Pausing to Be

A few weeks ago, I took a week off, which is unusual for me.  I took a road trip to visit family, renew a nurturing connection, and enjoy a much-needed change of pace.  That week of almost no digital connection, sufficient sleep, spontaneous activity and conversation, and time alone listening to birds in the trees or reading, among other things, was a most welcome time of renewal.  Some might call it doing nothing, though the time certainly did not seem empty.

Doing nothing …is a feeling of presence and truly enjoying the moment as it is. It is simple and pure….

It serves an important purpose as well, probably unwittingly to most, in that it provides a sense of connection, not only to each other but with yourself. As a result, you end up gaining greater clarity about what is important to you at your core. This is a stimulating, always on-the-go society and it has become the default form of living, especially in the West. There is so much pressure to perform and meet expectations, creating a treadmill of stressful activity day after day….

Somewhere along the way society gave up on notions such as relaxation, idleness, and living in the moment as an important part of daily life. Having periods of time with little activity has always been a part of life (until, perhaps, the rising energy of the past few decades).

The quote is from an email communication by the Deepak Chopra Center.  It caught my attention because I, like others, experience the fast-paced chaos of modern times.  Chopra is correct.  However, slowing down to find enjoyment is often easier said than done.

Few among us have not experienced the rising pace of life and the ensuing rush to accomplish ever more in a dwindling time frame.  The most fortunate among us have managed to carve out moments of stillness within the frenzy.  The truth is that we all need those moments of stillness; we need them more frequently than most of us realize.

Some may object that doing nothing is not possible, because even if very still, one is still existing.  That is something.   OK, got it, but that is not what is meant by doing nothing.  If one is doing nothing, one is engaged in whatever degree of stillness for no ostensive purpose other than the act or process with which one is engaged.  This is key to understanding nothing.  One is in the moment, and not out to achieve or accomplish.  For example, if one is sitting on a cliff, wind blowing on the face, watching the distant sunset, one might say that is nothing.  If one is sitting on that cliff with the purpose of generating relaxation, or recording/remebering the details of the sunset, or even drying damp clothes in the wind, that person is not doing nothing.  If all there is is in the moment, and is simply the experience of what is happening, without purpose or a sense of having accomplished a challenge, then that is doing nothing.  It is being, not doing.

Being is not necessarily the absence of activity, but the attitude in which any activity is occurring.  It is centered in feeling and intuition, rather than in thinking, planning and accomplishing.  It has no purpose, in the sense in which most people understand purpose.   It is easy to dismiss, yet is a prize of great value, value which goes often unrecognized.  Peace, growth, health, relationships have their roots in non-doing.  Being has no counting or comparing.  In the moments of being, time does not exist, just as it does not exist in the far reaches of infinity.  We cannot DO outside of time; we can BE in those moments in which we can relax and devote attention solely to the present, without judgment.

People try to do this in meditation, but this is not the only way to experience moments of being.   Listening to inspiring music, without analyzing, judging or looking at the clock, simply to experience the music is being.   Coloring a mandala, walking in nature, soaking in a tub, staring into the fire, even the act of caring for a pet or another are entrances into being when they are done without exterior purpose to do them, without needing to accomplish them, without expecting result of them or analyzing them.  They are entrances when they are simply the experience of the moment, when we are experiencing the present in a focused way.

If being is simply experiencing the present moment, whatever it is, then it follows that in order to be, we must let go of what we normally cling to – our expectations, judgments, desires, or thinking about what is going on  Not thinking does not make us dummies.  The mind is always thinking; it does not seem to be able to turn itself off.   To be, we need for a moment to cease to identify with the mind, to simply let it do its thing, knowing it cannot define us if we refuse to be defined thereby.  Inspiration is rarely a result of thinking about things; it comes instead after moments of releasing thought to simply be.  Technology is much like the mind.  When we use it, we are normally thinking, doing something that the technology helps us to do.   For me, the break from even the limited technology I use helped me for a few moments to simply be.  It helps me to write, but it does not help me to be.

It is so simple, yet being (in the moment) is surprisingly difficult for most to do.  One cannot try to be, because trying is doing.  One cannot be angry with oneself for not being, because the anger is judging and doing. It is worth it, though, to set aside times to practice relaxing and releasing, simply experiencing what is.  I do think that practice helps.

I wish us all experiences of being.

Peace, Diane

Celebrating Birthdays

Summer is a time for birthdays – at least it seems that way among those I know.  Summer is an energy-filled season, a vibrant time to remember and celebrate birthdays.  I do believe that remembering birthdays is important; a birthday is among the saddest times to be forgotten.  However, much as each of us needs to be remembered by those among whom we live, birthdays – remembered as well as forgotten ones – can be a difficult time for many.  It’s a matter of perspective.

For most of us, two modes of perception underlie birthday celebrations.  Some of us respond to both at once.  The most common practice for birthdays is counting.  The perennial thought behind the party is, “How old are you?”  Each year represents a different state of maturity.  Children are eager for their birthdays.  For children, birthdays mean a year older, a year closer to the freedom of adults, a year more of increased ability, and, of course, presents.  Once adulthood is achieved, birthdays represent a different prospect.  Each birthday represents another step forward towards diminished ability, diminished health, diminished financial well-being, diminished independence, and, in our culture, diminished respect.  Progress may be slow in that direction, but for most, the progress is inevitable.  The focus is on counting.  Even the language says that one IS that counted number.  These birthdays are bittersweet.

Another context from which to perceive birthdays pays no attention to counting.  Birthdays are to rejoice in the existence of the person being celebrated.  Birthdays are to acknowledge the uniqueness of the individual, and to recognize that he or she makes a large or small contribution to humanity and is valuable and valued.  From this viewpoint, the question, “How old are you?” is irrelevant.  A birthday celebrated with this attitude is a time of joy.

Some think that birthdays should be replaced with name days, the day on which an individual receives his or her name, or, in some religions, the day of baptism or reception into the religion.  Theoretically, this makes it more difficult to count.  In actuality, one can count as easily from a name day as from a birthday.  Name day or birthday, what matters is from what set of assumptions the day is observed.

Using counting to identify a person has an obvious fallacy.  Although each number purports to correlate to a specific level of maturity and set of skills, the fact is that no individual’s level of maturity is exactly the same as everyone else’s, young or old.  Children walk and talk at different ages; some people barely graduate from high school at 20, while others are ready for college at 14.  Some people remain emotionally boys and girls well into their 40s or beyond, while others are taking on extraordinary levels of responsibility in their teens.  Some people are in nursing homes in their seventies; others remain healthy and active into their 100th year.   The idea that because one IS a certain number (our language reinforces that idea) one is therefore described by the set of characteristics attributed to that number is ridiculous.  A number is simply a number; it is not the arbiter of one’s being.  In addition, there is a more subtle effect to counting.  Counting indicates that one is not good enough.  Children and young adults are not good enough because they are not yet full adults; adults are not good enough because the numbers indicate increasing deficiency.

How much better it is to simply celebrate each other!  How nurturing it is to remember each other at least once a year and shine attention upon each person’s unique existence!  This is a very special way to bring – as often as possible – a positive orientation of joy into our world.   It is simple but powerful way to support each other and contribute towards a kind and vibrant world.

Let us hold birthdays as a time of joy and remember always that each person comes bearing a gift to be recognized and celebrated.  Each of us is valuable and deserving of appreciation.  The ones who can find and acknowledge the sparks of value in others are the most powerful of all.

Peace, Diane

Two Worlds and Energy: Manifesting the Positive

“Focus on the positive,” my friend tells me.  “Envision the results you want, not the problems you have getting there.  Completely accept where you are, and you might move ahead.”   I had been discussing some of my frustrations – something I might not do at work, but which I like to be able to do with friends.  Stomping on frustrations and burying them does not make them go away.   On the other hand, complaining does not make them go away, either.  My friend was not telling me something I did not know already, but something I am habitually too busy to work with.

The advice my friend was giving me is certainly not new advice.  It sounds easier to do than it is, though, including for me.  Focusing on results instead of issues is something with which I have difficulty, even though I understand the instructions.   How can I focus on a solution if I haven’t understood the problem and dealt with what’s holding my solution back?   How can I bring anything about if I haven’t first removed what’s in the way?

Although it seems logical to identify and remove obstacles before paying a similar attention to creating positive results in the vacated space, that reasonable stance is in fact a trap, keeping me – and others – repeatedly focused on obstacles.   Those obstacles seem to obediently keep popping up when one is focused on them, much as in the legend of Sisyphus, who had to forever roll a stone up a hill.

Our minds are creative, even if we believe that there is not an ounce of creativity in us.  They will unfailingly create that which we focus upon.  Often that focus is inadvertent, including the imbedded stories we run repeatedly beneath the level of our consciousness.  Focus can also be purposeful, such as contemplation by choice, as when we are doing a math problem or painting a picture.  Or, focus can be habitual.  We may know what we do, but withdraw our thinking mind from our action, as in riding a bicycle, brushing our teeth, or reacting to a stimulus.  This focus, subconscious, purposeful or habitual, is what draws to us and creates either a desired outcome or a roadblock to that outcome or, sometimes, even a nightmare.

The solution to achieving a goal, be it a personal goal such as a new job, or a more overarching goal, such as bringing healing to the Earth, is theoretically quite simple: focus purposeful, subconscious and habitual attention on the goal to be achieved.  Avoid being distracted by attention- diverting thought-entities with the message of “You can’t”, “It won’t work”, “It can’t happen,” or any other thought or action contrary to steady focus on the goal.  The challenge comes in actually focusing the attention by choice, especially the powerful subconscious and habitual processes.

There is a wealth of information in books, on the Internet, and in various webinars, seminars and presentations on how to identify subconscious thoughts and habitual reactions.  Psychiatrists delve into the past in the hopes of uncovering the particularly powerful occurrence that gave us our negative thoughts, resentful and angry feelings, or stubborn resistance to change;  therapists work with people to help them overcome their fears and anxieties and visions of what might happen in the future.   To some extent, these can be quite helpful.  However, once these techniques and processes are exhausted, there remains what perhaps was being avoided in the first place: what is going on now.  What we focused on in the past or fear in the future have a limited influence on our ability to create because they are nonexistent.  Yesterday has passed away into memory, and tomorrow is not yet born.  Only what is now really exists.  If we are to focus on a result, it must be now, in the present.  We must see, feel, taste, smell, hear and believe the existence of our goal in this very moment.

For most of us, that seems impossible, like believing lies or inhabiting illusions.  Its basis lies in the essential oneness of everything, the connections between all that exists.   We live surrounded at every moment by an invisible energy (an ‘ether’, to use a very old word), directly inaccessible via our five material senses.  Some of us can perceive this energy via non-material senses; others cannot.  Whether or not a given individual can perceive it, this energy is very real.  It surrounds us, sustains us, connects us, and of it is formed the material world, including our material bodies.  This energy exists independently of the concept of time, which is a concept formed in materiality, and by which humans, who can grasp the concept, bind themselves.  Because this energy, of which we are composed, is independent of time, it contains the past and the future, melded into an infinite now.  It is past, present and future, wrapped in one.  It contains all that was, all that is, and all that will be.   Because we are composed of this energy, we, too, when we can identify with it, are able to move in time.  Most of us do not identify to that extent; a few, who prefer to remain unnoticed, do.  It is in this way that we can perceive our goals, sense them as if they were already here, in our concept of time, and focus our attention upon them in the present moment.

I understand the concepts and the explanations.  I can recognize the feelings in music, dance and nature.   I have yet to develop skill in bringing into material manifestation – actually doing – what I think I understand and feel.  I cannot tell anyone HOW to do that about which I write or which I feel in song and movement.  I am still figuring that out.  Rather, I think I am still growing into it, which is not a figuring out, but a process over time.  In an infinite world, I am skillful now; in our material world, I still need patience.  Patience can be hard when one has been traveling for a while. 

I wish for us all, especially me, the ability to perceive myself as whole, and the ability to draw to myself what is needed and desired.  I wish for us all the ability to heal ourselves, each other and the Earth.

Peace, Diane

An Apology for Arts

This Wednesday and Thursday, I watched the debates between the prospective Democratic candidates for president; mostly, they did not solve much, just argued with differing degrees of passion which one-sided views they espouse and will promote. (Republicans are not much better, although their specific issues act as alternative window-dressing).  Neither side seems to be willing to really discuss, without attacking each other, real differences of opinion on real issues so that change can be proposed that would satisfy the deepest issues of the respective sides.   At the same time, I have begun to work with a startup arts center that is currently only partly up and running.  I do this because we seem to have forgotten the arts in the pursuit of science, and I believe we are the poorer for that.   Hence, the following reflections.

We live in a world of complementary dualities, each of which is a part of a complete whole.  Light complements dark, sorrow complements joy, effort complements ease, sleep and relaxation (down time) complement our working life.  In life as in art, the negative spaces empower and define the positive ones.  Each defines the other, each gives life to the other, and thus in our world the whole exists.  They are sides of a single coin.

In fashion now are the sciences, currently called STEM, science, technology, engineering and math.  Sciences are concerned with the physical world, the observable and quantifiable.  They seek to understand how the physical universe is constructed, how it works, how it might be changed to adapt to circumstances, how it might serve people.   The sciences work with what can be logically proven or disproven through experimentation.   Together, the sciences have brought about immense and rapid advances in our understanding and in applications in our physical world. 

My grandmother began life in a world in which the use of horses was still common.  Before she passed, men traveled to the moon.  Technology in the present advances even more rapidly. The quickened pace of these advances comes at a cost.  In order to devote the amount of attention and cultural value to STEM topics and to fully support these rapid advances, we have largely neglected the partner of STEM, the arts.

Arts – visual arts, music, dance, theater, literature, philosophy and writing, to include some – are more concerned with that which is less readily apprehensible.  Arts apply themselves to our values, our pursuit of wisdom, subjective perceptions and emotions, and to concepts such as joy, beauty and existential truth.  STEM deals exceptionally well with the concretely physical; arts express marvelously our souls.  Both are necessary.

Our world today is unbalanced; some would say it is chaotic.   This is not amazing if we notice that we have neglected the sisters of STEM.  The whole cannot be complete while only half of it is fully accepted and appreciated.  Putting an “A” into the acronym “STEM” to make “STEAM” does little.  The four strands of STEM are still emphasized while the arts are lumped together and given lip service. 

At one time – my grandmother’s and maybe also my mother’s – arts had a greater place in our culture.  Schools gave emphasis to literature, writing and music.  Elocution, painting, drawing and crafts were also given instructional time, and exhibitions of these were valued.  Dance and theater were not only performing arts, to be enjoyed if one had time and money, but also often popular pastimes.   In private life, there was time to create beauty.   Math and science were certainly not ignored, but the whole was more balanced.

Not so today.  Schools emphasize and promote STEM subjects, and parents rush to enroll their children in STEM summer camps and extracurricular lessons. Arts in the schools are underfunded and minimal. Those who enroll their children in the few art camps do so mainly because their children demand that.  (There are also sports camps, some of which are neither STEM nor arts.  These, too, are more accepted than camps that feature arts.) 

We have lost something.  Social structures have lost center or direction as they change and grow.  Balance is good as change progresses; it keeps the change from falling into destructive chaos.  We have lost that balance, that sense of direction, that guidance system.  Some would say we have lost our soul.  Re-including and re-establishing the importance of what we have neglected can help restore what we have lost. 

Let us individually grow our whole selves, both the logical and the intuitive, with a sense of the wonder of the universe.

Peace, Diane