Tuesday, October 23, 2012

don't change the subject!

On the one hand, I really do like hanging out with adults who are willing to change the subject. Of course sometimes I or they have not yet finished whining about or delighting in one topic or another and so we will remain in that realm for a while, for friendship's sake, but the underlying assumption is that we may move from starvation in Africa to yo-yo championships without missing a beat.

On the other hand, I can become infuriated by those who have no capacity to stay on topic, the board-room slick willies who exhibit neither the willingness nor the capacity to assume responsibility or be serious about anything other than themselves.

And both of these approaches are, of course, just like me ... just like this mind which, in an adult fashion, can change the subject or, in a self-serving inattentiveness, refuse to stay on topic.

And perhaps this is an arena in which a seated, silent and attentive meditation practice is informative. Minutes and hours and days and weeks and years pass with at least one axiomatic premise or driving force:


Breath-counting, koans, praying, chanting, just sitting ... stay on topic! Why? Because staying on topic will teach at least one inescapable lesson: You can't stay on topic. Or, to the extent that you can, somehow you have nothing to do with it.

The whole exercise, when I find the nerve for it, backs me into a quite nourishing corner. If I can't stay on topic, what is the topic? If I can stay on topic, who am I?

Questions like these will bring the board-room professionals of spiritual life out of the woodwork. In their well-pressed robes and well-pressed philosophies, they will demonstrate to my delight or infuriation how well they can stay on topic. Ick, ick and more ick. Get a fucking job!

But for the student who consents of his or her own free will ... well, I think the topic is a good one. Not one anyone could remain on, of course, but still, a good topic. If you can't stay on topic and yet simultaneously can't not stay on topic ... well, what were we talking about ... I forget.

How could anyone be at peace if the best they could do was to run around in search of the truth?

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