by Brock Noyes
In the zoo of my mind, canary is the first to rise. Sometimes he will have dreamed of cat and will throw the fire alarm to announce the incoming attack of dawn. This morning, thank god, he is settling into his daily ritual of smelling for gas: a holdover from the mines of childhood. He slam dunks that first jolt of coffee and wonders if we have invaded another country yet.
Cock is up but not awake. His soul howls like Judas after he betrayed Christ. It seems cock’s kamikaze mission is to awaken every female in the village. Meanwhile, Donkey brays like a hungry ghost pleading for orgasm. Waking up with donkey is like being inside a lighthouse when the foghorn blows.
Coming into consciousness, it is of course monkey who truly rules the mind fields. There is something cruel and very human about the way he constantly picks a scab and never allows it to heal; relentlessly Zen in his neurotic obsessions. He perches on my head like it’s his throne; “See this, see that,” he hisses. Monkey’s front hands are doing some sort of Martian mind meld on my temples. I would claw him off my skull, but I am afraid he would rip out half my brains in the process. At least when he is hardwired in like this he is not free to play with himself which is comical but pathetic. Monkey rants away like a ghetto rapper cranked on meth; “You sooo smart bro…three decade man of meditation and you still noddin’ off…you smack man . . . …”. Fortunately monkey gets distracted and starts chattering about that cute desk clerk he saw yester-day, or some emotional slight he endured so many years ago. Truthfully, I am not real fond of monkey and would break his f____ing neck if I could catch him. Unfortunately, him is me. The last hit of coffee slams home and the whole zoo is now awake; at least all the I’s are open.
My mind is a zoo and the earth is a Ferris wheel spinning in space. Mom was the ADHD prototype for Edith Bunker, and I got a nasty case of PTSD from living with dear old dad. But in the paradox of the universe there is a gift in everything. If I reincarnate in the bardo I’ll be right at home; my mind is not normal, whatever that is; it’s active, even hypereactive. Kind of like a 2am walk around the playa at Burning Man. If I didn’t do yoga I’d be speaking in tongues.
Meditation as a Form of Outing Although my embellishments as a writer veer deeply into hyperbole, my mind actually rests in vast open spaces of peace a significant amount of the time. Even so, meditation is so difficult for most of us because it exhibits the chaos of what’s really going on, and exposes the reality that the self is just the man behind the curtain. If you take time to observe your mind, you too will be at the zoo. Maybe you have a peacock that preens and flaunts his hour on the stage, or a turtle that hides her head in a shelter, or a woodpecker masochistically beating his head against the wall. It’s free admission and all you have to do is sit and watch.
I started meditating at 21 and have had a daily practice for decades. I always assumed this “spiritual” path would elevate me above the mind fields, and out of the human condition. But life is paradoxical, and the more I wake up the more I see how asleep I am. Irony is not inherently funny.
Buddhist psychology asserts that EGO is the source of suffering, not mind or circumstances per se; i.e. it is the attachment to the mind display that is the source of our Prozac disillusionment. The self is a Machiavellian schemer who shamelessly utilizes any guise to secure its existence; Ego prefers young, cool, sexy and rich, but hey, miserable and pathetic will do in a pinch. When inquiry threatens ego’s validity, the chameleon simply reinvents itself with a spiritual identity and starts spouting platitudes about universal love. Now, we can have respect and compassion for everybody, but LOVE everyone? That’s just spiritual posing, so put your halo back in the closet with the rest of the egos. I do yoga and meditation about two to three hours a day. It’s no big deal, just something I do. I am suggesting the possibility that spirituality is just another egoist identify to be discarded.
Meditation is a tool. With it we can frequently trap ego in the headlights of observation. When judgment arises, ego is invariably at the wheel. Krishnamurti proposes “observation without evaluation,” but what the hell do we do with the endless tape loop of the mind? Be kind, don’t rewind? We all love those transcendental moments in the eye of the hurricane, but like life, they are so brief and fleeting.
Ideally, meditation is a practice of “being here now” and observing, but not identifying with mental and sensory phenomena. Buddhist meditators propose labeling thoughts as “thinking,” and using that as a reminder to return to being present. This strategy does not work well for me. Thinking is doing, after all, and we are human be-ings. Mentally saying, “thinking, thinking” 2-3 thousand times a day gets as wearisome as Sisyphus. So I employ a different strategy these days; I get very new-agey, and when I catch myself drifting, I drop a golden stream of honey straight down my crown chakra. I use this as a vehicle to return to “being.” This practice works wonderfully, and it’s like sucking on a cosmic lollypop all day long. Unfortunately I often forget to do this. Instead monkey dons his black judge’s robes, and starts lecturing me on how stupid I am. Sometimes he threatens electric shock therapy, and sometimes I consider it; I compromise with another double espresso.
Wishing and hoping for life or mind to be different than what it is can be a long road to suffering. At this point I am starting to develop a tolerance, not affection, for the mundane drivel that pin balls through my brain circuitry. You can not go to war with mind; it needs a gentle but short leash. Mind will bark at its own shadow and claim it’s an intruder, but if you don’t invite dog in, it will bark all night long. Crudely speaking, it’s better to have dog inside pissing out than vice versa. The key is to find acceptance for, and hopefully make friends with what is.
We are all, whether we know it or not, negotiating through the mind fields. There are shadows from the past (Oh, those emotional ghosts), tripwires on the path (judgment, greed and so forth), walls of mirrors (him is me), a labyrinth of tape loops (déjà vu blues), and a whole discordant chorus of animals at the zoo (“Hey, go outside and do that!”).
Laughter bubbles like nitrous oxide. Mind is a riddle of course, and the answer is the question. Or did I get that backwards?
In the stillness of my daily practice I listen carefully to the universe to see if it’s ridiculing us. After all, only a prankster could create something as paradoxically tragic-comic as mind. The only thing I hear these days is the echo of my own laughter. My take at this time is the universe doesn’t care one way or another. How do we greet the rather stark vastness that accompanies that sort of recognition? We create coping strategies: crack, sex-addiction, religious fanaticism, Prozac. Or we can simply open to the spaciousness of not knowing. There is freedom in this; after all, when you do not know, you are always right. These days I try and move on from whatever rational-lies the mind spews forth, and respectfully and with gratitude, continue walking towards what appears to be the light…of a 24 hour coffee shop.
Brock Noyes is a musician, author and entrepreneur. He can be reached at brocknoyes.com