Then there is the other secret. There isn’t any symbolysm [sic]. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know-
Do you have a favorite “thing” to which you identify with? Cycling, yoga, running, under water basket weaving? Listening to music? Flags? Religion? Sports teams? Society is increasingly being swallowed whole by the symbol based experience – I’m a cyclist, a super flexi-wanderlust-yogi, a weekend 5k master and a LvL 5 underwater basket weaver. Dear Reader, it’s time we remembered what we truly are – Timeless beings, trapped in a physical body. How much time do we spend doing “something” that does not signify something else, to someone else? How often do we take a break from our intensely representational world?
When I arrived home yesterday after work, I had the sense that I needed to “tune down” the processed, symbol based day I had so far, to a fairly unprocessed natural evening. I quite enjoy practicing mindful meditation while walking our dog. Thinking of nothing is really hard as the two of us meander along in the rain … “Why are our neighbors hopelessly obsessed with keeping their yard pristine? Oh this is nice! A sprinkler system running during a rain storm! This elm tree is interesting, I wonder how many cicadas are calling it home at the moment? Why are cicadas so damn loud? Really Dude – You are seriously going to pee on their trash bins?!?” I do remember one wonderful meditation experience I had recently in Utah, when I was able to just be aware of my physical self and surroundings, apart from the cultural and the social layering of interpretations the world flippantly heaves upon us. That is to say, I understood what I was as a being, not as a social identity – A middle-aged white male from Nebraska. Someone who is often associated with competing because I enjoy riding a bike and racing. Some dude who goes to yoga class to be “seen” … This experience was wonderfully freeing, and when I ended my session, I felt that I had returned to my life, – Being, with a renewed sense of energy, because I was choosing to take up my name (Jeremy), and eschewing everything else that society neatly fits me, us into. In stillness, I placed my name down for a short time, laid down all the symbols that help me process and live in this cruel world, and for a moment, I was able to just – Be.
I said aloud to our dog as we stepped back inside – “My identity ultimately does not depend on these “things” in order to exist.” He looked at me inquisitively and proceeded to lick his belly.
The real world, a world without symbols, mass shootings and senseless violence. The world outside of “whatever”, outside of our roles? Is more splendid than we know it to be.
I realize today that nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself-
Early this past Friday morning while driving to work, an event occurred that made me question everything in life.
Mindfulness and Awareness are a journey, not a destination, not something to achieve, not the latest “trend” to trick you into signing up for a months worth of yoga classes, and since mindfulness and awareness are deeply personal, I will humbly, and reluctantly share with you the events that enveloped my recent experience. An experience that has both failed me, and helped me tremendously.
Typically, I commute to work via bicycle. I wake early, reheat a cup of black coffee I make the night prior for a minute or so in the microwave and ease into my riding gear, gently and peacefully. This was not the case last Friday. For you see, I was in a rush, I was outside of my body, I was aware of my actions but not mindful of them. The usual list of things come to mind – Work, riding more, building a new bike, helping friends and family, trying to practice yoga twice a day, spending more time abusing myself than nurturing my spirit. Slowing down does not come naturally to me. I once had an old riding buddy (he was old and had legs like tree trunks …) in England say to me, “slow down to go fast mate” and I got it at the time. It’s the proverbial Aesop’s Fable the story of ‘The Tortoise & the Hare’, the tortoise won by going slower. Faster only gets you to your destination quicker – Driving to a noon yoga class while at work, instead of riding my bike to work and practicing at Halleck Park when the sun rises. Driving to work so I can pick up and drop off some bike parts a day ahead of schedule instead of just waiting for the weekend. By practicing to go slower, I become mindful of the world around me, and I pay more attention … I actually arrive exactly where I want to be, with more awareness. Instead of a steamy car wash bay, spraying the putrid, burning flesh of a deer from the underside of my car.
All of this sounds so simple, although in practice, its much harder.
So where does this leave me? I believe I need to reflect and review my actions with intention – Do my words and actions really align? My feelings really are indicators of my true spirit. When I am feeling incredibly frustrated with life, unsupported and angry? I need to pause, and take better care of my own emotional well-being. My thoughts truly create the world I call home. Being mindful of how I think is essential to my place in this comforting world at times.
Actions, feelings and thoughts that convey encouraging messages, that leave me feeling content and with a smile on my face, are at the heart of living mindfully.
Habit is the intersection of knowledge (what to do), skill (how to do), and desire (want to do)-
It seems that in today’s world we have the freedom to pick and choose form a potpourri basket of interests …
“Check it out! I’m like totally doing this 30 day paleo, meditation, yoga, power walking, green smoothie, smiling at strangers, whole body cleanse thing! Just read about this push up challenge and hill sprint interval thing as well!”
Why do we choose to pursue a wide variety of “things” simultaneously and figure out how to do these “things” in a way and on a level that is average at best?
“My friend and I had a great workout at the box yesterday! 5 rounds of: 15 push ups – 15 jumping jacks – 15 sit ups – 15 walls balls and a 400m run. I still need to work on my push ups though, three years now and they are still pretty sloppy.”
Whatever happened to developing a deep knowledge base, knowing information (not stored on a gadget) and total devotion to the pursuit of mastery in a single field?
“I forget what my split times are in the pool but I’m thinking if I can work on my transition more it should make up for my poor swimming performance … Maybe?!?”
Are we afraid as a society to endure the intense work, discipline and willingness it takes to master a selected discipline? Are we afraid to embrace the risk needed to walk away from merely being “average” in the name of becoming extraordinary at one?
“It’s the same during every century ride: Chum it up with the guys for the first few miles, then I ride alone for the remainder of the time, lost in my thoughts, worried about “something”? I suppose it’s the 8am yoga class tomorrow and the 5k at noon?!?”
Yearn for the sense of intensity, focus and intrinsic reward that comes from the single-minded quest to master a particular body of knowledge: Yoga, mediation, martial arts, relationship(s), life etc. Radiate the pure energy and passionate spirit that comes not only from having attained mastery, but from simply being in the process of mastery. The secret Dear Reader lies here in the process of seeking mastery, this is where we find awareness, comfort, stillness, joy, harmony and balance.
Do you, deep down inside, feel satisfied knowing that you are merely pretty decent at a bunch of “things”, but not exceptional at any?
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans-
Often at times we focus primarily on our bodies, the results or the lack there of is: We often neglect our mind.
We have often spoke about one way to relax your body and mind: Consistent meditation practice. A quiet mind is a powerful mind, especially so during the last few miles of a local race or a few extra push ups before you leave the gym. Extraneous thoughts that amass during the day will reduce our focus. When we can calm our minds through meditation? The body becomes free, energized and your true ability lies at your fingertips.
Feel free to insert your chosen mediation practice within the quotes: “…”
Learning how to sit quietly, without actually “doing” anything other than focusing on your breath is vitally important. Learn to appreciate the “present moment,” because it will after all … vanish in a few seconds.
An expanding awareness of our strengths (quiet, focused mind) and vulnerabilities (neglecting our bodies and ignoring pain) helps each of us to endure difficult times with more equanimity. It becomes a pleasure to stand your ground during tricky situations with a calm mind, not out of stubborn pride. Pride breaks each of us over time.
Happy Earth Day and please be well today!
What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies-
The great discovery in life as we age (age not to be confused with mature …) is how much better, more fulfilling life becomes.
We spend much of our youth searching for “something” in the clouds of insecurity, trying to figure out exactly how to live. As turbulent time passes we gather slowly, more about our aims and preferences. Comparing ourselves to others diminishes, we know where our heart lies and our flight path is marked moving forward.
The search for meaning carries on throughout our entire life, although as we age, the deeper spiritual questions we have become more urgent and become more clear to us. The daily petty concerns that surround us are recede to their rightful place – unnoticed and forgotten. The wide-ranging emotions all of us have experienced this week, awakens our spiritual domain and delicately shows us what really matters in life.
The radiance we witness in the “older folk” comes from smiling and being more alive. We stop hurrying to every fleeting meeting we have scheduled, slowing down we develop attentiveness that adds an entire new flavour, richness to our daily experiences.