I remember dreaming as a child, even into my 20s, where I was trying to fight and it was always like moving through water. Those dreams were always frustrating, almost painful. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I could think but not act, not run, not protect myself. For my dreams, kung fu was one of the best things I ever did.
I dreamed someone attacked me last night, and I immediately went on the defensive, redirecting his attacks and working at setting him up to end the fight fast. My reality flows into my dreams like my dreams have always flowed into my reality. I can’t remember how many times I knew I forgot something important only to realize it was a fragment of a dream. The worst was when I knew I was worried about a dream, but the anxiety still didn’t fade.
The problem with kung fu comes when I’m trying to fall asleep. I’ve retrained myself, but for a while I would think of fighting as I was falling asleep and randomly punch or kick. It’s like when your leg twitches as you’re falling asleep but with the bonus of hurting the person next to you. That does not make them happy when they are already asleep. That’s part of why I meditate before I sleep, just to keep my mind away from certain thoughts.
A lot of meditation is about control. Choosing our thoughts. Selecting from what is so we can become what we want to be. There is acceptance of the things we do not like, or want, but it is so easy to let it all be about controlling our emotions, our reactions, and our reality in a way. I use it because it works for me, it has made everything possible for me. I spent most of my life in my own way, and with meditation there is a way to stop that. I used to think of it as a great cure, that anyone can benefit from it, but I’m not so sure anymore.
It is a tool, and when used correctly it can move the heavens. But it’s easy to use wrong, and if we don’t have the right mindset it’s easy to become worse. If someone is already self-centered, how hard would it be for meditation to reinforce that focus. The idea is to become more, but there are many bad teachers in this world, and worse, people who believe they don’t need a teacher.
I have been trying to control myself, my world, my direction, and my vices for as long as I can remember. Through meditation I have been able to see my fears and pain as allies, sometimes even friends. I don’t always see the rest of my life that way. I’m lazy, and I like junk food. It’s hard to see either of those as allies.
Sloth and gluttony, demons and vices in every sense of the words. I have started to wonder where they come from, what the voices are really asking for. I see them as a desire to stay home watching movies I’ve seen a thousand times and eating ice cream because that is how I always handled them. Like giving a kid candy to shut them up, it’s not really giving them what they asked for, much less what they need. I have spent enough time following that pattern that it has become hard to see past. Give a kid candy enough times they will start asking for it.
I have been listening to Joseph Campbell lately, and an idea from old myth seems to have taken hold. Some ancient tribes believed that in vice was our salvation. It’s easy to look at that and be encouraged to indulge in the animal nature of man, but I’m wondering if it’s something more. My vices are some of the loudest voices I have in my life, almost as loud as pain and fear.
I have always tried to control them, and it’s never really worked. I have always tried to control everything in my life, while at the same time avoiding controlling anyone else as much as possible. Control is an illusion, but it is one of the most powerful illusions in my life. I realize that, but I don’t know that I’m ready to accept it yet.
I don’t know that I’m ready to be completely out of control, but there is a voice in the darkness that I’m starting to listen to. I don’t know that I will ever be that free. I don’t know that I should go toward that goal, but I need to start really listening to my vices as much as my virtues.