by James Wallace Harris, Friday, November 9, 2018
My friend Linda has been getting into meditation. That made me think I should give it another go. I’ve tried meditation many times since the New Age of the 1970’s, but never stuck with it. I currently face two obstacles I want to overcome and wondered if meditation could help. I see at least one article a week show up on Flipboard touting the successes of meditators. They claim science supports the claims of meditation, but I’d want to verify that before I claim it too. I’ve written before about how I feel there are two wills occupying this body – the conscious me, and my unconscious mind whose will seems much stronger than my conscious mind.
The two of us fight over health and creativity. My unconscious mind wants to follow my biological urges. The conscious me wants to become disciplined and be more creative. The conscious me wants to control or eliminate my biological urges and apply all my energy to achieving my goals. My unconscious mind loves to go with the flow and puppet-mastering me into doing whatever it feels like.
This morning I sat erect in an upholstered straight chair, put 20 minutes on my iPhone timer, sat on my hands, and closed my eyes. Meditation usually involves following your breath or focusing on a mantra. I decided to pay attention to my senses and always bring my mind back to one thought: I want to write a short story. I already know which story. I’ve written several drafts but left it unfinished several years ago.
I have two barriers I face every day. My declining health and my declining ability to focus on work. As I sat, and let my mind quiet I noticed the regular tick of the clock on the wall. I observed that tick which was more of a quiet thump, thump, thump…
Then I noticed the faint wail of a train whistle far to the east. I told myself to think about writing. I worked to just empty my mind of words and hold just the urge to write. Time and again my thoughts would flare up. They’d be about writing, but I tell myself to stop thinking words and just observe.
Then I noticed the sound of the HVAC in the attic starting the furnace. My mind went back to the clock and then wail of the train that was getting closer. I had three sounds to follow. My mind felt like it was in a golden sphere of nothingness. My mind began to chatter again, thinking about the details of writing. I brought it back to just the three sounds and the urge to write.
I have no idea how meditation is supposed to do its wonders. Does merely learning to slow and stop thoughts alter the unconscious mind into new programming?
My mind drifted to other thoughts not related to writing. I reigned it in again. I observe the sound of the thump, thump, thump of the clock, the concurrent sound of the approaching train, the sound of the HVAC now blowing air through the vents, and a new sound, the little crashes of the occasional acorn hitting the roof and then rolling off. Then I noticed constant Tinnitus sound in my ears. My ears were singing louder than all the other sounds.
It came to me I should write a thousand words today. Then it came to me I should write about meditation. Then it came to me I should write the fiction first. Then it came to me I should write 1,000 words of fiction the first thing every day. Then I stopped my thoughts and went back to observing the sounds outside the golden glow of my mind.
After a while, my mind got away, and it gave me the first sentence of the story. I thought up more sentences but told my mind to stop. I focused on quieting the mind and observing the sounds.
It kept doing this until the alarm went off.
I got up immediately, went to the computer and wrote 1,039 words of new fiction. The first in a very long time. Is that success due to meditation? I don’t know. Let’s see what I do tomorrow and the following days.
I doubt the success of today’s writing is due to twenty minutes of meditation. I felt good today, after a string of feeling poorly days. I got up and did a Miranda Esmonde-White classical stretch workout, and then 30 minutes on the exercise bike. I then took a nice warm shower. I was feeling pretty damn good when I meditated, so maybe just the momentum of following some positive endeavors help me write fiction. I’ve been wanting to get back into writing fiction for years but just couldn’t make myself try. Mainly, because all my efforts ended in disappointment.
Most creative efforts are achieved by folks when they are young. A few creative endeavors have late-blooming exceptions, and writing is one of them. But I think I’m already older than that oldest late-blooming author I know about. My hope to succeed at something is strictly against all odds. And I understand why. The older we get, the less mental and physical health we have, the harder it is to make ourselves work at disciplined tasks.
I was feeling pretty good today. Except for a pesky hemorrhoid, I’m feeling really good this morning. That’s rare. My back and heart aren’t nagging me at the moment. My mind is a good deal more alert than usual. I have been on this intermittent fast for almost 40 days. I haven’t lost weight, but it seems to be making me feel better and give me more energy. I’m napping less. So one session of meditation probably didn’t get me to write today, but maybe feeling like meditation is another good sign. I hope to do it twice a day from now on. Let’s see if my unconscious mind will stop me, or if I can reprogram it.
I know I’m battling an uphill mental fight while in a physical decline, but I keep hoping there are things I can do to keep the fight going longer. I know at some point declining health and aging will crush my spirit. And even when I can’t actively be creative, I hope for some years of mass-consumption of books, music, movies, and television will keep me happy. I’ve talked to many old people that gave up on everything. I know what the future holds. I’m just fighting a delaying action. But I consider that a positive.
7 thoughts on “Can Meditation Overwrite the Unconscious Mind?”
I see the problaim, meester Harris. Battling an uphill mental fight is keeping you from thinking cleeerly, from being truly creative. The subconscious is not to be overcome or overwreeitten. Eet ees an important part of you, to be nurtured and embraced, a necessary part of your being. Only when you join with eet will you find the deep peace you seek.
Keith, I try to coexist with my subconscious. I know it’s the boss. It thinks much faster than I am. It is a deep well of knowledge and mystery. However, as the conscious mind, I want my way sometimes. Sometimes I think of my unconscious mind as a preprocessor (or pre-amp) to my conscious mind. That’s why it thinks faster. So what I’m trying to do is give it feedback to send through the preprocessor again.
Fighting a delaying action is definitely a positive. Facing what the future holds full-on without the common emotional crutches and illusions, which I suspect you are doing, is not easy. But I prefer it. I know exactly how you feel because I’m experiencing the same thing. There are piano pieces I can’t play any more because of the physicality required. I’m not injured or handicapped in any way, but I can’t sit on a piano bench as long, my hands don’t span an octave as easily as they once did, it takes much longer to transmit to my hands the muscle memory of a piece, my energy reserves are diminished. All those little things that one doesn’t notice day to day have a cumulative impact. But – if I practice at least 40 minutes a day at least 5 days a week, I can still play. That’s my delaying action.
It’s a positive; it’s worth the effort.
Linda, you should have a blog. I always love your comments and observations. I envy you for being able to play the piano. I’ve always loved music, but I have no musical ability at all. I’ve tried learning guitar and keyboards with no luck. I can’t even hum. I just can’t remember the melody to songs, even ones I’ve played a thousand times. The only song lyrics I can remember is “Happy Birthday.”
Thank you, James. I actually do have a blog, sadly neglected right now. I have been unable to write recently for a number of reasons, but I do want to return to it. I am stuck – undecided in the direction I want to take it. In the meantime, I read Auxiliary Memory, which engages and inspires me.
Meditation, the kind I do, just makes me a bit calmer for the day (usually) as well as helping me with self-control. The mental discipline involved in catching my thoughts, dismissing them and bringing everything back to my breathing (or whatever single word or vision I’ve chosen) follows me into day so that I can think before I pick up a bag of potato chips or argue with my mother and I can choose to go weed the garden. Meditation also lowers my blood pressure.
I have found reading a Good Book is just as effective as meditation. And, more Fun!