“The greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally unsolvable.They can only be outgrown.”
Attachments hold us in yesterday and prevent us from experiencing what is happening right here right now.
Our meaning-maker, called the ego in psychology, is what gives me my me-ness. My history, geography, genealogy, education, etc… is what funds the narrative I tell myself about who I am.
What is fascinating about how we story-tell to ourselves is that most of it is tacit…it is happening under the radar of our awareness most of the time.
The impetus from minus to plus never ends. The urge from below to above never ceases: whatever premises all our philosophers and psychologists dream of—self-preservation, pleasure principle, equalization—all these are but vague representations, attempts to express the great upward drive.
Göethe - Letter to Lavater
Goethe is speaking here of what the Greeks called Eros. While usually equated with the erotic and sexuality, eros, according to the Greeks, was the human drive to connect to the divine, to truth, beauty and goodness.
What gets attention grows… certainly makes sense doesn’t it. Whether it is the ache in your neck, your irritation with a colleague, paranoia about tomorrow’s meeting or… that living right now in the moment and experiencing what is around you right this second is really the only place you can really live! All of these grow with attention.
We skim life…
When we live most of our lives in the top nine inches of our body we often give attention to nothing and live our lives trapped in daydreams. Such “captured attention” with constantly looping thoughts in our minds gives us little margin to “give attention.”
I am a daydreamer.
I prefer to frame it as, brilliant thinker, problem solver or creative genius, but when you strip away all the bologna I am a daydreamer. But here is the problem when we live our life on the inside of our head we automatically become “blind” to what is happening around us.
You have had it happen. You are carrying on a conversation…with yourself….and you miss the exit? There it is! Daydreaming that leads to blindness and it happens everyday for hours and hours. When we are giving attention to those thoughts our “sight” goes on autopilot. We are generally safe driving down the road but we miss details, even big ones.
That is a picture of our lives. We skim through life hypnotized and blind.
Here are some ways to try and stay awake.
- Start the day with some mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present that is arising around you. When you’re mindful, you are able to observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance. This enables you to be more proactive rather than reactive and to choose your course. There are a number of ways to go here but if you want to get out of the rut of sleepwalking the only way to do it is to cultivate a practice that will assist that goal. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
One word about “practice.” The whole point of mindfulness practice is to enable you to be present in real life. The practice itself isn’t enlightening, or somehow insightful. It is a practice because as you leave your time of practice you have gotten under your belt a little more “mindfulness exercise” which will enable you in life to be more present and mindful due to your training. Practice for the express purpose of accomplishing through training what you simply could not do by trying.
2. Consciously “Do.”
The foregoing might come off like daydreaming is bad. It isn’t, but anything we do unconsciously (eating, web surfing, etc…) is still unconscious. Start noting when you are bored, seem to have nothing to do and when you are susceptible to clicking on to mindless autopilot. Choose to dream, problem solve or nap but in in the absence of that choice choose something else.
3. Ask yourself how much you really experienced your “yesterday.”
What was your pace like? How much did you notice? Did you feel others' heart? Did you notice your surroundings? Was your food tasty? Did you really hear others when they spoke? Often we get our day done but we don’t fully experience what the day actually offered. That requires attention.
Let’s look for ways to taste life. Let’s be attentive to where we direct our intention. And let’s help our kids and families do the same. Experiences around the holidays get piled up on each other. One after another after another. The compaction and compression of events leaves little option but to skim…unless we are aware and attentive.