Friday, May 8, 2009


If I was in the woods with my child and I happened to see a woodchuck poke his head out of a hole, and I wanted my child to see this, I would try to get my child to sit quietly with me for long enough that the woodchuck might hazard his head out again. My child would not be inclined to sit quietly. I would be making a request that went contrary to her natural inclinations and wrestles short attention span. If I was persuasive enough, or forceful enough, or could somehow engender a sufficient interest in my child to get her to be still and focused, and if we were fortunate, the woodchuck might, in fact, poke his head out again and both my child and I would be rewarded by that occurrence. My child would be placing some faith in my projected outcome. Both that the hole we were staring at actually had a woodchuck in it, and that seeing a woodchuck would be worth the wait.
I started thinking about this scenario as an allegory to meditating. I have some faith that meditation is worth my effort and time. But how accurate are my projections of what the outcome can be? It goes against my natural inclinations and short attention span to sit quietly and focus on a woodchuck hole waiting for enlightenment to pop out of it. How do I know there is really a woodchuck at all? Does it matter?
If I told my child to watch the hole in the forest because if she did, fairies, and pink dancing elephants, and magic unicorns would come out of it,. I might get my Childs attention and cooperation, but what about the result? What a disappointment when all that came up was a pudgy old woodchuck. And what about my credibility in the future? I want my notions of why I am meditating to be somewhat accurate. I can practice in faith, be diligent, and patient, but I do not want to delude myself with ridiculous pretensions. I’d rather that the pay off at the end of the effort was smaller, subtler, and real, than that the payoff was never achieved, but, oh, what a payoff it would be.
And this got me to thinking about the payoffs we may have in mind of what the afterlife might be. If we can’t know till we die, does it matter whether the notions we have about it are realistic, or fantastical? Might we not get more out of ourselves, with respects to counter instinctive behaviors, if we made the story of what was to come as incredible as we could? Is the faith what really matters, no matter what it is in? Or are we actually serious about doing this life in such a way that the next manifestation of it is well moved into?

1 comment:

John Hayes said...

I really like the notion of meditating on a woodchuck hole in order to possibly see a woodchuck & not a unicorn. Good post.