Monday, 22 February 2010


"The nothing that is not there, and the nothing that is..." (Wallace Stevens)

Meditation is a personal thing. It can be formal, ritualistic, as well as collective with others. Mantras apparently assist the process to empty the mind of its confused, convoluted conversations with itself. Personally, I have never learned the techniques of formal meditation, whereby one can apparently go into a type of trance and come out of it ten minutes later feeling like they have just had a two hour nap or a mini-vacation.

What works for me is retreating to a zone of solitude within myself. According to my mother, I have been doing this since I was a child. Perhaps, in the early years, it was an involuntary, semi-autistic state. At one point my parents had my hearing tested because of the frequent occasions when I would not/could not respond to their voices. As an adult it is now primarily a voluntary state that I will myself into; although I am sure there are still times when my "disinterestedness" is autonomic.
"You're not listening to me", my daughter will say, when in fact I feel very interested and focussed on her words. But, clearly, something about the glaze of my eyes, the shift of the gaze suggests otherwise. It is like having multiple tabs open on the brain that are occupying my attention.

"Pay attention", said Linda Loman, in Arthur Miller's play, "Death of a Salesman". Everyone deserves his share of attention. It is all part of the social and human desire for respect, understanding, appreciation, and love. But all too often, I think, we don't pay enough attention to ourselves. We are too busy waiting for, sometimes longing for, the attention of others. That is the true narcissism of our society, this need for others to validate our worth.

So this tendency to retreat within myself is both a blessing and a curse. I sometimes revel in the nothingness, pride myself on my independent ability to live within myself without need for constant external stimulation or the approval of others. I will sometimes announce to my partner that I am having a Greta Garbo day. "I vant to be left alone." But I do need to remind myself that those I love around me, deserve my attention, without distractions. Otherwise when I do need their stimulation and love, there may be a "nothing that is." It is a challenge I continue to embrace.