When on a clear night I look out at the stars I am reminded that there is more to life than looking down.
It reminds me of the transitory nature of our problems, and existence. That all we experience is so insignificant when set against the nature and vastness of the universe. It reminds me to embrace the good moments and allow the bad ones to pass for I know all things have an end and that by living in the moment I am grounded in my experience and not troubled by an uncertain future that is beyond control.
“People can push your buttons, but they didn’t install them.” – Anon
“If the world is turning too fast for you, then careful analysis will tell you that there are a limited number of things you can do about it.” – Thomas Perry, Death Benefits
Ever notice everyone is busy? Always busy, but this busy is never really defined. I don’t think people could define it if you stopped them and asked. “I’m busy,” has become a catch-all phrase we use to avoid doing something else in our constantly moving and mobile world.
But what is all this motion getting us? Why are we all rushing towards an early grave? Over the years I’ve purposely slowed down and forced myself to take a breath. To ask the question, what is going on right here right now. Often the thoughts floating around in my mind have little to do with the current reality.
The hardest advice to take, I’ve come to realize, is my own.
Change and uncertainty.
Two things that make many uncomfortable and some frightened. All things change, that is the way of life. You can’t fight it. The more you try the more miserable you’ll be when change happens. Especially sudden change.
Instead embrace that change will come. Accept it and then enjoy the present. Live in the moment with those you care for and things you care about.
Living in the moment. What does that mean? Aren’t we always living in the moment?
Living in the moment refers to where our thoughts dwell. It refers to a willful act to focus our attention to the tasks at hand. My previous posts spoke about metacognition. The ability to see our thoughts as they play out. Living in the moment requires us to ask the questions, “Is this right here? Right now?”
These are very powerful questions that ground us in the reality of the moment. They focus us. They snap us out of our musings.
I’m not saying ignore the future or the past. I am saying don’t dwell on them so much that life passes you by while your mind is elsewhere.
More in Part 2.
Metacognition is a fancy word that means being aware of and able to understand your own thought process.
I’ve had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD tendencies for as long as I can remember and through the years I’ve learned to control it. For me the key to stopping it is to realize that it was happening and this is where metacognition comes into play.
The worse part is the counting. The endless counting over and over, 1234, 1234, 1234. The mind gets stuck in rut and counting becomes like a mantra, though for what, I don’t know.
The metacognition steps in and I hear myself say, “Stop it!” The counting stops, though the urge to continue takes a few moments to fade back into the nothingness from which it came.
My son at the time was 4-5 years old and I took him to the beach. This was a time when those wrist leashes were fashionable to keep them from committing suicide by running out into traffic.
My son hated his. But his mother did not tell me this. So we get there. I put the leash on him after taking him out of the chair and dip back into the car to grab the beach toys.
Out of the corner of my eye I see him lay down on the hot asphalt. “Hmm, this is what he does to his mother,” I thought, knowing his mother at this point would scream at him to get up.
I calmly retrieved the items from the car and turned towards the beach looking out. Never once looking down at him.
A minute later I felt his little hand in mine. I turned and asked, “Hot down there isn’t it?” He nodded. He never tried that crap again with dad.
“It is within our power not to make a judgement about something, and so not disturb our minds; for nothing in itself possesses the power to form our judgements.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
The only constant is change.
Say that aloud, believe it. Because it is the truth. Learn to see the benefit of change. Nothing stays the same, without change we could never progress, we become stagnant and entropy sets in.
I find that by planning for change I feel more in control. Regardless of whether I put the plans into effect or not. It is the act of creating them that I find solace and in this solace is peace and I am freed from anxiety.
Last time I wrote about how our perception of a situation is related to our stress and anxiety about that situation.
Let me go a step farther and say; our judgement about a situation is directly proportional to our anxiety and stress.
It is our judgement of a given situation that causes our suffering.
The problem with worrying is that if things do go wrong, they usually won’t go as wrong as you imagined them to. Instead of thinking of the worst case scenario make plans to mitigate any damage that can happen. As the saying goes, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”
By planning, you are taking the hold of your fears and not giving power to a uncertain future. By planning, you are taking action in concrete steps
In the following weeks I’ll be writing about things I’ve been learning from the book The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman. I find myself recommending this book more and more as I integrate the information into my waking life.
Though I’ve arrived at much of the information in an organic way by living, the book has given me words to concepts that were floating around in my head for years. Now I can convey those concepts to others. Let’s start:
Perception and anxiety. Two things that are firmly linked in our minds. But let me get you past the first hurdle I had with this point. Simply by changing your mind on your judgement about a bad situation does not make it better.
This is not about changing reality. This is about managing your stress and anxiety by changing your perspective.
More in Part 2.