Meditation Killed My Motivation

Tim Ferriss once said that he had initially avoided meditation for fear it would bliss him out and diminish his drive. In my case, I fear that it’s true.    

Marcus Aurelius, and I’m pretty sure Osho too, say that you don’t have to have an opinion about everything. And I’m starting to believe that. I ditched my Instagram account because it was bullshit; I looked at it all, and thought, ‘This is not contributing to anyone’s life in a meaningful way.’ It demonstrates no artistry, and I am morally opposed to both lying and wasting other people’s time and attention.

Writing and photography are skills that develop through practice, and therefore, if you’re practising like Luke David does, I think it’s legitimate. Maybe I should take the attitude that if people want to read it, then it’s legitimate. Otherwise, they can just pass on by.

Opinions are the noise generated by the gears of the mind, and if the objective is to observe them dispassionately and then simply let them go, is publishing them online a good thing?

As Westerners, we experience all kinds of dysfunctions compared to the Eastern ideal. However, when I look at pictures of the Buddha sitting under the banyan tree, I think to myself, ‘Christ, how boring.’

When you come into contact with Nietzsche, you think, ‘Now there’s a philosopher with something going on!’ He’s doing lots of stuff, he’s passionate, engaged and such a wild thinker, with so much energy, he reads like he’s half-crazy.

But the caveat is that at the end of his story is, he actually was crazy. Dead in a mental institution by the age of fifty, leaving an impressive swathe of writing behind him, but much of it drenched in depression and isolation. Nietzsche is not a man to emulate; for starters, women really disliked him.

I began meditation because my sister said it would improve my life, and I’m always up for a bit of improvement, so I decided to give it a go. Immediately, it reduced my need for sleep, improved the quality of the sleep I did have, and effectively boosted my recovery from exercise, thereby increasing my capacity for work.

The more I did it, the better I felt, so I persisted. I’ve been at it now for about twelve years, and it’s gotten to the point where I am relaxed, and (compared to my twenties) very slow to anger.

But is this really better? I mean, I was listening to someone today quoting Roy Batty’s eulogy for his own life from Blade Runner, where he laments that his memories of life would pass away into nothing, like tears in rain.

For me, the latest guru I have discovered in my intellectual wanderings is Proust. I am now among those pretentious horrors that count him among their favourite writers.

I’ve written about Proust on this blog before, and I thought that, in a simple way, I had successfully explained the great pleasures of In Search of Lost Time as I had experienced them. Sad and missing him after eleven months in his cryptic yet incandescent presence, I listened to the audiobook of Alain De Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life.

De Botton has done a lot of fantastic work (Nietzsche being among his subjects) and dilated many ‘great’ thinkers to a 21st century audience. I felt that he did Proust’s masterpiece a great disservice, however. While the man himself is a highly eccentric, compelling character, his book is something else entirely.

I am not a great thinker, but I am a persistent one, so my initial goal with In Search… was to finish it. Naturally, the best way to achieve that is to give up on finishing it and simply read a set number of pages per day. As always, this prosaic mission was a success. I read carefully, and I believe I understood it all, but I dog-eared some of the especially striking passages in order that I could return to them afterwards.

Elie Weisel’s father, the rabbi in Night says that prayer is not about answers, it’s about asking questions: if you ask the right questions, they keep you in meaningful tension with God. In this way, continuing to revisit the salient passages in Proust keeps you in tension with him, I have a volume of the novel beside my bed and I dip into it now and again to read a passage and think about it.

Recently, I came across a passage that I don’t remember reading, but I think may sit at the crux of the entire novel.

Ironically, In Search… is a novel about thinking, but it shows you how to let go of it. On page 167 of Volume Two of the Moncrieff translation, Proust makes the observation that what you believe to be the ‘future’ is actually a shadow cast ahead of you by the past. The moment is innocent, spare and contains nothing worthy of your attention, aside from what is actually ‘there’.

And the more I see this, the less I seem to have to say.

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