“Focus” they say. “Be mindful.”
We have a useless definition of mindfulness in the west; we know what Blondie McYogapants means when she says mindfulness (as much as anybody can, at least) but what it means is “look as if your life is together on Instagram even though you are in a state of constant existential terror”.
Western culture has a great talent in taking spiritual systems, identifying the parts which are superficial, and throwing away everything else. Many of those who meditate do so only so that they can tell people they meditate. Yoga is a means by which young single mothers futilely try to regain their taut high school tummy, not a method for establishing connections between ones mind and body.
Christians will ceaselessly tell you how great Jesus is for making the sun rise and blessing their wretched, impoverished lives with a few milligrams of joy every now and then, but they never say anything meaningful. They don’t even know what the words in their apocrypha are trying to tell them. One of the reasons it’s so easy to make fun of Christianity is that its practitioners take its most vain teachings, as they are the easiest to follow, while often living far worse lives than their critics. “My child got the flu so I prayed and they recovered”. Because people who don’t pray die of the flu.
I haven’t been an atheist for some time. Atheism is even more embarrassing than pop-Christianity. For one to think that the words oldest value systems and philosophical models have nothing to offer them is to be, well, very stupid. However one can hardly blame them as the Christianity we were shown growing up was stripped of meaning and instead realigned with “the times” so that it could be explained rationally as if any religion could stand up to rational analysis. It’s okay that we don’t understand how mystical experiences work. There’s no need to feverously clack out Google queries in order to prove that God does or does not exist. Many people, even atheists, know there’s something in our lives that controls us much more than our ego does. If you don’t yet know that, it’s a good place to start. (Psychologists have known this at least since the 60’s so this is hardly a revolutionary idea; Piaget, Jung, et al).
I snapped back into reality this week after being in an SSRI induced dream state for the past several months. I’d lost all ambition to do anything and it was getting worse as time went on. I know that SSRIs and I are a bad combo but the addict in me leaps for the easy fix every time a new psychiatrist brings it up. “Well, all SSRIs interact with you in different ways so try this one, I think it’ll fix you”. I’ve heard that story so many times it’s baffling that I still fall for it, but as I said it’s the addict in me. I stopped taking that medication on Tuesday and already feel a thousand percent more intelligent and ambitious. It’ll probably lead me to write more often. It’s difficult to write when one doesn’t care about waking up in the morning.