Self-Hospitality Pt. 3: How Master Meditators Are No Different Than 12-Year-Olds in Malls
When are shopping malls fun?
- When you’re a teenager.
- At any point in your adult life.
- At any point in your pre-teen years while getting dragged along by your parents.
- Some combination of options other than just a) (Really? Not possible.)
Tell me you answered a). That’s my answer every time. Some people may enjoy going to the mall beyond age seventeen. Let’s just say I’m not one of those people. Many adults would agree. Why?
The answer is found in the process- vs. outcome-oriented mindset.
Today, if I have to go to a mall, it’s because I need something specific there (this analogy is quickly losing purchase since I can order almost anything I need online now – so let’s say I’m there because I need a really specific kind of thing that I need to evaluate in person first). So I’m going into the mall with an objective. And that goal has to somehow be accomplished by swimming through the chaos of crowds and maps and the endless sensory assaults that radar jam your whole seeking process.
And then I might get to the store that would have it, and they don’t have the right one, and I feel drained and defeated and disoriented and…actually being out in public in any capacity sounds kind of nice right now.
On second thought, bring on the malls. Perhaps the novelty of the experience would cause me to engage in them with the same sense of adolescent wonder I’ve long forgotten. That fresh enthusiasm for what is around the corner that a daily meditation practice is still helping me reclaim. Why is it different going to the mall as an adolescent? Because when we’re young, the only objective is “going to the mall.” Everything else that happens is up for grabs.
When I was a teenager in the mall, we would just sort of let our whims take us.
“Hey, what’s that shirt over there.”
“Hey let’s get something to eat here.”
“Hey, let’s skateboard over there.”
“Hey, look, our other friends are here too.”
Many avenues of sub-experience color the whole mall-going mission. Our attention moves all over the place, but we’re still in the mall while this is happening. That’s why when we grow up, going to the mall starts to suck. You come bearing the burden of singular objectives, i.e. “must get the appliance.” And every experience that doesn’t promise fulfillment of that objective feels frustrating – and, sadly, gets rejected. It doesn’t matter what the experience of meditation is or what results it might bring – the process is whatever it needs to be. Many avenues of sub-experience color the whole mall-going mission. Our attention moves all over the place, but we’re still in the mall while this is happening. That’s why when we grow up, going to the mall starts to suck. You come bearing the burden of singular objectives, i.e. “must get the appliance.” And every experience that doesn’t promise fulfillment of that objective feels frustrating – and, sadly, gets rejected.
This same principle is what makes all errands unpleasant (they don’t have to be, but that’s another discussion). And this same principle applies to meditation. Except you have a choice. The right choice is process-orientation. It doesn’t matter what the experience of meditation is or what results it might bring – the process is whatever it needs to be. You’re the twelve-year-old in the mall and the only requirement you place on your experiences is that you’re in and around the mall area. The wrong choice is outcome-orientation, where you strain with the need for the meditation to be a certain way (i.e calm, clear, focused, free of thinking, full of revelation, or some fireworks that is an amazing vacation from the usual experience of being in your mind). And you reject whatever happens that doesn’t fit your requirements.
You might have all these lovely experiences, but your practice is equally sound without them. And you can thank the anchor of your intention for that. Refer to the previous entry in Self-Hospitality about the power of intention in meditation. It doesn’t matter where attention goes, intention holds the meditative process firmly in place. It’s what keeps you in the mall, free to wander and relax into whatever is happening.
This isn’t just making it easier on yourself, this is correct practice. You limit the potential of meditation with outcome-orientation. Whatever you’re expecting it to be needs to be re-examined. Ask yourself where you got this from.
So yeah, meditate like you’re a teenager in a mall. Not younger. Not the 7-year-old getting dragged around by your parents (that analogy is another big discussion about not feeling obligated by some disapproving parental aspect of yourself).
And, actually, living in Singapore, malls were pretty cool. Distinct from American malls and often filled with great restaurants and other fun unique things to do. They make a decent date night. For me as an adult they managed to conjure that childlike wonder.
Meditate like you’re a teenager (or adult) in a Singaporean mall.
Learn The Essentials
The purpose of this series is to give you everything you need to get the most out of meditation, self-care and this fresh new life we get to live with such powerful tools at our disposal. The weekly tools and principles I share will help you become more skilled and confident at meditating and just generally living with this thing called a mind.
Whether or not you’ve already learned meditation (with me or elsewhere), refer to this guide to either get you started or refresh you on the essentials.
I bet, even if you’ve been meditating for awhile, this series will reveal aspects of it that will make you say, “Wow, how come I didn’t know this?” You did. And you do. You just needed reminding. Meditation is a very radical way of being in ourselves…and yet it’s the most familiar place we know.