Last night I attended a “sit” at a Zen meditation center, as has been my custom lately. The “sit” is a 30 minute meditation. Sometimes it’s guided, but this time it’s completely silent. Afterwards the facilitator fields questions from those gathered. The greeter by the door, bald with a black fedora, stands up and asks a great question. The gist of it: how should a good Buddhist (substitute Buddhist for human if you want, it makes no difference to me) be politically informed without letting the fear and outrage-driven news industry compromise your well-being? The facilitator answers in two parts. One, through the practice of meditation we build up a supply of well-being that we have an obligation to use, not keep to ourselves. Two, in difficult times such as these, people with a good heart ought to be suffering, for the sake of all sentient life. As the world outside continues to spin out of control, with apathy and distrust seemingly on the rise, I feel inspired to recommit to being less self-centered, giving more of myself, and being at peace with my limited sphere of influence.
Update: after reflecting on it a bit more, my mind snapped in to place something else the facilitator said that at the time seemed unrealated to the above: “What we don’t listen to, we become.” He was talking about how, as an individual, the thoughts that we allow to run wild in our subconscious end up influencing our destiny, for better or worse. Meditation is basically listening, like a good friend, to the mental activity that normally goes unnoticed. It’s only once we’re aware of a tendancy in ourselves that we can choose to change it. Perhaps this concept can be applied to a society as well as to an individual. Perhaps the news media forms part of our collective (sub?)conscious. It’s unpleasant to tune in to, but we need to in order to sort the real problems from the scare du jour, and to intellegently engage in political conversations.