“The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
As much as I claim that I am living my life on my own terms, I find that I’m often pondering how an action will fit in with how I’ve acted in the past. Or I think about something that I once did, and think, is that really me? Or someone says, “Wow, I’m surprised that you would do that!” Well, that can be unsettling. When people express surprise or concern because I’m making a decision that does not fit in with their perception of how I usually am, it feels like I’m letting them down in some way. But when I think about it, what does it matter what other people think?
It’s like the quote I posted the other day about not worrying about what other people think about your abilities, because all that matters is that you are making the effort to improve yourself. Recently, I’ve been worrying a whole lot less about the way other people are and how I could be and much more about DOING things. Consuming things and pondering how things could be better means nothing. Wondering if I should do this or that doesn’t help. The only thing that does help is actually going out and doing it.
I’m computing my own orbit, to borrow words from Emerson. I’m not here to make other people feel comfortable that they “know” me. I don’t know myself, how can anybody “know” me? Sure, I can let them into my life, and as Rilke so wisely said, “Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again;” I don’t have to alarm people, but I also don’t have to cater to them. Perhaps that will ruffle some people’s feathers, but isn’t that better than being boring?
“The superior man is distressed by the limitations of his ability; he is not distressed by the fact that men do not recognize the ability that he has.”
If focus means being fully in the moment, I must do everything in my power to clear my internal distractions and clutter that block my way (i.e. negative self talk, living in the past, worrying about the future).
The first step is to determine which THINGS I need in my day-to-day life. Backpacking trips have taught me that I’m able to live off the contents of a backpack for days at a time, and I love that. Over the course of my life, I’ve stockpiled things, only to have to worry about all these items that I don’t actually need to survive. I find that the less I worry about accumulating things, the more conscious I am of how little I actually need in my day to day life.
One of those things that I don’t actually need every minute of the day is my smart phone. It is actually an exercise in self-control for me to not use my phone for even one whole day. But I’ve found that going off the grid is freeing, because I choose when to look at my phone, and it isn’t constantly beckoning me to check on it. I can set aside a specific time to look at it, which might be during my lunch break, or at night before I go to bed.
I find that without my phone, I’m more likely to be 100% focused on whoever I’m with or whatever I’m doing in a given moment. I think it’s because by removing myself from the possibility of constant communication, I’m forced to communicate with the people and the nature around me, even when I’d rather zone out and distract myself with my smart phone.
I do want to stare at digital screens less. The less I passively consume, the better. Sometimes it’s painful to be mindful about what you are doing or consuming, but I know that I benefit from intentional living. The more I worry about what has not yet happened or things that already happened, the less I will experience the moment, because I will be concerned with things I can’t do anything about. The only time I have is now.
As soon as I’m not attached to things, as soon as I’m doing and loving more than I’m complaining or thinking, I’m living a rich, joyful life.
I want to volunteer, explore, do meaningful work every minute of every day. Every minute sounds unreasonable, but I think that sometimes meaningful work just means seeing the beauty in the situation I am in and fostering positive thoughts and ideas.
Because the only thing I can control is my mind. Just like how full, intentional breaths in yoga pave the way for relaxed, focused control of my poses (for example, I was able to hold a headstand for more than 10 breaths today!), focusing on quieting my mind will give me the strength to focus in any situation.
This quote sums it up pretty well: “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” -Marcus Aurelius
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love. Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom. Only the person who risks is truly free.
All of my “suffering” is self-inflicted. I’m striving to be better, but when I’m unsatisfied with my progress, I get frustrated. My default is to compare myself to others, which does not serve me because I will always fall short.
I’m robbing myself by not loving my life. I’m robbing myself every moment I fret. If I’m upset, which will happen, I can’t stop it, I must make a point to write. Sometimes I don’t feel like moving. It’s the sensation that I don’t want to try anymore.
I had a revelation (enlightenment) during yoga on Monday that I care so much about what people think, and it’s crippling. Only recently have I been getting over it, but I take out my frustration with this on people I love. They become the target of my unhappiness with feeling constrained by what is expected by society, family, etc. The ridiculous thing is that none of those things actually restrain me. I’m a privileged upper-middle class woman who has everything I could ever need and much much more. I had a fantastic childhood, and I am, for all intensive purposes, in great health. I can dance, I can draw, I can write, I can express myself out loud. I take criticism well. What is holding me back? It’s like in yoga…I need to notice my limits and not freak out about them, but know where they are and explore EXPLORE why those limits are there.
Think—what are the times when I’ve been the happiest? When I was enjoying the present and spreading joy, not expecting anything based on the past and not projecting myself into the future at the expense of living in the moment.
I don’t need to live up to anyone’s expectations. I need to be enough for me.
What has stopped me in the past? Fear. I’m scared of being vulnerable and pathetic. But then I get upset when I feel that way. It’s okay to feel. In fact, it’s desirable. I just need to know that they are merely emotions, and emotions do not dictate my life.
P.S. I highly recommend reading the book Living, Loving, and Learning. It’s a collection of Dr. Leo Buscaglia’s fantastic lectures about the power of choosing our own lives and living life out of joy and love. This book, along with the Landmark Forum curriculum, has been significantly shaping the way I mindfully approach my life.