A Gaming Meditation

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.

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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

Comments

I think the best thing I've come out of this thread with is how many different views on meditation there and how none of them are wrong.

Excellent post, jasoben! I think you've encapsulated some of my feelings about this particular subject better than I ever could, you should stick around. Don't be a stranger

Folklore wrote:
That's pretty wild, Souldaddy... I've only ever done a little yoga ( I don't even know what kind it is ...), but a lot of that sounds pretty fascinating.

Any resources you could recommend to get started on some of those?

Sorry for the late reply, but I had to give that some consideration. I have an entire college degree through which I funneled my interests in this, so sometimes I take some bits of knowledge for granted. The other concern I have is that I don't want to suggest anything that a) costs money b) is part of a cult, or c) is too new-age-y. That's pretty hard for a casual meditator to avoid, especially in the west.

First, I recommend meditating with a group or learning from an instructor. As Mr Miyagi said, "You can't learn karate from a book," learning meditation from the internet is like eating space ice cream, kinda cool but not the best option. You are exercising your entire nervous system, and human interaction goes a long way in helping figure out the less intuitive parts.

However, not everyone has a meditation club in their back pocket. Here is the most basic beginner meditation I know of, a recording of binaural beats, sounds that correspond to different brain waves. Just go to a quiet place and turn the sound down til you can barely hear the tones. You don't have to "do" anything and since it's scientific this is acceptable to just about anyone.

The yoga journal has a good writeup of basic meditation techniques. What I normally suggest to a beginner is observe the in and out flow of their breathe; don't try to control it in any way, just watch it as if you were watching someone else, and if you end up hyperventilating or something, so be it. You can also sit with your eyes closed and just pay attention to whatever thoughts enter your mind, again not attempting to supress or control them in any way. I also highly recommend mantra meditation, but that needs to be learned from a teacher. If you'd like to know more than that, please PM me, happy to share.

Interesting... Being impatient as I am, I generally assumed that I will never be able to meditate. After reading all these posts, I think I am ready to give this technique a try. thanks guys

souldaddy wrote:
... If you'd like to know more than that, please PM me, happy to share.

Please don't do it in PM, I also find it higly aducational and intersesting. Now I'm off to check those links...

Koning_Floris wrote:
souldaddy wrote:
... If you'd like to know more than that, please PM me, happy to share.

Please don't do it in PM, I also find it higly aducational and intersesting. Now I'm off to check those links...

Sure. So I was asked "What is a mantra?" When you meditation, you usually meditate on something, where it's a thought or a visualized journey, or your breath, etc, there is something to bring your attention to so you're not just daydreaming. For example, the "mantra" of my first doomed experiments with meditation was "Just Do It" the old Nike slogan. However, classic mantras are words or short phrases in sanskrit that the hindus believe are the purest and simplest subjects to meditation on. The word "mantra" literally means "instrument of the mind"; just like weight lifting in which you perform an exercise to focus on a specific muscle, mantras cut out the excess and give you the maximum benefit for the least amount of time. That's the short answer, the longer one involves 5000 years of history and one of the oldest languages still spoken today. Of course the drawbacks to mantras is that it usually costs money to get one (or a trip to India), and that some westerners believe it's religious brainwashing (it isn't).

If you're looking for an interesting book on meditiation and spiritual awareness, I'd recommend Eknath Easwaran's Meditation: A Simple Eight Point Program for Translating Spiritual Values into Daily Life. It's one of the few books I've read that examines spirituality and meditation as principles applicable to varied religious belief systems, and it provides a thoughtful approach to meditation and the mantra that is relatively free from any particular dogma. My personal religious/spiritual practice doesn't follow Easwaran's program to a T, but I've thought a lot about what I've read in that book over the past several years. If you're not inclined to go looking fror the book, the basics can be found here.