The Wachowski brothers’ 1999 film, The Matrix, brought the Buddha’s teaching about life being an illusion to the world with cinematic flair when the film’s protagonist Neo, a computer hacker, discovers that he and the rest of the globe’s inhabitant are living within an illusion that they believe is their reality. Reality was actually a hidden world controlled by AI machines who generated the reality accepted by most people.
Yet most didn’t get it
Like Neo, most of the globe’s inhabitants today are quietly living their lives within an illusion. The illusion is our monkey-mind’s creation, not ‘ours.’ The monkey-mind is that portion of our non-woke brain that generates random thoughts at the speed of light. It wants us to believe that it’s creation is all that exists and all we need. We participate in this illusion by quietly accepting our thoughts as real and taking our identification from them.
You are ‘not’ what you think
Descartes was wrong when he wrote, “I think, therefore I am.” His adage actually points to a widespread error we all make at some point—believing that what we think determines who we are.
Nothing could be more inaccurate.
We are not what we think. Our thoughts run rampant, crisscrossing the universe in a split second. That isn’t who we are at all. But it is the illusion we live within.
Becoming woke af requires a deeper experience
Through the daily practice of sitting in silence and connecting with our body, we are able to observe the thoughts generated by our monkey-mind instead of being consumed by them.
We see clearly that the ‘I’ we believed ourselves to be isn’t real, but an illusion we’ve accepted as real. Because we’re conditioned to associate our identity with our thoughts, it’s an easy and common mistake to make because our monkey-mind creates the illusion of the thought world.
Instead, we see that who we are is the observer and not the thinker.
The path to reality is through silence
Through the practices of sitting in silence (mindfulness and meditation) we can break through the illusion of identifying with thought and choose to live in the present moment.
Only there can we awaken and become woke af.
How to practice sitting in silence and quietly being
I’ve always been an early riser. Of all 24 hours in the day, it’s the early morning, usually between four and six o’clock, that I love the most.
In those hours, the neighborhood is mostly still and in my house, even Sir Buddy (my loveable black Labrador) is sleeping on his giant cushion-bed. Because it’s the last week before school starts, my son Justin is also taking advantage of the early morning, and like Buddy, yielding to slumber.
As a child, I was the one who quite naturally accepted a 5 a.m. paper route as the perfect part-time job. I was the one among an older sister and a younger brother to stay awake during early morning car trips taking in the new day as it unfolded in real-time. It was a form of education that my siblings slept through.
The early morning has always held a special allure for me. So it’s natural -in a way- that I find it the best time to meditate. I’m at my best and most alert during this time. My mind is fresh and sleep, though a treasured commodity, is also not one I crave.
When I meditate, I first do some mild stretching to release any lingering tension in my calves, lower back, neck, upper back, shoulders, and thighs. This can take up to five minutes to accomplish.
I then sit in the Burmese position (I find that age 61, it’s easier on my knees), fold my hands to form an oval with the tips of my thumbs lightly touching and keep my back straight and head erect.
Sometimes I close my eyes but I find this makes wandering thoughts not only frequent taking me out of the present moment. The present moment is where I wish to be.
Instead, I keep my eyes slight softly unfocused, in a gaze downward at a comfortable angle.
Many first-time meditation practitioners hold pre-existing beliefs about Buddhist or Zen meditation. They confuse meditation with transcendent states of consciousness, trances, and deep insight.
Zen meditation, called zazen in Japanese, is simply sitting, simply being. It’s time spent in silence watching your breath, becoming your breath. It’s also watching the thoughts that arise as a tourist takes in the scenery of a scenic vista. It’s time spent as an observer in appreciation of the present moment, appreciation of your humanity, appreciation for the time free of judgmental thoughts (even about your wandering mind).
I sit and I follow my breathing. Sometimes, if my mind is particularly active, I’ll chant some prolonged ‘Om’ sounds. There’s no significance to this except that I find it very rapidly calms my mind.
When thoughts arise, and they do over and over, I acknowledge them and focus again on my breath, my Om, and my posture. I do this for about ten to twenty minutes.
This is my simple meditation practice.
I sit quietly. I allow myself to be me. I observe and appreciate.