Wednesday November 20, 2019
Deep Breathing and Brett Butler
“This morning I woke in the dark and put on a bunch of layers and a balaclava and scarf and bright reflective coat and helmet and rode my bike four miles or so down Ashland through an icy wind to sit on a cushion for 40 minutes at the Ancient Dragon Zen Gate meditation hall. For many years I meditated sporadically and romanticized about someday attaining enlightenment, you know, bursting into painless admirable bliss forever, but now I just fucking meditate every day. The turning point in this increase in constancy was becoming a father and how that becoming and its accompanying stress prompted me to frequently assault myself with blows to the head. This was no way to live, I finally realized. I don't punch myself in the head much anymore. In fact I can't remember the last time I did it. I don't particularly want to wake up in the dark once a week and ride through the cold and sit on a cushion with my legs aching. I don't particularly want to sit on a cushion every night after my kids are in bed. But I do it. It keeps the head punches at bay, for one thing, but also the more I do it the more I clearly I see that I'm going to die, and that clarity brings panic and hopelessness and sadness. There's no way out alive. And so I sit every night plus one morning a week after a long bike ride and sometimes on that cushion I feel everything drop away altogether and for a few seconds there is just life right now, and I have no complaints, no questions, no thoughts at all, and a feeling of gratitude wells up in me for this singular vanishing, this gift of life.”
Josh Wilker, “Brett Butler,” on the Cardboard Gods site
I haven't reached the meditation stage yet, certainly not on the level he's at, but for several months last year I did sit quietly and breathe deeply, in and out, in the morning and in the evening, to try to keep my anger level down. I was getting hair-trigger angry too often, once horribly so. (Verbal violence, not physical. Moments I‘ll carry the rest of my life.) The deep breathing helps. These days I do the deep breathing more often as it’s happening. Something stupid will be happening, I‘ll feel that adrenaline surge of angerówhich, c’mon, is a fucking great feelingóbut I'll be aware of the bad place it leads and just focus on the breathing.
Josh, whose book “Cardboard Gods” I recommend highly, ties all this to a Brett Butler baseball card.†