A friend of mine died recently and it got me thinking about life. Our most precious commodity, how much I waste of it, while pursuing other less satisfying commodities, chasing the next thing, the next girl, the next pair of shoes, the next paycheck, stymied by things that I’ve made into problems in my mind.
But my friend simply lived. Wherever he was, he was present. He listened, he offered help graciously and without expectations or pride. He did not judge, he remained calm in the face of life and soaked it all up, knowing both the good and the bad was part of the experience. And he planted a seed in me to do the same, to pay attention. To be mindful of life. But that seed wasn’t in the right conditions. I didn’t listen, though I heard his silent lesson and saw his example of a life well-lived.
I wasn’t ready, but years later I awoke, and the seed sprouted, and the fruit appeared. But he has disappeared, forever. And I can’t say thank you. I can’t tell him how his little part of my life grew into so much later, and made me a better person. All I can do is spread the uncalculated love he showed me and everyone else in his life.
You will be missed, Patrick. You helped make me who I am today. And if I don’t appreciate my life, if I don’t live it fully, helping, sharing, contributing, then I am not remembering you, and I am not honoring you. But I won’t forget, and I think that is the best way to honor someone. It’s applying their good in your life and forgetting your petty anxieties and appearances and instead, finding your love and then giving it away.
I rebound my efforts to live as you did.
And I don’t know if you can get this message, wherever you are, if you even still exist… but thank you. Thank you from my heart, truly.
There was coughing in the quiet of the library. I continued typing away at my laptop. After a few moments, I came out of my focus and noticed an old woman sputtering, trying to catch her breath. She was seated at a computer, and she continued her string of coughs and I started wondering how long she’d been at it. Was she choking?
I got up from my chair and made a move towards her, as did a woman who sat near me and another man who sat closer to the choking woman. We hesitated a couple of long seconds, not touching her, and luckily she regained her breath. She shook her head and muttered, “down the wrong pipe..” She coughed again and patted her chest. “I’m sorry.”
No one said anything. In silence, I retook my seat as did the other two who had stood up. I looked around. There were maybe ten others in the room who had watched the woman choking. They hadn’t moved.
I think one of our greatest qualities is we follow obediently. We fall in line and work together, without arguing over pride or ego…too much. We don’t all try to give orders. This allows us to get stuff done, as a team, as a nation, as a human society.
On the flip side, we wait on others. We wait on someone else to take the lead sometimes. We wait for someone else to do what we know is right, instead of doing it ourselves.
And this makes our tendency to follow also one of our greatest weaknesses.
As I started my gratitude meditation, my cat came exploring around me. He sniffed my knees, then my hands which lay upon my knees. I watched him, thinking I would need to send him away, but I stopped, and let him climb up into my lap and find a place to settle there. He started purring after a second and I smiled and thought, “This is exactly what the gratitude meditation is about”.
Gratitude means showing some love. And that’s how you get the love.
Let me explain. In my gratitude meditation, I go through all the things we often overlook as we focus on the negatives in our lives. We can’t help it. It’s what drives us to be better people, but also it makes us depressed. It can turn us into unhappy seekers, always looking ahead to a future point, never satisfied, or maybe it can overwhelm us, as we see so much danger around us, that we never bother trying to get what we want.
So the gratitude meditation for me is usually a thanksgiving (without the huge coma-inducing meal to distract me) for what I tangibly have. The roof over my ahead, the dependable car, the job that allows me not to worry about my bills, and so on.
But a large part of gratitude is seeing that there are people in your life that care about you. These could be the unconditional investors in you, like your partner or parents, and maybe an old friend. But it also means the people who you bring value to in their lives. At work, you have an opportunity to be a contribution, not just in completing assignments, but in how you conduct yourself. Do you remember the person who is always on diligent and reliable so you can get your work done easily? What about the person who takes a moment to ask how you’re doing, how your week is going and shows interest in you?
Like a lot of things in life, what we have in hand is less important than the attention we are given and the appreciation we are shown. This morning, my meditation allowed me to not only reach the awareness of what positives things I have in my life that I overlook every day, but also the awareness that I need more than those things. And now I realize that the value we seek from others is something that comes from putting ourselves out there, and providing some value to them, too. A value that could come from a skill you develop, but also just showing interest in them first. Why?
Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves.
Just listen to most any conversation around you. “I’m doing this…I did that…I think that…” So if you find your gratitude waning in the love department, just ask yourself whether the love you think is lacking from others couldn’t be because you’re not putting any out there yourself.
“What’s that?” I said.
“We’re buying powerball tickets.”
“Ah, no thanks,” I told her.
Then I heard some of my co-workers talking about what they’d do if they won the money.
“The first thing I’d do is pay off my house..” one man said. “Then I’d set aside money to pay for my kids’ college, and then..I’d figure out what I really want to do with my life.”
I felt kind of sick to my stomach after hearing this.
In this day and age, having our biological needs met, the things we think we need are now the things we think we need to pay for, which is quite the opposite of the truth.
Career has become a situation of the estranged…a process to acquire money, a separate experience that is not about developing the self, but about developing a portfolio. A job that is donned, like a coat, and then taken off at the end of the day. Or maybe we never take it off, because we’re scared to look at ourselves naked.
We may even enjoy playing that dressup, but we’re tethered to that custume, it has become our birthday suit. We come to embrace our raises instead of our colleagues, and perhaps we only tolerate them because we cannot will ourselves to jump off the safety of this ship. We think we don’t have the strength and the stamina to swim to a place where our career ceases to be work, where we stop working to live and instead start living to work.
But our ability to compromise is powerful. It’s one of our greatest strengths, and maybe also our greatest weakness.
Work hard. Play harder… because without it, work becomes an uninspired trial, waiting for the play of the weekends and vacations. But make work and play inseparable, and you are in the best situation of all, waiting on nothing, and instead living every minute.
In a news article last week, JP Morgan Chase was reported to have hit another low that scares me, because they own many of our retirement accounts. JP Morgan Chase just paid a huge fine to the feds and admitted that they sold off their investments with Bernie Madoff when they suspected he had a Ponzi scheme going, but they continued to buy these investments for their customers. No jail time was given.
If companies are individuals and can give campaign contributions, then a person or persons at the bank should be held responsible for this and serve jail time, don’t you think? Regardless, I’m glad to see the feds step in and get the billion dollar fine and are going to get it to the people who lost all their money buying these investments. The problem is, what will the bank do to help absorb the cost of the fine? Raise our fees, adjust salaries to the detriment of the workers.
Jail is a better deterrent of corporate wrongdoing.
I have no problem with business, in fact, I think trade and business is what has got us here today, the best time for the average human being around the world, in the history of the world. What I have a problem with is a business that is shielded from responsibility or government leaders who accept their money in exchange for favors. Why not let us change our leadership? Maybe vote for someone without the word “Democrat” or “Republican” after their name?
Why protest when we can simply vote?
Have you ever fallen into a depressed mood? I have. It’s usually when I’ve stopped being productive. Why should that affect my mood? I think it’s because I’m not providing anything to anyone. A big reason we do stuff is to get recognized for it. A pat on the back. A “That’s awesome! Nice work.” And I think if we don’t get that support, that appreciation, then we get depressed. And there’s no one to blame, most of the time, other than ourselves.
Ask yourself, if no one is caring about you, or maybe they are but not enough… why should they? Ask yourself:
How have I been a contribution today?
If you can’t find much there, then I think it’s time to do something meaningful for someone else. And not so much that it’s the right thing to do, the moral thing, but do it because it’s in your self-interest.
Try it. And if it doesn’t make you happier, then try again. My guess is, that not after too long, you’ll be out of your bad mood. Because how can you pity yourself when someone appreciates what you’re doing for them?
My morning started like most others. I woke up, qued up my yoga dvd and quickly sat down to follow the instructor before I got distracted. I finished the session, and by the time I made my food for the day, I was pressed for time, and scuttling about for my socks. After a few minutes, I grew frustrated and stopped looking for the lost blue mate to the one in my hand. I was irritated. I might even say I was suffering. Bourgeoisie suffering.
When I wear pants that sit just right, with a fitted shirt that looks, well, fitted, instead of looking like I’m swimming in it like a small child, I feel good. I’m sure you feel the same when you get something stylish, sexy, and professional. It doesn’t seem right if we don’t look right, and there’s a gigantic market of stores with lines of clothes that are going to make our day. I will feel better in those pants. You will feel better in that dress. And that’s the curious part.
Why do we like dressing well? It would seem it’s for others, to look good. But really, it’s not. We dress a certain way, because it makes us feel good. Not because anyone else is going to give us a high five, or an appreciative nod, or even a compliment (at least from my experiences this is an uncommon event). And if we are dressing fashionably to get some sort of of external recognition, well, it’s still being done so that we will feel good.
You might be saying, “So what, Captain Obvious. Of course we do everything to make ourselves feel good, we don’t do things to make ourselves feel bad.” And you’re right. (Although that argument can be critiqued, given how many people end up in situations of suffering, with all their starting good intentions to be happy.)
My point here is, if we’re dressing a certain way, if we can’t leave the house without matching socks, what else are we prioritizing, more specifically, what else are we de-prioritizing? Time or money spent shopping or picking out clothes or searching for a matching sock is time/money that’s not used doing something for ourselves. I mean, our self, that soul inside, under the layers of the mind that want these clothes, this house, this car, and that perfect dinette set from the Pottery Barn catalog, picked up after perusing so many dinette sets, and asking, “Which one of these defines me as a person?” (Hat tip, Fight Club).
What does your self need? Maybe nothing, and if so, kudos to you, my friend, because you are truly enlightened. You’ve accept the world and all its randomness, and your faulty self, your big ass, big nose, or small boobs. You have gratitude for what you have and a curiosity for what you don’t know. You have friendships that support you and which you give back to, you have creative endeavors that promote you, and a job that stimulates you..and if you don’t, you’re well on your way to those things. Why?
Because you’ve put your self-development over form development. You may very well be looking good, too, fit and dressed to a T, (and truly, I hope you do, because I definitely prefer seeing stylish fit people rather than a swath of blue jeans and obesity when I step outside.) Regardless, you have your priorities in place. You know your personality will trump even the best looking outfit. You know that being confident, making something useful, and showing interest and care to others are much more important than what silly fashion you’ve covered your meatbag with. You know that the finite form is nothing more than a facade, and any happiness it may bring is as fleeting as our short time on this earth…a short time spent worrying about making more money or finding matching socks.
So I picked up that black sock and put it on, staring at my blue one on the left, and the black one on the right. I wiggled my toes and evaluated them, and then I smiled. Maybe I could flip my priorities more towards building my self over my form, and this would be a step in that direction. One comic, vulnerable step toward the organized chaos of happiness.
Let’s EVOLVE…beyond us and them, beyond teams, beyond party.. beyond religion, dogma and nationalism. Adopt abundance not scarcity mindsets. OPEN up…open lines of communication, don’t close them. Don’t assume. Ask, test, share priorities. The risk of murder, starvation, having your village raped and pillaged is practically gone. It’s time to leave the fear behind.
I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Too poor to vote Republican.” After laughing at the joke, I thought that it was kind of insulting to the Republicans who are poor. But then I grew serious, because this divisiveness is exactly what the Democratic party apparatus would like us to follow. Where do they get their millions of dollars to run for office? Do they cobble it together from the poor? I would guess not. Does it matter? Do they still fight for the poor? Yes, they do. But in recent years, they’ve tried to help the poor while they’ve promoted the wealthy to concentrate their wealth using a growing, unregulated banking industry…an industry that helped bring down the whole economy because of their dishonesty and greed. Of course, all of our 401k’s are with these banks, and we benefit from their dishonesty, but the question is, if we know they are dishonest, what does that make us…?