I rarely (ok, never) speak about my double life as a meditator and spiritual student on Gamers With Jobs. There are a good many reasons for this but one of the biggest is that I have a difficult time viewing my gaming hobby as anything other than counter-intuitive with the efforts I make toward living a more peaceful life. This dilemma is not unique to me. I think as adults we all struggle from time to time with using what free time we have wisely.
Is there wisdom to be found in gaming or is it nothing more than a distraction?
While reading "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success" by Deepak Chopra I came across a passage that sparked the first correlation in my mind between gaming and meditation:
This exquisite combination of silent, unbounded, infinite mind along with dynamic, bounded, individual mind is the perfect balance of stillness and movement simultaneously that can create whatever you want. This coexistence of opposites – stillness and dynamism at the same time – makes you independent of situations, circumstances, people and things.
The act of meditation is a tool for a great many purposes, but the ultimate goal is to find an inner-stillness and transcend the usual turbulence we find in our minds on a day to day basis. After a long day of work, many of us might fire up Battlefield 2 and give our entire focus to that experience. In many ways it is a sort of yearning toward peace -- we wish to find a way to escape from our day to day worries and reach a state where we are free to focus entirely on a single experience. We are aware on a fundamental level that what we're playing is not real, but that's part of what makes it such a safe haven for what feels like an over-taxed mind.
When you "lose yourself in the game" you're not really avoiding your problems, you're entering a state where they simply don't matter in the moment. Gaming removes you from these worries for a time but it does not teach you that worries are nothing more than an illusion to begin with. Mind you, meditation doesn't teach you anything either. It's a tool to help you along a path of understanding; a paddle to keep your canoe moving down the river. In this way, they share some similarity.
It seems to be a question of intention. I play games for fun, distraction and interaction. I meditate to enhance all aspects of my life by realizing that they are all connected. Both activities involve finding a sort of inner-silence but they diverge wildly when our intention and the end result is considered.
What reconciles this split for me right now, is that when gaming I'm looking for peace of mind and release from worry, much like meditation. Playing games does not make me wiser, more peaceful or more self-aware in the moment when I hit "the zone" and take five people in a row out with a projectile radiator in Half-Life 2 DM. However, maybe there's something to learn if attention and intention are re-examined. Rather than focus on the conflict and the desire to win, maybe putting my attention on observing this state of mind and gleaning what I can from it will offer me some insight into why I'm so drawn to gaming in the first place.
In the end, I'm aware that much like perception, desire and everything "out there", gaming is an illusion. Until such a day that I no longer need perception or desire, I will continue to work with them as best I can. Right now my mind needs something "fun" and not obviously related to the rest of my life, hence the games. There may come a day when I will no longer need that stimulus, or maybe I will enjoy it without any guilt or judgment of any kind.
We'll see where my intention takes me.
- Shawn "Certis" Andrich