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Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac's Instructions for Meditating


Beatitude is only a complex name for the simple joy of remaining in the present.

To say that Jack Kerouac was an obsessive of artistic processes would be to stop short in a description of his interest in them: it doesn’t matter if we reach him via the journey of initiation of On the Road or via the metaphysical escapism of The Dharma Bums, Tristessa or The Subterraneans, but what is certain is that Kerouac thought and lived through poetry, and which impregnates everything to do with him.

A high priest of “spontaneous prose,” Kerouac insisted on the importance of process in all kinds of communications, even in those texts which seek a connection between literary theory and the spirit, such as Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, an authentic manifesto for spontaneity based on recipes, formulae and self-referential descriptions of artistic processes (and from which we previously extracted these 30 tips for life and prose).

The poem “How To Meditate” appears in The Portable Jack Kerouac. It perfectly illustrates the way in which Kerouac viewed poetry and the life of the spirit in general through solid, concrete and at the same time evanescent movements like clouds in the mind’s sky.

The process described in the poem resembles the dialectical formula of alchemy solve et coagula: dissolve yourself in your own body, let your senses perceive themselves and when the rational mind wants to order the spontaneous images that appear in the sky of your mind it is necessary to take note of them but not to pay them attention. The relaxation routine ends with the fascinating idea that the joy of remaining in the present (in trance or in ‘neutral’ like that of meditation) pushes away ideas, preconceptions and obsessions, dispersing them like clouds that pass.


— lights out —

fall, hands a-clasped, into instantaneous

ecstasy like a shot of heroin or morphine,

the gland inside of my brain discharging

the good glad fluid (Holy Fluid) as

I hap-down and hold all my body parts

down to a deadstop trance — Healing

all my sicknesses — erasing all — not

even the shred of a “I-hope-you” or a

Loony Balloon left in it, but the mind

blank, serene, thoughtless. When a thought

comes a-springing from afar with its held-

forth figure of image, you spoof it out,

you spuff it out, you fake it, and

it fades, and thought never comes — and

with joy you realize for the first time

“Thinking’s just like not thinking —

So I don’t have to think





By Javier Raya

Image: Jack Kerouac by Tom Palumbo circa 1956

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