"Reviving the Dumpster Baby" is an exploration of the connected mind through a relatively offensive metaphor. This chapter helps frame several of the stories in Book / Part 3 of In Pursuit of Weightlessness, stories that explore the topic if presence through magic mushroom used in Denmark, sleeping on the streets in Florence, Italy, a conversation with a Thai prostitute, and dicing for life objectives (A story in The Dice Club chapter).
I intentionally relayed the theories and tools of meditation in Part 3 in a way that would challenge the sense of appropriateness or moral rightness held by many, for one reason. It's easy to be mindful and appreciative of the lotus. It's difficult to open yourself fully to the mud.
The ugly baby in the chapter below is an object of judgment - ANY judgment - that stems from conditioned thought and action. The true application of mindfulness meditation is not merely in qualitative moments of ease, but also in seeing beyond the biases of identity that you've constructed over your lifetime.
Let's see if you can't revive the dumpster baby, and...
Ugly baby. Squidgy, pug-faced little alien-looking baby. Gross. Gross little ugly baby. Gross face. Gross baby face. Body seems normal though.
We’ve all been there. You’ve been invited to a party. Everyone is gathered around the carriage ogling and poking, making funny baby noises and smiling sweetly. You’re lured closer by all the excitement. There must be something killer in there. You nudge the father aside and push the mother to the ground and peer in at their little... monster. You can’t control the impulse to shriek and gasp. It takes you every ounce of self- control not to implore the parents to get rid of it.
The father, after picking up his wife from the floor, says to you, “You look a little pale. Do you feel okay?”
“Uh... yeah, but the thing is, your...” “It’s okay,” the father says.“Jerk,” the mother spits out, scowling.
“It’s okay,” he continues. “It took me a little time to adjust too. But that little bastard is mine, and I love him.” He inches closer and puts his hand on your shoulder. “Try not to think of the cuteness of other babies, just look quietly. Don’t judge.”
You take another look into the carriage, and rather than grab the poking stick to see what the baby’s made of, you maintain a steady gaze.
You breathe more deeply and let go. You scroll his features, starting with the obtrusive little pug nose. Kinda like a little pig nose, you note. Kinda cute. It’s rosy red, soft little cheeks. Kinda like it’s drunk or been slapped around a bit. Pretty cute I guess. Its chin has two parts though. A little bit like an evil villain’s chin. Because of the puffy cheeks, it’s not as menacing as a proper villain’s. Possibly even kinda cute. Its ears seem normal. No complaints. By the end, you can’t help admitting that the baby is actually kinda lovely in its own way. There’s no need to throw it out after all.
“Somebody fix me a vodka tonic!” you cry out.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Not all babies are cute. We’ve all seen a baby that looks like it’s been beaten with the ugly stick. Our first impulse may be revulsion. The second, more socially correct impulse, is to tell the parents how cute it is. With time, you see past the ugliness to the innocence. You see the beauty and uniqueness of the child. What you don’t do (in the developed world) is throw it out because it reminds you of pure evil.
Meditation is the practice of peering into the baby carriage of your experience and looking without judgment at the babies there. Some of them are lovely and some of them are less than lovely. It’s the practice of seeing all of them with a full, open, nonjudgmental mind.
In the practice of mindfulness meditation, which I’ll define as a state of preintellectual awareness or a state of nonjudgmental perception, we become increasingly sensitive and alive. What begins with innocent observation of your breath should naturally expand to envelop an array of sense experiences. Your motivation is to experience the present, all immediate happenings, much as you would an intimate, sympathetic relationship with a loved one, without judgment or rationalization.One should feel pain without judging it as bad, without needing to remove it. One should be sensitive to sights and sounds and sensations, even those normally considered annoying, without judging them. Are there horns honking in the distance? Don’t wish for silence. Be with them. Observe them (without being absorbed by them). Does your back ache? Feel it.
Your ego will seek to define, to judge, possibly to eradicate or enhance. But the reality before you has no intrinsic value or connotation. It simply is. Meditation is not the discovery of peace through the removal of undesirable distractions, sensations, and discomforts. It is not the transcendence of pain by denying reality. It is an intimate relationship with your immediate, present experience in all its depth and wonder.It may at times mean you face physical pain and discomfort, unpleasant sights and sounds. Can you witness them, be with them as you would an innocent child or an ugly baby? For in those continuous moments of true, undivided life, before the mind judges and operates, there is fullness and beauty that cannot be encapsulated in words.
With practice, your sensory perceptions will become more pronounced and consciousness will expand to encompass multiple inputs at one time.
You can feel the sensation of air slowly moving into your lungs, the pressure of the seat beneath you, the sunshine on your back, the leaves blowing in the wind. Rather than have each one of these sensations compete for your fullest attention to the exclusion of the others, in mindfulness meditation, they all might exist in simultaneity. That is, of course, if your mind is not spontaneously pulled to one focal point or another, to internal thoughts or external sensations. Sitting quietly and innocently observing the present is tremendously challenging work.
Should your mind wander from present sensations, sit patiently with whatever thought materializes. Observe it the same way you do your breath, the same way you would an ugly baby. Sit with it. Poke it a little. Discover it innocently with an open heart. Do not forcibly draw your focus back to something you deem of higher worth (your breath, for example).
This is akin to looking away from an ugly baby because the sight offends you. This may lead to observations and discoveries of self that are brutally honest, saddening, or shameful. Within these honesties, however, there lies genuine awareness and insight. With time and dedicated practice, an innocent mind full of peace, passion, and beauty will surface.
The greatest challenge is to experience the mind’s caprice, the spontaneous jumping from topic to topic, from observation to observation, without judging or condemning your thoughts (or the thoughts about the thoughts). Your thoughts, judgments, connotations, and intellectual operations on immediate experiences, for all intents and purposes, are ugly babies.Your thoughts about those thoughts are also ugly babies. When you chastise yourself for a lack of focus and awareness while meditating and try to forcefully cut off your tangential musings, this is an ugly baby too. When you rebuke yourself for criticizing yourself (because there is nothing inherently wrong with a lack of focus), this too is an ugly baby.
Over a lifetime of experience and education, we construct complex paradigms of the world and give everything a value. There is nothing inherently ugly or beautiful about a baby, just as there is nothing inherently delicious about chocolate cake or frightening about a clown. Our identities, constructed over a lifetime of experience, habit, and valuation, however, suggest otherwise. Seeing all things as good or bad, beautiful or ugly, practical or useless, is seeing the world as a reflection of yourself.
This does not mean we condemn all thoughts that appear judgmental (or that your own reflection may not be damn good-looking). Judgmental thoughts are still immediate experiences, in the same way that looking at an ugly baby is an immediate experience. With time, judgments dwindle, the mind becomes still, and the baby doesn’t seem so bad.
In the beginning, however, it is important that we don’t throw the baby out and we don’t judge our immediate experience and our spontaneous thoughts. A thought may even be judgmental. Your attention may have left your breath, may have left all awareness of your body, and may have drifted to work or to a relationship.These thoughts, as spontaneous happenings, are your current reality. If you condemn them and force your mind to come back to your breath, or come back to sitting quietly, you’ve thrown the baby in the dumpster. You’ve learned nothing about yourself.
If, however, you are fully aware of the tangent your mind has taken, and observe your mind as it is in the present moment, something profound happens. Those thoughts begin to lose their standard meaning and emotional impact. They become one more aspect of your immediate experience and full of life.Years of conditioning, your web of egotism unveils itself. The real you is revealed. You’re free to see the present through the eyes of an innocent being, free from bias and egotistical preferences. The mind naturally becomes alive, still, and passionate again in the wake of letting go.
The baby has been revived. Oddly enough, without self-deceit or condemnation of the object of your attention, without the desire to see it as other than what it is – it is, in fact, beautiful.
Thanks for reading!
Truly hope this chapter provided a little entertainment and insight. Tomorrow I'll be popping back in with a chapter on rolling dice for life objectives, and the peculiar byproduct of mindful awareness that it generates. The Dice Club generates more curiosity than any other chapter in the book, and it's a personal favorite.
See you tomorrow, and...Be Weightless!
Tom Fazio | Owner & Performance Coach @ Weightlessness | Mind Body Performance Coaching
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