Monday, November 19, 2012

"The Second Time"

I have written earlier about how I meditate every morning just after I wake up. 

I find meditation to be extremely helpful.  One of the trickier parts, however, is designating a specific time to do it; if you don’t have a regularly set time, then it’s “I’ll do it later” and more often than not, there are intervening concerns, and you never get around to it. 

The “when” problem is alleviated by meditating the first thing after you wake up.  Then you don’t have to designate a time.  You wake up and it’s “Now.” 

If you don’t wake up, then finding the time to meditate is the least of your worries.  But that’s a different story.  Written by somebody else. 

Somebody who woke up.

Why meditate?  For me, a man with what my doctor once delicately labeled “an anxious temperament”, my waking hours are infused with a pervasive jumpiness.  I’m not talking about A.D.D. here.  It’s not like I’m doing this, and I suddenly want to do that.  Or I have a mind that compulsively jumps from thought to thought. 

My issue has more to do with the kinds of thoughts my mind jumps to.  What kinds of thoughts?

I’m working on my blog, and, in a blink of an eye, I am awash in concerns over an upcoming colonoscopy.      

Intrusions of this nature can easily sidetrack your train of thought.

Meditating helps me be focused and – I hate to use this word because I think it’s used Scientology – clear.  This is particularly helpful in my writing, where a relaxed mind can release delightful surprises, offering insights and connections that come seemingly out of nowhere.  Suddenly, thoughts are emanating from a deeper and truer place, the words, “Where did that come from?” arising, as these revelations appear.

It is all kind of miraculous.

I discovered my meditation technique in a book called The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson, who’s a doctor.  That’s important to me.  I have no interest in esoteric cults or countercultural weirdness. 

I am basically a conservative person.  No gurus for me.  No daytime lawyer, wearing drawstrings and a turban.  No “I’m not Larry anymore.  Call me El-Wahul! 

Benson’s method is scientifically determined, a researched distillation of what all mediation processes include.  You sit comfortably in a quiet place, you relax your body, you observe your breath going in and out, and as you exhale, you focus on a word – “one” or “calm” – to block out the flood of distractions coursing through your brain (because you can't think two things at the same time.  Try it.  It's impossible.)  Twenty minutes, and you’re done.  That’s all there is to it.

Though I’ve been doing it for thirty-five years, I am still not great at meditating; I do it right, generously, maybe a quarter of the time.  But even so, I am unquestionably aware of the difference.  After meditating, I am sharper and more comfortably at ease. 

And I definitely write better. 

Example:  I wrote the first section of this post last night, and I thought I was done with it.  Then, this morning after meditating, I reread what I’d written, and rewrote more than half of it. 

It’s better now.  Stuff I had not picked up on last night – imprecise word choices, continuity issues – jumped out at me after I’d meditated.

When I was working in television, I would never think of showing up without meditating, the result being a demonstrably superior output, and a considerably easier-to-deal-with Earlo. 

I was a marvel in the morning.  Easygoing.  Razor sharp.  Inspiringly on my game.

Then the day wore on.  And I wore out.

Not really “wore out”; I just said that for balanced sentence structure.  What happened was that, through the day, my “meditational edge” began noticeably to wear off.  Imagine a person who has chugged down one of those “Five-Hour” Energy Drinks, during the sixth and subsequent hours. 

It was heartbreaking to watch.  The later it got, the further I faded. 

A disastrous situation when you’re writing for television.  Some of the most important work – the revising of the scripts – takes place at night, a time when the “Morning Meditator” is increasingly losing his mojo.

The answer to this problem, of course, is screamingly obvious. 

Meditate again, later in the day.

I never did that.

Why not?

I never found the time. 

Thinking back, this sounds transparently foolish.  But when I ran shows, here’s what I could never imagine announcing to my writing staff:

“It looks like we’re going to be here a while.  But even though it means not going to work right away, I need to push back getting started twenty minutes, so I can meditate.  This may sound like a contradiction, but I promise you, if we begin later, we’ll be out of here earlier.”

I could never say that; it sounded too selfish.  In truth, however, the idea of a second meditation rarely came to mind.  I was way too shortsighted. 

I ignored the strategy guaranteed to get us home sooner, and we consequently got home later.

In glorious retrospect, I realize I should definitely have meditated that second time.  It would have been better all around.

For the writing.

For my co-workers.

And for humanity.

I was going to write “And for myself”, but “For humanity” sounded like a bigger ending.  Maybe if I meditate again, I’ll come up with an improvement. 

It really works.  I’m tellin’ ya. 

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