Meditation: Stepping Back from the Tube

The Catholic monk and supporter of Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, once wrote about the mass American media: 

“When I did happen to pass in front of a [TV] set, I saw the commercial that was on: two little figures were dancing around worshipping a roll of toilet paper, chanting a hymn in its honor. I think this is symbolic enough, isn’t it? We have simply lost the ability to see what is right in front of us: things like this [the advertisement] need no comment”                 (Merton, CFT 71 – 3). 

This was during the 1960’s. It would be darkly amusing to imagine Merton’s reaction to our digitalized age, where we cannot go by one day without seeing or hearing an advertisement in one form or another!

Unfortunately, our lives are cluttered with endless advertisements, slogans, and clichés. The shrill preaching from the mass media drowns out our common sense and inner voice. We are dazed and amazed by corporate displays. The relentless onslaught of MTV, Hollywood, celebrity gossip, and sex distort and confuse reality. They destroy the security and self-assurance of an individual because they numb him or her to the need for inner silence, to the voice of conscience and awareness that is vital to our wellbeing. To recover our sense of peace, we need to overcome our fear of solitude (solitude is actually highly underrated), and simply sit and practice contemplation.

To practice interior silence, meditation must be taken seriously. Sitting down and observing the thoughts in one’s head for fifteen minutes per day (or even every week) can help to still the stormy waters. Focusing on the phenomena that alert one to the present moment (such as the breath, rising and falling of chest, and other bodily sensations) lets us see clearly what is right in front of us. It is then that our senses sharpen, and we can contemplate our spiritual vocation with greater clarity. Like an arrow in flight, we fly toward one destination, which is liberation and freedom for all beings. We are propelled by a sharp, quiet mind that knows how to listen to interior silence. 

When we can see what is right in front of us, we are practicing awareness. The lights and sounds of the tube do not overcome us. We see by our own light and the guiding lights of the Buddha.

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