We have established a very cool morning routine which dates back to a just as cool evening routine in which, to help him fall asleep at night, I read to my son Alexander. Every night. For years.
We read everything. I had a book that included […] Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
One after the next.
I had a volume purporting to be the complete works of Shakespeare; we spent a lot of time there. I can’t even remember… We read a lot.
We went to a recovery event and shared a condo with several other folks.
Years later a woman told me she fell in love with me listening to me read to him.
Now, when queried via text, Alex says “I remember Hamlet. I think.”
I’m having a reverie here, thinking about how cool it was reading to him. He remembers nothing!
Except: “It seems like a lot of what you read to me was too old for me.”
So, like every morning for 12 years, Julie and I were reading and then afterwards discussing the Handbook of Higher Consciousness,
and the idea arose that we spend so much energy
trying to not have energy!
THAT set me back in my seat a bit.
So let’s revisit that line again:
It’s funny that so much energy is used to create non energy.
After Julie and I discussed this a bit in the morning, I opened this dialogue with Alexander.
The conversation went like this:
Me: “it’s funny that so much energy is used to create non-energy.”
He: “Uhhh… For what?”
Me: Well in the pursuit of peace. Which is, in fact, not peaceful.
He: “Huh? Elaborate. Are we talking about fighting for war? When you war or fight only more fighting occurs.”
Me: “Literally a peaceful spirit. Not about fighting against war. We were just talking about all the books that are written about how to attain peace or enlightenment, how much effort people put into being happy when they could just BE happy.
Me: “It’s a concept I’m playing with for an article.”
He: “It’s a decision. We make decisions every damn day, about how to act about things. Learning to catch ourselves in the moment of decision and changing that decision is key.”
Me: “Yes in deed.”
He: “It’s wiring in the brain. When you’re flying down a path of thought you can choose to get off and remember something better or another way to go about a problem. They say if an ex calls jerk off before you respond. Puts you in a better mood, reminds you that you don’t need them. Hahahaha.”
Me: “you straddle that line between spiritual truth and just total irreverence so perfectly.”
He: “Hahahaha straddle!”
Me: “Straddle is a very funny word.”
He: “Taking all of it so seriously is detrimental. Suddenly spiritual truth becomes stressful. It’s supposed to be fun.”
Me: “Yes! This is all going to be in the article.”
He: “These are things you already know though. Right?”
Me: “Yes, so I am like processing all this as I go so that you and I are writing this post together.”
And so we’re writing this post together, Alexander and I. And Julie. Because, as it seems, that’s how we roll
This idea that striving to be happy ruins being happy.
Jack Kornfield writes in A Path With Heart that the three things most responsible for distress,
from a Buddhist psychology perspective,
are attachment, aversion, and confusion.
In the bible it says, “Why are their fights and quarrels among you?
Because you want something you cannot have.”
The Tao seems to echo this; verse after verse of “go with the flow,” and “accept what comes.”
But if we want to live more peacefully, is that not a goal that we need to strive for?
And the easiest answer is that the striving, the attachment or craving,
is that which throws us off the course of being peaceful.
Our bent is so much wrapped up in getting, attaining, earning, making things happen,
that we often forget that just being means letting go of all of it
and being at peace with what occurs.
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Acceptance is huge here.
Two things happened today as a part of our writing junket to the desert.
We forgot the blankets for the dogs to lay upon,
and we saw a bird at a close enough distance to notice it was cool and different
but perched far enough away that we could not identify it.
How nice a pair of binoculars or a telephoto lens for the phone would have been to capture that image!
Am I sad that to a small extent we failed to provide for our dogs? Of course.
Am I berating myself about this? Well… Not today.
In previous iterations of Rick the adult,
this is something which may have been the cause for consternation, condemnation and judgment of myself.
Harsh words, perhaps aloud, directed at me.
Today… Well in the words of Frank the meditation teacher, we are practicing a level of gentleness with ourselves
which can free us from this negative view stemming from unmet expectations,
or striving to no end,
or resulting from attachment to things or ideas
upon which we in our humanity are imperfectly unsuited to follow through on with any consistency.
And, as I was able to add one evening during meditation, if we are unable to be gentle with ourselves in our imperfections,
can we be gentle with ourselves for not being gentle with ourselves?
So the focus is on a gentle, non-striving desire to just be.
As Alexander said, just making a decision to be.
Loosely held, loosely focused intentional being.
What we do at home is remind ourselves and each other to let go of striving;
sometimes a simple gentle reminder, or pointing out, “that’s too much striving for me,” is enough.
Oft times I’m caught up in planning, and ego.
My response is often defensiveness, a sure sign ego is involved.
If it hasn’t completely taken over, I can step back and reassess.
I try to avoid being avoidant; it may not help to say “I don’t want to be like that!”
I wish for my focus to be on what I am aiming for rather than what I wish to get away from.
It’s a fine balance, this walk between attachment and aversion.
But in the wanting I lose the being.
So I hold loosely, allowing whatever my present state is to just, is.
For us it seems the best way to attain this is through meditation.
My meditative aim is to be aimless without being unfocused.
The Buddha speaks of a middle path, and walking the middle path is difficult.
I liken it to what I constantly teach in group, using a drawing of a sine wave.
We are never right on the money, but are always back and forth over the middle path,
and our “average,” if you will, is the path we are walking.
I use that, too, to describe our feeling state. The only constant is change!
We are always elevating or declining in mood, back and forth over the middle path.
In the breath, in the quiet calm, where I am measured and focused on the in breath and out breath,
and gently bringing myself back to the breath when my mind inevitably wanders,
focused on being not focused on doing or even being, but just being,
it seems in that space I have some space, some freedom, and grow a quiet calm in which I can just… Be.
Does any more need to be written on the subject?
How much energy needs to be given the topic of non-energy?
Well, that’s a good question.
Ultimately, any opinion about the abundance or dearth of energy spent on the topic is more energy spent on the topic.
I’m of the mind the perfect amount of literature exists,
the perfect amount of literature, including this small piece, is being authored on the topic,
and my prayer is that every word finds its perfect audience, where a seed of hope for peace is planted in every person,
in a way that each person is able to hear and experience the resonance of those words in his or her own way.
If there are seven billion people, there may need to be seven billion volumes.
But that is a journey for seven billion other authors to mindfully embark upon.
This author has exhausted this topic for this day.
May you live in the joy and peace of the present moment,
today and hopefully for myriad moments to come,
in the non-questing quest to … Be.