The Anti-Tourism of Meditation | Forum for Theological Exploration

The Anti-Tourism of Meditation

By: Tyler Sit
February 06, 2014

Legs in lotus position, hands cupped, shoulders broad and posture straight but relaxed. Breathe in through the nose; exhale through the mouth.

Repeat.

Flashbacks of yesterday’s bustling Indian market, cows crossing the road, echoes of the Tibetan protest videos we watched in the museum. Spinning prayer wheels and cupped hands of street children. Breathe
in saffron, exhale crisp mountain air.

Repeat.

Hurricanes of planning: Do I have time to write postcards today? I backed up my pictures from the art show, right? Do I have Tibetan language homework tomorrow? Breathe in overthinking, exhale worrying about nothing.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Then, in the cold morning halls of the Buddhist temple I visit, one full breathe of stillness. The pattern on the tiles becomes luminous, and the barks from the street dog outside ring with clarity. I feel the air fall into my body, and I realize: I am here.

This, I believe, is how I will eventually stop being a tourist in India. The psychology of a tourist is consumption: I go where I want to go, I take what I want to take, and I leave on my own terms. The tourist says the rest of the world simply exists to receive him.

Meditation unwires all of that: by calming the mind down, the tourist starts to meet people on their own terms, see the subtleties of the world, and release the need for control. The tourist becomes a traveler or, better yet, a short-term resident.

While I am studying and living in India for the next five months, the temptation to barge in, snap a picture, grab some food, and speak loud English on my way out is ever-present, but that’s not how I want to live in this world. And so, every morning in the temple and every other time I remember, I try to just…

Breathe.

Tags...: Thinking Out Loud


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