People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy. ~Anton Chekhov
Is your day filled with continual background noise? Does your day go something like this?
You wake up in the morning with the alarm clock, turn on the tv, have your iPod plugged into the speakers while in the shower, grab your coffee and two bites of toast as you race out the door, hop in the car and blast the radio until you make it to your work-a-day world filled with commotion and stress, leave work and head to the gym so you can plug in your headphones and zone out on the thread mill, finally get home where yet again the television blares as you cook dinner, or not, eat in front of said tv and leave it on as you fall asleep.
When did you have the chance to sit quietly? Did you reflect on your day? Have you counted your blessings? Why not? Do you realize that this life is fleeting?
With all the commotion going on around you, it’s difficult to hear your own thoughts. Perhaps that’s why you can’t function without the noise to drown you out.
Think about this: You are the one you’ll spend the most time with in this life. Why not get to know yourself? Listen to your thoughts. Turn off the garbage around you and sit quietly for a change. You might be surprised at what you hear. You might find you’re good company. Take a walk without the headphones. Listen to nature. It’s cleansing. While an advocate of meditation, I’m not necessarily speaking of the misconception of mystic living right now. Meditation in and of itself lets one get to understand himself over time. To become self aware is only a small part of the goals of the act of meditation. It allows the quieting of the mind so one can become more aware.
Of course, I’m not asking that you plunge into this type of change all at once. Habits are hard to form. Take a small step today and enjoy some peace.
Turn it off. Listen to you.
Fall asleep without the tv tonight.
You’ll be glad you did.
No. You don’t have time. (3 of 3)
Not too long ago I was riding in the car with a friend who impatiently tried to nudge the car ahead of her when the traffic light had just changed and proclaimed, “Hey, the light’s not getting any greener. What are you waiting for?”
Similarly, Incubus lyrics suggest we are waiting for “A Certain Shade of Green.”
My last two posts have been about change and discuss what may be holding us back. I’d like to take a few moments to focus on what a dear friend said to me recently, when in passing I impressed upon her that I had time to do something I wanted in life. She pulled me aside. Having lost her husband of 50 years, Ilse made herself perfectly clear. “No. You don’t have time” was her response. Within seconds I’d realized the magnitude of her statement. She’s right. None of us have time. She thought she’d have the rest of her life with her loving husband. Unfortunately, life isn’t a sure thing for any of us. Now is the time to do the thing we hanker to do. “Now, now, now. . .” I can almost hear the opening scene to Shakespeare’s Richard III. Obviously, the context is different; nonetheless, he began to take action for the changes he wanted make. I do not suggest we pine for greed or power. But what about that trip to Europe you’ve been wanting to take? How about that new business? Taking care of those pesky, extra few pounds? The thing you desire most that you’ve been putting off for one reason or another.
Sound familiar? We all go through it. The desire to be or do that thing just outside our reach. What are you waiting for? Certainly, you’re not waiting for permission. We talked about that last time. Are you waiting to be thin enough or have money enough or be good enough? Nonsense. You ought to do what you desire. You’ll find a way. Don’t provide excuses, more reasons to remain in your burning desires. Plan the steps it will take to bring on that trip, that new job or business, a slimmer you.
I understand changes aren’t easy. The reality is, some changes take a while to come to fruition; but even so, those steps will help you feel better as you move through your days knowing you’re on your way to having what you want. You might even become healthier performing the steps because you’ll move in the right direction toward your goals. Imagine the relief of paying off a credit card and saving for that trip. What a load off! Tiny steps to get over the mountain. In the meantime, follow the old cliche and take time to stop to smell the roses. This life is your journey. It’s all yours. Plan it as if you would your vacation. Remember though, there are no guarantees. The upside is while you aim for your goals, happiness seems to catch up to you prior to reaching those heights. No action keeps you where you are: self loathing and sitting with fears that you might not succeed.
Lucille Ball once said, “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done in life than regret the things I didn’t do.”
We ought to live on the edge of something we are about to create than repeat the same patterns to exhaustion.
I used to study ant behavior. One of the changes I like to do is to mix up my daily drive. Taking a different route helps to eliminate the etched trails we create on our roadways. Imagine what aliens, if they exist, would notice about our patterns. They’re not very creative. I’d surmise they’d think we have no purpose or clue what else to do. Of course the concept is silly; however, it makes sense to make changes and live the life we are meant to live. Funny, my auto-correct just changed my statement to: Live the life we are meant to love. I think I like that better. Love your life. If you don’t, determine what needs to change and take small steps to arrive at your place. Your “Ithaca.”
Here is a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy that may help you realize your journey.
When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.
Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy –
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.
Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.
Constantine P. Cavafy
Carpe diem! Seize the day!
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.