Do nothing and just Be…
Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time on the Internet will have come across this time-honoured Zen chestnut, or variants of it. At first glance, it looks pretty nifty. Stop everything, give your churning brain the spiritual equivalent of a Novocaine shot, merge with the ether and smell the roses.
I can’t do it, for several reasons. The first is that in order to Just Be, I first have to know what I am. There are as many clashing online takes on that as there are on the benefits and demerits of coffee consumption. Opinions be damned, I will drink coffee no matter what the final verdict is because I can’t function without it. As for what I am, I have displayed a remarkably consistent ability to not give that too much thought.
If my suspicions are right, I am neither Spirit momentarily trapped in temporal environs, a sinner in urgent need of redemption, or God. If my suspicions are right, I – like everyone else – am nothing more than a trumped-up monkey with the ability to immeasurably complicate my life with rational thought. Do nothing and just be THAT? I don’t think so.
The second problem is that at my age, time is no longer on my side – if it ever was. There’s stuff to be done, and limited time to do it in. More specifically, there is a livelihood to be earned and an uncertain future to be secured. I sincerely hope to eventually get off the corporate hamster wheel, retire and do nothing. On second thought, scratch that. I mean get off the corporate hamster wheel and get on a hamster wheel of MY choosing. One that rotates at a more sedate speed, but nevertheless rotates. I’m going to make a lousy retiree.
At my age, this is something of a priority, so dropping everything, clearing my mind, straightening my spine and zoning out is not an option. I mean, it MAY be an option, but my mind doesn’t think so, and it’s the only one I have. My mind has never a very good candidate for change. In the first place, it fits well in my skull. Like into an old shoe. I’ve had it with me for the last 48 years, and I’ve grown to like it. I’m not abandoning it for some unknown substitute. That would be disloyal and would in any case not work for long.
So picture me descending to the floor in a lotus pose, my twitching body ignoring all the stuff I have to do every goddamned day just to break even and my churning mind shutting out all the random thoughts that need to be sifted, pieced together, spun into sentences and pounded out on the keyboard just so that I can hopefully put an end to the work day. You see what I’m saying? Not happening.
There was a time when I had the option of reaching for a cost-effective bottle of booze and zoning out that way. It worked to some extent. I would do nothing (except drink) and my mind would indeed stop (sort of). My body would certainly be rendered incapable of coordinated, productive movement. So in a manner of speaking, drinking would help me get as close to that ideal Zenesque state of doing nothing and just being as I would ever get.
My doctor, however, refused to see the spiritual side of it. He was of the opinion that it was better to be temporal and alive than to be spiritual and dead. It took me some time to accept this, but the logic was irrefutable and I finally had to nail shut my only window to the ethereal world of numb nothingness. I tried substituting with woo-woo altered consciousness stuff for a while – but as I said, I’m not really on the market for alternatives. Especially when I’ve known the real thing.
So I guess I’ll never know what it means to sit still and listen to the grass grow. Come to think of it, who would want to hear that anyway? What’s wrong with listening to some nice spa music? It’s very relaxing, and I always listen to it as I tear around my place after a stressful day’s work, trying to find things to fix and spots that need cleaning.
It helps me concentrate.
*(PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome)