Friday, September 24, 2010

Random Thoughts Volume III

Last Sunday night my wife went to a concert and saw Frankie Valli. Some of you are probably thinking, "Who the heck is Frankie Valli"? In the early 60's, as part of the "Four Seasons", he was one of the biggest acts in pop music. The Four Seasons were the "Jersey Boys". A while back I read that whatever music a person listened to between the ages of 15-20 is most likely what they will listen to for the rest of their lives. For me this would be music from the years 1966-1971. This theory is very accurate because a lot of what's on my ipod and what I listen to at home is from this era. Most people love music, especially the music of their youth. A song can take us back to an era when we thought we were happier or more carefree. In reality the past was often not as happy or as simple as we imagine it in our daydreams. Still, most of us have happy memories and a song can take us back and remind us that life has been good. The music of our past can keep us young in our minds even if our bodies feel their age.

How do you feel right now? Happy? Sad? Tired? Are you ready to seize the day or are you counting the hours until the end of your workday? At one time or another I have had all these feelings. Some people think the purpose of meditation is to transcend their feelings and to escape them. Meditation does not create a blissful stupor. It actually does the opposite. It's purpose is to make us more awake and aware. Meditation stirs the pot of our emotions and enables us to embrace our feelings and to own them. Whatever you are feeling right now, ask yourself why you feel that way. Why are you happy or sad? Are you tired because you didn't get enough sleep last night or are you getting sick? Do you love life or is it an effort just to get through the day? Feelings are symptoms of what's going on in our lives. Meditation is a way to feel your feelings and to explore why you feel the way you do.

Yesterday I was feeling a little frazzled and I was being a little grumpy. I had some personal things on my mind and a few people and things at work were getting on my nerves. I have a reputation for being Mr. Calm but it is not always deserved. Don't tell anyone but I have one well hidden button that makes me quite hostile if you push it. A few times yesterday this hostility generating button was pushed. At times like this it is sometimes difficult to follow my own advice. Still, at the end of the day, when I was mostly alone and it was quiet around me, I took some time to breathe and be still. I regained my composure and felt at peace. I think it is important to sometimes stop whatever you are doing and be still. One of my favorites scripture passages is from Psalm 42. It simply says, "Be still and know that I am God". In stillness we find peace. The next time life seems a little crazy for you, go find a quiet and solitary place and be still for fifteen minutes. Ignore your cell phone, take off your headphones, stop texting all your friends and family, get off of Facebook, and let the world spin a few minutes without you. Breathe deeply, be still, and chill out.

I'm reading a booked entitled "Wherever You Go, There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Most of my recent thoughts have developed from things I have read in this book. Recently I read, "not doing is not the same thing as doing nothing". This is a kind of Zen koan. A koan is a riddle. What does this statement mean? I think it means that we don't always have to push everything. We humans like to be in control and we want to make everything happen according to our desires and schedules. Sometimes you have to just let things happen naturally. In these kinds of situations "not doing" is not doing nothing. It is allowing life to unfold on it's own without our human manipulation. Example: For thousands of years mankind has manipulated the planet. There was a really intriguing show on the Discovery Channel called "Life Without People". Imagine if tomorrow there was no longer any human life on this planet but all our buildings and monuments and everything else created by mankind remained. How long would it take nature to reclaim the earth and return it to how it was before humans existed? This show answered that question based on scientific knowledge. According to the scientists and engineers, it would take approximately 10,000 years for the planet to erase all traces of human existence. The earth would take everything back by not doing anything but allowing the natural process to unfold.

I believe I have achieved the Buddhist state of "empty mind". Yesterday was a very busy day, I had another busy day today and I felt the usual Friday fatigue. I am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow before I have a visit from a little munchkin girl who has stolen my heart. There will be no rest for Pa Paw this weekend. At the moment, however, my mind is totally blank. All my consciousness is being used to maintain minimum life support systems within my body. I have no deep thoughts today.

This afternoon I experienced a rare occurrence. It rained. It was not nearly enough and was mostly a tease. We are in a drought and on what Thomas Merton once called a "Fire Watch". It is very, very dry in my part of the world. I can't tell if the leaves are changing colors because it is now autumn or if they are simply dying from a lack of rain. I suspect it is a little of both.

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