There’s this proclivity amongst ambitious people. In those that like to go somewhere and make the proverbial ‘dent’. I call it ‘The Next’.
There’s always a next. Day done? Prepare for the next day. Finished your task? There’s 10 new waiting. All urgent, at least seemingly so. This industrious mindset, this insidious cultural conditioning, this perverted afterbirth of the devious shadow side of the industrial revolution, will burn us out in the end. It will happen to everybody. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. We’re not meant to be constantly producing. Our minds, and our bodies, function much like the ocean. Ebb and flow. Ebb and flow. Action, repose. Action, inaction.
Yes, I know you take some time off. You go to parties and dinners and movies and dates. But do you really spent time with yourself, by yourself, to recharge emotionally, energetically and creatively? Proper time sans media or other digital appliances to distract you. Do you ever engage in what Brigid Schulte calls ‘uncontaminated time’, that is: time that isn’t perturbed by thoughts, worries and thinking about anything productivity and work related.
Do you ever allow yourself to be properly bored? Bored out of your skull, to the extent that your mind subtly reinforces it’s natural tendencies upon your mental state: calmness, patience and mindfulness. Do you ever, as Josh Waitzkin so eloquently stated, allow presence to teach you how to life? Do you ever feel like you’re getting closer to this aspiration of presence:
“Once a simple inhalation can trigger a state of tremendous alertness, our moment-to-moment awareness becomes blissful, like that of someone half-blind who puts on glasses for the first time. We see more as we walk down the street. The everyday becomes exquisitely beautiful. The notion of boredom becomes alien and absurd as we naturally soak in the lovely subtleties of ‘banal.’ All experiences become richly intertwined by our new vision, and then the new connections begin to emerge. Rainwater streaming on city pavement will teach a pianist to flow. A leaf gliding easily with the wind will teach a controller to let go. A house cat will teach me how to move. All moments become each moment.”
We’re moving like a freight train on an infinite loop, passing by stations without slowing down, let alone to even think about stopping to smell the proverbial roses. We’re always concerned with the next. Next day. Next meeting. Next project. Next vacation. Next lover. Next cupcake.
Have you ever had that supposedly empyrean sensation of finally diving into that tropical sea, with the sun out in full force, and the softly-massaging sand of the white, pictoresque beaches swirling through your toes, only to think, ‘ok, well that was nice. Now what will I have for dinner? Where should we go? I think we need to head out soon, otherwise we’ll miss out.’
It’s this mindset that leads us to produce so much. But it also puts the blinds on us, leading us to ignore that exquisitely blissful sensation that is available to us, in each and every moment. This mindfulness of the present is the deciding factor of your joy, not the experienced thing itself. For Thich Nath Hahn a simple cup of coffee is infinitely more rewarding than whatever we do half-mindedly, I can guarantee you that much.
We have everything we need to be content. And the sooner you realize that the better. Here’s a first step: close down your laptop. phone or tablet.
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