Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: philosophy Page 1 of 15

Calming the Surface: Meditation Practice

I write a lot about my meditation practice, and I probably talk a lot about it too, but I’m learning so much. I can’t help but share.

meditation practice

My beef with meditation in the past was I felt it wasn’t working. I’d sit and focus on my breath for ten minutes every morning. So what? I’m calm for those ten minutes, and then go into the rest of my day only to lose that calm almost immediately.

Ten minutes of exercise, while a good start and better than nothing, isn’t going to make anyone strong.

I increased my time to twenty minutes, made a point of doing it daily without exception, and made some progress. My mornings started with more calm, but by the afternoon…ugg…

I started an afternoon practice. Thirty minutes before my husband stops working, I sit in meditation and then journal. It helped smooth my evenings.

But what the heck? The only way to remain calm is to be in retreat from the world and spend more and more time in silent meditation? That doesn’t seem like living. I can’t wall myself off from the world.

I kept meditating and reading, studying, trying to learn more. There has to be more. And then I find this:

“…there are two streams of meditation practice within Buddhism. Their Sanskrit names are shamatha and vipashyana. Shamatha means “to calm the mind” whereas vipashyana means “to look into the mind.” Shamatha is usually translated into English as “calm abiding” and vipashyana as “insight.” It means seeing clearly.

There is a traditional example used to illustrate the differences between these two approaches to meditation. Imagine a lake surrounded by hills and snow-capped mountains. It is a clear mountain lake which reflects the surrounding mountains so accurately that it can be difficult to tell which image is the mountains and which just the reflection of the mountains on the lake’s surface. But when this lake becomes agitated by the elements, various things happen.

First of all, the surface of the lake breaks up so that it no longer reflects the mountains accurately. The image is still there, but it is distorted. In addition, because there are many waves and the surface is choppy, it is difficult for us to see into the lake to any depth. Not only is the surface of the water choppy, but the mud at the bottom of the lake is also stirred up. This pollutes the water, making it muddy and opaque.

This state is very much like our ordinary everyday mind, which is continually being agitated by the winds of the six senses.”

Ani Tenzin Palmo – Reflections on a Mountain Lake

The point of meditation is to calm the surface of the lake so that we can reflect the world with fewer distortions and see beneath more clearly to reach beneath and examine what we find.

This past six months, since I have increased my meditation time and made a concerted effort to keep up the practice daily, has changed things. My husband has commented on it, and so has my son. I don’t seem to react as quickly, I’m more reflective and less agitated by the little things.

I’ve found myself stopping to think when I feel something, sorting it out before I respond. I get less angry. I’m less depressed. I love myself more and I can easily extend that love to others, even those that seem to be determined to drive me crazy.

Don’t get me wrong. People still irk me with their behavior and choices, but I’m more likely to see them as beings in need of love and patience instead of enemies. Maybe not instantly, but in a reasonable amount of time before I react to them and make everything worse. This is part of the practice.

I’ve struggled with anger, depression, and stress my whole life. I’ve sought help from doctors that directed me to drugs, and therapists that seemed only to make the situation worse. I’ve lost money, time, and done damage to my body. And nothing has helped like one hour a day in mediation, reading, and journaling.

Certainty is Murderous

The Power in Stories: East of Eden #3

Another morning, nearly two hours straight, completely absorbed in a story. There’s so much power in stories. And it’s not only the story that’s grabbing my attention, but also the truths he’s touching on. The way he writes, narrating not only the story, but coming out of it to talk to you like he just thought of something to mention. It’s more like a conversation than a novel.

power in stories

Four days, and this is where I am. Halfway through a fat novel I didn’t know I even wanted to read in the first place. It makes me want to go back and read his other novels that I initially hated. Was it the story I didn’t like, or was his voice different? Or was it because the first time was in a high school classroom, forced to read a story before I was ready?

The last few pages I read this morning are what I want to highlight today. And you don’t have to worry about spoilers. These are taken out of context and related to me personally. That’s the way I read. Author’s probably hate it.

“I think when a man finds good or bad in his children he is seeing only what he planted in them after they cleared the womb.”

There’s a lot of truth here. How our children behave has a lot more to do with how we raised them, than how we conceived them. Do we honor their natural temperament or squash it? Have we dealt with our own past demons or are we passing on that lesson, to be learned by the next generation?

“An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There’s a punishment for it, and it’s usually crucifixion.”

Have you ever told the truth and been ostracized for it? It destroys more people than lies do. The fear of it makes us hide our feelings, our thoughts, our true selves, from the world around us, especially those closest to us. Safety is a rare space.

“Lord, how the day passes! It’s like a life – so quickly when we don’t watch it and so slowly when we do.”

It’s lines like this, ones that express so eloquently what all of us know instinctually, that make my heart skip in joy.

“No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that is true and true of us.”

That brings me back to wondering about those Steinbeck stories I read when I was younger. For whatever reason, they mean something to humanity in general, not individuals at any given time. Something that means something to generations, no matter what you personally get from it, are worthy of respect. As you change, they change. Something in them is important, something in them reflects humanity, you may not be able to see it yet.

“I’m feeling my way now – don’t jump on me if I’m not clear.”

This should be on the title page of my blog. It’s exactly how I feel each time I start to write a post.

Samuel had leaned on his elbows on the table and his hands covered his eyes and forehead. “I want to think,” he said. “Damn you, I want to think. I’ll want to take this off alone where I can pick it apart and see. Maybe you’ve tumbled a world for me. And I don’t know what I can build in my world’s place.”

Lee said softly, “Couldn’t a world be built around accepted truth? Couldn’t some pains and insanities be rooted out if the causes were known?”

This is the essence of my thinking lately, one I learned to see through secular Buddhism. We should be tearing down our worlds and rebuilding them constantly, not clinging to what we believe we already know. It’s the only way to stay sane. Keep an open mind, stay curious, try to see what’s right there in front of us, and use that information to build new worlds. This is progress.

Yesterday afternoon, I stopped at the mailbox on my way into town for groceries. This was inside.

power in stories

It’s that book I told you about when I first started reading East of Eden a mere four days ago, Journal of a Novel. I thought I’d read it alongside East of Eden, but I’m already still heavily involved in The Portable Atheist and Reflections on a Mountain Lake. I’ll have to wait, but it’s definitely next.

By the way, I did make a bit of a fool of myself when I found the book in the mail. I ripped open the package right there in the car and took a picture, quickly texting it to several people I knew would be just as excited to hear about it. Yes, I’m THAT kind of geek!

Click back to my first post on East of Eden by John Steinbeck for more.

Resolving Conflict is Complicated

Resolving conflict is on my mind today. Actually, it’s been on my mind a long time. I’ve never been very good at resolving conflict in a rational, non-harming, way. My “go to” as a child was to cry and throw myself on the floor, in the hopes of instilling guilt on those around me until they decided to do what was right, a.k.a. what I wanted. As an adult, the silent treatment worked well for a time, until I would explode with anger and unleash hell upon those around me.

If you are one that has not experienced this with me, count yourself lucky. I’m not exaggerating.

As a wife and then a parent, you’d think I would have grown up a bit, but not really. One thing I’ve learned is that we all fall short of perfection, every single one of us. Our only hope is that we keep learning, and possibly surround ourselves with people that can forgive, love, and give us space to grow.

This morning, I read this in my study of Reflections on a Mountain Lake by Ani Tenzin Palmo:

It struck me that if we act out of the root of anger, we will only experience more anger in return. The Buddha himself said, “Hatred doesn’t cease by hatred. Hatred can only cease by love or by non-hatred.” This is because if you keep putting out anger, no matter how justified the cause, you will stir up the huge reservoir of anger in your antagonist, whoever it may be. So however justified it may seem at the time, all you’ll get in return is more opposition.

It’s obvious. All anger, no matter how justified, how righteous, how holy it is, comes from the same source, which is antipathy, aversion, or hatred. Whether it expresses itself in violence or nonviolence, it’s still anger, and so however “justified,” it will never bring about circumstances leading to peace, love, and reconciliation. How can it!

Anger…you know what Yoda says… When I’m feeling angry, I know to take a step back, give myself some space, and think, “What is it that I’m not liking exactly?” And then I think about the person or situation I’m angry with, “How can I gain understanding and reconnect?” My goal is to live in peace.

It’s not easy. I am not good at it. I’m still learning. Daily meditation in the form of two twenty-minute sessions has helped me slow down and become more aware of my feelings and the thoughts that follow them.

Also, this morning, I read from Elizabeth Anderson:

We each have moral authority with respect to one another. This authority is, of course, not absolute. No one has the authority to order anyone else to blind obedience. Rather, each of us has the authority to make claims on others, to call upon people to heed our interests and concerns.

Whenever we lodge a complaint, or otherwise lay a claim on others attention and conduct, we presuppose our own authority to give others reasons for action that are not dependent on appealing to the desires and preferences they already have.

But whatever grounds we have for assuming our own authority to make claims is equally well possessed by anyone who we expect to heed our own claims.

Resolving conflict involves two people or parties respecting the rights of the others. If we cannot come to some understanding, we need to separate and live apart from each other. Where my right to be me ends, is where your right to be you starts. We can’t step on each other. Why can’t that be easy?

resolving conflict

I posted this meme to my Facebook page this morning, not realizing that it was related until after I had let it sit there an hour.

I’m not a believer in astrology, but I often identify with Sagittarius memes. This one was especially funny to me. It’s why I have such a conflict with Facebook.

There you all are, living your (to me) bullshit, and I so want to call you on it. (Sidenote: We are ALL living bullshit that others think is simply nuts.)

What stops me?

If I’m honest with myself I can say that I don’t because I know if I call yours out, you’ll call mine out, and I really don’t like that. I should be able to take it, right? It’s a good way to learn, putting forth your ideas, being questioned, and then rethinking them. In person, I’m getting much better at that, but online… yeah, you know things are different, so I take a step back and stay quiet.

That’s how this works. You’ve angered me. I think on it, take some time to put things into perspective, so that I’m respecting your person and position, because I want a relationship with you. We work together to resolve our differences and live in peace, somehow, because we are all sentient beings with the authority to run our own lives.

Now…if I can only remember that when the feelings strike. Back to meditation practice!

Final Thoughts on The Power of Now

Let’s see…how do we begin this? I didn’t just “pick up” The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, I ordered it from Amazon on my phone while I was still out. I’d heard it mentioned on the podcast I was listening to, which now I can’t remember the title of. I found it in my mailbox two days later, a miracle in my neighborhood, and added ten minutes of reading it into my morning routine, just after my meditation time.

the power of now

Did I love it? Not really and I feel a little bad about that. If I had not impulse bought it, if I had come home and researched it a little, I probably would have moved on to something a little less…spiritual. What did I expect from a book with the subtitle A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment? But then again, if I had, I would have lost the gems I did find in it.

“I cannot live with myself any longer.” This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”

Who is this person that I can’t live with anymore? It’s my mind! Around the same time I started reading this is when I also started talking to her in kinder tones. We’ve been getting along much better lately.

“Emotion literally means “disturbance.” The word comes from the Latin emovere, meaning “to disturb.”

Think about that for a second. You’re a spider on a web, and there’s a disturbance. You turn in that direction, wait, see if there’s anything there that needs your attention. And then move on.

“Don’t get stuck on the level of words. A word is no more than a means to an end. It’s an abstraction.”

We could be trying to express the same emotion but using different words and actions. What if we try to get understanding instead of attacking each other over semantics?

“The inner equivalent to objects in space such as furniture, walls, and so on are your mind objects: thoughts emotions, and the objects of the senses. And the inner equivalent of space is the consciousness that enables your mind objects to be, just as space allows all things to be.”

I wrote this one on a post-it and keep it close to my desk. “Pay attention to that space between things.” Silence is the space between thought. When we’re paying attention to the space, we allow more peace in, and we tend to relax and see the bigger picture.

“Most people pursue physical pleasures or various forms of psychological gratification because they believe that those things will make them happy or free them from a feeling of fear or lack.”

This one hit me like a brick. I’m the one that says, “If you just texted me…” “If you just did the dishes…” “If you…” That’s not what makes anyone happy. The happy comes when you accept the world around you as it is, without conditions. That doesn’t mean you take all the crap that comes and live miserable. There’s more about that in this book.

“A victim identity is the belief that the past is more powerful than the present, which is the opposite of the truth. It is the belief that other people and what they did to you are responsible for who you are now, for your emotional pain or your inability to be your true self.”

The world just is. What are you going to do now? I refuse to call myself a victim of anything.

“When a condition or situation that the mind has attached itself to and identified with changes or disappears, the mind cannot accept it. It will cling to the disappearing condition and resist the change. It is almost as if a limb were being torn off your body.”

When I’m sad about how something is going, I can feel it in my body like I’m having a heart attack. It really sucks and causes panic, which I respond to and then create more drama. I recently tried NOT doing that, sitting with the pain, knowing it was my mind, feeling it all over, and then…it left me. More magic. Emotions aren’t real. They are primal warnings to things that may or may not be there.

“Don’t look for peace. Don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender.”

This last one was my favorite. It sounds totally nuts, but it works. I tried it myself. One morning I woke up grumpy. I had a bad dream, didn’t sleep well, felt like an ogre. In the past I would have begun a downward spiral. “This isn’t what I want! I should do better than this! All this practice is for nothing!” Angrier and angrier until someone in the house said or did something that irked me even more, and then BOOM. Michelle is on a rampage and hating herself for it.

What I tried this time was to say to myself, “Yeah, that night sucked. I’m tired and grumpy. I’m human!” And then I altered my day a bit, chilled more, read more, watched my favorite show and had some popcorn and a cola. When my husband asked me how my day was going, I said, “I am feeling grumpy and tired, so I took the day off. Let’s go get tacos!” I surrendered and accepted my feelings instead of fighting with them.

There were so many little sparks to capture in this book. I wrote many more down but tried to distill it to only my favorites here. I wasn’t a fan of the spiritual bend this author takes. I felt like he was trying to pull in several different religions to explain things instead of letting them be based in psychology or human nature. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone just getting started with meditation, but it does have a lot to teach if you have the patience to wade through. But if the spiritual speaks to you, it might be right up your alley!

Discovering Bertrand Russell

If the only thing I got from this book was Bertrand Russell, it would be 100% worth all the hours and pages.

Amazingly (because I thought it would be extremely boring or maddeningly condescending), I’m about halfway through The Portable Atheist – Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever selected and with introductions by Christopher Hitchens. I’ve changed my initial feelings about the book and now say they are essential readings by anyone, nonbeliever or believer. The essays have certainly shed a new light (for me) on many authors I thought I knew and helped me to think in a whole new direction. I wouldn’t say the collection has convinced me to become an atheist, but I can see their point of view more clearly.

bertrand russell

My problem with atheism is the same as theism. You’re saying you hold a position of belief, one that cannot be proven. I prefer to remain agnostic. I do not know. I have a belief that brings me peace of mind and directs my actions, but I would not go to battle over these beliefs or waste my efforts in forcing anyone else to believe them. My beliefs may change, probably will. In fact, I hope they will, because that means I’m learning and adapting, which seems to be the best way to live.

This past week, I read an essay in The Portable Atheist by Bertrand Russell called An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish. I’ve heard of him, seen quotes from him on social media, but I’ve never read any of his work. I’m sorry that I haven’t, and I’ll certainly be searching out more since I’ve read this.

The following are excerpts that outline some incredibly useful rules for anyone attempting to make their way through this plane of existence.

“To avoid the various foolish opinions to which mankind are prone, no superhuman genius is required. A few simple rules will keep you, not from all error, but from silly error.”

Not ALL error because every human is fallible. We make mistakes, big ones, even incredibly intelligent and famous people, even people in power like government officials and church leaders. Gasp!

#1 “If the matter is one that can be settled by observation, make the observation yourself.”

Don’t assume you know something. Go find out firsthand, if possible. And if not possible, you can ask, read, research, and come to your own conclusions, but they will always be yours alone.

#2 “If an opinion contrary to your own makes you angry, that is a sign that you are subconsciously aware of having no good reason for thinking as you do.”

I am SO guilty of this. My husband is much better at being curious. What we should be doing is thinking, “Hmm…this stirs something in me. Why?” And then asking questions to see if that person knows something we don’t.

“The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.”

#3 “A good way of ridding yourself of certain kinds of dogmatism is to become aware of opinions held in social circles different from your own.”

Getting your news from your favorite radio or television station, or social media, is not the way to do this. Branch out, be curious, see what else is out there and respect other people’s opinions.

#4 “Be very wary of opinions that flatter your self-esteem.”

There’s a perfect example of this in my circle of homeschoolers. We tend to pass around a meme that has a list of all the brilliant people that were homeschooled. It makes us feel good that we are in that company, but it is not proof that it is great and good. It IS, but it isn’t proof. (That’s me being funny. Insert sarcasm font.)

“It is more difficult to deal with the self-esteem of man as man, because we cannot argue out the matter with some nonhuman mind. The only way I know of dealing with this general human conceit is to remind ourselves that man is a brief episode in the life of a small planet in a little corner of the universe, and that, for aught we know, other parts of the cosmos may contain beings as superior to ourselves as we are to jellyfish.”

Maybe you can’t find a nonhuman mind to argue with, Bertrand, but some of us can. I’m not saying who. Let’s just say, some of us have ways of getting off this planet, and some have ways of getting on. At least, that’s what I’ve been led to believe by Star Trek, Dr. Who, and Rick & Morty.

#5 “Other passions besides self-esteem are common sources of error, of these perhaps the most important is fear.”

Fear. Yoda has it right, my friends. Fear is what keeps us from the greatest things in life and drops us into the depths of human depravity.

“Fear is the main source of superstition and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavor after a worthy manner of life.”

Let me repeat that last line because I believe it is now my new mantra.

“To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom, in the pursuit of truth as in the endeavor after a worthy manner of life.”

Simple, right? I know that it isn’t. We get one down and then forget another. I’d like to create a poster with these and frame it on the wall where I read, write, and socialize most, my living room. Maybe then, I’d do a little bit better.

Why I Read History

"...I have been driven to study the past with more attention than I had formerly given to it, and have found, as Erasmus found, that folly is perennial and yet the human race has survived. The follies of our own times are easier to bear when they are seen against the background of past follies."

Betrand Russell 1943

Surrender to the Present: Yielding

Yielding, a little known trick to driving that is more than just being polite. I came across the perfect analogy for “surrender to the present.” Stay with me a moment.

Have any of you experienced merging onto the freeway lately? I have, quite a bit, and I’ve been rather vocal about my frustration with other drivers. Do we all need a refresher course on how this is supposed to be done? Or do we know and not care; we are the center of the universe and those trucks be damned!

surrender to the present

Let me ‘splain.

I’m on my way into the big (to me) city and I need to get on the freeway. I see the on ramp and take it. Ever notice how long and smoothly curved an on-ramp is? That’s so that I can take a good look at the traffic pattern and match my speed to the cars and trucks already travelling there. My job is to speed up or slow down to get in front of or behind existing vehicles, and then think about what to do next.

It’s the safest and most efficient way to do it. If I don’t, if I insist that I am the most important player here and force trucks to move over, or slam on their brakes to accommodate my present trajectory, I wreak havoc. The rest of the freeway has to adjust itself to the lane and speed changes. This is how more accidents and traffic jams occur.

This morning while I was reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, this is visual that came to me when I read, “Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life.”

Surrender to what is currently happening around you isn’t giving up and accepting the crap you see. It’s being in the moment, creating less friction, and being able to see more clearly and make better decisions.

It’s matching the speed of the cars on already on the freeway, then taking a look around and making your next move. It’s smart and it respects the other drivers.

I knew I had used that photo before and when I searched for it, I smiled. My new Drive Time Mantra came up! I could write a book on the similarities between driving and life in general.

Some Much Needed Douglas Adams

You’ve probably been wondering what happened to me. “She was writing every day for so long and then it petered out and she disappeared into the ether! What could have happened? Did she suffer an enormous blow to her charmed life? Was she not able to cope with the devastating effects of ennui? Anything could have happened?!”

douglas adams

Never fear. It was nothing serious. Just life happening along its happy little path, catching the big toe of its clown-sized Converse on a small pebble and tipping forward, catching itself but then, realizing it was being watched, deciding to make a big show of a small mishap and do a double somersault, attempt to land on its feet but land on its head, knocking itself unconscious for a moment. When it came to, there was an overwhelming amount of work piled up around it, so it stood up, dusted itself off, stuffed its hands into its parachute pants pockets and sauntered off whistling a tune and hoping no one would notice.

I think I’ve OD’d on Douglas Adams lately. Looks around sheepishly. But what else can you do when you get in a funk and can’t seem to find your way out? It all started when I took a few days off from my entire routine to visit with my parents, and when I got back, I just couldn’t get back on track. Much was achieved during those four days, many notes were taken, a-ha moments were had, and I came back a slightly different person. On top of that I was still reading, still thinking, still listening to podcasts, gathering books from bookstores, and adding more titles to my ever-expanding TBR list, but I hadn’t had any intelligent way of sharing any of it.

It’s happened before and I know it will happen again (because it is happening now), but here I am wondering where and how to jump back in and restart the flow. That thought has been overwhelming, so true to form, I just didn’t. Like my friend Life, I stuffed my hands in my pockets and sauntered away, but instead of whistling, I got another giant glass of iced coffee and picked up The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and hid inside.

Remember when I went into Barnes & Noble (I swear for the last time) just to pick up that book and then walked out so much poorer in cash and not much richer in books?

Hitchhiker’s is the book I jump into when I “just can’t” anymore. Can’t what? Can’t. Just plain can’t. It’s fun and hilarious and has brilliant lines like, “I’m so hip I can’t even see over my pelvis.” I originally started reading the books in high school, I think. My dad shared it with me, and we’ve been laughing about it ever since. We know the answer and have been helping to look for the question. We’re real cool froods, man.

douglas adams 42

Although I haven’t been able to get my sons to read the books, they are far too serious, when they were younger, I did get them to carry towels with me on Towel Day. And they are well aware of significance of 42.

douglas adams towel day

For the past week, I’ve been spending my morning hitchhiking with Ford across the galaxy. Time not wasted. My brain needed the break. I’m halfway through this collection of “five novels in one outrageous volume” and, believe it or not, it isn’t all random craziness. There is reason and depth.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Marvin, the terminally depressed robot, and I think I may write a whole post about it. The meaning of life, the concept of sentience, improbability, and so much more all comes up to make you laugh and (if you’re paying attention) think in these books.

This morning I’ve spent quite some time procrastinating…again. I’m very good at it, so I’m not all that sure why I spend so much time practicing, but I do. Suddenly, it came to me. I’ve reached critical mass. I know exactly where I’ll pick up and start writing. Right exactly where I am. The past is gone, the future is unknown, but right now, right here…that’s real, at least as far as my senses can tell. I could be dreaming, but as Mickey says, “This is MY dream!” So, I’ll do what I want. And what I want is to tell you, once again, that I’m back and I’m reading, and I’m excited to start sharing what I find with you again.

One more thing before I run off. So much of Douglas Adams is quotable. This time around, I find myself reminded of Dr. Who and Rick & Morty, both shows I hadn’t seen when I’ve read the book before. I’ve been putting down a mark at lines that I literally LOL’d at and this one… you’ll love it.

“All right!” bawled Vroomfondel, banging on a nearby desk. “I am Vroomfondel, and that is not a demand, that is a solid fact! What we demand is solid facts!”
“No, we don’t!” exclaimed Majikthise in irritation. “That is precisely what we don’t demand!”
Scarcely pausing for breath, Vroomfondel shouted, “We don’t demand solid facts! What we demand is a total absence of solid facts. I demand that I may or may not be Vroomfondel!”
“But who the devil are you?” exclaimed an outrage Fook.
“We,” said Majikthise, “are Philosophers.”
“Though we may not be,” said Vroomfondel, waving a warning finger at the programmers.

Reminds me of a Monty Python skit.

Bringing the Mental Noise Level Down

This is going to sound strange because I have been posting more the past few weeks, trying to rebuild my habit of a daily post, but I just can’t seem to write anything…good lately. Not “good” as in something everyone wants to read or changes the world, but “good” as in significant to me. There have been a few fits and starts, but I feel distracted and a little bit lost and I’m starting to think part of my problem is “noise.”

If you saw how I live, you’d instantly raise your hand and ask, “What noise are you talking about, woman? The wind? An occasional truck? A loud scrub jay?”

No, not that kind of noise. The mental noise level. Thoughts and distractions. This might sound nuts, completely out of character, but I instantly bought a book called “Chatter – The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It” by Ethan Kross. That podcast interview I heard with the author last week, I couldn’t help but yell to the car, “THAT’S IT!” Charlie Brown style. It’s sitting here on my TBR shelf, on top, next up, right after I finish Joseph Conrad.

The other distraction is my phone. It sits next to me while I drink my coffee and read in the morning. I’ll admit that I have a phone problem. It’s always in my hand. Always. I don’t have social media on my phone, and I get no notifications other than direct texts. What if one of the kids needs me? What if my mom calls? What if ANYONE texts me? All great, right? But…it’s distracting at the worst moments, like right in the stream of consciousness moment. No bueno. I turn off the ringer, but then I find myself glancing over to see if the light is flashing.

Why is it that I am so hyper-focused on not missing a message? I can’t imagine a text that couldn’t wait an hour or so. If it were truly and emergency, they would call. Right?

Something similar happens when I have my laptop out to write. The blank page stares waiting for me, but it’s just too easy to open up Facebook, or check my email, or even open up WordPress and read another blog. And then my own thoughts are gone, buried way back in my mind at the very least.

This morning I wrote the first draft of this in my journal thinking this way I would have no way of being distracted. If the words slowed down, all I would be able to do is stare at the wall or out the window for a moment. It worked nicely, until my phone beeped a message to me.

I know! It’s crazy! Right?

After breakfast, I opened up Instagram for a look around and found this post from @cbmeditates and it started the wheels turning.

mental noise level
“3 things to focus on in August?” @cbmeditates

I sat with my journal a bit longer, thinking about what three things I could focus on this month that might lower my mental noise level. Here’s what I came up with.

Focus #1 – Uninterrupted Morning Hours

From now on, I keep my phone on my desk back in my office until 9am. I’ll go get it to use my yoga app and then put it right back afterwards. Out of sight, out of mind. There’s nothing going on in the world that can’t wait an hour or two.

Focus #2 – Write by Hand

My morning writing time can be done by hand in my journal. That way there are no distractions. No, “I’ll just get that link.” Or “What was that quote exactly?” When that happens, I chase rabbit-holes and end up being bombarded with other people’s thinking. An hour of sitting with a pen and a journal will help me get my own thoughts on paper first. Then later I’ll transcribe what I wrote into my laptop, adding in details and links, and looking up references as I go.

Focus #3 – Less Daily Sugar

This one isn’t a writing focus. I need less sugar in my daily diet, and that includes alcohol. I’m not a heavy drinker and I’m not a dessert fiend, but throughout the day I feel like I’m always grabbing a piece of chocolate, a coke, or a handful of something sweet. I’ve done well this week, so I want to keep going. It makes my joints less achy, and I sleep better if I stay on the low sugar side of life. I’m sweet enough, right? And I don’t need alcohol to lower my inhibitions. I do that just fine right here on paper.

Keeping my mornings low tech and free from message interruptions is going to be the hard part. There’s something weird going on there. I get the feeling I’m letting everyone down if I don’t answer my text messages almost immediately, but you know, no one else I know does that. The best my circle can do is within the hour, and that’s great. I swear it’s like a security blanket for me, but it’s not helping me right now, so it’s time to change!

I’ve put my focus goals on my calendar and at the end of the month, I’ll check in and see if I’ve had any success lowering my mental noise level.

Page 1 of 15

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: