My Imperfect Seeking

shellResponse to the post here yesterday, “Stuck In the Labyrinth“, was much stronger than usual. Thank you for reading and for your re-posts! I suppose it is a commonality we all have: too much time spent thinking about the past and future when being well footed in the present would be a far better use of our energy. Just about all of us know that, but at least for me, practicing it is, at best, a highly inconsistent endeavor.  But earnest trying improves my life experience a lot.

Mostly as a reminder to myself to keep the “now” in as clear of a focus as I can, below are some leftovers from yesterday’s research.

We are living in a culture
entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time,
in which the so-called present moment
is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline
between an all-powerfully causative past
and an absorbingly important future.
We have no present.
Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied
with memory and expectation.
We do not realize that there never was,
is, nor will be any other experience than present experience.
We are therefore out of touch with reality.
We confuse the world as talked about,
described, and measured
with the world which actually is.
We are sick with a fascination
for the useful tools of names and numbers,
of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.
Alan Watts

When you understand… that what you’re telling is just a story… It isn’t happening anymore. When you realize the story you’re telling is just words, when you can just crumble up and throw your past in the trashcan… then we’ll figure out who you’re going to be. From “Invisible Monsters” Chuck Palahniuk

And, so I go into my day reminded again of the important of being firmly rooted in the “now”. To a level of 100% that is an impossible aspiration, yet it is my imperfect seeking that gives me more and more of the present to live in and be grateful for.

Gratitude looks to the Past
and love to the Present;
fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.
C.S. Lewis

 

Full Power Ahead

letting go

If “holding on” was a class one could take, I’d get an A+ without having to study. Being a world-class practitioner of the tightly gripped past I have both benefited and been hurt by my stubbornness. It’s takes strength and wisdom to look into the murk of what was and clearly know what to let go and what to hold on to. Sometimes it’s impossible.

There is a danger in hanging on to what is unhealthy. Gerald D. Jampolsky was focusing on the potential peril when he wrote, When we think we have been hurt by someone in the past, we build up defenses to protect ourselves from being hurt in the future. So the fearful past causes a fearful future and the past and future become one. We cannot love when we feel fear… When we release the fearful past and forgive everyone, we will experience total love and oneness with all.  The key thought in all that is “forgiveness”. When I have truly forgiven my the pain becomes exorcised, but love remains untarnished.

Like most of us, often a past chapter of my life was a combination of joy and love mixed with heartache and pain. More than I care to admit I have swirled the two together and killed the good memories burying them with the bad ones. Doing that strips my recall of not only sorrow, but happiness as well. What works much better is to find some sort of equilibrium between the two where the focus can be the reminiscent joy and love. But the sadness is not forgotten for in many ways it is the pain that makes the good all the more meaningful, like night gives meaning to daytime. This only works if my forgiveness is genuine and complete. Grief, pain and sorrow are important landmarks for my life and to completely try to make any of them vanish is to deny myself wisdom earned the hard way.

Such thinking is nowhere more important than on the subject of romantic love. In “Never Let Me Go” Kazuo Ishiguro said I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart. Often there is a story after the story where the same river brings the two who drifted apart back together at a later time . What once was can not be recreated, but with letting go new possibility is created.

A second chance is not feasible until the contents of the initial possibility are cleansed by releasing it. That does not mean to deny any part of what once was, but instead to hold memories with reverence in a past tense. Sometimes in your life you have to leave some precious things not because you don’t deserve it but because you deserve something better than that and it’s just like creating space for some bigger and much better things waiting for you in your life ahead is how Shubbanshu Tiwari explained clearing the path for new possibility. Precisely, what might be bigger and better can not come to be until what was has been let go.

I am grateful for what Ray Bradbury said: Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. It’s like boats. You keep your motor on so you can steer with the current. And when you hear the sound of the waterfall coming nearer and nearer, tidy up the boat, put on your best tie and hat, and smoke a cigar right up till the moment you go over. That’s a triumph.

Well written Mr. Bradbury! I am grateful that your words are exactly what I needed to read this morning. My past is at peace (at least much more so than ever). I gratefully have hope for the future that the best of my life lies in front of me. Full power ahead.

…Love is easy, falling in love is even easier,
but letting that love go, is the most difficult thing
you’ll ever have to do. Some of us never let it go
and sometimes it takes a while to realize what you want.
But your heart will always have the right answer in the end.
You just have to figure out what it’s telling you.
Marie Coulson

Freedom and Choice

A futurist’s comments I read about fifteen years ago predicted one day the number of big stores where you go to buy things would be far fewer. The suggestion was made that instead of going to Sears or Best Buy to make a purchase, in the future one might pay admission to a “display store” that had one each of many things to peruse. A choice made could be bought on the spot but only with delivery later to the buyer’s home within a few days.

A couple of the major Internet sellers are experimenting with same day delivery in New York City this holiday season. Things are changing!

The futurist also predicted grocery stores much smaller than what we have now would become popular for two reasons: 1) Some people don’t like all the walking and searching necessary in big box stores and 2) a good number of consumers actually want LESS choices. Smaller stores have always been a factor for the inner portions of major East Coast metropolitan cities. Same is true in Europe to an even greater degree for cities and towns of all sizes.

Most people equate choice and freedom. It seems so reasonable. Freedom means you are free to choose, right? It means you are free from restrictions. If you can’t choose, then you are not free. And it would seem to follow that the more choice you have, the more freedom you have. But it doesn’t work out that way.

The more options you have, the more energy you have to invest in making decisions. Which shampoo? Which car? Which dress? Which restaurant? Which movie? Your energy and attention are consumed by these decisions, and you have less left with which to live your life.

What does choice give you? One answer is that choice makes it possible for you to shape your world according to your preferences. All this does is to enable you to fashion a world that is an extension of your own patterns. With modern technology, you can weave a cocoon of your preferences and rarely run into anything that contradicts them. You end up isolated from the richness and complexity of life.

What is freedom? It is the moment-by-moment experience of not being run by one’s own reactive mechanisms. Does that give you more choice? Usually not. When you aren’t run by reactions, you see things more clearly, and there is usually only one, possibly two courses of action that are actually viable. Freedom from the tyranny of reaction leads to a way of experiencing life that leaves you with little else to do but take the direction that life offers you in each moment. From an article in the Winter 2012 Tricycle Magazine titled “Freedom and Choice: Breaking free from the tyranny of reaction” by Ken McLeod.

Thoughts of simplifying my life are getting stronger year by year, which is odd since I have spent my adult life accumulating. In my last move it became readily apparent what a burden “all my stuff” has become. I’m a single man who lives alone in a home of over 3000 square feet filled with stuff that took two moving trucks and six men fourteen hours to load and unload. I only moved a mile and a half!

When I read what I just wrote, I feel a bit ridiculous made worse by the knowing I have a big rental storage unit for things my home has no room for. I am grateful for the growing realization and acceptance that one day all of my stuff will be someone else’s.

The model of ownership,
in a society organized round mass consumption,
is addiction.
Christopher Lasch

Through the Eyes of a Child

For children every thing is new. If you watch a toddler move through a room, their eyes are huge as they take it all in. They have no expectation – just a wonderment and joy that comes from exploring their universe.

As we get older, most of us lose that joy and wonderment. We move into autopilot, and become focused on the future and the past – the present is something to move through. It’s a gateway toward reaching goals.

When we lose our wonderment for the present, we begin to say things like, “I will be happy when…” or “I will be satisfied when…” Instead of “I am happy.” “I am satisfied.”

Happiness comes from seeing the world as it exists now; finding happiness in the moment, in the present. It’s a conscious act of de-programming our autopilot and becoming truly aware of where we are in space and time, to truly connect with our inner joy and gratitude.

Once way to do this is spend an hour in nature walking. With every step feel the muscles in your legs move to propel you forward. Embrace the ground underneath supporting you. Feel the sun warming you, the wind caressing your body. Become the bird that flutters past or the ant that scurries along the trail. As you open yourself up and become aware of your surroundings, taking in all the small details, you will find your body slows down. Calmness will emerge, as will a sense of joy and wonderment. Even if only for a few moments, you will once again see with the eyes of a child. Paige Oxlaj 

Being in a different place wakes me up to my surroundings.  Out of my home routine while visiting my son in Colorado I am much more aware of the mountains, the trees, even the wind.  I am grateful for this heightened awareness and know arriving home I will be a little more appreciative of my day to day environment.  Life is good.

Through the eyes of a child
the world is full of wonder.
Through the eyes of a child
it’s sunshine, rain or thunder.
Through the eyes of a child
life’s just an endless game.
Through the eyes of a child
there’s only adults to blame.
Through the eyes of a child
it’s schooldays and fun days.
Through the eyes of a child
it’s fascinating always.
Through the eyes of a child
it’s beach, buckets and sand.
Through the eyes of a child
life’s so easy to understand.
Now what about us – you and me?
Where’s our eyes of a child?
From a post by “genegem”

The True Condition of Your Heart

Many people believe their life story is more unique than that of many others. For some the belief comes from great sadness they have endured. For others the feeling is rooted in challenges over come. Some people see success as their defining elements. There are those who use heartbreak suffered as a sizeable part of their self-definition. Ultimately, we are all one of a kind who has never been before and never will be again. Genetics, environment, circumstances, happenings and the time we live within conspire to mold us uniquely.

Stepping back and trying to find and admit what has shaped me, I find sadness and a desire to be loved are two of my sizeable drivers. There is also depression has been a defining element in my life. Learning to see the difference between sadness and depression was a huge step forward.

In plain terms, I see sadness ranging from simple momentary unhappiness to long-term grief and sorrow. On the other hand depression is a sense of gloominess or dejection that has no specific source, although one usually tries to hang it on something or someone. Depression may come and go, but it never fully passes.

For some reason I have yet to fully understand, being sad and feeling depressed became friends of mine. Unhappy moods became like my favorite ratty clothes: well-known, familiar and comfortably worn just right. I became contented and safe (I thought) in being a “brooding and complicated man”. It was a large part of how I defined myself and found dark comfort from something familiar. I learned how seductive depression, sadness and bad moods can be.

I was ruled by negative feelings such as “oh, poor me”, “I am not loved enough”, “I had a difficult childhood”, “I was abused”, “I’ve had a difficult life”, “I’m not happy”, “I deserve better” and a litany of other self-told excuses. Lost in the darkness I was unhappy and not in control (which I long worked hard to hide). There were true reasons to be angry, sorrowful and grief-stricken, but I had never worked through them. It took getting to middle age to do that. Until then the darkness from the unresolved only got darker.

For me, getting better was not about strength or determination. Instead it took surrender. Until I allowed my negative mid-set to overtake me completely and to topple under the sudden weight of it all, there were no answers to be found. At first it felt smothering to let my feelings overcome me.  But like diving into deep water, I first sank then surfaced, began to breathe and then swim to keep myself afloat and moving forward little by little.

I’ve learned to be aware, yet patient with myself to work though things. Sometimes it takes days, weeks or even months for the full picture to come into focus, long after the initial sting of the pain surfacing is gone. If I remain open without becoming obsessed with a particular issue, the best path always seems to present itself eventually. Whatever comes, I acknowledge it, accept it and make some sort of peace with it. I am grateful for that learned ability and the many who helped me come to practice it.

I say that trials and tests locate a person.
In other words they determine where you are spiritually.
They reveal the true condition of your heart.
How you react under pressure is how the real you reacts.
John Bevere

Down to the Core of My Being

Once in a great while I meet someone, see a movie, witness a performance or read a book or poem that moves me down to the core of my being. In such rare moments I am cognizant of being washed over with intense awareness and feeling, while not fully perceiving what it is I am sensing. And that’s OK. In such moments my joy is in just experiencing the gift without questioning or wondering. It is enough just knowing what I am experiencing is real. 

Being grateful for what is happening further amplifies the moment and what follows it. These are the times when I am living open to the moment and completely aware within it. Today that feeling is best described in the six words of wisdom from a wise man from the past whose wisdom I revere.

What you seek is seeking you.
Rumi

How It’s Meant To Be

Where this day takes me I do not know.

The odds are I will be alive when the sun goes down, but there is no certainty of it.

Whether the day will be mundane or painted by some major life happening I can’t foresee.

Will my awareness be sharp or dull?

Will I be as kind as I intend to be?

Will I be as unselfish as my heart wants?

Will I be able to love without reservation?

Will I be giving or stingy?

Will I see perfection in spite of imperfection?

What mistakes will I make?

What will I do right? Wrong?

Will I be good enough or fall short?

Stop!

The day will be as the day unfolds.

No amount of worry, predisposed thought or crystal ball gazing will make the day any other that what it will turn out to be.

Loosen my grip.

Take a deep breath.

Look up and see.

Hear life. Sense it. Feel it.

Allow everything to be as it is and let the day arrive as it will.

I am grateful for the over-flowing spring of thoughts this mental exercise sprang from.  Within I found guidance and clear direction for my day.

Sometimes you have to stop worrying,
wondering, & doubting.
Have faith that things will work out,
maybe not how you planned,
but just how it’s meant to be.
Unknown

As Much Distortion as Reality

Look not at the days gone by with a forlorn heart.
They were simply the dots we can now connect with our present,
to help us draw the outline of a beautiful tomorrow.
Dodinsky

Holding memories too closely isn’t healthy. Grabbing on excessively to good memories eventually squeezes most of the goodness out of them.

Clinging to bad memories makes them stick more firmly to you like a used piece of tape you can’t shake off your fingers. Either way, spending time in yesterday causes minutes of today to be left empty and colorless.

The past can’t be recalled accurately.  Its impossible to come up with anything except a blurry representation of it.  What we recall is as much distortion as reality just like how carnival mirrors reflect our image back to us twisted and stretched.

Ultimately the past is past and with no amount of effort can it ever be seen as it was.

Without doubt I am aware I continue to recall the past with too much frequency, playing it over again hoping for some insight or change in what I remember. There is progress though! I do it far less than I used to and find that simple fact makes being alive today a better experience. The possibilities of the future appearing brighter has slowly become a way of life. I am grateful!

Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal.
Live this day as if it were your last.
The past is over and gone.
The future is not guaranteed.
Wayne Dyer

Improved Means to an Unimproved End

Living in a country where I have been programmed to consume, it’s difficult not to indulge to or even past the point of what I can afford. Things have not always been so in this country. Somewhere in the last hundred years or so American culture went from pursuing our needs to one of chasing our wants. Hence, the concept of a “standard of living” came about which is made possible by all who want to sell stuff at a profit.

It is evident to me I don’t need most of what I have, but have been advertised into a little bit of insanity about raising my “standard of living”; having more stuff, newer stuff, better stuff or more expensive stuff. Like a hamster on a wheel I have gone round and round trying to satisfy an insatiable desire. There is nothing wrong with wanting, but what I do about those desires matters.

As one friend said to me years ago, “having lots of stuff is OK, as long as the stuff does not have you”. Having grown up poor it has been easy for me to grow emotionally connected to my stuff as I have succeeded and progressed professionally. Having “stuff” is part of my “other esteem” issue when things outside me sometimes get substituted for where my self-esteem should be. Just recognizing I do that and accepting it has been a healthy step.

Now days I sometimes finding myself feeling burdened by all the things I have. Moving out of the country for a year a while back I was amazed how much storage space was needed for my stuff. No storage unit was large enough. I had to rent a warehouse!

What I hang on to actually shapes my life to an extent. The stuff determines to a point how I spend my money, where I live, what I do and don’t do and even when I do it. Honestly there have been times when I yearned for the youthful days when everything I owned would fit in my car and the smallest Uhaul trailer I could rent. True or not, I recall feeling freer back then. Certainly youth contributed to that sense, but the lack of things/stuff/possessions/crap/junk, whatever you want to call them, had a lot to do with how I felt.

So what have I done recently? Completed a project of framing items collected for twenty plus years.  My holiday weekend project is to hang them in my home. More stuff to care for and maintain. Alas, my addiction continues, but not without some progress.

I am grateful to recognize my affliction and even understand it a little. Half of facing any issue is coming to realize it exists. There I have arrived and now the difficult work begins over time: making my load of stuff lighter. After all, everything I own will belong to someone else one day. One of the sorting mechanisms I have already discovered for deciding what to keep and not keep is asking myself “I wonder how much this will sell for at an estate/garage sale some day?”

Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys,
which distract our attention from serious things.
They are but improved means to an unimproved end.
Henry David Thoreau

Stripped by a Storm

Within the last six years, I have lived the equivalent life experience of several decades.  My very being, mentally and emotionally, was thrashed to its barest existence.  Within that kneading and pounding  the majority of the greatest insights of my life have come.  So today I am grateful for my teachers called pain, grief and heartache.  They beat me into submission where I needed to go so like a tree stripped by a storm I could grow more fully and stronger than before.

Taken from “Moving On” by ‘Cue Ball’
As of now, I am moving on.
Through and out, this hard time.
The clouds will clear, and the storm will pass.
Things are looking up, as I raise the mast.
Sailing on, and moving out.
From these dark days, I muster all my clout.
I am ready, to start again.
Just to see, where life begins.
Tough it is, and tough it will be.
Life moves on, and this I see.
So move on I will to start all over.
Just to see, the fields of clover.
I am still hurt, from my loss.
Nothing can change, what was lost.
Strength is coming, for me to move on.

I have learned not to damn the trials and difficulties of my life.  As hard as any might be to face, it is still “my life” they are happening in.  To damn them, is to damn my own existence.  Much gratefulness is within to have learned that simple wisdom.

Serenity is not freedom from the storm,
but peace amid the storm.
Anonymous