George Saunders

‘When I sit down to write fiction, because my attention is focused on an object, which is a paragraph or something. And it’s done in what I would call almost an athletic stance, where I’m not theorizing or conceptualizing. I’m just in it. Like, I’m hearing it a little bit my head. And I’m messing around with it a little bit. But the monkey mind goes quiet because I think the neural energy is being all channelled to that the concentration on the prose, about which I have very strong opinions. So in that experience, the ruminating mind goes somewhat more quiet. And that’s great. Now, in meditation, I think something similar happens. And I’m not experienced enough exactly to say what that is. But the common thing would be a concentration on a task, and then a related reduction in rumination.

The mind is so busy all the time. And what it’s really doing is it’s basically creating yourself, it’s creating you, this illusory thing called you. And when the thoughts die down, then that self creation gets a little less energetic. And in my experience, something else happens or something else rises up in that space that you’ve created. And that’s true, I think, in meditation and in writing…

When I was first starting to meditate… I noticed a certain pessimistic or snarky cast to my default mind. I walk into a party, and I was just looking for things to kind of lightly make fun of. Probably a defense mechanism, but also it was fun. So what was really useful about that was to say, oh, wait a minute, that’s not me. And it’s certainly not true of the party. It’s just a feature of this particular mind.’ (from the New York Times)

I have to say that the transcripts from some of Ezra Klein’s interviews are some of the most thought-provoking things I have read this year. I can certainly relate to the last paragraph.


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