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Xanadu & Kubla Khan

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I know what I’d like for Christmas this year.

A steel-trap mind.

Like I’d like to be able to sit down, silence all the mental noise, and move straight into a sort of pleasure dome, at will. This may sound obvious – wouldn’t everybody? – but it isn’t. Not everybody tries to move in a concerted way in that direction. It takes work and effort; it doesn’t happen like the rain does, without volition. I’m not saying it’s (that) hard, but you probably do have to form the conscious intention if that’s going to happen.

Which brings me to visualization.

I’m interested in all things mental and meditational and, as I’ve grown older, I’ve increasingly smooshed them together with my artistic and visual and aesthetic interests. I’m reading a book now, Tantric Practice in Nyingma, by Anne Klein (of Dawn Mountain and Rice University).

Tantric practice in Nyingma is, imaginatively… serious. Very serious. We are talking about a very, very, very elaborate system of visualization, on a scale that’s like some kind of meta-martial arts practice. This is like painting elaborate movies in your mind as part of your spiritual practice, like screening an epic movie in your head, following a very exact sequence of actions allied to the emotions and linked to your motivation. It’s not really like anything I’ve seen before, or attempted, or even aspired to do.

Yet apparently people, with enough practice, are able to complete these exercises. Anything is possible, but mental things, in my opinion, are more interesting.

Because they’re not mental, in the end, in the way that we understand them.

In my early 20’s I wrote a novel. While I was at it, I wrote two: one, a kind of fictionalized version of an Enron story, and another, a story about a troubled circle of friends.

It’s pretty clear to me that, when writing a novel, you’re engaged in a kind of long-form visualization practice – and, what’s more interesting, that practice yields results. To break out of the confines of secular language here, it does seem to manifest what you imagine in a supernatural way. Not in the sense that what you imagine literally happens – definitely not – but in the sense that your meditation on these situations very noticeably brings analogous or ‘near-miss’ situations like those towards you, based primarily on the level of emotion that you invest in them. They are ‘birthed’ into your life based, more or less, on how much energy you pour into them. (I’m being speculative here, I know, but bear with me).

This can’t be faked – you have to actually created a kind of mindscape around that situation, and be genuinely invested in it, which is much different than saying ‘I want money’ or ‘I want beauty.’

But, short version? If you meditate for an extended period on a situation, and imagine every detail of it, savor it, revolve it in your memory, from every imaginable angle, day after day, while alive with emotion – something like it will tumble into your life. It’s like it creates a gravitational pull that some real-life event has to plough into you, to offset.

It’s not as awesome as this may sound. But it’s there, and you recognize it. You think this is my mind’s handiwork, in a way that you’re afraid to verbalize but that others who’ve read your book can pick up and comment on (speaking from experience here).

In the end, all the most interesting things are mental. There are levels of depth and meaning and hazily defined but accessible spheres of experience that you can dip into, with a steel-trap mind that can turn corners, carefully adjust the levers and steer you there.

Which is why I want that for Christmas, and will be, in my stop-and-start, inchoate way, working towards that with the free time that I have to spare, in my life.

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