Up and Awake, Out of the Shadows
A Free Chapter from this Book
My book is a series of short chapters about awakening a self, step by step.
A Million Different Things: ...And Night, Meditation #11
Meditation #11 form the final section in my book, A Million Different Things: Meditations of The World's Happiest Man, is concerned with motivation, habits and meditation.
The picture is persistently reinforced within us that there is someone a little detached, a watcher, behind all our activities. Sometimes, the watcher steps into the game. Other times, the preoccupation is with observing and calculating.
All of our lives are spent looking at memories as they are laid down, maybe learning from them as they accumulate and intermingle to estimate new or interim truths, maybe appreciating the pleasures and thrills of times passed. Simultaneously, we are building our impressions, leaning into the future, deep in an elusive present. Subtly or dramatically, our synthesis into an idea of now alters our comprehension of what is. Meanwhile, the automatic processes taking up the attention of most of our fifty-trillion cells goes on in support of whatever experiences we are having consciously. We are also facing forward, no matter what’s going on in memory or reality building, always forward with some degree of commitment. As that comes first in every experience, it’s what permeates the flavor and tone of everything else eventually.
Our lives are voluntary. Remember my runner’s experience of making myself happy simply by smiling? It’s that direct and that easy, easy to set and easy to fix because we are always in control. Not a second passes without our total power.
What I want to emphasize is that my tactic worked because I wanted to be happy. It’s a widely accepted untruth that everyone wants the same things, even in tone. Happiness goes around without a universal definition anyway. Like love, happiness gets tossed around so loosely, it ultimately means nothing definitively. Our individuality claims the space.
For me, happy is chattering and joking and outwardly expressing optimism. That’s the demeanor I aim for mostly, but as a complex psychological creation, I have additional subsets, tools for different occasions. I’ve eliminated many attitudes I once thought to be constructive, if negative in practice. I’ve adopted the Thumper Mentality. Like the character in Bambi, so gently schooled by his mother, if I can’t say something nice, no matter what’s on my mind, I try not to say anything at all. I found that negative or critical observation, no matter how constructive, leads me down a tricky road where emotions are restricted and rewards are few. It’s not a road I care to walk.
So, I focus on my own version of happy. Fortunately for those of us who love diversity, everyone else has his or her own take too. Each of us is as individual as a snowflake. As much as we may seem alike, we are originals, and the more so, within limits, the better. I acknowledge limits because when uniqueness is so extreme is separates us from the pack, we all suffer a loss.
There are probably some very satisfied people who are serious and neither tell nor appreciate jokes. Their game may be sailing the abstract seas of advanced mathematics, those thrills not the same as I feel when I watch a pair of peregrine falcons up close, bathing in a puddle washed up onto a promenade. Others may get off on music, the subtle intricacies of the visual arts, on explaining acquired wisdom to students and readers, or in leading social clusters on missions of development. There are all kinds, and there is overlap but no repetition.
We know, everyone knows, who we are and what fires burn inside us. Our awareness is managed by our willingness to see and keep seeing. If like most, we follow our natural inclination to conserve energy by lapsing into a groove of similar actions, we will assume a strange sort of voluntary blindness. Many choose to see a more limited range of the reality than necessary. The inclination to retire seems to have evolved when we could not afford to waste energy. If it wasn’t immediately demanded for survival, we learned to conserve it. No such need exists anymore, except with a few rare exceptions, but the inclination continues to dominate the tenor of many lives. This is true even in cultures where energy is so abundant and packed away in storage that speculation about obesity has become a cottage industry.
Anne Tyler writes engrossing novels about people stuck in their grooves. An incident will knock them out of it, and not only do their lives change but so do their perspectives. It might be easier to voluntarily step outside. What we are looking for is ourselves, the us that’s missing when our minds idle in that safe, cushy place in which excess has settled us. We can stay put in those circumstances for the rest of our physical lives. Unlike the accidental tourists in Tyler’s stories, we are unlikely to be changed externally.
But wouldn’t it just be more fun to get out and enjoy the opportunities abundant in a world full of trees and grass, beautiful people and great art, to get the heck out of that chair and have some unique experiences? If there’s a choice, why not take the fun ride, the one awash with the most color and feeling?
Start now. Drift out of that comfortable place. Set a gentle tone through daily meditation. It’s probably the simplest way to get a new style of living launched because it comes naturally. We see animals doing it routinely, connecting in special focused ways. We see children doing it or even remember ourselves disappearing into a place uniquely our own. Now, consider doing it on purpose, not just by accident or inclination. That’s mediation. For most of us, the world is too noisy not to be assertive about our peace.
Set aside a little time every day, maybe the same time, when it’s possible to sit comfortably and expect no interruptions. Relax by thinking about something that calms you, like petting your cat or looking at leaves tickled by the wind or whatever puts you into a gentle space. Close your eyes and breath deeply and evenly. You may want to have a rhythmic phrase or sound you enjoy repeating. For me, it’s “ah-na,” and I can access the feeling any time by taking myself back to that combination.
We can benefit from doing nothing more than paying attention to air sliding into our lungs and back out again, deep and smooth. The oxygen that gives us life merges into our bodies, and the depleted air is sent back out. Just listen. Your thoughts will drift. It happens to all of us. Softly bring your attention back to your breathing.
I still make myself laugh at how often I have to reel my attention back. Don’t take drifting too seriously. At some moment–for many, it’s close to instantaneous–you will go into a place where a natural calmness swells. There, you’re connected. You may not notice until you come out of it with a sense of having been a little lost in a new space. Don’ worry. You always come back.
Similar to being awakened, some internal alert or something diverting outside will call you back, but one thing is certain. You will be aware that you’ve been in a place you rarely, if ever, visit while awake, even though it’s always there. There may be more of you in that place than you realize. Go back every day. Don’t restrict your freedom by becoming serious or analytic. Insights and increased awareness will flower, and the effects will extend into your routines like an enveloping garden. Heaven surrounds you. You will continue to know more and more about who you are and all you’re connected with.
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