This fall, shortly after I began meditating for one hour each morning and again each night, I stopped wanting to kill things.
That doesn’t sound right.
To clarify, I did not walk the earth for the 47.75 years prior wanting to kill things. A deep blood lust barely contained under the surface. No. What happened was (officer), after I began meditating for two of each day’s waking hours, roughly 1/8th of my conscious day, I became more, well, conscious of what I was doing. One thing I became aware of was how often I killed things. Bugs. I started noticing that without thinking, I would always kill a bug when I saw one near me. This began to seem odd. How was it that my reflexive response to something so small comparatively and so harmless was to end its life? Without thinking. That’s odd, right? When you stop and think about it.
Having stopped to think about it, I decided to stop doing it. At first this proved easier to say than it was to do. In the early days of my commitment, I’d catch myself just after smooshing the ant that was crawling on my computer. Why do ants like my laptop keyboard, I’d wonder, then Doh! I’d realize I’d just killed an ant. Rats! Okay, just recommit, I’d think, and catch yourself next time.
Soon I’d notice when my hand was just about to make contact, and I’d stop it. After a while, I’d catch my arm midair and drop it back to my side. Then I’d recognize the thought about to move the arm into action. Finally, I’d stopped killing things altogether; the insectocide was over. It was miraculous.
Except it wasn’t a miracle, really—this is exactly how mindfulness works. We practice regularly, slowing ourselves down, which empties out the day’s refuse, and when enough refuse has been emptied, old built up gunk can move out, and when enough old built up gunk has moved out, we can pay attention to what we’re doing, and when we pay attention to what we’re doing, we find that there’s space to make choices about our actions, and when we recognize that we have a choice, we decide to do things like stop killing other living beings.
This is how mindfulness works. Sometimes slowly—over a lifetime for some things. Other times in seismic, revelatory aha moments. More often it’s somewhere in between.
This is how mindfulness works.