Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Reflections on keeping sane
Back to work today after a peaceful and restorative camping trip in southern Oregon. As the trip approached I noticed more and more how full of words, fragments and looping nonsense my mind is. My intention for the vacation was to simply DROP IT all and BE in the present moment. To savor every drop of the experience. It was phenomenal and I want more!
The closer to Portland we got on the drive back - as soon as we entered more familiar landscape along the Dalles-California Highway - I noticed some of that mental chatter begin to pop up. All of the WORDS I began to see everywhere from billboards and commercial enterprise after commercial enterprise, stirred it up. But I'm managing to still hold on to the centeredness, serenity, groundedness and presence I felt throughout our vacation.
As I observe my thoughts I notice much of the mental noise is imagined what-if scenarios and responses to them, imaginary conversations and narrative planning. Is this insanity or what is becoming of the mighty human mind as a result of our utterly disconnected from nature existence? I guess I'm as sane as the next person so I tend to see this type of thinking as an attempt to alleviate the anxiety of not knowing how it will all unfold. Life that is. So we hold desperately onto the little stuff, trying to make it all just right. It's impossible so we struggle, endlessly and unnecessarily.
The remedy is in just dropping it. In letting go we open to the infinite potential of each moment. Extended periods of this seem to accumulate and create a bedrock of stillness. Then when the noise emerges its usually just one thought, feeling or "conversation" so it stands in starker contrast to the stillness. An elephant in the room. It's easier to drop when it's one thought or uncomfortable feeling, rather than a dense tangle.
I didn't read or write while we were away and it felt really good to let myself do nothing but be. As urges to distract or occupy myself arise now that I'm back in Portland, I recall the spaciousness and stillness of doing nothing - the ticker tape of thoughts on hiatus. The sense of pressure that always thinking ahead creates is subtle. There's a pleasurable hook to be found in imagining: what I'm hoping for in the future. Now I'm seeing the underlying anxiety that creates. The message that things as they are now are somehow less than, not ok or needing to change is then constantly transmitting.
This is reflected everywhere in our culture, from our terrible posture (bent forward urging ever onward to the next thing) to our rude and dangerous driving habits. The message is GO! FASTER! And beneath this I think is also get there first, don't be a loser. The ad companies certainly want you to hear that.
Life can be different than that. It can be more full of ease and contentment. Not in the future, but right now. With each moment that I stay present, with each situation that I don't get hooked into trying to anticipate, control or reject, I remain focused and don't spin out into frenzied thinking.
Despite heading back into my work life I continue to feel very still and centered. I'm staying in touch with my own pace. The connection of the Go Faster message to anxiety, distraction, frustration and irritation is so obvious once you begin seeing and acknowledging it, but really the interdependence of the two is so subtle and intricately woven. Stillness and awareness in the present is the method to see it. And once this entanglement can be seen, it can be transformed and ultimately the obscuring thoughts fall away and naked reality is uncovered. Fresh and free.