By Sherrin Fitzer
Lessons can be found in the oddest of places.
Who would have thought The Walking Dead viewers would be treated to a tutorial—albeit brief—in meditation? And with one of television’s best, baddest, villains—Negan in the mix. In season nine episode eight of The Walking Dead, Gabriel tries to talk Negan through a meditation.
Negan is in his cell bouncing a ball and Gabriel sits outside with a Tibetan Singing Bowl.
Gabriel: “You are here, aware of yourself.”
Here we see a basic tenant of meditation. You are here, in the present, aware of yourself, your breathing or whatever your point of focus is.
Noise outside of window, children playing: “Can’t get me! Better watch out! Hey, wait for me!”
Gabriel: “Just let it wash over you. Just let it go. Don’t judge the distraction. There it is! Accept it, consider it, and then release it.”
There will always be distractions. Sometimes they come from outside of us like our dog barking, a siren or a person in the room coughing. There can be a myriad of distractions.
Negan: “It’s alright. You know what? Screw it. My mind never ’empties,’ anyway.”
Ah, the big one—at least for me—distractions that come from within. I quit meditating when I was in my 20’s because I could not empty my mind. I thought because of this that I was not capable of meditating. I had no one to tell me otherwise. We will never empty our minds; that is not the goal of meditation. We choose a focal point, usually the breath. When our mind fills with something else we gently bring it back to our point of focus. It’s kind of like training a puppy who wanders off. We compassionately bring our mind back to our breath. There is no need to berate ourselves.
Negan: “Generally goes straight to that place that would blush the collar right off of you. [SIGHS] Although, now that you and Rosita are a thing, maybe I’m wrong—I mean—[BALL BOUNCING] hot damn.”
During meditation the mind can go to a surprisingly variety of places. Some of them may be painful, some may bring pleasure. No matter which, come back to your breath.
Gabriel: “I want to understand why you do this. You clearly want help. I can see you trying.”
Negan: “Yeah. [CHUCKLES] Maybe we cooked it up, chewed it up, and shat it out already. Maybe this is all we get”
Gabriel: “You don’t feel like you’re getting any benefit to our sessions?”
Negan: “Well, I am reminded that another week has passed, but other than that? [BALL BOUNCING] – [SIGHS] – [CHUCKLES] Ah, don’t take it personally, Gabe. I know I’m never getting out of here. I do appreciate you coming down here and helping me when that was touch and go for me, but now I got everything I need. This little window right here—it’s as good as a TV. And I loved the shit outta TV back when that was a thing. Acceptance is an important first step, but a life needs to have meaning.”
Indeed acceptance is vital—on the cushion or off. While meditating it is useful not to have expectations. It is not helpful to judge whether it was a “good or “bad” meditation. It does not matter whether we need to bring our wandering minds back to focus one time or a million. Pema Chodron, who has made a life out of teaching people mediation and mindfulness, confesses that she is a horrible meditator.
Negan: “Funny thing about this window here. People stand out there, and they talk, and it’s like they don’t remember I’m here. And that—well, that is when I get the really good shit. [BALL BOUNCING] You know, just the other day, Rosita was out there chatting up a storm. She said some things that you would find very interesting.” [BALL BOUNCING]
Gabriel: “I don’t need you to tell me how Rosita feels about me.”
Negan: “Now, who said she was talking about you? [BALL BOUNCING]
Gabriel: We’ll try this again next week.
Negan: “It’s your world, boss.”
Many people ask me what my religious beliefs are. I often tell them that I take my wisdom where I can find it, and there are many places to find it. Even television shows about the Zombie Apocalypse.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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- Meditation Wisdom from The Walking Dead - March 8, 2019
- Day One of the New Year: Start Where You are Right Now - January 1, 2019
- Sit Down, Be Still, Shut Up: A Basic Meditation Guide - September 13, 2017