Friday, January 07, 2005

The Introspectacle

introspection n the examination of one's own thoughts, impressions and feelings.

spectacle n 1. a public display or performance, esp. a showy or ceremonial one. 2. a thing or performance seen, esp. an unusual or a ridiculous one: he made a spectacle of himself. 3. a strange or interesting object or phenomenon.

I am by nature quite an introspective person, someone who can quite happily spend time lost in my own thoughts. Yet, I'm not all that much of an introvert. Maybe a part-time one. Sure I can be a bit shy around people I have just met, but so long as I have even a whiff of a comfort zone with people, well then look out because the all-singing, all-dancing extrovert can emerge.

Sometimes though my nature to be quite introspective can tip over into something that's not quite all healthy, something that encourages inertia. Something too that (to put it into a Buddhist framework) stops me being present, stops me being awake to how my thoughts, words and deeds might affect others. A while ago I termed this showy perfomance of introspection my introspectacle. It can still be a spectacle, even if I'm the only that get's to see it, can't it?

So this past week has been a bit of an introspectacle week. Not a big one, but enough that I have spent a lot of time in my own company, mulling things over and not getting a hell of a lot done.

So, the action plan from here on in; a night out tonight with my best friend of 27 years (and who is departing on Sunday to Korea for a few years), job applications and more job applications this weekend, putting together the storage units I bought at Ikea yesterday and cleaning up my room and especially meditation.

I know it probably seems strange to talk about meditation as helping to break out of a cycle of introspection, isn't that where you just sit there, like, thinking, dude? Well yes, and no. One of the hardest things to do early on in meditation is to start to develop single pointed concentration, ie. the ability to concentrate on just one thing, in this case just observing watching your breath in, and your breath out. Try it and try not to think about your feet going to sleep, the sound of a car in the street, what you plan to make for dinner tonight... it's hard.

The payoff though, even if you you only get momentary tastes of what that sort of concentration is like, is mental rest. Sort of like a nap for your brain and what some Buddhist writers refer to as the first stage of 'stopping the war within' or 'taming the tiger'. In addition there are specific Buddhist meditations which shift your focus to caring for others, on developing loving kindness and on strengthening your resolve to help ease the suffering of others wherever you can. Quite the cure for the introspectacle I think!

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