February 06, 2014

Meditation Month: This is Where the Magic Happens

Day six of our monthlong meditation challengeMax Zahn

February is Meditation Month! The Tricycle team members have challenged ourselves—and our readers—to meditate every day and blog about our experiences. We needed a little help, so we called in bestselling author and meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg to lead our meditation-themed retreat this month and speak to us on how to incorporate meditation practice into the workplace. We’re also featuring three meditation e-books: Tricycle Teachings: MeditationTricycle Teachings: Meditation, Vol. 2, and Tricycle Teachings: Commit to Sit. Last but certainly not least, back by popular demand is Brad Warner, known this month as our Meditation Doctor, here to answer any questions we have about our personal practice.

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One of the first times I heard about meditation, oddly enough, was while watching an episode of MTV Cribs featuring Russell Simmons. For those of you blessed enough to avoid this blight on the otherwise pristine history of television, MTV Cribs provided tours through the homes of the rich and famous. Sure enough, twelve‑year‑old me marveled as Simmons revealed his swank, faux-Indian meditation room. That’s right—the Def Jam magnate had dedicated an entire chamber to the practice of sitting quietly. This interior design decision seemed as outlandish to me then (type A, agnostic Jewish parents) as it does now (three bedroom micro-apartment in Brooklyn). Alas, my bedroom doubles as my zendo.

But let me give you a tour of my zendo, anyway. Beside it being small, you’ll notice it feels smaller when stuffed with indulgences like a bed, dresser, and desk. Please don’t mind the assorted shoes, wires, stacks of books, and clothes that line the floor. The real crowning achievement of the room, though, is its walls. Their contents include, but are hardly limited to, a pastel-colored yard sign from my father’s city council race; a world map; a playbill from an off-Broadway delight called Old Jews Telling Jokes; a Journey 2 movie poster that features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson running from a gigantic lizard; a “Vote Jill Stein” bumper sticker; quotes from Allen Ginsberg and Mary Oliver; and, finally, a newspaper cutout with the best Times headline ever: “Girl Shot by Taliban Vows to Continue Activism.”

This array of random-orabilia makes me feel fuzzy inside, but as you can imagine, it doesn’t allow for clear-headed meditations. Luckily I preserved a blank section of wall in one of the bottom corners—that’s the spot. I park my cushion on the floor, sit kneeling in seiza, and stare at the light purple paint in front of me. The absence of decoration is striking. No political messages, no wry humor, no nothing. It’s a welcome respite from the postmodern collage that titillates my every interest both in and outside of the apartment. This seems like the practice: setting aside preconceptions of what I like or don’t like, what the world is or isn’t. Instead, as Sharon Salzberg would say, just attending to the direct experience of the breath.

Easy enough, right? Thank God I’ve got rest of this month (and life) to keep working on it. 

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