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The Calm Within
Last time, I mentioned the unexamined life and looking within ourselves to find what we can eliminate or add in order to live optimally. After all, philosophy aims to answer the question, “how shall we live?”
Years ago, when I began to look within myself, I found much chatter going on in my head. My condition, one that most people suffer, is often called “the monkey mind”. It can be scattered and aimless despite its complexity. Some writers use the monkey mind for stream of conscious writing. It allows the chatter to become physical on paper. This type of writing is useful for brain-storming ideas. It’s also a tool that writers call freewriting, coined by Peter Elbow, which allows us to extract the brain without judgement in order to discover the gold nuggets our brains produce, especially when writer’s block occurs. The act of freewriting does have a side benefit. It can aid us to become less scattered and fragmented. Like journaling, once the thought is on paper, the less disrupting that thought is. It loses power. Thus, we can see that the mind would rather not be as unfocused as we allow.
Some of us use meditation to calm the brain down. Repeating Mantras or paying attention to our breath helps us to clear the mind of the chatter. Mastering our own minds becomes a sought out achievement. One way to look at is to try Eckhart Tolle’s suggestion and wait as if you’re a cat focusing on a mouse hole. You’d never know when that mouse is coming, but staring intently, waiting, waiting for the next thought. Try it by closing your eyes and imagining the hole and wait for the next thought. What happens?
Think of a time when something didn’t go as you had expected. Or, think of the days when there is so much going on around you, it’s difficult to think at all. These are the times we can center ourselves.
When I think of the chaos that goes on around me at work, commuting, or just my own thoughts, I realize I need to come back to myself. The real me in the midst of the crap.
I like to think of Thor. He’s a really cool dog who likes to play catch. He’s the type who while huddled in a closet in the midst of the raging storm outside still has a ball in his mouth wanting to play. More on dogs later… I know he’s just a dog. And dogs’ minds don’t work like ours. Thor couldn’t care less about the hurricane or the loss of a job or bill collectors for that matter. But wouldn’t that sense of calm be nice to have on demand?
Ok. Maybe the dog can’t help us achieve the calm in the eye of the storms of our lives. Let me provide another image. Lord Cutler Beckett in the second Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – He’s the manipulative mastermind of The East India Trading Company. Here’s a photo taken from wiki if you can’t recall this character:
In one of the final scenes of the film, Beckett calmly walks down the stairs of a ship that explodes with each step he takes after muttering famous last words, “It’s just good business.” Debris whirls around his face, but there is no sound save for background music.
You see, even though there’s a load of misery or shrapnel in our lives, a master of the mind, our minds, can breeze through it all. The next time your little ship on the ocean of life explodes, think of Thor 😉 ha, think of Lord Beckett and center your self. Cut the sound of chatter in your brain off. Play some music. Allow the junk to fly. It’s no matter. You’re still alive. Master your monkey mind and become the calm within.
“The unexamined life is not worth living” ~ Socrates
Clearly, this quote has brought great reflection along with frustration. It’s been a motto of mine for years. I can state this sentiment in a modern way.
Check yourself at the door.
Before leaving the house in the morning, we all check how we look in the mirror. We make sure our clothes are neat in appearance as to make good impressions. But how often are we looking within? Do we sense that our motives are genuine? Will we offer our seat to an elderly person, or offer ourselves to anyone in need? Do we acknowledge anything we have said or done to another that needs rectifying? Did we sleep well the night before? And if not, did we awake in the middle of the night with a nagging feeling that something has to change?
You see, what happens at 2 or 3am is our conscience waking us up. This is our true self; ignore if you must, but eventually, you’ll come to realize that whatever it is that wakes you, (ie. I didn’t call my mother; my relationship is toxic, for example) will provide a truer, more accurate sense of the things in life that matter to you. Pay attention to you. This is your life. Make it true to you.
I recently found myself compelled to start this blog. I hope this is the start to helping others find inner peace and some wisdom as well.