Browse Month: April 2017

My Environment

Reading Time: 3 minutes

chameleon

Evolution causes every organism to adapt itself. Giraffes grew long necks due to long trees. Polar bears are white and their surroundings are too. Panthers are fast because their food is fast. The natural world has forced animals to grow beautifully.

In modern civilization the human organism isn’t required to grow to fit the environment. Instead we can shape the environment to fit our needs. If a store is too far we build another one closer. Now we don’t have to be patient. If we feel tired we can hire someone else to mow the lawn. Now we don’t have to sweat. What happens in this scenario is you get beautiful surroundings like buildings, vehicles, and some great inventions. But the organisms that create it suffer. We gain weight, our skin goes pale, and we can’t focus. 

Now more than ever it’s easier to slog through life and not have things challenged. If you find your original career aspiration is difficult, there are hundreds of other options that won’t demand so much brain power and discipline. And you know what? You’re right. You wouldn’t be able to be a doctor, or physicist, or programmer. You don’t have the mental strength, stamina, and not to mention the patience.

But there’s one question you have to ask: Has there ever been a time when I did something that I previously thought I wasn’t capable of? Pffft. YES. So many damn things. So many of the things I’m happy I did were things I didn’t think I could do.

What we don’t realize is that we do not have the mental strength, stamina, and patience at the moment. But once we throw ourselves into a situation, we quickly adapt to fit the needs of the situation. So at this very moment you’re right. You are not fit to do that very difficult thing. But as soon as you resolve to do it, you become more able.

A month ago I was at odds about whether I should go to 10-day silent meditation retreat. I’m not sure I would last. Last summer I signed up for one but when I got the acceptance email, I quickly cancelled. The retreat would be 10 days of no speaking, reading, writing, or exercise. I would be meditating on average 5 hours a day. Currently I can only stomach about 20 minutes a day broken up into 2 sessions. So at this very moment, a 10-day retreat isn’t something I’m capable of.

But I signed up again last week and I’m currently on the waitlist. This time if I get in, I’m going. It doesn’t matter to me that right now I can only meditate for 10 minutes at a time due to back pain and my leg falling asleep. When I’m at the retreat, I’ll rise to the occasion. There will be several other people there struggling with the same situation and this change will cause a change in my ability. Those people will also be interested in the practice which will heighten my interest.

This works with exercise too. I normally workout alone. But just a few days ago I worked out with my friend Adam. When we went running up a hill, I found myself pushing harder than I ever have. I could have spent hours researching online on how to push oneself. But simply working out with someone more athletic did the trick. 

So rather than change situations to fit my capabilities, I’m learning to change my capabilities to fit new situations. And when I can, I’ll actively seek situations that’ll force growth. I believe this can work with a bunch of things. If I want to improve my Spanish, rather than studying books, I’ll converse with a Spanish speaker. If I want to improve my finances, I’ll spend my time talking to someone knowledgeable.

I simply want to have a life that is the result of meeting difficult situations head on. I’ve realized that I am either growing or dying, getting stronger or weaker. But there’s no standing still.

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Image by Tambako The Jaguar

Common Ground With Crazed Homeless

Reading Time: 3 minutes

homeless man

Not many people go to the public library anymore. Coffee shops are the spot where people now do library like things. Maybe it’s because coffee shops have beverages and a livelier atmosphere. In county libraries, the government sanctioned carpet isn’t as inspirational as local art in a modern cafe.

In my town, the library just so happens be the chosen spot for homeless people. It’s warm, has seating, bathrooms, and most importantly, they can’t kick you out for just sitting there. It’s ideal if you want to get out of cold weather or just need to take a seat.

One day I noticed a homeless guy sitting at a table across mine. He was gesturing at the empty space in front of him. He went from looking confused, to pleased, to disgusted. It was as if he was talking then joking then arguing with someone who wasn’t there. Sometimes he would stop, calm down, and seem just as cognizant as anyone else.

I use to be put off by things like this. My mom always advised me to stay away from the homeless, especially if they’re the “talking to themselves” type. Not the most empathetic view, but it was a mom just keeping her kid safe. But over the past few years I had been growing more understanding of their situation. And as I watched this man, I realized something very alarming.

I do exactly what he does.

I also have conversations, arguments, and fun with people who aren’t there. Sometimes I might be rehearsing what I would say in an argument that in weird way, I want to happen. Sometimes I play out possible future situations, as a way to prepare.

So what’s the difference between me and that homeless man? Why is he crazy and I normal?

Well, I’m just a lot better at hiding it. You probably won’t ever find me waving my arms or randomly laughing. This is mostly due to the fact that I’m really good at looking normal. And I can guess that anyone reading this is too.

We all have scenes playing in our mind. You get in an argument with someone at 5:27pm on Monday and you find yourself revisiting it with the proper comebacks at 9:32am on Wednesday.

The key here is to understand that this is normal. You do it, I do it, the president does it. If I constantly beat myself up about it, I’m not doing anything to solve the issue. Once I realize I’ve been replaying that argument, I realize it and say “Wow I’ve been thinking a lot about when Steve criticized my work. I must have been really affected by it. Is it because I care a lot about what he thinks? Or maybe I’m not so confident in my abilities?”

Ru Paul’s method when he finds himself grappling with thought is to say to himself “Thank you for sharing.” This attitude toward thoughts creates a relationship that isn’t adversarial. It’s not me vs. my thoughts. Thoughts are mere suggestions. If I were to get emotional about them, I may be overvaluing them.

Once I use this view of my thoughts, I begin to rapidly improve my relationship with them. It easy to believe that the best way to get rid of something is to use anger and scare it away. I’ve realized that the point isn’t to completely get rid of thoughts, that’s impossible. The purpose is to change our relationship to them. Once we do this, all of us, homeless or otherwise, can spend a little less time having arguments with ourselves.

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Photo by neurotic_buddha