The unexpected benefit of twice weekly physical/occupational therapy for my wrist has been exploring neighborhoods outside my usual turf. I’ve been walking to and from the facility on East 38th Street between 1st & 2nd avenues. As long as it’s not raining or snowing, it’s a nice distance to walk, with hilly sections; interesting architecture; fascinating street art; shops, bars, & restaurants; and, of course, people watching. I try to vary my route and now know which options to avoid and which will likely yield a more pleasant walk.
I’m pretty sure that the sign (see photo) outside Sukyo Mahikari center on East 31st Street is not advising a complete absence of thought in favor of smiling through everything, but I’m also certain that the lure of many such spiritual paths is lost on me.
Although there are many wonderful times when the conscious mind steps back and the joy of an experience fills the void, I can’t see myself adopting a philosophy that negates the machinations of my brain. Yes, I acknowledge the ZONE—when the body transcends thought process and flies. This phenomenon is inherent in many wonderful experiences including sex and dancing.
But the joy of a smiling life does not offer a trade that my mind would tolerate. I have a jumping, bouncing, word-game-playing, monkey brain. My best meditations are on the move. I walk and let my mind travel. I tell myself stories. I write without a pen or a keyboard. I embrace the duality of the mind/body experience, while celebrating its unity.
Back when I was going to yoga classes on a regular basis, the meditation portion of the class sent my monkey brain on the chase. Yes, I could wash away the part of me making a grocery list, but my imagination wanted to write stories—if only for my own amusement and to fill the lovely time sitting in a quiet room.
For me it is Thinking AND Smiling, not joy because I’m in a spiritual zone that separates me from the bouncing brain’s games. Right now, in a time & place of trouble, a scary world of violence, inequality, intolerance, climate crisis, and deep divisions, checking out of the thinking business may be tempting to some, but I’m hanging on to the thought processes and hope that many people do… one of us may find a solution to at least one of the world’s ills. Don’t you think?