Saturday, October 25, 2008
Haven't been in the blogosphere for a long time. Life has been too good and too busy to bother but these long warm fall days are just too beautiful not to post a few pictures.
Seems appropriate to post some writing on contemplation here.
Contemplation: What we don’t have time for, may be just the thing we need.
Walk down any book aisle these days and you will notice a flood of titles all screaming that our lives have become overwhelming and we are way too busy in them. I don’t think we need anyone telling us what’s already in our face; no one is arguing that the pressure is on. Like an overbooked airline we consistently cling to the hope that some ticket holder on the next flight will be willing to take a later time or cancel altogether giving us the break we need. Yet, when we finally get some downtime, instead of relaxing, we tend to program that too, filling it up with “purposeful” activity.
As usual advertisers have caught on to what we dream about and the latest media catch word for selling anything is “simplify.” A lot of solutions are being sold out there, whole magazines dedicated to showing us how to do the quick fix simple thing in twelve easy steps. We may think we know how to combat craziness, but do we see is any detailed explanation as to why we should care? Other than being a bit tired and stressed, what’s the big deal about being over scheduled anyway?
We read about stress levels are significantly higher for the lowest worker on the corporate pole because he has the least amount of say over decisions in the workplace and beyond. The solution being offered seems to be work even harder, (demanding even more time and energy) and become some Big Cheese. I don’t really think that’s the answer most of us are looking for though. It isn’t that we have too many people telling us what to do, it’s the feeling that we are not in charge of our lives. We lack the security and the inner knowing that we are heading toward what we want in life. This is where our stress is coming from. If we were sure that everything we’re putting up with was carrying us to our own personal glory (whatever form that might take), I think we’d all be a whole lot more relaxed.
However (vague notions of wealth or fame aside), most of us just haven’t a very clear idea what goals to give ourselves. Our busy schedules are sacrificing more than quality time with the kids. Finding ourselves at the center of so much outside activity has created lives fraught with what I call: flitation. We flit from project to problem never getting much time to think anything through. In the process we’re not only losing a sense of accomplishment we’re losing the center of our SELF. We never seem to have the time to stop and see ourselves very clearly, to get a sense of who we are and what we need. If we could put our fingers on our places for a little while, we could hold a space in which to create some new ideas. As it is we aren’t able to stay still and focused for any length of time to know how we could make the changes we need to get us where we want to go. We must have some stillness and quiet to think and assess without an IPOD accompaniment.
The major themes of life may be family, home, money, and career, but minor details like: self knowledge, introspection, personal philosophy, and creativity, are extremely important nuances in a life well lived and they are getting left behind. Do you know what you believe and why? Do you have a personal code of ethics that you live by? What do you think you have an aptitude for? Do you understand your fears and how to ease them? How do you use your imagination? Do you give more to yourself or to others and why? How far would you go to achieve your goals?
Without clear answers to these questions and many more like them making personal plans and projections is harder if not impossible. It’s in the details of our life that we find our drive, the engine that lays down the tracks we follow to self actualization and satisfaction. If we don’t tend to the inside of ourselves: who we are, why we think what we do, how we feel and what we believe, then our outside life can fall apart. It comes unglued because there is no cohesion, no foundation or framework, nothing to give any personal meaning to what we are presently doing.
We need time for contemplation. Contemplation is an art that can be cultivated. If it’s been awhile since you sat still and quiet for any length of time without popcorn and a DVD it can get a little uncomfortable. It feels awfully foreign to be alone with nothing to do and the longer you stay there the chance that certain less than satisfying things about you or your life (once easily avoidable by way of distraction) float to the surface. You may have to acknowledge that you are in some depressing situation or even not (yet) the person you want to be. It could get pretty ugly. Don’t despair, it’s what you’re there for, to reassess and rectify, to clean out what you don’t like or doesn’t belong anymore. Then the dreaming and planning and restructuring can begin.
Once we know what we really want again and why, we have to keep our lives going in the direction that we intend and that too, requires the constant vigilance that regular contemplation can provide. Any time a rash of outside concerns demand our attention the more trivial any life on the inside will appear, making contemplation seem like a total time waster. Yet without it we lose our central core and the personal order we keep that helps us make sense of our lives. It takes a lot of discipline, fortitude and even courage to consistently go against the current flow of flitation.
After a few hours a month of this quiet: Awareness will develop naturally or deepen because we now have a more defined sense of self, we know more clearly why we make the choices we do. We are operating from a focused, organized center of our being. We have our mission statement. We are conscious. With our newfound awareness, that is: the ability to simultaneously hold on to all that we are and take in what is going on around us and see how these two things fit or don’t fit together, we can go about living our outside life. Armed with the knowledge we acquire during our downtime, we are better able to make decisions that bring us closer to our personal objectives.
Finding a time for personal contemplation may seem old fashion and a frivolous waste of something so finite but carving out some space to mentally regroup each month gives us perspective and the peace of mind that comes with understanding our true purpose. It isn’t an inconsequential interruption in our life; it is an invaluable resource for it. It is what’s known as living life deliberately.