29 July 2015

Out of My Mind

I've been spending a lot of time learning how to go out of my mind.  It's usually not a problem for me--many people would say that I'm out of my mind anyway, and that's fine with me.  I tend not to worry about what other people think about the things that I do, and while I don't do things that would hurt or inconvenience others, I tend to enjoy things like climbing trees and walking places instead of driving, even if it takes a couple of hours.  I often wonder if people who see me think that I must have lost my driver's license for some reason or another.
But when I say that I'm learning how to go out of my mind, what I'm talking about are two very specific things:  first, I'm trying to learn how to escape the non-stop barrage of thoughts on every possible topic under the sun (and even beyond the sun), and second, I'm trying to pull myself away from the beliefs that I've adopted because other people have taught them to me, and I've believed those people and basically adopted their beliefs as my own.  My mind's tendency to hold on to these beliefs in many ways keeps me from growing and learning, and that's something that I never want to have happen.  Of course, when I use "mind" in this way, I'm referring to what we've come to call the ego, which likes to think that it's in charge, and which defends itself when our higher selves try to release themselves from its control, for it thinks it always does what is best for us.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and my mind is racing, going over thoughts about something that had happened the day before or some current issue in my life.  Normally, I'm not able to get back to sleep when my mind is going like that, which makes for some unpleasant time, laying there in bed wishing I were sleep, but having my mind continue to race over something that I don't even want to be thinking about in the first place.

Other times, my mind will go through hundreds of different consequences when I feel that I've done something "wrong."  Of course, it usually turns out that there are no consequences at all because no one else has even noticed my "mistake," but I've spent many a miserable hour worrying that someone is mad at me or that I've lost a friend.

I've found that there are many principles of meditation that help with this problem.  One of them is to find a focal point, such as my own breathing, a mental image of a beautiful place, God, a rock in the garden--whatever you can use as something to focus on.  As I relax and keep my mind focused on this thing, trying to notice everything about it, the other thoughts start to fall away as I neglect them.  My mind quiets down, and I'm able to feel peaceful and relaxed.

Of course, I know that there's much more to meditation than just this, but this is one technique that I use that allows me to get to sleep or just to quiet my racing mind.  And this technique doesn't require that I fight these thoughts, for doing so would usually make things worse, adding conflict to the problem of the thoughts.

Many people have taught me their beliefs over the years, and many of those beliefs have survived in my mind ever since.  Beliefs that things should turn out in certain ways, beliefs that other people should act in certain ways, beliefs that I should try to control certain situations, beliefs in other people's versions of what spirituality or religion should be--all of these beliefs keep me tied down to certain ways of understanding the world, and the longer I remain tied to them, the more difficult it is for me to fly free as an individual, as truly my own person.  I don't want to go through life as a reflection of what other people believe--I want to find my own way and my own beliefs so that I may become the person I truly was meant to be.

Whenever I feel tension between what I think I should believe and what my heart and soul are telling me to be true, then I know that something's wrong with that belief.  Even more importantly, whenever a belief isn't reflective of unconditional love I know that there's something askew with that belief.  The question that I ask myself in these situations is quite simple:  does this belief of mine reflect unconditional love?  If it allows me to judge or to condemn other human beings for their thoughts or beliefs or actions, then no, it doesn't.  I never know the whole story behind anything that another human being does or says, so it's impossible for me to judge accurately what he or she has done.  And when I do judge, I'm leaving love behind.

My mind likes beliefs, for they keep things quite orderly.  These beliefs make things easy for me if I hold on to them, but they don't help me in the long term, and they don't help me to be able to uncover who and what I truly am as a human being.  They really are little more than limitations, and while other people in the world may be fine with limiting themselves, I'm always going to do my best to make sure that I don't do so.  I know that if I do, I'll keep myself from reaching the potential that I was born with.

Going out of my mind isn't a bad thing at all--it's actually something that can help me to reach my goals and my potential.  There is, though, a pretty big difference between what our societies define as "out of my mind" and what I see that as being.  As long as I know how and why I'm trying to limit the effects of my mind/ego, I know that I'll keep working my way towards becoming the loving, hopeful person that I have the potential to be.

15 July 2015


I don't know how it came to be, but I've become a person who constantly challenges himself.  From very long runs to seeing how well I handle long periods out in very cold weather to writing novels to trying new and different things to fixing things that I've never fixed before, I find that challenges are invigorating and rejuvenating.  I often actively search them out when I find that there aren't many for me to deal with in life.  On some of them, I do very well.  Other challenges that I take up are less positive, and I do very poorly on them.  Either way, though, I come out of it learning something--about the challenge itself and about me and my life and my mind.

Some of the most important challenges to me have been physical--running in a 100-mile race, hiking up certain mountains (or down into certain canyons).  Some have been mental, such as reading certain books, learning certain topics, or pursuing certain degrees.  Others have been emotional, such as talking to a certain person after something bad has happened, or going ahead with something even though I'm not feeling at all up to it.

It's the last group that is the most difficult for me, for those are the challenges that, for example, force me to deal with my fears.  In fact, dealing with my fears--especially my fears of other people--is the challenge that most often defeats me, that I most often do not succeed at.  Yes, when I do try to face my fears I do learn a lot, but sometimes the lesson is simply to learn how strong those fears actually are, and how deeply ingrained they are.  Not succeeding at such a challenge is sometimes more difficult than not succeeding at other challenges, for when I fail there, it seems that the fears become even more deeply entrenched, and much, much stronger.

I'm not alone in this.  I see people dealing with fears every day, and I see many of them not succeeding in their efforts.  But I also see a lot of resilience, and a lot of people who keep on keeping on despite their inability to successfully face their fears.  I learn from their example, too, that not meeting a particular challenge is not the end of the world--that I can go on and continue to keep trying to face those challenges.  I've been in runs that I didn't finish for various reasons, and I've continued to be a runner.  I've tried to fix things that I've ended up throwing away, yet I've continued to try to fix things.  There's nothing saying that my lack of success in other areas should keep me from trying to meet those challenges, from trying to face my fears and succeed in things in which I don't have a long record of success.  The challenge is still there, and it's up to me to do my best to meet it as well as I can.

As we rise to meet the challenges that
are a natural part of living, we awaken
to our many undiscovered gifts, to
our inner power and our purpose.

Susan L. Taylor

06 July 2015

The Problem with Problems

Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution.
If you don't have any problems, you don't get any seeds.

Norman Vincent Peale

I have a problem with problems.  While generally I tend to appreciate them and try to learn from them, there are some problems that make me feel much more stressed than others.  I can deal with problems in a project that I'm doing, problems with my students in the classroom, problems with schools or classes in general.  I can deal with problems with my car or with the house we're living in.  The problems that frustrate me the most, though, and the ones that are darned near debilitating, are the problems that seem to point to my worth as a person.  They are the misunderstandings that occur when words are interpreted in a way different from the way they were intended.  They're the problems that happen when someone else makes assumptions about me based on some random action or statement.

They are the problems that seem to say that I've done something wrong, even when I haven't.  Especially when I haven't.  They're the problems that deal with blame.

I got blamed for a lot of things when I was a kid.  All of us kids did--that's one of the dynamics of living in a family with an alcoholic parent.  We had at least one parent who was constantly looking for things that we did wrong in an attempt to compensate for his own actions.  Because he wasn't willing to look at what he was doing in an honestly critical fashion, he had to look for things that we were doing wrong to somehow make himself feel better about what he was doing.  After all, the drinking was justified when things were so bad at home, wasn't it?

So nowadays, whenever a problem arises that I may be blamed for, it feels like some sort of blanket is being thrown over me, making me incapable of seeing anything but the problem, and making me feel that no matter what I say or do, I'm going to be blamed unjustly for something that I didn't even do.  This, believe me, is an often overwhelming issue to be dealing with.  For much of my life, I've spent tons of time and energy trying to prevent any sort of problem from happening.  It didn't work well as a strategy, though, and I wasted a lot of time and energy on my efforts--often even making things worse or causing problems where there were none before.

Now, though, I realize that it's important for me to reframe such problems, to do my best to see them as temporary misunderstandings and not as permanent statements about who I am as a person.  I need to look at any problem that arises and try to find that seed inside of it that will allow me to deal with it effectively, for that seed also will help me to grow and develop as a person.

When I allow problems to overwhelm me, I'm not able to love and show compassion as much as I'd like to.  My energy is wrapped up in fear and damage control, and that's not where I want my energy to be.  Problems are what they are--simply problems--and it's up to me to make sure that I see them for what they really are and not blow them up into something they aren't.  I can learn from problems, and I can grow as I learn, and because of that, I can see problems as positive things.  Just because a problem arises that threatens to make others see me in a bad light doesn't change a thing about who I am, and it's important that I keep that in mind, no matter what seems to be happening.  I don't want to allow problems to threaten my self-worth, for once I lose that, I pretty much lose everything, don't I?