The Problem Was the Collector

by magnus26

I’ll be doing some summer vacation in a couple weeks, and so like many of us, that means I’ll be zipping off to another part of the country. Want to make sure I’ve got all my reading squared away. In this case that means a literal squarish shape — I finally made the leap to an e-reader. I got the cheapest Kindle on offer. I’m done with hauling a bag of books through security checks, stuffing them under airline seats, etc. It’s not a step taken without pause. These readers track your habits, sell you stuff. They are consumption devices. The challenge will be to use it mindfully.

Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist that writes about mindfulness. One of the way he looks at mindfulness meditation is by looking at the systems within the brain that it effects. And one of those systems that he looks at is what he labels the approach/avoidance system. In brief, he asserts that mindfulness practices enhance the approach mechanism, and that is healthy. I think that’s a good metric for evaluating the use of any technology, whether it’s an iPhone or yogic meditation. Does my use of the device result in approach or avoidance?

I’m hoping the device will help me approach some reading and save my back. I love traveling light. I deliberately avoided (that would be an example of good avoidance) the more upscale reader more geared to internet access, media consumption, etc. You know what it’s called. Talk about distraction.

I began gathering stuff to read immediately, of course. The one I’m focussed on today is a book by the guy who was able to stop his thinking (see previous posts). Gary Weber’s his name, and the book is Happiness Beyond Thought. (I was able to pick it up for $6 from Powell’s Books as a pdf file.) I continue to be intrigued by his down-to-earth style and what I perceive to be credibility. I don’t detect any traces of dogma in his approach, which is refreshing.

Well, that’s already a lot of words (many of which, it pains me, are “I”), but I wanted to offer a small excerpt. It concerns the experience of “another contemporary non-dualist teacher and writer,” Stephen Harrison from his book, of which I know nothing, titled Doing Nothing: Coming to the End of the Spiritual Search.

“sought out every mystic, seer and magician” he could find anywhere. He described his twenty-five years of study of philosophies, severe austerities, periods of isolation and meditation. He concluded, “…it was all useless…. Every experience, no matter how profound, was collected by the ‘me’. The problem was the collector.”

That’s not a realization I envy, especially the 25 years part. On the other hand, it’s an important one to have. And I do like the book — that quote might sound a little bleak — but that’s not the tone of the book at all. It’s practical and thoughtful.

Warily, I continue. Even after a difficult meditation, I’m glad I did it. 40 minutes this morning.