My girlfriend and I live in Washington, DC, and lead busy lives that are entirely too focused on our jobs. I'm a geology professor; she works at a nonprofit organization downtown. I'm nearing the end of the semester, and as classes wind up and my schedule eases up a bit, I had a realization. For the past several years, I've been really focused on my job, on going to graduate school and doing well, and then starting my "career" and wanting to do well, and kicking it into high gear in the office/classroom/lab at the expense of the rest of my life. I used to be a fairly introspective, contemplative fellow. But the past couple of years? Not so much. "Not enough time!"
Last week, one of my students gave me a copy of the most recent National Geographic, because it contained an article about giant Mesozoic reptiles in the oceans ("Sea Monsters"). That same issue also had a decent piece on Buddhism, which got me to thinking...
I like a couple of Buddhist precepts, and while I cringe at the thought of labelling myself an anything-ist, I am definitely keen on being aware of my world in the present, of diminishing my attachment to my desires, and I've always thought the idea that "the illusion of separateness is the root of all human suffering" is a pretty apt summation of the way human societies maintain their dysfunctionality. So, suddenly, I've been thinking, maybe I'll try being Buddhist for a while, see what it gets me.
We went to see the new Johnny Cash biopic last night, Walk The Line. Lisa thought it was better than Ray. For my money, they were about on par with one another -- both excellent. We took the Metro home, along with plenty of Saturday night revellers. On the train, I closed my eyes, and I guess you could say I meditated -- or maybe "entered a Zen-like state"? I don't know. People on the DC Metro never look at each other; it's weird. But when my eyes were closed, I no longer had to be preoccupied with the avoidance of other peoples' gaze. Instead, I could explore the rail car, listen in on other people's conversations, and "explore" the car acoustically. It was neat. I felt anchored in that present moment, not thinking about the movie I'd just seen, or the home I was on my way to. Just there -- in the subway, shifting my consciousness from the left to the right, across the aisle, far up towards the end of the car and the emergency exit.
Didn't last long, but it was nice. Reckon I'll give it a shot again sometime.