I’ve been paying more attention to posture lately. Working on standing posture, really need to work on sitting posture. Meditation posture is a subject unto itself. There’s a certain lightness of being attained with alignment. A certain weariness with “crumpling.” It takes effort and awareness but I’m finding it pays dividends.
For a period of work my office faced the train tracks. One day my attention was riveted by a young woman walking down the rails. She didn’t move like a human. She was gracefully fluid in a way I can’t even articulate. It made a lasting impression. I’ve explored Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais and other movement modalities trying to understand what I had seen.
In September, I think I will explore the Gokhale Method with instruction. The quest continues.
In the meantime, the chinga system is working out. I’m refining it and coding the app. I think I’ve found a process that finally works as an ally in seizing the day.
I’ve always loved to learn, and I like the feelings of mastery and flow that comes with skill building. But I dislike specialization and digging too deep of a hole in a single domain. It gets boring and life-sapping. But I also dislike superficial understanding of a topic. Learning not sustained enough to get a workable model or stopping and starting so much that each time begins anew because so much is forgotten.
So I devised a system that works for me… “the curriculum.” It’s like Hogwarts… going to a school where you’re learning all this cool stuff you want to learn and explore, with different subjects and teachers daily, optional labs and extra credit and it continues for a virtual semester, a little each day so I’m not stuck in some Mariana trench of interminable grunge-work. There are several tricks that facilitate this.
I call my strategy Chinga, for “fuck it.” And it’s based on the principle of go small or go home. Tiny little impulse steps that require minimal will to push over. Done daily. Doesn’t require massive motivation or will. And leverages some interesting neural hacks. Working on a little software app that embodies it. Debugging and refining my approach as I go. Worst case, I’ll have a system that’s workable and valuable for my progress. Best case, it may help a few other lazy saps with grand ambitions but distractible minds like myself.
Our inner geography is territory we hang out in each and every day. No matter what is happening outside of our head, our awareness resides somewhere within an interior sensorium. Some areas are tropical beaches, relaxed and easy going, happy with the world while other sections are swamps of low energy, foul moods and depression. There are borders that are sometimes crossed, new territory occasionally annexed when we encounter novel experiences either within or without. Experiences that don’t fit anywhere within our existing constructs. This tends to happen less frequently as we age and we find ourselves both confined and comfortable within a few acres and well beaten paths between familiar destinations. We inhabit predictable territories and we travel between a few accustomed villages of mental/emotional/energetic states.
How we get to these places is usually outside of our control. We’re typically pushed into them by oblique collisions with the outside world, external stimuli and our interpretations of what these collisions mean. These tell us where to report to on our map. Spilt coffee on our laps, an idiotic driver on the freeway and we’re usually slung into some low-life tavern across the tracks from our more compassionate climes and free spirited villas.
But there is also an ecology to this inner landscape. A way energy is used, stored and transferred, that controls our mobility to move from one area to another. Most us can’t bootstrap ourselves out of a foul, moody swamp back onto the hilltop overlooking the valley and shiny threads of river reveries that are part of a more easy going and light hearted landscape. We have to be taken there by something outside of ourselves.
But we can learn to wander independently in these geographies of our own mind. To manage energy more skillfully for mobility and exploration; enough energy to expand the boundaries of what our habitual experiences contain. Beyond territory already mapped. Enough awareness to shift our center to places with greater resources for meeting demands of the outside world. And while we are still trapped within our own minds, we are not confined to the rooms of our acculturation. Or the narrow corridors of our conditioning. And trapped is perhaps a relative word, when we realize the infinity of this domain.
So we’re saying your state will determine what you experience, the meaning you place on it, the capacity you have to respond to it, and your general quality of life. That’s a lot! The good news is that it is you who has primary control of your state, should you wish to claim it.
-The Hero’s Journey by Stephen Gilligan and Robert Dilt
Re-claim it, perhaps
We’re not usually aware of this energy and how it is squandered. We seldom monitor when it is stolen, or perceive how it is harvested or re-purposed through external means. Basically, we’re energy blind. And perhaps more insidious, we are not the top of the energy food chain, the way we are in the material plane. And this has consequences that steal our freedom and ability to choose. An old Gnostic idea of higher planes, in a multidimensional universe, where we are less like special snowflakes and more like domesticated cattle. A topic of the next post. Probably.
“It is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about ‘the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.’
This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.
And I submit that this is what the real, no-bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head…”
-David Foster Wallace
I am snoozing at the rest stop and when the tires leave the road when the dust fills the sky and the yees of the horned toad are fied in the distance ignoring the boots tramping around it and its home then it’s time to sing the song that sond that we keep in teh back of our minds whose melody made no sense but till we stshed it for the day, this day, when it will carry on the wind into the blue mountains and teh gray sky and not eaven the pearly luminescence of the smothers ed moon wil reaveal even a single note because the frequence=y is so different, like lighg and sound, until ess youve gone digital, abandoned the analog and then you acan meld synethesiass like a pro and perhapds this melding, with all ths colors and sounds and motion and when it brings in the tactile we can have a new cup for a little while, a cup that cn hold new forms of things of thoughts sand make new things but this cup might be for the young for the new for the dispalced, whose cups are alesast half empty so they may benefit from the openiness of receiving… and when we die and when we’re dold and hoepfully on haveppens the correct sequences a=maybe then too our cups will be empties and in that dusty old chiped receptabcle with the faded paint and the lad coatin fro some us we may contain someething we cannot even yet coneive and this is the essence od death
sometimes I think about a word, or rather, a word resonates in my mind, collecting from the far corners like a small pond ~ripples of affinity~ touching banks of memory at oblique angles and sometimes things from the depths surface to investigate, look around with somber alien eyes, ill-adapted to the light and then submerge back down to their home somewhere deep inside my home in corners I don’t know how to find
Today feels like the start of another transition, to another place, from this place. To another series of places in that strand of frazzled rope that stretches across my history and tangles with the histories of others. Siblings, family, friends, lovers, enemies, artists, zombies, masters, monsters, singers, poets, thieves, cheats. The corded knots of humanity in their swirls of existence but a node on mine as I on theirs.
Sometimes we hang out in bad company. Toxic relationships, negative relatives or pestiferous media feeds. Maybe recurring feelings or voices inside our head. Maybe drama we seem inexplicably pulled into, again and again.
And any serious expedition outside the protective boundaries of our comfort zones, with new projects or ways of being, draw undesirable attention as well.
These undesirables often present themselves as “reason givers.” As in only looking out for what’s best for you. Or what’s logical. Common sense. And they may sound quite reasonable indeed. Inside or out these false friends tend to fall into 4 categories:
- Obstacle revealers: who love to point out all the reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t be doing, thinking or feeling something.
- Self-judgers: revel in all the ways you aren’t up to a task or don’t possess a quality, and all the reasons you’re not ready and unworthy.
- Comparators: are quick to point out all the ways others have tried this and failed or why its easier for others with way more talent, opportunities, luck and/or drive than you. Or why others will think you’re foolish and why you should be more like them.
- Fortune tellers: bemoan all the ways you’re going to crash and burn or missed your opportunity and why the odds are stacked against you. Why you’re just not lucky that way. Alas.
These fake allies may trick you into arguing with them. But their real weakness is that their validity doesn’t matter. Instead, your secret sauce is to ask if they are helpful. And what would you be like, or your life be like, if you lived it by their “truths” as your guide? Would it be a life you wanted?
Everyone, without fail, will experience most of these “helpers.” Through themselves and/or others while trying or being almost anything different than they’ve done or been before. How you manage these advisors is critical to the success of your venture.
Given some healthy boundaries and new objectives, they actually can be shaped into powerful allies. This can be done with some simple questions for each:
- Obstacles: are you giving realistic appraisals and figuring out how to overcome them? Or just coming up with reasons not to try?
- Self-judgment: is this constructive advice on how to improve your skills? Or just tearing you down?
- Comparison: is it finding ways to learn strategy and avoid mistakes from others? Is it inspirational or simply discouraging any action?
- Prediction: are they analyzing how to respond to worse case scenarios, things to mitigate and improve the odds? Or just woe is you, you’re doomed and the sky is falling?
We can’t avoid negative thoughts, it’s just how we are wired. Suppressing or constantly venting them is unhealthy. But we don’t have to be “hooked” by them. Modern mindfulness-based therapies, like ACT, take the agenda of the Buddhists and Stoics into practical application. These posts will review some of these approaches. The points above are from a book called The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris.
Buddhism introduced the construct of skillful and unskillful thinking. Skillful thoughts are not about finding the true or right answer —which may not be helpful, and may never actually be known or knowable. In our lifetimes anyway. Instead, a skillful thought is a helpful thought. Something that contributes positively to your life and your resilience in dealing with things.
To get to the point where one can assess a thought as being helpful or not though, and act skillfully with it, we first need to be aware of our thoughts as they occur. Not hours, days or a lifetime later in the wake of their reactive calamities. Unnoticed, unskillful thoughts can quietly wreak havoc on our moods and energy states. And upon our resilience to meet life as it is.
For both Stoicism and ACT, the foundation starts with knowing what’s happening in our heads in real time. Then each discipline spins off in different directions for dealing with that, based on different objectives. More on this to come, primarily to tease out thoughts on how these disparate approaches fit together, and writing helps me do that. Which is not to belittle my appreciation for those of you reading these ramblings. Thanks for getting this far 🙂