How to Get Off of Your Hamster-Wheel

hamster-wheel existence

Meditation and the Hamster-Wheel

The only hope for humanity to get off the hamster-wheel of existence is for every person to take up the discipline of meditation.

It is the only pathway to move beyond human ego, constant want, and inability to see one’s self and one’s motives clearly. Without it, a person will always live half blind, no matter how well-intended their other spiritual pursuits may be.

Without it, there will always be only your side and my side. There will never be an end to the relentless back and forth we see modeled on a global scale between Israel and the Palestinians, and here at home between Republicans and Democrats, and more personally between spouses, partners, and friends.

Without it, there is no way to really fully forgive ego and intransigence in another person because without it you have not yet fully seen it in yourself. Through meditation, you come to see those qualities in yourself more and more clearly, and as this happens you learn to forgive it in yourself. As you see it more clearly in yourself, you see it more clearly in others, and find it easy to forgive it in them as well.

But every person must come individually to this conclusion.

It is deep and substantial work, and no one can or should force it on another. It must be taken up freely by every individual, as each person realizes they are their own worst enemy, and that the duplicity in themselves is perfectly reflected in the duplicity we see in politics and diplomacy at every level, and in all of our personal relationships.

That is the good news.

And that is the bad news.

It really is as simple as that.

But it is not easy at all.

Describing the Hamster-Wheel

Meditation is practice in the art of learning to let go. Letting go always feels like dying.

Not many people are rushing to sign up for that, including most Christians, though they follow a man who explicitly made clear that death is the door to real life (what I call the downward ascent).

So each person defends his or her kingdom/queendom. We find ways to justify what we do, rationalize it, explain it as being somehow necessary.

The things we do, of course, actually are necessary when the goal is to defend the ego at any cost. That is nearly everyone’s goal, and as long as that is the goal, all of the ruthless defensive techniques that are taken up in the world will continue to appear necessary.

Of course, as long as they appear necessary, necessity in itself will remain our greatest defense. After all, what responsible person would ever consider failing to do something that is “necessary?” From our snipping at the waitress, to Bin Laden’s bombing of the World Trade Center, everything every person does is understood by each actor as being “necessary,” and then of course judged by others in degrees of necessity.

Translation: The things I do are necessary. The things you do, well, many of them aren’t so necessary, especially the ones that get in the way of me getting, or doing, what I believe is necessary.

That is the hamster-wheel of human existence which you, most likely, are running on at this very moment.

The only solution to this problem is for each person to willingly submit to a discipline where they come to see, over time, the hamster-wheel for what it is.

Meditation is the only discipline that does this. It has been understood and practiced as such for thousands of years.

Not only this, but it is verifiable. Any person can take up this discipline and, in a matter of weeks, they will begin to see all I am saying for themselves. No one has to accept anyone’s word for it. For the problems people encounter in meditation are always problems of ego which the discipline of meditation aims to take care of to begin with.

In that way, meditation is self-verifying.

Getting off Your Hamster Wheel

Meditation is, so to speak, the way off of the hamster-wheel, or, to change metaphors, out of the matrix.

Until meditation is taken up and practiced by a person, the matrix, in a very real sense, has that person.

There is a way out that is simple and clear, but is not easy. Coming out of the matrix, getting off the hamster-wheel never can be. Think of the momentum you have on that wheel!

But it is the only way that we can ever learn to see clearly.

This is what Jesus was speaking of when he said “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness.”

To illustrate, what if a person had a type of blindness which did not keep them from seeing but caused them to see everything incorrectly? How would you convince them? How great that kind of blindness would be!

Similarly, a person is never as lost as they are in the moment immediately before they realize they are lost. For the instant this occurs to them, they immediately begin seeking to be found.

Many religious traditions have come up with valuable and helpful spiritual practices. Only the discipline of meditation will show us just how deeply those other practices are needed to begin with.

The way off the hamster-wheel, out of the matrix, is available.


Why Meditate?

Essentials of Meditation (from Christian perspective, but will work for anyone)

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4 thoughts on “How to Get Off of Your Hamster-Wheel

  1. I recently turned 50 and I’m not one of those mystical people who meditate. Conservative in some ways, I try to avoid spooky things or anything that might freak out God or cause him to question my theology. 🙂

    BUT– when I finish writing this I am going to take a few minutes and meditate. I started doing a little of it last fall and I have to admit that something happens in that place of meditation that goes beyond logic. Something really good (not at all weird).

    You know that busy/irritated/unsatisfied feeling that wants to hang around? I am finding that when I:

    sit down in a comfortable and quiet place
    calm down long enough (10 minutes?) so that my heart can “hear” better (the pressures of the day tend to keep me focused on my next task or what I need to fix or accomplish).

    When I do that I am quiet/still enough for the words of God to come to me. Often there are passages in the bible whose relevance to my life will become clear. Or I will just feel again, down deep in a significant way, that God’s spirit is in me, watching over me and often speaking to my heart. There are plenty of times I have finally been able to hear his voice “Things are going to be alright. I am going to lead you and am leading you now. Don’t be afraid. My peace is right here and what’s more, one day we will enjoy eternity together. I am your loving father and you are special to me, my eye is on you. You matter.”

    I have been surprised to find that this is more powerful to my inner life than anything else. All this, without a ceremonial turban, humming or candles (ok a candle sometimes).

    Another very good article is by Paul Thompson (its the one that got me started)

    David, thank you for this compelling and EXCELLENT article that really breaks it down, turning the spotlight on this thing called meditation. I am still laughing about “the things I do that are necessary Vs the things you do that, well, many of them aren’t so necessary…” You are reading my mail (probably the mail of most of us). The hamster-wheel imagery is spot on–I have’t been able to get away from it.

    I hope everyone who reads this will give it a try. Unless your life is one of undisturbed peace and perfection. Do not take the time for meditation if that is the case. 😉

    Kind Regards–
    David Frownfelter

  2. You chose the perfect image for this post! Thanks for posting the links. So, is meditation similar to a time during worship when the band keeps playing, but the lyrics are ditched and the congregation just worships? Even though it’s communal, everyone connects with God in their own way. Or is meditation something entirely different?

    • Good question. Meditation is just what it is. Whatever similarities between meditation and other things can be drawn, people are welcome to draw them. But meditation, in and of itself, is simply meditation. The reason it’s not exactly like worship is because the point of worshiping is to worship — to think worshipful thoughts, to focus on God’s greatness, etc. The point of meditation is to stop paying attention to our thoughts entirely. It’s not possible to stop thinking, so that’s not the goal — only to stop attending to our thoughts. When we do this, we stop feeling great about our good thoughts and crappy about our bad ones. We just learn how to BE, and that’s what most of us are terrible at doing. We also see how automatically feelings attach themselves to thoughts, and we learn how to let go of the feelings as well.

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