My father is the zen king. A friend of mine described my dad as 'zen' some years back, and the description has never failed me.
This even I was in the pub with my father and a friend of his from the old days. I must say, my father is the most moral man. The first thing I learnt when I studied philosophy at university fifteen years ago was that you don't necessarily have to be religious or even spiritual to be moral. My father, Fred, is not religious - at least not outwardly, although he has alluded to a greater sense of spiritual questioning, due to his advancing years. Yet his morality and humility are beyond bounds; he puts everyone else before him, he has such patience, and he gives everything he can, and he'll do anything for anyone, as they say.
When it comes to my interpersonal relationship with my father, I daresay it is the truth: I do not tend to bring out the best in him. I take this to be for a number of reasons. One, who am I to him? How is he supposed to gauge who I am exactly? Am I his middle aged son, or am I his young child? Am I a world-weary intellectual, or am I a know nothing son of a builder? How is he supposed to gauge who I am? It must be difficult. On the other hand, when my father is talking over a pint to someone he's known for years - his best mate - someone who has striven to advance himself to my father in understanding on his own terms, that is when my father knows more who he is, and who he is talking to. So I saw old Fred in a good light - in a great light - this evening when he was talking to Tony, who is one of his best friends. Yes, Fred was talking fluently and freely about the legal proceedings that are taking place within the family, and was talking about his memories of Samoa, and spoke about these things with authority, and intelligence, and thoughtfulness, and I loved him.
I don't wish to sour the note by saying that, one-to-one, when Tony was not there, I began to fail to understand the things my father was trying to get at. I don't know why that is. But perhaps it's detrimental to a notion that perhaps I myself am characteristically unsure of myself. But that's another thing.
I'm quiet these days; I rarely talk. It must seem to people that I have little to say. Several people, though, have said it: I don't know things. I don't know things. That's a saying. It alludes to street-smarts, or even more worldly smarts. But I do know certain things. Unfortunately most people are not interested in hearing about how to solve a differential equation, or what a two-dimensional map is, or how to manipulate a Hessian matrix, or what they are, even. In a standard setting it must be true - I don't know things. So I remain quiet.
When I arrived home I was stressed out. I have realised that this anxiety I have amounts to a type of panic attack. These panic attacks occur frequently - once or twice a day - and if they happen during the day, I must lie down abed and breath more regularly, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, until my heartbeat has calmed down and reached the pace at which I am breathing. If they happen at night, as just occurred just now, I'm happy to sit quietly and meditate.
The first few minutes of meditation are relatively awkward, and one wonders if there is a point to it at all. But I sit cross-legged on my bed, facing the window, lights out (other than my salt lamp - an orange glow), and I breath in through the nose, and out through the mouth until I have achieved a steady rhythm. There are two ways, I am given to understand, with which to proceed. One of them is to inwardly focus upon a thought - be it God's warmth, the compassion of Jesus, the expanse of the ego, or the delights of genius. I like to remember this technique to start with, but I rarely follow it. No, I tend to go in for that other way of doing things - to inwardly and actively reject all thoughts. That is, one must tell oneself, that thoughts are none of my business. But it is not just a matter of repeating 'thoughts are none of my business', but you must allow each thought to pass you by. That is, when a thought arises, you must remember that it is none of your business, and proceed. The way I have personally clocked this technique is by looking directly at my thinking - that is, the thinking substance itself. I have found a way to 'get behind' all thoughts by watching this mechanism at work, and allowing those monadic elements that arise upon awareness of them, to fall away. Then I say, 'deeper, deeper', and I go deeper, and I have a notion that is not borne out by the light of consciousness, and it may be something to do with the ego. For example, I realised that one outcome of meditation could be to expand the ego (although, this may seem counter-intuitive - we're supposed to disregard the ego, aren't we?). And tonight I saw that my ego is the full id of my understanding and encapsulates everything I know to be in existence in the world, and that I'll never fully disregard the ego, which I take to be the driving force of my mind and soul, and of which the female's is said to be the anima, so in effect, to enhance the ego is a good thing.
During meditation I may or may not have on some music, say, some classical symphony or other, and this is a fine thing. Of course, it is peaceful enough to relax with nothing but the sound of silence - that way, we are left with the sound of things arising, and then passing away - arising, and passing away. Yet it is also a good thing to have on some symphony or other. For some symphonies may last an hour, and for one thing it is good to have a gauge of how long you are deep in this state, and to aim to finish with the penultimate finale of the piece. Tonight I had on Rachmaninov, and his is a fine second symphony, for if a symphony is worth its weight, it will map your thinking, enhance your thinking, and all the more give you something to release, when necessary, deeper and deeper.
Meditation is a type of self-hypnosis. It is always wise to be aware of what it is from which we are dropping attachment. For me, it is always anxiety, and internal stress related pain. And yet, it is said, that in this fast-paced world in which we live, when we finally decided to come out of our meditative state, it is wise to make ourselves aware of the material world we are coming back into. For me it is a decision, that I know when I've done enough, and I listen to the traffic, and I begin to breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth, and I say, when I open my eyes, I will feel more relaxed and mentally clear than I ever have, and then I gradually open my eyes, and I breathe outwardly, and I am done. I have meditated.
I'm almost glad sometimes, that I have such panic attacks that meditation is deemed necessary, for otherwise I would not know calm.