04.03.2020 (space between pleasure and worry)
"It's in this endless space between the words that I'm finding myself now. It's a place that's not of the physical world, it's where everything else is that I didn't even know existed." - Samantha, Her
I've been trying to fill the gaps between stress and news and the unknown with something a bit more uplifting.. brownies, a comfort tv show, movement? I've rediscovered the phone call.. I'm learning to have phone calls with strangers.. Maybe rearranging the furniture? Something besides rechecking the latest numbers?
Because there is only so much worrying I can do. Worrying is useful, don't get me wrong. Let worry motivate: check on distant friends and family members, clean your hands, make a face mask, and eat healthfully. And when the worry is done, pleasure. Distraction from this unknown. Once you've mastered this technique, you might be tempted to overdo it. Don't.
Take some time. That's it, that is the complete thought. Take some time. Just allow some time to pass without filling it.
I want to tell you why (because that's where peace happens, because that's when inspiration strikes, because because because), but let's be honest. Those because's may not happen. And those because's are still result (aka future) oriented. Future orientation is great sometimes. Being here without filling it is also great sometimes. Try practicing it.
(Warning: stopping has side affects. If you're hiding something from yourself or lying to yourself about something, times without distraction may be the points where these parts of yourself can finally ask to be seen.)
I'm a life long searcher. Are you? The answer to this comes from the gut... I can feel it in my core (even at the best of times) that I'm looking, ready for it to appear.. whatever it is, I'm not sure. Do you feel that way? Maybe you even have an idea of what it is..
What if I told you it doesn't exist? What if I told you that you already had it? I mean no contradiction. I am simply overloading the meaning of it.
What I imagined it was, something outside of me that would fulfill me, doesn't exist. Or at least any fulfillment I obtain from something outside of myself is temporary, changeable, vulnerable. Vulnerable to the environment, yes, but also my own mind—reevaluating, recalibrating.
I notice what I can control. I have limited control over the world, but maybe I can adjust my interaction with it. Start small. Let's make this as simple as possible. This is where taking time comes in. Have you tried it? Let's try to notice our interaction with very little environmental influence. Try to move grains of sand before relocating mountains. I said simple, but I didn't say easy. Try anyway.
I delayed trying a sitting meditation for a long time. I knew it was something I should do.. (Maybe I'll explain this "should" one day, but not now.) but I really really didn't want to. I had a number of excuses, and it felt so easy to put off another day. What difference is one day going to make? (I used this excuse to put off giving up smoking too.)
What difference will one more day make? One more day of not trying to do something that I don't really know how to do anyway..
What convinced me to try? My life is the culmination of my daily activities. Of course, there will always be those serendipitous moments that shake up my current trajectory. But yes, my life is made up of moments that fill up days that fill up weeks and so on. My life consists of what I try to do consistently.
Picture yourself ten years in the future, older, wiser. Be generous with yourself. What daily habits does this person have? Imagine them laughing, calm, insightful. What advice are they giving you?
04.06.2020 (suffering, strife, and struggle)
It comes inevitably.. the difficulties, the pain. Because this world is not adapted to us. We adapted to it. And the most effective stimuli at forcing us to change are often the most challenging to endure. Pain is inevitable, but forgetting the natural order can often upgrade pain to suffering.
"This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, `This is an interesting world I find myself in—an interesting hole I find myself in—fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact, it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for." - Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
You are meant to be here, because you are here. But this world isn't built to have you in it. You're built to be a part of this world.
04.07.2020 (ride the tiger)
I am currently intrigued by the phrase "ride the tiger." There are at least two possible interpretations.
One: it is a shortened version of "He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount." This suggests to me a person in a situation far more dangerous than they can handle, but they see no safe way out. My favorite aspect of this idea is the dualistic relationship between fear and bravery. The person riding the tiger appears to be rather brave, although it is fear keeping them on the tiger. But no matter how afraid they are, they are keeping their grip on the tiger, holding on for dear life as long as they can. I really like this idea.. that bravery is the fruit whose seed is fear.
Two: a person is traversing the jungle (do tigers live in the jungle?)... err.. savannah.. or rain forest, and is shocked to see a tiger running toward them at full speed. The person has maybe ten seconds to decide how to react. Instead of following the instinctive fight or flight reflex, the person jumps onto the tiger! The person rides the tiger until it is eventually exhausted, and then they run away to safety.
This reminds me of a time my daughter was maybe 3 or 4, and a wasp lands on her back. In less than ten seconds, I make the calculation. I grab the wasp, and throw it. I'm stung, but my daughter is safe. If I hesitated too long and she made a sudden movement, or if I swat at it, then it increased the likelihood that she would be stung. This is not exactly riding the tiger... but the point is that in times of stress with only a very short amount of time, we have the opportunity to choose. Fight, flight, freeze.. or jump?
04.08.2020 (happy accidents)
Perfect precision is impossible. We like to think we can point to an exact location, zoom in enough and call it `here.' Or that we can freeze time (hypothetically) at a single moment that contains no change. This thinking is fallacious. Any moment contains some interval of time, and any physical locale also contains space. We think we can pinpoint that exact point in space and time, but that point does not exist in isolation. We cannot single it out from the rest. This connectedness forces beautiful, sometimes messy imprecision.
In the same way, none of us exist in isolation either. We imagine ourselves separate. We imagine we can point to our exact boundary: this is us, this is not us. Don't be fooled.
Yesterday's imprecision teaches us something: the effect is not uniquely determined by the cause. Try not to concern yourself with the results of your effort, but make the effort. Reading this, you may take away something completely different from what I intend. I believe that's a good thing. Tell me what you make of it. And maybe that will inspire something in me as well. Repetition with variation can blossom into such beautiful creatures.
I find it difficult to transcend logic. Do you?
04.10.2020 (finding yourself)
This seems an unending process.. finding oneself.
How often have I encountered some fundamental truth, and only moments later I'm digging again? Tearing it apart to find the next hollow that (I believe) needs filling. This is the function of the mind, to dissect, to string together words and expect created meaning. The poor mind doesn't mean to be a nuisance; we just need to know its strengths and limits.
Comprehension of some truths require that we bypass the brain.
04.16.2020 (in flux)
I struggle with trust, with words like faith and hope. Part of the comfort in mathematics for me is the certainty: there are some forever truths. But how often do they apply to life? The past is certain, but I'm not sure of much else. Statistics govern the future.
A friend tells me time is an illusion. Do I take this to mean the after already is? Or as the Oracle puts it in The Matrix Reloaded:
"Because you didn't come here to make the choice, you've already made it. You're here to try to understand why you made it. I thought you'd have figured that out by now."
You've already made it. The choice exists in the future, and our day-to-day is the path ahead. The real power lies in our habits, our routines, what we can fall back on when nothing turns out like we thought it would.
Confronted with my limitations, I have to decide what can I adjust? Will I create a flying machine?
04.18.2020 (trust, faith, and hope)
I struggle with trust, with words like faith and hope. It helps to recast the meaning of the words, to recast the actions involved in trusting, faithing, and hoping, and knowing that trust, faith, and hope aren't always appropriate. Trust needs to be earned, faith is born from experience, and hope is the motivation to try.
04.19.2020 (horoscopes, palm reading, and tarot cards)
I regularly read my horoscope, sometimes tarot cards. I like visualizing the universe as this intricate web of connections so detailed and vast that we can't fully comprehend what emerges. But we can marvel at glimpses of the stars aligning.. like when you remember a friend from ten years before and then a song you both loved plays on the radio. I like believing that my palm is shaped by my history and my dreams. I like believing that someone else may understand my soul without my having to explain a thing.
We're extremely skilled at perceiving patterns. (I see so many faces staring back at me in my damask comforter.) And patterns are the building blocks of meaning, right? We are meaning-finding machines. It's our gift, our birthright. Use it wisely.
04.22.2020 (effort and ease)
Not all patterns are apparent. The feeling of free will becomes so commonplace that we spread it out and assume its presence in all moments. Until we've lost it. Something so outrageous, so shocking, the reaction just explodes to the surface. And for at least a moment, we respect our animality and realize our loose grip on true choice. But much of the time, even in neutral, unheated times, we're ruled by habits more than choice.
This is a good thing. To really slow down and fully choose is exhausting, and routine is your energy saver. Notice your patterns. Are they serving you? When would you like to replace a habitual response with a choice? Practice making space between stimulus and response. Once this becomes habit, maybe we flow between effort (choice) and ease (routine).
04.23.2020 (carnations and dandelions)
Entangling myself in many things, like taking out multiple insurance policies. The fee? My time, attention, devotion. The payout? Who knows. Only time will tell. Leaving traces of myself wherever I can manage. Imagining some being comes along amazed, and puzzles all the pieces together to recreate me, living.
I've left the clues.. traces of my thoughts, emotions. Like poetry, I can't just spell it out to you.
"I felt incredibly happy early Wednesday before dawn, buoyant even."
Over explained leaves no room for interpretation, no room for misperception, no room to grow beyond the explanation. My rebirth must live.
Not the sum of my thoughts and emotions, I am also living.
I've been riding the wave of uncertainty; how about you? It comes on strong, then subsides. (I feel pretty lucky that it does fall away into the background..) What's funny is that we should be uncertain at all times. We don't really know what to expect, but we're able to make some good guesses. We get lulled into a sense of security, dependability, but we all know it could be torn away any moment. Now we are butting up against that knowledge pretty regularly. Can we be okay with the uncertainty? Can we try not to solve it? I've stopped trying to predict the future. The answer is just: I don't know.
I also feel pretty lucky that my "I don't know" is supported by safe guards.. my perception that (at least for a while) my kids and I have shelter and food, we're safe and healthy. Of course that perception could also be proven incorrect in an instant. My heart goes out to those of you who already struggle with basic necessities, and hope that together, our community can help.
Have you ever played this game? You start with a list of letters (let's say 10 of them), and then you have to list as many words as you can from those 10 letters. A much more boring game is to just list every single letter combination using the 10 letters regardless of whether they form words. Maybe you can imagine yourself (or someone) doing this as well. Now count. The portion of real words to nonsense letter jumbles is low. Really low. (I don't have the patience to compute this in an example myself, but let me know if you do.)
This is essentially why entropy reigns.
If I choose 4 letters from the scrabble box, then it is extremely unlikely they will spell a word in that order. If I choose a few more letters from the scrabble box, then maybe I can find a word after rearranging. Meaning requires energy.
This is the job the universe is asking of us. We expel a lot of energy to produce order, symmetry, beauty. To clean, write symphonies, and create logical networks of ideas. Our existence is a loan waiting to be paid back with interest. Eventually all of it will decay. And the universe will be very rich for having had us.
Have you ever noticed that balancing requires a bit of movement? That oscillation back and forth around the center of gravity. Some shift happens spontaneously, and then we compensate by pulling back in the opposite direction. And so on. Experience has taught me that expecting to be perfectly still usually results in the most dramatic falls. Allowing for movement and ongoing tiny adjustments ensure a long, secure balance.
Recently I've noticed that my sitting meditation is similar. A memory happens spontaneously, and then my mind compensates by projecting into the future. Although I try to stay perfectly present, my mind is wobbling back and forth between present and past sometimes running off so far that only a jolt brings me back. Maybe balancing the mind on the present moment also requires subtle shifts between the very recent past and the very near future.
Instead of asking the universe the meaning of your life, have you considered giving the universe meaning with your life?
Restless from the routine or exhausted from the unending changes? I think I'm both... Maybe this is why I spent much of my life going in circles. It feels like heading somewhere, but the sights are comfortably familiar (even when they're the same pains again and again).
Out of the hamster wheel now... Feels like freedom, feels like my internal compass is still spinning. What pulls me now?
05.28.2020 (semantics and dogma)
What do you believe in? I cannot deny my experience, but I can choose the words to describe it. I believe much of my experience has come before, and will come again. I believe it has lived through you as well. But I imagine us arguing about the minute details, differentiating, saying you cannot possibly understand. I cannot. I've felt those same physical sensations, but my perception of them is likely as individual as I am.
Did you know the initial physiological responses to fear and excitement are the same? Increased heart rate, increased perspiration, high adrenaline. Perception directs the distinction.
Notice how your past colors your perception. Filter when appropriate.
06.03.2020 (it's not all roses or roses have thorns too)
Any blessing bears burden. If honest recognition of this does not deter you, then chase that dream.
06.17.2020 (mishap, kismet)
The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see. Luck favors prepared mind. Serial bad weddings. He who throws mud loses ground.
Even in the greatest confusion there is an open channel into the soul. It's up to you to clarify. Turn your thoughts within - find yourself. You will always be surrounded with love and happiness.
It is time to help a friend in need. Hold tight to your dreams and your bowl. An old wish will come true. You will find good fortune in love.
People may doubt what you say but they will believe what you do. In a gentle way, you can shake the world.