When I was a kid I loved going to the movies. Now that I have a son I’m actually surprised at the amount of movies I had seen by the time I was five. Star Wars. Karate Kid. Never Ending Story. Breakin’(!). The Black Cauldron (don’t get me started).
There’s something magic about the childlike wonder sitting in front of the big screen with family and friends immersed in a different world.
Nowadays, especially in the age of the internet, we want to preview our experiences. We read reviews and try to make sure we don’t waste our time and money. If it’s a two star movie, do we really want to go? Our TV consumption now comes with the same filters. Netflix predicts I’d give the documentary series Flint Town five stars. If it won an Oscar, maybe we’ll give it a shot, so the almost automatic thought-process goes.
Sales for a National Book Award winner jump by about 170,000 on average. The content doesn’t change, just the second-hand assessment, the evaluation. The social proof.
We do the same with restaurants and hotels and vacation spots.
Our experiences as consumers come shrink-wrapped, pre-evaluated. We predetermine the experience to lower the risk. At the extreme we start organizing our lives to what will get attention in these abstract spaces. When I taught High School, kids would start contrived fights to be able to post the video of it and get some attention online.
How many of us do the same in our everyday lives, arranging our lives around approval?
One of the fruits of the contemplative path is the awareness of this layer of our consciousness that wants to control, to evaluate, to categorize, to judge, both ourselves and others.
We do it so often it becomes second nature. The moment we perceive something – a movie, a book, a store, a person, we evaluate its relative value and usefulness, out of touch with the indwelling spirit.
The contemplative mind is the beginner’s mind. It sifts back down beneath that top sediment that accrues, that distorts our vision, that prevents us from being fully present and receptive.
Contemplative teachers even talk about suspending the movie in the mind to be able to take a step back and regain right perspective.
After entering the state on a regular basis we hold that judging mind in brackets. Yes, we might need it from time to time, but it’s not the direct experience of reality which always leaves us in awe.
We begin to taste the miracle of light, air, motion, body, consciousness itself.Evaluative mind is always connected with ego, with my own temperament, needs, desires, and conditioning.
Not only are we able to suspend the need to evaluate, but we even realize our very lives are the movie in the mind. We walked in at birth. We’ll throw the popcorn bag in the recycling and make our way out to the parking lot.
In the meantime, “Whoosh!” “Pow!” “Ooooh!” “Aaaaaah!”
Ordinary Kinds of Thoughts from Thomas Keating’s Open Mind, Open Heart
Encountering Silence Podcast’s Carl McColman on Silence as a Refuge
A Zen meditation on Beginner’s Mind at Patheos’s Monkey Mind blog