Jewish World Review Nov. 6, 2003 / 11 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Marlk Miller

Mark Miller
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OMMMMMMM in the mood for meditation | Although meditation has been described as a reflective mode of thought, a more accurate definition would be a mode of "no thought," not unlike that of an employee at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The goal of meditation is to journey to a quiet place beyond the thought-filled mind. When we reach this thought-free place, we find peace and happiness, and, invariably, Adam Sandler.

Our daily worries and chattering minds recede into the background and the pure energy of our own being comes into the foreground, letting us experience a complete delight in living. Yes, it does share many similarities to an alcoholic stupor, but without the morning-after breath.

Meditation is a change of focus from the outer world to the inner world. It has been used for centuries in many philosophical and religious traditions as a way to pray, commune with nature, contemplate the Divine, and as a path to inner peace. Then there is the increasingly popular offshoot, Naked Meditation, which is the perfect combination of Eastern spirituality with Western fraternity boys' libido.

Even major corporations have integrated stress reduction programs into their agendas and have found that by introducing meditation-based techniques, production improves, people function more efficiently, and Stanley, from Accounting, swipes 30% fewer office supplies.

One of the many advantages of meditation is that nothing could be simpler. Try it and see for yourself. Sitting comfortably, with your spine straight, close your eyes and breathe deeply and evenly. Picture whatever it is that makes you the happiest. Realize that that particular activity is illegal in 23 states. But never mind that right now. Just focus all of your attention on it anyway.

If it is being with a particular person, envision yourself sharing a wonderful moment with him or her. Create it fully in your mind and feel it in your heart. How does it feel? What are you wearing? What are you doing, and how many times? Are wrist or ankle restraints involved? Is anyone riding someone around the room? Is there any barking taking place? Did you take any photos, and could you send them to me, care of this paper? But I digress.

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By focusing on what makes you happy, you entered a light level of meditation where you could experience that happiness inside yourself. The power of meditation is its ability to release tremendous joy and happiness from within — yet usually this is the last place one looks, since there is no two-drink minimum and people look at you strangely if you tell them you had a fantastic weekend "within."

In India, they tell a story about the musk deer, which has a beautiful fragrance emanating from its navel. The deer falls in love with this fragrance and, not knowing that the source is its own navel, it runs through the forest in search of the intoxicating scent until it collapses in exhaustion. I forget the story's point, but any time "musk deer" and "navel" appear in the same place, I'm amused.

Let's try another brief meditation. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself and to make absolutely certain that you are still alive. As a thought arises, watch it. Watch as it dissolves. As you watch your thoughts rise and dissolve, realize that they are duplicating the pattern of Arsenio Hall's career.

Each time a thought arises, repeat I AM silently, affirming that you are not your thoughts. You are I AM. Identifying with the words I AM each time a thought arises will put a distance between you and your thoughts — as well as one between you and your spouse, especially if you're meditating before the garbage has been taken out.

A friend recently shared that there are times when she finds herself sitting at home sulking, wallowing in negative thoughts. She noticed that when she got locked into negative thoughts, she experienced a dark, heavy feeling in the stomach area, not unlike that created by the ingestion of McDonalds' Quarter-Pounder with cheese.

When she chose the happy thoughts instead, a lightness began to arise in the heart region. She realized that she always has the choice of what thoughts she wants to keep in her mind. She immediately set about banishing the negative thoughts and welcoming the happy thoughts. This worked perfectly, except for Wayne Newton's song, "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast," which simply refused to leave.

The power of meditation is perhaps best illustrated through the following Zen puzzle: Close your eyes and in your mind picture a duck inside a narrow-necked bottle. Now, without breaking the bottle, get the duck out. (For those of you who saw the last "Swami Muktananda Variety Special" on ABC, please don't give away the answer.)

Okay, time's up. Now, did you give up and feel frustrated or depressed because you always give up, you loser? Did you feel elated because you got the answer or think you did? The answer is: the duck is out. Just like that. You put him inside the bottle in your mind, you can take him out the same way. Just one precaution: do not rely on this technique to pay your bills.

We struggle to get the duck out of the bottle, when in fact there's no duck and no bottle. It's all a play of the mind. Granted, you could conceivably try this same exercise with a real duck and a real bottle, but this would not only have little to do with meditation, it would also no doubt spoil the duck's day.

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JWR contributor Mark Miller is a former stand-up comic and current Los Angeles-based comedy writer, who has written and produced TV sit-coms, been a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, contributed to numerous national publications, and has produced a weekly comedic relationships feature for America Online. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2003, Mark Miller