human mind will throw itself into remembering (and often rewriting) the past, planning for the future, and constructing elaborate daydreams.  This is what I have written about so often lately, the “default network” of the brain.  (Google will offer to drown you in information about this if you don’t remember my earlier rants.) Everything to make sure we are not actually present in the moment.

Holosync, Hemisync, LifeFlow and many others may have other virtues as well, but arguably their main effect is that they keep people from escaping (or fleeing in horror) from the very act of quietude. Meditation and prayer do this as well, in addition to their own specific effects. Even listening to classic music (I recommend Back on principle) or watching art could have some effect.  And of course watching paint dry.

Before you go into any act of quietude with the sincere intention to make it part of your life, you should be prepared that resistance will appear.  The effect of quietude is growing awareness.  At first this awareness will be dispersed and unfocused, and therefore you will see these effects:  Random memories, feelings, impulses, small pains or itches or strange sensations of your body.  They are the first encounters of your awareness!  The awareness needs to be collected, tamed and trained to go beyond these distractions if you want to grow as a person.  You will meet things you have failed to integrate in the past, or as in my nightmare, thrown down in the basement and locked the door. You will even meet the collective delusions of our culture, and must go beyond these to begin to wake up.

But the first step is to stop stepping, sit down and shut up for a while.

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