Shijosho: the bell rings three times, signaling the start of silence. It is time to think of not thinking, to slip into the half-lidded stop state.
Stopping runs counter to my core. Whether it's people, plans or drugs, I prefer stimulants to downers. Sedatives only serve to stop life's bright light from shining.
But sometimes even a speed freak like me needs that service. Sometimes the thinking becomes so unremitting that my forehead gets hot and I have to dim the world before the light makes my brain boil and I go blind.
A few shots of tequila, a palmful of benzos, a dab of smack — these things have done a fine job in past of extinguishing all of the lights, but these days, medicating instead of meditating feels brutish. Besides, I don't hear bells when I'm strung out.
Not thinking does not suspend the flow of words and visuals, but it does remove the prompts and links. The word "summer" might normally trigger this sort of cascade: Bob Seger rasping about the sweet summertime; summertime and hot fun, courtesy of Sly Stone and Cloud 9; clouds and thunder and being thunderstruck while walking along a Rogersville country road; roads to streets to Beale Street and a vivid night to be alive; live music and how hearing it makes me want to dance; dancing to 129 bpm disco from Donna Summer, now dead of cancer; cancer killed my mother, and it probably didn't help that she used to smoke; man, I fucking want a cigarette.
Without a trigger the word "summer" enters and exits and makes no murmur. Same with every other thought. They drift off like the floaters in my eyes and I focus on them instead. I go dull and the floaters slow, then stop. Now I can stare for hours and see for miles. Now I can concentrate.
Zazen. When it happens it's almost as good as any drug, courtesy of doctor or dealer. Like any form of self-hypnosis it lacks certain chemical charms, but there is no vomiting so that's good. It's an almost-sweet place to visit but it's hard to get there, and I don't get there often enough because the introvert was right, humans are nice and all but they make a lot of noise, mostly when you're seeking silence. The only way to ensure silence is by being alone. But being alone makes me lonely and depressed, and that's when I meditate. Put that in your belly button and gaze for a while.
I don't think of these things when I hear the three bells, of course. I just keep the floaters in their place and fish for enlightenment.