To meditate is not to seek a sublime mental or physical state. Meditation can lead to this – often through the practice breathing exercises – but that is not its purpose.
The purpose of a meditation practice is, above all, to notice the filters we apply to our lives, to our perception. Filters that cover our entire sensory experience, constantly, and which are invisible unless:
We know about their existence.
We train the concentration needed to detect them.
We wear glasses to see more clearly. We buy bigger TVs to better appreciate the art of film or sport. We use better quality headphones to enjoy with greater definition the instrument’s sound and the voice of the singer.
None of these experiences, however refined, can lead us to the same place meditation takes us.
But meditation, once reached a certain level, brings increased clarity our experience of all these things – and everything else.
What is useful is a subjective concept. It is possible to justify almost everything as useful in some manner.
There are actions that are useful because they create value. For us, or for others. They result in tangible work.
There are actions that don’t result in anything tangible. I once read about a man who went out for a walk every day, and while doing so, made a point of photographing a flower. A different flower every day. The idea was that this was a way of remembering to appreciate the little things.
But what if this man, instead of taking the picture, just smelled it? What is the value of the experience? Is it the origination of a photograph? Is it presenting work?
Will not the act of smelling a flower suffice? Will it not have an intrinsic value, even if only momentary?
Who said that value is only value when it is not perishable?
I’ve previously written about my complicated relationship with… stuff. Things. You think I’d be decrying Black Friday, that ritual shopping spree that the US has exported to the rest of the world.
I quite enjoy it.
Of course, it’s prone to abuse. It’s just another way of brainwashing you into buying stuff you don’t need to impress people who you don’t care about (and who aren’t even paying attention).
But there’s this little game I like to play. Whenever I see something expensive during the year, I tell myself: “I’d be a schmuck to get it now. It will be half-price or less during the November/December sales frenzy!”
This is especially true of my hobby, video games. The video game industry grossly over-inflates its prices, because the marketing machine is geared towards making people believe they need to enjoy a game as soon as it releases, or they won’t be part of “the conversation.”
Of course, there is very seldom a conversation about video games worth having. But that’s the idea that the industry wants people to get. They want to capitalize on their fear of missing out.
So I wait, instead of buying. And what happens is: when Black Friday comes along, not only do I get my stuff for half the price, but I end up getting LESS stuff – because my psychology is not affected by that need for immediate gratification, I only buy the things that I care about.
Marketing likes to play all kinds of cheap tricks with your psychology. (Ethical Marketing is a thing, but that’s a lot of words and an essay for another day.) Fear of missing out is the video game industry’s favorite trick. Crazy sales (like Black Friday) are more of general marketing practice. But if you’re smart, and in the know (as you are right now!) you can dodge them, or even better – turn them to your favor.