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Mindful : October 2019
There’s an inner being inside us all, it seems, who wants to take the path of least resistance, avoid doing the dirty work, and be lauded nonetheless. I’ll call him Frank (with apologies to all the Franks out there). Frank makes a big mess. When inner Frank takes over, it’s as if a wild boar got drunk and imagined he could safely interact with humans in polite society. Frank thinks he’s so suave and debonair, but he’s thinking only of himself, and he’s therefore oafish and inconsiderate of others—like the “Two Wild and Crazy Guys” in the Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd Saturday Night Live skit. (Check it out on YouTube if you haven’t seen it or it’s faded from memory.) When that ambitious lout inside of me took hold, I feel pretty certain I became arrogant, clumsy, and at times intolerable. Eventually, though, like the skin-crawling agitation that dominated my early forays into meditation, the self-importance and ambition started to lessen and weaken. It became not only tedious to others but tedious to me. And yes, like the agitation, it could rear its ugly head at any time, probably even as recently as yesterday, but all in all, trying to win the meditation Olympic Gold Medal has been much less of a feature of what you might call my meditation “career.” What became a bigger feature is a seemingly insatiable curiosity about why I (and we, I sup- pose) cling so tightly to the notion that things ought not to change, that they should stay just like they are, that the status quo ante (i.e., how things have been) is the best status of all. We adhere to this belief and desire in spite of mas- sive evidence to the contrary every single day, if not every minute, of our lives. Staying the same is not what’s going on here. Flux is the thing. And yet, I find, I still expect things not to change, many decades into my examination of this intractable habit. There are explanations having to do with the fact that it can be a helpful mental shortcut to expect things to stay the same: to believe that there will be a floor under our feet when we swing out of bed in the morn- ing; that when the light turns green, people will go; that my baseball team will once again not go to the World Series and that my wife will mock me for giving a damn about that. Indeed, there are common-sense reasons for what psychologists call our status quo bias, and yet in the context of figuring out the ways we cause ourselves pain, putting forth reasons for relying PHOTOGRAPHBYPLAINPICTURE/DAVIDPRINCE 56 mindful October 2019 acceptance