Social Media, Silence, Enlightenment

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Stillness

I struggle with social media, as I think is the case for many introverts.

It is hard to balance the idea of connecting to people with the very real exposure that social media forces upon us. I ran into this just the other day when I had someone comment on a post that I “liked.” I did not share this post, but I liked it in passing; an action that was then published on my friends’ newsfeeds, upsetting, I am sure, more than the one person that commented.

Because, as is the case for many, our “friends” list is a mixture of family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, some of which, or many of which, do not share the same ideologies. This is the same in life, but, at least in the Pacific Northwest, rarely do these differences come to a point of contention, because they are not called out on, or addressed.

(an argument for or against that particular tendency can wait for another day)

Social media makes it easy to get offended at these differences.

For me, these flashes of contention make it hard to be on social media and I have, in the past, disabled my facebook account because of the exposure and the intense spotlight that occasionally occurs.

Sometimes it is just good to take a break.

But.

Enter my contemplation on silence.

Social media is the antithesis of silence. It is information and talking and interacting all the time. Even if I am not the one engaged in a conversation or a comment, my interaction is in the way I scroll through the posts and have thoughts on them.

It is not silent.

As such, I have contemplated giving up social media for good. And not only social media, but also severely limiting my online presence in general. I am a news junky. Every morning I read the NY Times and the Washington Post. Every morning. But again, in these times especially, the content is hardly silencing.

I am on word press. Writing. Communicating.

Not silencing.

Yet.

Yet.

There is always a yet, because the purpose of finding silence is to create stillness. The purpose of stillness is to unhook the identity of self in such a way to open up space for contemplation, compassion, and kindness.  The purpose of creating a space for contemplation, compassion, and kindness is to selflessly bring joy to the world.

What better way to bring joy to the world than to use social media?

I am not there.

Studying the concept of bodhicitta, a mind of enlightenment motivated by compassion for sentient beings, encourages me.  It is a brave, beautiful concept that requires a great deal of “rethinking” and adjusting.

What does it mean to be selfishly selfless?

What does it mean to truly have compassion for every sentient being… even those we vehemently disagree with?

And how do we go about making changes that will increase our capacity for compassion?

A first step is understanding that we are responsible for the way we see and interact with the world. I — not my family, friends, or acquaintances — am the reason I am WHO I am, and I am WHERE I am.

I am in control.

Of all of it.

No one else is able to influence me, change me, or manipulate me, unless I allow them to. Including those on social media. In the news. The driver that cuts me off. The family member that seeks to control. The friend who snubs.

How do I react to these things?

How do you react?

That is the secret. The piece of wisdom.

It is all in how we CHOOSE to react.

Pema Chodron says: “we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”

Back to social media: it is no different. I follow silence down a path towards stillness in an attempt to find enlightenment so that I may be bring joy/light/compassion to living beings.

I can CHOOSE to use social media as a vehicle for my goal towards bringing joy/light/compassion.

Or I can see it as a hindrance.

But it is up to me.

This line of thought, of course, leads in a wandering way towards the entire concept of life.

What do we choose to interact with and why?

Who do we choose to interact with and why?

And in these decisions, where are the obstacles? The hindrances?

How I view social media and an internet presence, and the distraction that it causes, are all hurdles in this chosen path of mine.

How then, do I address them moving forward?

And you, dear readers, what challenges do you face?And how do you CHOOSE to react to them.

Until next time: may you find joy.

Silence

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A rest – a moment of silence in a musical composition

What is silence?

Is it: A complete lack of sound?

As a human being, this kind of silence is impossible to create and exist in at the same time.

There is always the heartbeat.

There is always the breath.

An absence of machine sounds?

of voices?

As I have done since the birth of this blog, I continue in my attempt to change my perception of things in order to decrease suffering. One tool I’m exploring is silence.

“Be still…”

As a mom of a six-year-old, finding silence is nearly impossible. As a 21st century human being; doubly so.

If finding silence, an age-old tradition of hermits and spiritual seekers, is not possible in my very normal thirty-something world, how then do I rethink the concept of silence so I can find it in my life?

So you can find it in yours.

Silence in a noisy world.

The benefits are numerous and well documented.

The how; not so much.

What are your thoughts, dear readers; and your advice, as I move forward into this new rethink life project?

 

On Choice

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“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” -Yogi Berra

Last week, I asked what people thought of Purpose; the idea that we each have a single Purpose. I received truly lovely feedback, much of which was at odds with what I think is the current overwhelming view of Life Purpose, ie:

Finding Your Purpose = Winning Life

I am obviously tinged with a certain ire, if you cannot tell from the above statement, for I believe that this focus on Purpose has been incredibly detrimental for many people, including myself. Rather than helping, I have come to wonder if this search for Purpose hurts people’s psyches more times than not. And why? Because, to put it bluntly, many of us are unable to discover that Passion, that Idea, that Thing that will bring our lives meaning and so we feel that we are somehow failing.

This idea is so huge; so encompassing; so IMPORTANT, I have fallen under the weight of it; as have others I have spoken with, all with the same weary, hallowed-eye look.

Then I realized something, something key:

Purpose is based entirely on Faith.

Faith that there is a higher being; that there is a plan; and that Something is influencing our lives and ourselves.

What do I mean? Well, Purpose must come from somewhere.

God and Purpose

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

“And I did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me…” (Quran, 51:56-58).

Oprah and Purpose

“There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become truly alive.”

** HAHAHA! **

Did I just put Oprah and God on the same level?

Only slightly.

I am pointing out that one most have Faith in God to believe His words on Purpose (whether it is a Lord’s Purpose, or the Sole Purpose of worshiping Him).

Just the same, one most also have Faith in the intelligence and wisdom of Oprah to believe what she says as well.

Faith.

Now, I came to the conclusion some time ago that faith is a choice. For example, we can choose to believe that God exists, or we can choose to believe that he does not exist. (Side note, Oprah does exist, in case you were wondering).

Personally, I decided to not make a decision on the matter. After studying for years, I came to the conclusion that there is no undeniable indication there is a God; just as much as there is no undeniable indication that there is Not a God.

It is up to Humans to decide on what we believe. Sure, society and family have key roles in belief a lot of the time… we believe in what those around us believe more times than not… but, it is still us choosing one thing or something else.

Choice.

Faith.

We get to decide.

And I think that is very much the same way with Purpose. I have spent hours in deep and dark depressions because I was trying to find my Purpose. I am not a passionate person (Passion, apparently, being the road map to Purpose); so I do not have anything that I am passionate about. I enjoy things. I like to read… some of the times. I like to watch movies… some of the times. I find archetypes and symbolism interesting… but I would not label those interests as passion.

(Even now, I am tempted to wonder if my interest in archetypes and symbolism is something Purposeful… even after hours and hours and hours of trying to retrain my brain from thinking in this way)

In the end, albeit not as thoroughly as I wish, I have come to the conclusion that Purpose is as much based on faith and choice, as believing in anything. And as such, it is a choice to believe that Purpose is a hyped up term that is propagated to help the human masses feel like there is something more to their lives and the world that they live in.

Or.

It is a choice to believe that there is a Purpose for everyone.

I tend to believe the former; which is bleak. But, it is like a story I once heard about Christian missionaries traveling to the far reaches of  Denmark. The missionaries met with these pagan worshipers as they huddled around roaring fires inside their halls, darkness howling with deep ice and frigid cold outside windows shuttered to protect against nature; and the missionaries told these Norsemen and women that the frozen wasteland out beyond their warm halls was like their pagan religion.

It was cold. Unknown. Blackness.

But Jesus Christ brought light.

The missionaries told them if they believe in the light and the warmth of Jesus Christ, that no matter the hardships of their lives, they would be met with peace and rest in the afterlife.

From what I understand, many Norse decided to believe in Christ.

They chose to believe in something that brought them comfort; and there is absolutely, positively nothing at all wrong with this choice.

As today, in the face of terrorism, and globalism, and most importantly ease of life in the first world especially, there exists a need to feel as if there is a reason for living. Any reason. And that is NOT a terrible thing.

Sometimes people really do seem to find that Purpose. I have seen it; that all encompassing joy in what they are doing in their lives.

Kudos to them (said only with a tiny itty bit of sarcasm).

But then there are the Others… cough cough… me. I start to think about Purpose and I spiral into depression because I am WASTING TIME!

I AM NOT LIVING MY POTENTIAL!

I am FAILING!

So I choose not to go down that path.

Choice.

In this day and age it is sometimes hard to remember that we have choices. When working the jobs we work, we think we HAVE to be there because we have to pay bills, and we have to support our families. Sometimes it doesn’t feel as if we have a choice when dealing with difficult family relationships, or hard friendships, or illness, or pain.

Trapped and shackled.

I am achingly familiar with these two feelings.

But, despite the risk of sounding trite and new-agey… there is always a choice in how we approach anything and all things.

For instance, lately, the fact that the U.S. President Elect is who it is, feels like a choice that has been taken away from me.  But honestly, I can choose to fight him and his administration by getting involved. Or , I can decide to try to give him a chance, or attempt to change how I view him (yeah, no).

Or I can decide to do something else.

There are always choices. And this, more than finding a purpose or believing in a God, gives me hope. I get to decide how I want to live my life. Sometimes it feels like there is something working against me, but that again is only a belief, a thought, and I can work to change that thought into something more productive, or more…hopeful.

My PERSONAL conclusion, then, is that Purpose does not exist, not for me at least, and that I will live in the moment, not worrying about if I am living Right or if I am walking the Right Path; rather, only focusing on whether or not I am living well, and by those rules that I have placed upon myself… to be kind, giving, and to never cease asking questions in attempt to understand.

And that is my choice.

Be well, lovely readers, in this Holiday season and beyond… and remember, there is ALWAYS a choice.

Perception

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Morning. Or evening.

Shifting perception. Not in the way of a camera focusing and then going out of focus; rather in the way of shifting your gaze minutely to the left or right.

Try it.

Stare at a point of something in front of you then shift your sight just slightly to the right.

The perception changes, if only a small amount.

I have taken this into consideration recently in how to work through my husband’s disappointment in my real estate pursuit. I really, really dislike real estate. A lot. A great deal. And as I do not have to do real estate, I have decided pretty much unequivocally that it is not for me. Even if I did have to do something like real estate, I would forego the “flexibility” of this hellish career for something a lot less flexible… like stocking shelves at the grocery store.

Anyway, off on a tangent: my point is that my husband is very disappointed and discouraged in my “quitter attitude.” I think he wanted me to be part of the real estate world because this kind of sales profession is his world. I believe, in a way, he felt a comradeship with me that does not exist otherwise. I mean, we have other connections and similar likes, but as sales is so much part of his life, my being in sales felt warm and fuzzy to him.

I feel bad about this, of course, because I hate the sales world he thrives in. He is very good at sales, and in many ways really enjoys the world.

I, on the other hand, pretty much tucked my tail between my legs and ran whimpering the other way. I should have known, of course… but as all things and every thing, hindsight is 20/20.

And now he is disappointed. And upset. And irritated.

At first, I took his reactions on as my own. I became defensive. I felt guilty. Bad. Like I had FAILED (again for the millionth time in my life), and I was down deep and dark in that old familiar way of the world sinking down on me. Thankfully, over the last four months I have regained a level of yoga practice and meditation that at least slowed the downward spiral. As such, I was able to create space and time to move through the experiences and the emotions, allowing an epiphany moment in the shower:

I must shift my perception of the situation.

As I remind my son on a pretty daily basis: we are only in charge of ourselves. We are not responsible for others and their actions. Ever.

Apparently, I need to be reminded of this daily as well, because I forgot. I forgot that my husband’s emotions of disappointment and irritation about me leaving real estate are HIS emotions. These are HIS reactions.

I am not responsible for them.

I think so many of us forget to follow our path, our instincts, emotions, body, and heart because we perceive what others think as a guidepost. But what others think is never a guidepost.

Of course, there are consequences to our actions; however, what other people think is not on you… ever. Can your actions cause rifts in a friendship, or family? Of course, and how YOU react to those things is entirely your responsibility, but never how THEY act or react.

Shifting perception.

Group think is a real and honest to goodness thing. It is an evolutionary pattern that has existed for centuries to create safety… safety in numbers, right? However, as we slowly emerge from the era of hunter and gatherer (and if you don’t think we are still in this evolution pattern, take a look around), trusting our own Truth, and our own Path is becoming something of more importance.

Now, I know my thoughts on this are very much dictated by a belief that we all have a reason for existence… a special and individualized purpose for our lives.

I also think, though, that our individualized purpose is for the greater good. As such, it is incredibly important to trust ourselves; to be able to root down, to move through life with that connection to something Bigger… despite, or perhaps even because of, how other people react.

So. Perception. Shifting the gaze just a little bit to the right.

A little bit to the left.

To see something new in something familiar.

The Whole Package

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Just a Cool Picture

Find your purpose, finding the reason for your existence… a noble pursuit, right?

Or is it just generational bullshit?

I have always chased after the idea of “purpose” and “being whole” and “finding myself.” I’m not sure where the initial thought came from; whether it was handed down to me by a family member, or too much Oprah when I was a teenager. Either way, the idea of “purpose” as being a driving force has always dogged my step. What is my purpose? What was I put on this Earth to do? What is that thing that I would do no matter the “shit sandwich” that came along with it?

I have spent a third of my entire life (saying 30 years) wondering about these questions, and the irony of it all is that I am starting to wonder if the pursuit of purpose is a pipe dream; a generational motivator that those of my age group, and even more those of the millennium age group, have succumbed to and believed in despite evidence to the contrary.

What I Am Talking About

As always, social media is a golden nugget of wisdom, and I particularly like the “Confucius” quote about finding a job that you love and then never having to work a day in your life.

(Confucius, really?)

This is one of many such messages that are prevalent about Purpose and Vocation; messages that seep into your brain until searching for that job you love IS what you do…

…But never finding that Job, just searching and searching and searching until you realize that you will never find Purpose in a job, and neither will most people. A job is a job. It pays the bills. The end.

Okay. I know. There are people that are doing jobs they love. You’ve read about them, I’m sure, those individuals who have a “vocation” and not a “career” (do you like how I am using quotes constantly?); however, I wonder even about the portrayal of these individuals and their vocations.

I wonder about how they are idolized in the media or by Oprah etc.; how they are portrayed; and how the focus is not on the entire picture of what they do and how they do it, but only on the zeal in which they perform their individual acts of work.

Zeal.

That seems to be a defining factor for these purpose-driven people. Zeal in what they are doing. To be straight up, I don’t have much zeal for anything. Seriously. Nada. Nothing. I like things. I enjoy things. I do not have some kind of force that transcends my very being into acting.

Nope.

So I started thinking about being whole, and about healing.

The Next Chapter

I don’t have much of a belief system about purpose and vocation, but I do have a belief system when it comes to healing and becoming a whole being, and yes I AM going to share it with you 😛 :

In order to become a whole being, I truly think that each aspect of the person — the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental — have to be in harmony WITH EACH OTHER.

Just to get off topic real quick, there are a ton of messages coming my way about the physical body, specifically a woman’s physical body. From FB friends trying to lose weight and being very much “Beach Body, OMG, hashtag hashtag hashtag,” to individuals like Whitney Thorn and her no Body Shame campaign, it seems recently that a woman and her body is the subject of intense scrutiny and conversation (okay, pretty much the norm through much of human history).

Currently, the centralized theme of these conversations is women trying to find peace with their body. Some women are all about losing weight to find peace. Some women are about finding peace with the body they currently have. Now, no judgement on either side, from me at least, I only mention this because I want to point out the fact that there is an intense focus recently on finding peace with the physical body.

The thing is, that is just one aspect of the whole.

I was talking this through the other day, and my thoughts coalesced along the lines that if your physical self is being taken care of AT THE EXPENSE of your emotional, mental or spiritual self, then you are not in fact making progress towards happiness (or contentment or wholeness or whatever).

It is a marrying of every aspect of your Self. It is a belief of mine that to find this mythical wholeness, all aspects of self must be in harmony because they are interconnected. You may deny yourself that Dairy Queen frosty because it fulfills some sort of physical goal, but there is a chance that the denial is doing damage to another aspect of your Self.

Wholeness.

Purpose.

Going Back

There is a link there… I can feel it buzzing in my brain just out of reach, some kind of link that makes wholeness as the purpose. What if those individuals who have found their vocation and have undertaken their “life work” just somehow managed to stumble upon something that fulfills all aspects of their natural self?

What if their vocations marries their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves?

And this makes me wonder if we  have been having the wrong conversation, or reading the wrong map, or following the wrong signs. What if the question is not what our purpose is, but what brings our entire selves into a harmonized pact?

What if the question is not what makes us lose track of time (apparently THE SIGN of what is our purpose and passion… or so I have read), but rather how we move through life as a whole being? Not searching for that Purpose, or that Vocation, but living a life that fulfills every single aspect of ourselves. Now. Not tomorrow or down the road, but right now as you are sitting there reading this.

Finding wholeness. Not an easy task, my friends, not at all, but I am starting to wonder if it is the most important task of them all.

Restless with Tea

Ruins
Ruins

You want to know why I enjoy apocalyptic fiction?

I’m sure you do.

It’s because petty bullshit goes away when faced with the apocalypse. When trying to survive the destruction of humankind, there is less room for people to be obsessed with things.

Should we eat bacon!?

Sure. Because we’ll probably be dead by tomorrow anyway!

Should we eat sugar?

See answer above.

What about breastfeeding?

Oh, well that is a cheap way to feed your baby… but why the hell are you having babies anyway?! We’re all going to die!

Seriously. The amount of time, angst, judgement, and other mostly negative interactions that people have with one another would entirely disappear if the apocalypse faced us.

Maybe that’s why people like to read, write, and discuss the end of humankind. There is an awful lot of that, and it has been around for quite some time. Top of my head, the oldest reference I know of is Revelations, though I am sure there are earlier references. Just taking it from the New Testament, that is a good couple of centuries.

Now, it is all about zombies. Zombies, zombies everywhere. And the killing of zombies. And the surviving from being killed by zombies.

The eventual doom of humans.

Why the fascination?

I really do think it has to do with the exploration of stripping away all the excess and taking a good look at the bare bones.

Sometimes those bare bones are pretty stark indeed. I am thinking of Cormac McCarthy’s Road. That book is the epitome of bleak… but no one is talking about breast is best or whether or not bacon will kill you.

I don’t really care about the bacon thing. I am one of the few people in the world that doesn’t like bacon. The breastfeeding thing is a particular point for me, but that is probably best left for another post. Those really are just two examples in a huge amount of examples that show off our privileged lives; lives that allow us the room and ability to care so much and be so vehement about views that have nothing to do with making it through the day.

I am not advocating the end of the world, at least not today, but it is an interesting thought exercises.

What would you care about if faced with the end of humankind?

Relentless Pursuit of Happiness

Pursuit of Happiness handed down from our forefathers...
Pursuit of Happiness handed down from our forefathers…

Happy. Happiness. Being content in life. Even when we are not content or are not happy, we wouldn’t dare admit such a thing on a blog or a website. Blog posts are how to be happy, how to be content, how to find peace and contentment. Self help books are about the same thing. Websites dedicated to mindfulness, meditation, yoga, peace and happiness. So much happiness.

But.

Those things. They exist because an amazing amount of people… like in most of the population… are not all happy and content; yet, always, we attempt to get to that place.

At first glance, this is pretty self explanatory. Who wants to be unhappy? Who wants to be miserable?! Not me, which is the purpose of rethinklifeproject. I want to figure out why I am miserable and write it out because I can, because perhaps others will find sparks of familiarity and not feel quite so screwed up when confronted with my screwed up self.

There are a lot of us out there. And the unhappiness continues, even with all the self help and the relentless pursuits of happiness.

Example:

I went to Albertsons yesterday. For those not of the northwest United States region, Albertsons is a grocery store. I had picked up my pizza at Papa Murphy’s and was at the grocery store for a bottle of wine and a “fancy” beer for the husband. Those two items were the only two items I purchased. The lady checking me out (tall, robust, in her late 40s) appeared to be greatly affronted by my purchase. She asked for my ID. Yeah yeah yeah. It’s the law that you have to be older than God to not have your ID checked, but, I will tell you, I look much much much older than 21. Much.

She did it because she was being ornery. She looked at my ID, looked at me, looked at my ID again.

I will repeat, I AM MUCH OLDER THAN 21.

She was being mean. Or ornery. Or unpleasant, or who knows what… but not nice.

I know when someone is not being nice. I think we all do on some level. You walk into a grocery store, let’s say, and suddenly your irritated, almost angry though moments before you were in a fine mood. You get your bread, and as you are walking out of the bread aisle you run into a woman with her hair perfectly fixed and her nails perfectly done, and you realize that she was the one that you cut off in the parking lot. She is glaring you daggers. She wants to take your throat out with her perfectly white teeth.

Moments before, you had no idea she was standing there, you just felt the effect of her hating you. On some level you had picked up on the woman’s emotions towards you. You knew before you actually knew, that she was being a bitch to you.

Humans have this talent. When we are unaware of this talent, there is a lot of bad mojo going around unchecked (think of a bus full of grumpy people; walk on that bus, instant bad mood). When we are aware… well, then we are just aware that everyone else is in a shite mood and we have to work to not be in one as well.

Anyway. Back to my story. The cashier lady. She thought my buying alcohol at noon on a Tuesday was a great offense. Who knows why, I didn’t much care or think about it. Instead, I walked away muttering under my breath about her sure being friendly (sarcastic tone implied).

And then I paused. Literally. I stopped walking for a moment as I was leaving the grocery store.

Light bulb.

I have been writing this little blog for a couple of days now. I have talked about misery and about unhappiness and about feeling like I was dying.

This woman likely felt all those things.

I almost went back and asked her if she was miserable in her life.

I didn’t.

I am not that… yeah, I don’t even know the word for someone that could turn and around and ask a stranger that question. So, I don’t know for sure that she was miserable in life, but let’s say she likely was, and then I started looking around.

The lady at the bank who scowled. Miserable.

The guy at Big 5 asking me listlessly if I needed help. Miserable.

The dude in the huge black truck riding my ass as I go five over the speed limit.

Yeaaah. Ok. He probably was just a dick.

My point in all of this?

I don’t really know. Is there comfort in knowing that everyone around you is miserable? I suppose in a way. What it does do, however, is explain the multi-million dollar business of self help and therapy.

We are all miserable.

But why?!