Ah, yes, 4/20/2019: the day on which I jogged through Dolores Park and asked myself why it was so crowded on a relatively chilly and windy day, only to realize at 9pm that it was, in fact, the day of “cannabis-oriented celebrations that take place annually on April 20” (Wikipedia, 2019).
And so I write this from my couch, having just finished my painting (finished is a strong word, it would be more accurate to say “got frustrated because it looked bad and called it done”) and enjoying a nice pint of ice cream, feeling unfit to live in San Francisco because it went totally over my head that it was 4/20. You may now be asking yourselves, “Maddy, if you didn’t spend your day participating in cannabis-oriented celebrations, what did you do today?”
So glad you asked! I happen to be reading Beyond the Self: Conversations between Buddhism and Neuroscience. I was intrigued from the moment I read the book’s title; not only do Buddhism and neuroscience interest me as topics independent of one another, but I love any conversation that explores the relationship between science and religion and maintains that the two are not mutually exclusive.
One of my favorite passages reads:
“Modern conventional education does not focus on transforming the mind and cultivating basic human qualities such as loving kindness and mindfulness… Buddhist contemplative science has many things in common with cognitive therapies, in particular with those using mindfulness as a foundation for remedying mental imbalance.”
Another insight Matthieu Ricard, one of the book’s co-authors, struck me as so powerful and obvious that I spent the next 20 minutes wondering why I hadn’t come to this conclusion myself based on personal experience. When Ricard is asked if “rumination [is] the opposite of what you do during meditation,” Ricard responds, “Totally opposite. It is also well known that constant rumination is one of the main symptoms of depression. What we need is to gain freedom from the mental chain reactions that rumination endlessly perpetuates. One should learn to let thoughts arise and be freed to go as soon as they arise, instead of letting them invade one’s mind. In the freshness of the present moment, the past is gone, the future is not yet born, and if one remains in pure mindfulness and freedom, potentially disturbing thoughts arise and go without leaving a trace.”
How could I – after years of rumination!!!! – not have already ruminated my way to this obvious conclusion?!?!?! Ricard’s juxtaposition of rumination and meditation is the most convincing argument I’ve read thus far for why I should practice more meditation. I will… meditate on that.