Someone asked me about why I practice meditative processes such as sitting and mindfulness when things in life don’t really change, don’t get better or worse – that to live is always having to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly. His question reminded me of Albert Camus’ take on the Myth of Sisyphus where Sisyphus pushes a boulder up the mountain only to have it role back down in which he begins the task again. The ability to embrace the absurdity of life as it is, according to Camus – allows a sense of freedom (btw, I am not an existentialist – I just find value in some of its teaching)
Camus is interested in Sisyphus’ thoughts when marching down the mountain, to start anew. This is the truly tragic moment, when the hero becomes conscious of his wretched condition. He does not have hope, but “[t]here is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.” Acknowledging the truth will conquer it; Sisyphus, just like the absurd man, keeps pushing. Camus claims that when Sisyphus acknowledges the futility of his task and the certainty of his fate, he is freed to realize the absurdity of his situation and to reach a state of contented acceptance. Camus concludes that “all is well,” indeed, that “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” (taken from Wikipedia)
Meditation practice for me has in its beginnings an acceptance of the absurd, which is at the same time a “letting go”. It is being present with the boulder as I push it up the hill or aware of my thoughts and feeling as I watch it roll back down. Not dwelling on past walks up the mountain or future walks down. I don’t see certain forms of existentialism as pessimisstic; I find their views kind of honest and refreshing and a nice counter balance to pollyana optimism (although there are time I embrace the latter too).
Daily – I am NOT present. I get lost. I resist against the task of the boulder. So I meditate. Here is a passage from Thubten Chodron, from Taming the Mind (Snow Lion) that explains the task of meditation for me . . .
The Value of the Present Moment
Recognizing that past turmoil and future rhapsodies are projections of our mind prevents us from getting stuck in them. Just as the face in the mirror is not a real face, the objects of our memories and daydreams are likewise unreal. They are not happening now; they are simply mental images flickering in the mind.
Reflecting on the value of our precious human life also minimizes our habit of ruminating. Our wondrous potential becomes clear, and the rarity and value of the present opportunity shines forth. Who wants to ruminate about the past and future when we can do so much good and progress spiritually in the present.