Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Meditation Fragments on Life in General

You know what someone needs to invent? Something that can record all of your many simultaneous trains of thought. I almost always have paper and a writing utensil handy, and I've thought of at least having one of those tape recorder things so whenever I just have too many ideas to form coherent thoughts I can at least purge in some way, and then go back and separate ideas out later. But I'll concentrating on getting at least one idea out, while my brain continues addressing two, three, or more ideas, and by the time I get one idea out verbally or written down, those other thoughts have passed. Or I can't hardly even finish one train of thought because the others are there trying to push their way in. SO frustrating, sometimes!

Heehee - just for an example, take one of the pages of notes I have to myself - just random thoughts and ideas and blog-worthy topics. They're funny. There are arrows everywhere. For example, take the topic sentence fragment "what we perceive vs. what is 'real.'" Naturally, this branches to Metaphysics & Reality vs. reality. Arrow to James & Truth vs. truth, arrow to another two ideas, one of which branches to Religion, which, of course, has three of its own arrows, one of which circles back to one of the original topics on the page (Frankl and his book Man's Search for Meaning). And there are plenty more ideas and arrows on the page - some verticle, some horizontal, some's almost a work of art. "Flow-of-thought" technique to the extreme.

As for those "lost" ideas. Well, I just tell myself the same old thing, "if it was that important it will be back..." But don't you still wonder, sometimes? I know I do.

Yup. I'm a fan of a device that can record multiple trains of thought simultaneously for us.

So, that said, there are a thousand different directions I could go as far as blogging. Just can't seem to find the "off" switch for my brain... Aw well - life is never boring that way, is it, now?
I could write about Frankl or James or Wertheimer, or Darwin. I could write about mindfulness and meditation and other ayuervedic techniques. I could ruminate more on definitions (which ties back to Frankle, James, etc.). What IS "creativity?" "Happiness?" "Perfection?" And all the many definitions of the Self...

Speaking of which, I could actually blog about myself, some more - try to sort some things out. Almost feel like it's a lost cause, sometimes. Well, not so much a lost 'cause as a "never-ending" cause. I feel like my horse. Everytime you think you've made some progress, you discover a new layer. But you'll have that with life and all the happenings and unforseen circumstances (and even forseen circumstances!). All the situations and experiences, and, though there may be similarities, no two can ever be exactly the same. But the best part is, whatever life may send us, at least we always have ourselves. We might change between experiences, we might stay the same (or as "same" as we can stay) - ultimately, that is what we can control - our actions and reactions and thoughts. I know my mom has been saying this for ages - even to her second graders. And to quote Frankl in Man's Search for Meaning, "everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way" (66). (ooooh, what a perfect segue into the free will vs. determinism discussion...)

The question, then, becomes: to what extent do we allow ourselves to be influenced by the externals? You know - specific individuals in our lives, societal values and "norms," certain circumstances and events, etc.

Well, that all depends, doesn't it? (heeheehee - my new favorite answer to everything since starting grad school. IT DEPENDS. Works for pretty much everything!)

You know what else has been great about grad school for me? Well, lots of things - but in addition to the "it depends" answer, I have gotten so much more comfortable saying "I don't know." There have been so many new ideas, many of which can make you squirm, not because they are morally disturbing or anything. No - uncomfortable in that they are ideas that can rock your world - challenge the way way you understand things - toss you back into the gray area just when you thought you had answers. Which might be why I enjoy the "it depends" answer so much. It allows me to bask in the gray areas but still have at least one answer. But I don't mind saying "I don't know." I have also gotten much better at saying, "I may be wrong," "I was wrong," and similar sentiments. Granted, I'm sure this has also all been helped by extra-curriculars such as counseling and meditation and conversations about mindfulness and philosophy and whatnot. In fact, one of the best, most useful pieces of advice my counselor offered: "you are not responsible for the actions and reactions of others."

Isn't life funny? The timing of things, the way things work out, the way things connect...

I have also decided, therefore, it is good to maintain goals and direction in life, but I'm not sure to what extent is important to have a plan, per se. Perhaps a flexible plan, but, really, the set in stone, "heaven-forbid-I-stray-from-my-path-or-I-might-die" approach to life just seems to cause so much more stress. And I should know. I still remember calling my dad during my freshmen year of college on the verge of a panic attack because I was thinking of changing majors. Heehee - seems rather silly, now. What was it I said to Luke just last night? "How can I change my life when it hasn't happened yet?" Something along those lines...

That's another thing I am gaining from studying mindfulness - living in the now, rather than the past and future. It is interesting how the general tendency is to try and shape our futures by focusing on the past and future, when it is the now that ultimately leads to that future. It's like trying to drive somewhere by either staring out the back window or predicting which street signs will be up ahead. And goodness knows I need more practice with this concept - I'm really good at getting weighted down by all my thoughts and concerns and all these abstract things when I could be out there living, including thoughts of the past and the future. But, again, our future is dictated by what we do now, so why not focus on the now, and the future will happen.

Again, I am reminded of something else Frankl says in the introduction to his book. "Don't aim at success--the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect... Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen..." Later in the book, he makes the same case but in other circumstances, with different examples. But, again, the main message remains the same - if we make a target of something, we are more likely to "fail." Again, though, I don't see this as saying, "don't have goals." Nay, Goals are still important, but it is more the idea that we are in control of our goals, and we may have flexible goals, but should we really have those concrete targets that end up dictating the way we live our lives? And if we decide we should like a new target, or that we should like to change our target? Well, that often feels like failing (*gasp* the F word!). It is more about the mindset and attitude with which we approach life.

I'm not sure that I can explain things any better than that for now. But that's okay, 'cause it is time for me to be an active participant in life and go feed the ponies =0)

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