When I meditate, I drift into a sea of sublime thoughts: “Bliss… Peace… Joy… Armadillos… Peace… Serenity…”
Hang on, wait a second…
It’s an easy trap to fall into, of course. When you try to explain meditation as a state in which you need to shut down your mind, there is always bound to be one smart aleck who says “That sounds easy enough!” Proving that they have never tried it. Do you know how difficult it is to just, like, stop thinking? About anything? Even for three or four seconds?
Actually, a stray thought about armoured South American rodents, in between feelings of bliss and serenity, is a fairly optimistic scenario. More typically, when I sit down to meditate, it usually goes something like:
“Bliss… Peace… Doves… Pigeons… Pigeons on statues… That famous statue of the Dog on the Tucker Box just outside Gundagai that we visited on the way to Melbourne recently… Serenity… You know, I’ve never actually known why they would choose to put a statue of dog out there. What a strange thing. Then again, I guess there are more ridiculous things that can be turned into statues. Armadillos, for example. And of course there’s that big, oversized pineapple in Queensland, which the tourists love. Actually, when I think of Queensland I usually think of my pet frog that used to sit on my shoulder when I was a boy. Sadly, that frog was eventually run over by a truck, which was a terrible incident, because it was on my shoulder at the time. When I look back at those days, I can’t help thinking of that TV show I used to watch with my sister about the big gorilla who is hypnotised to think he’s a chiropodist…”
And on it goes. The mind, of course, moves considerably faster than the average 100-metre Olympic gold-medallist, so many more thoughts fill my head through this so-called “meditation”. After half an hour of (ahem) meditation, I’m thinking about last week’s cliffhanger on 24 or the history of brick-veneer upholstery in China or something equally relevant.
So the question is: how can I avoid this happening? The answer: I have no idea! No, really - that's the answer! No idea. No flash of inspiration. No nothing, for just half an hour at a time. The mind doesn’t like being shut off. It’s like an Energiser bunny that just keeps going and going, but rather than a single drum, it has an electric drum kit turned up to full volume, and your thoughts are like a lengthy Keith Moon drum solo that you just can’t escape because you're in the middle of a crowd at a Who concert, circa 1966…
OK, so that metaphor might have lost its momentum a few lines ago. Sorry about that.
Of course, one way is to listen to visualisation exercises. They don’t stop the mind, but they give it something to do. This one should be a good start:
"Close your eyes and chant "Aum" three times.
"When you have finished doing that, find someone's shiny new car and smash it to pieces with a pick-axe. Then wait around. When the person comes back to their car, say "It was me, but the King of the Goblins made me do it." If they are bigger than you, challenge them to a fight."
If you can do this exercise, you will find that you have transcended your mind. Well done!