Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Zen of An Empty Mind

The ability to achieve a mediative state has long been second nature. Like dropping a stone into a deep, quiet well. No need to pay attention to the breath, no chant, no posture but the chair. Awake and aware, but uninvolved in the thousand thoughts that usually crowd the moment.  

Maybe we make it too complicated. There’s no need for all the bells and chants and incense and such, though most of us like the comfort of ritual. But we need to be able to drop into a meditative state without the prompts if needed.   

Only One Head!
I had a funny meditative experience once. Before beginning a new medication which had a potential for producing seizures in those who are prone to such, I had to have an EEG to make sure I didn’t have undetected seizures. 

My appointment was for 7:45 am, an unholy time of day for someone who hates getting up early. Part way through the test the technician said, “I’m going to turn the lights off for 20 minutes. You can rest, but don’t go to sleep.” So I decided to meditate for those 20 minutes. 

When the results came back I had no propensity for seizures but the neurologist reading the EEG noted that I had increased levels of alpha and theta wave activity, and suggested my doctor ask me if I had a problem with alcohol. 

I told my doctor I’d been meditating during the EEG but she looked at me as if I’d just grown a second head. I don’t drink (at all) but I don’t think she ever believed I wasn’t a dedicated booze hound after that. She checked my liver enzymes each time she did blood work, and would say things like, "I can tell if you've been drinking by your liver enzymes." 

Of course meditation creates the same increase in alpha and theta wave activity in the brain as alcohol, but while the neurologist who read my EEG may have come across a drinker or two early in the day, she’d probably never come across a practiced Buddhist meditator at 8:00 am before.