Alright. I guess I may as well get comfortable with the fact that I am turning into an activist. Meditation does have this one side effect that could be considered negative. It brings the world into clearer focus and it helps you see with compassion all the people around you and what they experience. In some ways, being numbed out is easier. There was some famous somebody or other who said that once you see you can't unsee. That is true. So be warned.
It has brought me into my own view, too. The things I do, the motivations behind why I am doing them, the probable outcome, the habits. I see myself now. And now I ask myself, "is that something that I want to do? If so, why? What would happen if I did the opposite thing? Would I like my life better?"
I have a lot of friends who are musicians. I have always gone to see shows. It feels pretty cool to "be on the list" and get in free, with them probably buying me a beer and me getting to be "in". I always enjoy hearing their music and it is a blast.
But recently, I started asking myself what I really think is cool.
What I Really Think is Cool:
I really think it's cool when people serve community. I really think it's cool when people value their families and get to know their children. I really think it's cool when people take care of the environment. I really think it's cool when people take care of themselves. Boom.
So. With these answers in my pocket, I decided to start volunteering. I signed up to volunteer with Trees Atlanta one Saturday morning, planting trees in an abandoned lot in a neighborhood in town. Because the planting started early, I went to bed early Friday night.
When I woke up and got ready to go, on my way out the door, I saw a text from a musician friend of mine. He sent it the night before, last minute, telling me he was performing at a smoky tavern and I should come down and he'd put me on the list. He said he would buy me a beer.
As I drove over to the forest, I felt a pang in my heart, wishing I had seen the text and gone to the show. I knew, though, that if I had gone, I would have stayed out late and not gotten up early and gone to the forest to plant and tend. There is no doubt that I would have had fun. I would have had a blast. I would have had two or three beers. I would have seen some friends and they would have invited me to their shows and it all would have been nice. I would have come home smelling of smoke and dragged the next day. But it would have been a wonderful show.
As I arrived at the forest, there were fifty volunteers there, unloading truck beds filled with shovels and plants and buckets filled with mulch. Arborists and families and neighbors and people who brought their dogs. We worked. Hard. Those mulch-filled buckets were heavy. But not as heavy as the water buckets. But with so many people there, we got done early.
I drove home, filled with fresh air and community, with dirty hands and muddy feet.
I read a book about meditation in which the author said something like, "meditation gives you a pause between something happening and your reaction to it. And in that pause, you choose this friendship and not that one, this job and not that one, this place to live and not that one, this thought and not that one. And in that choice, you build a better life."
As I drove home, I thought to myself, "Amen, brother. Right on."