Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Like everyone else, I am being tortured to death" Redux.

(I'm re-posting this entry because it is that time of the year when we take stock.  By the way, my house is no longer dusty - I've had it repainted and repaired. Hey, wait.  How did that happen?)

Change One Thing is the name of a book you don’t have to read.  The title tells you everything.  Oh, you mean if I brush my teeth starting right to left instead of left to right, all the molecules in my makeup will shift and start a domino sequence and I’ll be a different person with different experiences and nothing will be the same in this dusty overheated house?

Yep. That’s pretty much it.

Hmmm.  I could almost buy that idea because I believe in causality.  If you do something different, your inner dopey baby sits up and fusses for a long time but finally it gives up and goes to sleep.

Here’s the thing about change:  it’s shy and shrinks back.  You won’t notice anything unless you keep a detailed diary and track your behavior.  One day, you are living a different life and it seems natural not some seismic personal restructuring like St. Paul experienced on the Damascus Road.

Does change automatically outpicture your wish list?  If you’re like me you won’t remember what you wished for yesterday.  It’s hard to decide what you want unless it’s specific like a better respiratory experience or a working light at the top of the basement stairs. Before I got up this morning I tried to dig up what I really wanted and could not come up with anything.  Maybe a new mattress. Maybe you'd like a different state of mind, I coaxed.  No, I like my muddled state of mind.  It clears up once in a while. Maybe more success?  No, I'm sick of success. 

There was a line in a poem by Carl Sandberg that used to be my favorite. “I’m a sucker for things the way they are.”  Now I know that’s a mean thing to say, Carl. You have to fight thoughts like that.  I’m not an ingĂ©nue anymore.  The sentiment sounds ironic and fey but it’s time to park the irony at the door and look at your life circumstances with grown up convictions and grown up expectations. Really?

Another snippet of poetry that stuck to me like a barnacle and became my mantra for a few years: “Like everyone else I am being tortured to death.” This thought might have some traction if we believe that life’s entire struggle for everyone is overcoming childhood.  Or even before childhood - at the distribution of the dna that made our future  a done deal.

Today, as I sit writing this post, I choose to believe that life as a struggle is an irrelevant idea.  “Struggle” is just another word.  Start brushing your teeth from a different starting point and see if anything happens.

Hey, as I’m about to close I realize that one year ago I wouldn’t have parted with irony for all the happiness in the world.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Everything is going to be all right.

Holidays, god bless them, make us think more than usual. Here are some pre-made deep thoughts to get you through to Jan. 2.  They are from one of my favorite books, Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer.

 "I have discovered that most people have no one to talk to, no one, that is, who really wants to listen.  When it does at last dawn on a man that you really want to hear about his business, the look that comes over his face is something to see.

 “Ours is the only civilization in history which has enshrined mediocrity as its national ideal. Others have been corrupt, but leave it to us to invent the most undistinguished of corruptions. No orgies, no blood running in the street, no babies thrown off cliffs. No, we're sentimental people and we horrify easily.”

“The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life…. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.”

“Ooooh," Kate groans, Kate herself now. "I'm so afraid."
"I know."
"What am I going to do?"
"You mean right now?"
"We'll go to my car. Then we'll drive down to the French Market and get some coffee. Then we'll go home."
"Is everything going to be all right?"
"Tell me. Say it."
"Everything is going to be all right.”

Walker Percy had it right. Just get in the car, go to a special market and get some coffee.  Then go home.   “Everything is going to be all right.”

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A continuous loop of "no exit" thoughts.

I’m having repair work done on the house and it is sometimes stressful. Stress is often accompanied by repetitive thoughts.  Being trapped in a continuous loop of the same “no exit” thoughts is horrid (I love that word). After a few hours of this I turned to my old pal, Eckhart Tolle for advice.  I went to his free meditation and tried to steady my mind so I could take it in.   It was tough going for a while but finally I really heard what he was saying.  “When you identify with the voice in your head that never stops speaking, you become the voice and it is a dreamlike state.”  Yep, that’s it.

When that happens you can’t have a clear thought.  Everything is seen through the judgment of the mind.  Halfway through the meditation I was able to have a clear thought.

Here’s the process I used and golly gee, it worked.

I asked myself:

Why are you so strangled by this situation?
What would be the outcome if the situation continued as you imagine it?
How would the outcome impact your life?
How would that affect your day-to-day well-being going forward?

Just by stating all the facts, my anxiety level was reduced by two thirds.
Then I examined the answer to the last question:  “How would that affect your well-being going forward?”  I found that while the worst outcome would be frustrating, I could live with it.”

Then I did the one practice I’ve learned from Tolle that I find brilliant and effective.  I took possession of the situation.  I said quietly: “this thing is mine” but I didn’t JUDGE it as good or bad.  It was just there - something.  Immediately the sting was gone and I was able to dissipate the “thinking loop.”  Throughout the day, the old thoughts tried to get some traction but each time they had less and less strength.

Now here’s the bonus of this process.  When you stop judging something as good or bad, you let the thing out of the prison of negative thought and it becomes neutral. Sometimes, it becomes good. You step back and allow life to flow on.  You do not keep the situation in irons. You are interested in the outcome but not dependent on it.  It sounds hard to do but letting go of the judgment boosts your ability to step back.

This is exactly what happened to me yesterday and I wanted to share it.