Tag Archives: being in the moment

A Big Thinky Post About Not Thinking

They say these early days in the new year are among the most depressing.

Mental, emotional, financial hangovers from the holidays, and even the “bottom of the hill looking up” perspective of the year to come — tons of factors affect our moody new year days.

This morning, it’s nearly 8:30 and should be lighter than it is. A storm front has parked over the city, dumping rain on the morning’s commute. The sky’s so dark my desk lamp isn’t enough to light the room with, and it’s daytime.

Today, I had planned to write some kind of optimistic “New Year/New Thoughts” type post about my goals and such for the year to come, but morning brings a weary world-view and a pensive state.

Part of the new year thing: I’m reading again. I want to read in bed for a few minutes every night.

Guy having a moment at Vancouver's English Bay.

When I was at coffee last week, in one of those weird chance encounters we sometimes have*, the book The Power of Now came up. Eckhart Tolle’s new-agey classic was born here in Vancouver, and people have mentioned it to me at several points in my life, but I’ve never capitulated and read it.

The thing is, I knew about it in ’97, when I was 24. My mother got it for Christmas that year. She’d been friends with some new age bookstore guy named Brock Tulley, and friend-of-a-friend thing, got the book, read it, and was trying to implement it in her life.

It’s one thing to try and change your mental state, but you can’t imagine away making only $25,000 in the two years before your death from cancer.

Times were very hard for her then. I watched her read this book and try to be “different”. She died broke and with cancer. What can I tell you? That was different.

So, yeah. The book’s been a hard sell on me.

But I’m reading it now.

[deep breath]

I suspect this will be a mind-blowing read on a few levels.

First things first, I’m not a spiritual person in the standard way. The beliefs I have, well, I couldn’t nutshell them for you if I tried. I’m in transition there. New age is not my bag, really, but trying to explain what I do/don’t believe would be a mess.

On Facebook, my religion is “It’s complicated.”

Raised in the Catholic Church and exposed to their duplicitous behaviour, my beliefs come from my life experience and not much else. So, forget “God” and all that. Let’s talk about us and our world-view.

As I age, I see what our thinking and perspective does for us, and I believe we’ll probably never have a clue about the brain’s full capacity. I believe many of us let our thinking cloud who we are, and that it takes a long time to muddy ourselves up.

This book talks about mindfulness in ways I’ve been thinking about lately, so it’s perfectly timed.

I’ve been remembering how I used to think about the world, and ways I used to look at the world around me, and questioning when I lost my wonder, and how I can get it back.

Wistful writings on the “girl I used to be” crop up here from time to time, and I suspect I’m not alone in the wistfulness.

There’s who we want to be, and there’s who we become. For most, somewhere between there and here, we derail. Every now and then, though, we get a chance to right the way. I can’t help but think I went off track somewhere.

People can lose their focus after seeing wrong so long that they can’t see straight when the light comes on.

If given the chance to “fix” what’s wrong in their lives, I imagine most people couldn’t tell you what the actual problem is. Why aren’t you what/who/how you want to be?

For three or four years I’ve tried to figure out what was going on, and in the last year I’ve sort of figured out that it’s two different things. One, my headgame’s all awry. Two, this city’s life comes with too many built-in obstacles and I got no room to breathe.

This year’s about putting my money where my mouth is. It’s about moving to a place that reduces the obstacles, culls the distractions. It’s a little cheaper, but it’s a lot more livable for me. Jumping on that wave of change ain’t enough. I need to get my headspace into the flow too.

There’s so much mental clutter from recent years, it’s in my way. I can’t undo my past, wouldn’t want to. I’ve earned my now-showing grey hairs.

But this overthinking is hurting me.

For a long time, I’ve had to try to be conscious about how I walk / sit / stand / sleep, because a long-term back injury does that to you. I’ve thought so hard about it that it now turns out I’ve been overthinking and overcompensating, possibly sustaining the injury as a result.

For example, I have long contracted the wrong muscles at the wrong time, standing that way too, and it’s destabilized me. Standing up and breathing, it’s second nature to us. It’s not something we’re “taught.” But when that second nature goes awry during an injury or illness and we never correct it, what’s the fall-out?

Well, now I know what it is first-hand when we unlearn who we are at the most basic level. For me, I’ve unlearned a lot of myself, including life basics, like breath. (And apparently 75% of adults are doing it wrong.)

That simple advice on “breathing through the belly” and “walking one inch taller” might actually be changing my life.

Long story short? I haven’t even been “being myself” properly.

Three years on the other side of trying to “understand” my injury, and dumbing it down — just breathing and learning how to hold a neutral back, just being — might be all my back really needs.

And it blows my mind that I’ve thought myself into ill health.

I’ve stopped listening and feeling. I need to focus on what my body feels like, not its symptoms. I need to see the big picture — how posture and breath affect everything I do in my life, because they’ve been crippling me.

The Power of Now seems about connecting to the moment and being really present. If I were, then what would life be like? Would I have let things go this long, this far?

It’s great timing, because I’ve had one episode after another lately that affirm this need to focus on my breath and be mindful of my posture, and live completely in the moment with awareness of the little things I think and feel.

I’ve been killing myself to improve my back and all I need to do is breathe? Crazy shit.

Oh, dear readers, don’t worry — I won’t become some Zen happy-la-la girl who signs her blog posts “Love and Namaste” or anything. I’m a smart-ass at DNA level and that’ll never change.

Laughing more, though, I could handle that. Having more fun. And this is part of the journey to getting to that, I think. Should be interesting.

____

*I’m a big fan of the idea of serendipity. If you run into someone you like, but don’t know well, like I did, at my acupuncture session last week, and it happens to end at the same time, and you both happen to have a free 30 minutes, then go to coffee, because maybe — just maybe — there’s something greater afoot, and you might have something to learn from them. Naturally, I bought the book 10 minutes later.

A Ramble: Valentine’s Day

This day, the 15th, is one of my least favourite days of the year for private reasons. I fucking hate it. So, I got to thinking last night as I smoked a joint and continued to write, and this is the rambling ode I had about being single on Valentine’s day, and I dedicate it to all those who rolled out of bed alone today and didn’t feel badly about it.

I’m at home on Valentine’s night. There’s a Dr. Phil show on, about how to “love smart.” It’s a primetime special. Ever noticed how the matchmaker sites go onto full boil around this time of year? Notice the fix-up services advertising more these days? It’s like the world conspires to tell you you’re a loser if a) you’re single or b) your lover doesn’t spend enough on you or c) your lover doesn’t put out.

I’m reveling in my singleness this evening. I made garlic bread. With extra garlic. And spaghetti with meat sauce, something the wise would never eat in front of a date. I’m wearing my cut-off shorts and a fleecy sweater. I’m having an awesome night of relaxing, writing, cooking, watching a little telly, and reading. And deep down inside there’s this niggling of “But they think you need a boyfriend. Do ya, honey?”

I know I had a moment of weakness last week, that’s what I do know. I seized a moment with someone and let things go further than they should have, but for that night, regardless of what the future did or didn’t hold, companionship sounded like a good idea. There are people you know you can trust, even if you can’t imagine really being with them for the long haul. And there are weak moments.

Ultimately, though, I do love being single. I admit, I am alone. I’m not lonely, though. Not usually. (Weakness, it happens.) And I resent Valentine’s Day (and the media and society) for seeming to think my lack of desire for a real, true relationship is anything less than healthy. I want a relationship, but I want the right relationship. Anything less than simpatico is just not worth my time, grief, or efforts. The right man, he gets it all. I’ll drop anything for the right guy, you know. I’m just a diehard romantic. But I scrutinize with the best of them, and I just want the right combination.

Otherwise, I’ll keep my Sundays for reading the paper in my boxers and a t-shirt. I’ll get up when I want, sleep where I want, eat what I want, and do what I want. I won’t have to check to see if “our schedule” is clear, I won’t have to worry about any of that. Like I say, when it’s right, it’s worth it, but when it’s not absolutely right, it’s infringing on my space.

That makes me very male in some ways, I think. I’m not sure why more men feel that way than women, but perhaps it comes down to how comfortable they are alone. It’s interesting, I’ve seen an increase in the media, people bringing up something I’ve long believed: One of the worst things you can say to a lover is what they said in Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.”

If you cannot be complete on your own, you are not a whole person. If you do not have a sense of self, you have nothing. If you cannot love yourself, who else can? These are clichés, and for good reason. They’re as true as they can be.

If you don’t know yourself when you fall in love with someone, you’re going to have the very, very rude experience of cluing the fuck in to who you are somewhere down the line, and that person you’ve committed yourself to is going to find out that they no longer fit the bill. Who you love must complement who you are, not complete it. We’re foolish when it comes to love, we put the cart before the horse.

I long ago discovered that my “fuctedness,” as one pal would say, needed solitude. Every time I got into a relationship, I lost more and more of who I was. I became this person who needed to have that approval from “them” in order to have that sense of self. Now, I couldn’t care less. I know that the right people, the ones I want around me, they dig me. The ones who don’t dig me, don’t get me, and won’t have me, and that’s just fine. Don’t fight it, man. Go with the flow.

But when you really learn to dig yourself, you don’t need anyone anymore. You see people for what they are: Icing on a fuckin’ fab cake, baby.

See, the difference between those of us who enjoy being single and those who do not is pretty simple. Those of us who enjoy it, we’re optimistic about love. We figure, hey, if the time’s ever right, if the cosmos ever aligns, then maybe we’ll come out of that with something/one we just can’t get enough of. Until then, we’re alone, and we’re going to enjoy it, ‘cos when that love comes, aloneness goes. And it’s more than aloneness. It’s solitude, quietude. There are some things you will never, ever experience if you don’t command your time alone. Some of the most profound experiences of my life have come to me in moments spent completely isolated from the world.

I moved to the Yukon for one year when I was 21, and it was a profound experience all the way around. Before then, I was a popular gal and always had plans, always was out. I moved there and discovered the true art of being alone and loving it, and it changed my life. I remember a night right around summer solstice. It was daylight then from three in the morning until two in the morning, just an hour of dusk in between… fucking sublime. Sigh. You could sit and watch the sunset followed by the sunrise in the time it took to slowly nurse a single beer. I was having one of these profound days – a day in between nights at the bar, preceding a long weekend away, where we’d be camping at the foot of Mount McKinley and Mount Logan, the continent’s highest peaks. I remember thinking, “I’ve got it pretty fucking good. This will be one of the best times in my life, and I will never, ever forget these experiences. But tonight I got to slow it down and keep it all to me.”

I packed up a few things… a joint, a couple of beers, some Robert Service poetry, and a sweater. I drove the car out of the city (of 15,000) into the nearby country, Miles’ Canyon, the Yukon’s mini version of the Grand, through which the Yukon river carved a wide and tumultuous path. I did a hike out to the edge of the canyon and found an isolated spot above the river where I sat leaning against an alpine fir and facing northward, where I could see the sun dead ahead, just slightly left of the magnetic north. It was midnight and the sunset wasn’t far off. The mountains lay before me to the north (and to the south and east and west) and the land was all reds and browns and greens and yellows with this beautiful deep blue sky. The light, as that incredible northern light is, was absolutely preternatural. There’s something angelic and sweet about the late eveningg summer’s light up there that bathes the world in buttery goodness. I did what I often do, I just sat there and watched how the light changed and shadows shifted on the landscape. There’s something profound about sitting there literally watching time pass by.

So all I did was sit there, consider my life, my place, the potential in my future, who I was and who I would become. To this day, that moment stands in my top twenty, if not my top ten, in my life experiences – and still, stacked up against international trips, true rites of passage, it holds its own, my friends. I was with no one. Nothing really happened. It was quietude in its finest. Not a human voice. Not a plane. Not a vehicle. Nothing electronic. No wires. Nothing. Just me, the gods, and the earth. And it was fucking incredible.

And when you’re afraid of aloneness, you miss out on moments like that. Moments when you sit around and connect with nature on your own time. A guy once said to me, Cities are built for distraction. Meaning, they’re there to help us forget all the things we wish for, that we’ll never have. So too are the wrong relationships, Valentine’s day be damned.

When you spend more time alone, when you get really honest with yourself about what you ought to be valuing, you gain this inner contentment about what it is you’ve got, and you often develop clarity about what it is you need, and how to attain it. These are things, qualities, that many of my fellow (wo)men need to find.

I wouldn’t say that being single leaves me in a state of nirvana, but I’m in a place that I really dig, and it’s because I’ve come to feel that I’d rather be alone than in a relationship where I’m not fully… I don’t know, what, plugged in? I’m charged, he’s charged, it’s all good? I mean, I’m damned good company, most times, so I’d really have to value a guy to keep him around, is what I’m saying. Life’s just too fucking short.

So, yeah, Valentine’s day. I digressed a lot there. Love’s hard enough without cheapening it with commercialism. If you want romance, celebrate it always. If you want love, keep it year round, not because a calendar tells you it’s that time again. And love ain’t about what you can buy, people. These expensive gifts… really. When did generosity become about the almighty dollar? When did it stop being a thing of spirit, of gesture? I just honestly find that buying into this Valentine’s day bullshit really helps to make people forget what relationships ought to be about. The little things: The qualities shared, the words said, the actions done. Not the things bought. Not the fancy places we go.

But the very best thing about being a content, whole person in the search of love, is that when you find someone who really does deserve a shot at fitting that bill, it’s so incredibly rewarding to just drink them in. They’re not fulfilling you, they’re just nurturing all that is good about you. Then, it feels like a gift, like something you should cherish. Something you want to cherish. Not a job, not an obligation. And isn’t that how things ought to be?