Doing Nothing

It’s been a couple of months since I last meditated. I’m human. I make excuses on why not to. The benefits are obvious and it’s silly that I don’t do it more often. I read books on meditation, watch movies with characters that meditate, and I really want to do it. But usually when it comes down to actually doing it, I choose not to.

Last night I procrastinated. I wanted to meditate but I shoved it to the back of my head. The same feeling comes and goes often, so I didn’t think too hard about it. When bedtime came around, I decided that I wanted to meditate. Not only did I want to do it, but I decided to do it for an entire hour. That’s significantly longer than I usually meditate for.

I just went with the whim and set the time on my phone. When I sat, I cleared my mind the best I could. Thoughts kept arising left and right. Music that I listened to earlier in the day came to the front of my head. The tunes drove me nuts. I just wanted mental silence.

Eventually I started focusing on physical sensations. What my body feel like, how heavy I am, the sound of the AC unit, and the taste of my tongue. My mind kept grabbing my attention and that song kept coming back over and over again. It felt chaotic. Every nerve inside of me made me want to get up and do something more productive.

Then I realized something; my view of meditation has been skewed. All this time I had tried to make meditation more than it was. I wanted clarity and mindfulness. Yet both of these are things that I could choose to have more of. My goal became to simply sit. I abandoned any expectations I had. I only sat. I slowed my thinking and paid attention to the physical sensations around me.

Meditation is really boring. Sitting down for an hour and literally doing nothing but breathing is not an exciting experience. I didn’t try to make it an exciting experience. I didn’t try to make it anything more than it was. It was just sitting.

If I couldn’t just sit, then how could I live other parts of my life totally. Sitting is an incredibly simple exercise. All you do is have your butt on the ground. If I couldn’t put all my consciousness in that, how could I walk totally, or talk to others totally. Learning how to sit fully would be the first step towards living totally.

Most of life is boring. Going to work, eating, sleeping. These are generally mundane activities. Trying to make them more important than they are is a cause of suffering. To eat with a wandering mind, I avoided tasting totally. When I walked, my mind would drift off. How am I to enjoy life if every moment that isn’t exciting makes me disconnect? I think the point is to stick with it. To live with the mundane and really enjoy it. Then, when you’re really enjoying it, you can experience the really exciting things totally as well.

Maybe that didn’t make complete sense. It’s hard to put it in words. Doing nothing has really had an impact on my life. Silly as that sounds, sitting has improved my life.

BLOGtober day nineteen!

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Making Decisions

Lately I’ve been struggling with making decisions in my life. I’ve referenced it many times before but Sylvia Plath put it well in about a fig tree. She wrote that she saw different possibilities reaching out in all directions. Sylvia sat at the foot of this tree and couldn’t decide which possibility to choose. Instead of enjoying one fig, she watched as they rotten into nothing.

Some days I really relate to this. There’s too many choices and to have one choice means that I cannot have the other. It’s poison to make a decision when you have to sacrifice other options. I want a car but I don’t want a car. There is no right answer. If I buy one, then I will be less able to save money. By not owning a car, I can’t go out on the weekends by myself. I’m stuck between two equally opposing options.

I mean, there are many other decisions I have to make in my life but that’s an easy one to explain. They’re silly and stupid first world issues but it seems like they occupy a lot of thought and create a lot of suffering. If I bought a car, I would suffer because I chose to buy a car. If I continue to live without one, I suffer because I’m stuck in my room. Either way, suffering.

To be honest, I don’t know if there is a solution. I am grateful for the life I have with or without a vehicle. Yet it still is in the forefront of my mind. How do you make peace with your decisions in life?

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1 Year

This past year has been a roller-coaster of emotions and experiences. I’ve been in the deepest pits and on top of the world. I’ve found myself unable to function for days while others I’ve motivated myself beyond belief. A couple of weeks ago I wrote this down:

The truth in the game is that you are not able to be mentally repressed by anyone other than yourself. As long as you think that you’re trapped, you will be. Drop your own chains and set your gun down. You were never at war with anyone but yourself.

There are times when you will be driving and a cliff will appear out of nowhere. You’ll find yourself falling into a dark pit. In these moments, you can be your own worst enemy. You can fight a war against yourself and that’s hardest battle a person can face. There’s no reason for that sort of bloodshed.

This past year has been filled with those mysterious cliffs and I’ve found myself falling more times than I’d like to count. I’ve also discovered that I tend to be the one who drags myself down. I could be standing in 1 inch of water, but I will still find a way to drown. And, by god, if anyone told me to stand up I’d push my face further into the water.

It took a year of suffering and half a year of blogging to realize this: you may find yourself in horrible circumstances but you will always come back up. You will heal and life will go on. Depression is a very real thing but you will move past it.

Nobody could have helped me last September. After all, I was in the deepest pit of my life. I couldn’t find anyone who understood my situation. I was torn between desperately wanting consolation and wanting everyone around me to shut up. More than anything I felt alone.

I think that we isolate ourselves because we think we suffer alone. We think that our struggles are unique or that others will shame us. We don’t want others to see us as weak.

The truth is, you’re never alone. We all suffer, and while I may not fully understand your situation, I’m here for you. You may experience horrible things in your life but you will move past them. You will heal and you will feel better one day. If there’s only one thing I’ve learned in this past year, it’s that we all have an unimaginable capacity to heal.

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Striking Balance

And in the end, all the suffering we inflict will be equivalent to the suffering we incur.

With running the risk of sounding like a preacher, I think that everything evens out in the end. All the pain and discomfort we strike on one another, shall be the same amount as the suffering we experience. It is as if you are striking yourself when you strike another.

On the other side, all the good you bring into this world shall also be returned. Every kindness you bring about for a stranger, shall be brought onto you.

So then I pose this question; are you birthing kindness to all those around you or are you bringing suffering into this world?

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Unclogging the river of mind

Imagine yourself walking up to a river in the middle of the woods. Big tall trees lean their branches over the river and the water flows effortlessly downstream. You sit down on the riverbank and focus your whole attention on everything that is around you.

This is your mind and your relationship with it. You are not the water or the beautiful fish moving through it. Nor are the thoughts that swim through your brain yours, they just exist in and of themselves. Thoughts flow through our heads but they are not ours, they just are. They are spontaneous creatures that react to the world and our experience of it.

The river represents focus and the natural flow of the mind. It is continuous and ever moving. The water is being and the “stream of consciousness”.

Naturally debris flow down the river and compile on the sides. Sometimes a log will get stuck and pile up with some branches that broke off the trees. Eventually the flow can be stopped and your mind can no longer flow.

When we become attached to our thoughts, we build dams in that river. We start with something insignificant or profound and thoughts build up until eventually that flow halts. We are utterly consumed by our thoughts. Nothing can fix this problem other than letting it all go.

Let these thoughts go. Don’t hold onto them. Start at the roots and stop classifying it. Whether those thoughts be “does this person love me?” or “what is wrong with everyone else?”. It can be less significant because anything can build into a dam. Experience things without the label of “good” or “bad”, just let them be as they are.

When I’m struggling mentally, I walk up to that river and sit. I look how the water flows and I see those thoughts floating down the river. They enter the mind and gather in one place until the river is halted. By letting the deep thoughts go, the whole river can clear. I choose to pay them no attention and give them no importance. They are, after all, just thoughts.

This is what we should strive for; the free flowing of the mind. When we attach too much to thoughts we stop the flow of being. Choose for yourself to let the river flow and detach. Love the river, love the debris, and let it flow.

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An End to Conflict through Forgiveness

As a world we hold many grudges; we seemingly cannot forget the actions of generations before us. The stigmas that have arisen are excluding and held long passed their due. We label the world as “us” versus “them”. We’re in a constant state of war between us and other countries, us and the neighbors that mow their lawn at five in the morning, us and the elderly woman who cannot find her checkbook at the cash register ahead of us. Are minds grip in frustration because we cannot understand the other person. We do not know what they are going through. This leads us to place blame and we start thinking people are doing things intentionally. The neighbor is doing this because I was noisy the other night. This is his way of payback. It’s silly stupid things like that lead us to frustration and anger. As nations sometimes we do the same things. Placing blame on a few individual from a foreign country as if they represent every soul from their country. All of this is conflict and all of it is unnecessary.

It is incredibly evident that conflict does not move us forward as a world. Every argument we get in, every grudge held, holds us back. We watch the news and when we see someone get murdered we immediately start placing blame. Was this person from our country? What was this person’s skin color? Were they on drugs? We start looking for who to blame and who’s group is responsible for the action. This is an inaccurate way of looking at the world because the individuals do not represent the whole. They are individuals.

While we cannot prevent the collision of different intentions we can prevent conflict that often times comes out of it. We can choose to forgive the individuals, the countries, the groups, the world, and ourselves. When someone makes a mistake or has a different intention than you, don’t place blame. We’re all part of the same human family. Forgive them when they make a mistake and realize that they aren’t always pitted against you. If they are at seeming odds with you, speak with them and bring about understanding. Violence is the ultimate lack of communication, it forbids discussion and understanding. So speak with an open ear and try to learn about them. While not all violence is physical, try to keep calm. Raising your voice or getting into shouting matches does not solve the problem. It furthers conflict between both parties. If one party does not want to discuss, then maybe you’ll have to wait patiently.

Much of the forgiveness that we need to give is to ourselves. We have so much built up conflict inside of ourselves. If we’re on a diet we can be angry at ourselves if we choose to eat something unhealthy. If you had a goal and came up short, you could become upset with yourself. Holding in that conflict doesn’t solve anything. We need to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings and errors. We are only human and sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we forget someone’s birthday or to pick the kids up from school.

While many of these examples seem tiny, many of them can build up in an individual and create great unhappiness. This is not about growing an ego and thinking you are better than everyone else. Rather it is about realizing that you will make mistakes and the best way to progress past them is to forgive.

This is why forgiveness of the self is so important. How can I forgive you when you make a mistake if I cannot forgive myself for things that are just as menial? When your husband or wife forgets to pick up the kids, the anger or frustration is not always directed at them. Sometimes it’s frustration that we also make the same mistake. We are all human and suffer from the same lack of perfection.

This can be amplified to represent the world. We need to forgive our own people when they make mistakes because nobody is perfect. We may think we could do a better job, and perhaps we could, but there is no reason to hold that discontent. If we could do better, then we should go out there and actually do it! Complaining about the problem and blaming someone else does not solve the problem.

That is why I want you to take a moment to think of all your shortcomings in life. Where did you fall short and miss the mark? All the mistakes that you have made in your life. Once you have them in mind, imagine writing them in the sands of a beautiful beach. Imagine the waves rising over them and slowly washing them away. The water leaves behind no mark of the past and that mistake is forgiven. You have accepted it and now you are ready to move on in life. Do this with as many things you can think of. Do you have any anger or frustration with yourself? Did you not accomplish a previously set goal? Wash the emotion in the beautiful sand with water.

Then try again. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings and your mistakes then move on from them. If you cheated on your diet, forgive yourself and move forward. There’s no use in breaking everything down now, you can keep moving forward.

After you have done this for yourself, start doing it for the angers and frustrations you have with other people. Do you have resentment towards somebody? What is it that you are frustrated with? Imagine the tides rising and carrying their mistakes away. They are only human and subject to the same human-ness as you. Now move forward from it. If you should take action, then do so. You could go ask your neighbor to mow at a different time, after you have forgiven him. If you do this in the wrong order you could cause conflict. You need to forgive them first so that you don’t hold on to that resentment.

Now breath. This exercise can be done anytime, anywhere, for any reason.

In the comments below tell me about your experiences with forgiveness. Are there people in your life that you need to forgive? Is there unnecessary conflict within you? If you’d like more posts on forgiveness, let me know.

Together we can all create a more peaceful world through the act of forgiveness. Let’s bring peace to our conflict and forgive those who have done wrong and made mistakes. It is time we take a step forward together.

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P.S. Gandhi has some amazing works on forgiveness and non-violence. I suggest checking them out when you have the time!