The Power of Realism

There is much talk, in self-help literature of the Power of Positive Thought. But I have been reading, in a couple of books, lately, of the power of being realistic. Yes, it doesn’t sound so impressive or dramatic, but it touches on a sense I have had that it is much more conducive to happiness.

Hope is good. It gives us the energy to achieve and overcome adversity. But too much hope, too much believing that ‘everything will work out well,’ is likely to lead to disappointment.

On the other hand, fearing that things will always turn out for the worse drains you of the energy required to succeed, to risk take, and inevitably leads to failure.

Analyse, consider and act.

Take the middle ground.

Which is all pretty Zen, really…

Refocus

I have recently discovered scratches on my glasses. In fact the right lens of the varifocals (more expensive than the previous single focus lenses) that I acquired not that long ago is pretty scratched up. Up until shortly after Christmas, I was aware of a scratch at the top of the lens, but this didn’t bother me too much. When I discovered that the lens was quite a bit more scratched than I had previously thought, I was unable to un-discover it. If you see what I mean. I couldn’t previously ‘see’ these scratches, but I could ‘see’ them more once I became aware of them. I couldn’t then un-see them. Having said that…

If I am focused on something, an activity that requires a lot of my concentration/attention, I don’t see the scratches. Generally in low light, unless I really concentrate (which is a bad move, concentrating on something negative, of which I may talk more about in a bit), I don’t see the scratches at all, but on a bright day, or when I am watching telly at home in the evening, they are most visible. There is the potential here for me to obsess and get depressed about this. Prior to mindfulness I definitely would have done. That’s not to say that mindfulness has eliminated my obsessing and getting depressed – because mindfulness does not eliminate. That is not its purpose.

Mindfulness is about refocusing. It is not about not-seeing, not-obsessing, not-getting depressed. It is not about NOT. It is about IS. If I try to not see the scratches on my lenses, I will fail. The more I try to not, the more I am likely to do it (“Don’t think about elephants!”). When I meditate, I need not to try and empty my mind, but rather to create space in my mind and allow all the thoughts and feelings to just pass through, like clouds.

The scratches on my lens are there. I know they are there. I can’t not know they are there. But I can create space in my vision. Whenever I see them, I can focus through them. Whenever I become aware of them, I can use this as an opportunity to mindfully see what is through and beyond them.

I am reading a book which is currently talking about the potential for transformation and positivity emerging from adversity and pain (Kintsugi by Tomàs Navarro). Putting things in perspective, some scratches on the lens of a pair of glasses is a relatively small kind of adversity, compared with what many folk have to go through, but as the book also says, pain and the perception of pain is relative, and I shouldn’t downplay the potential to me for pain caused by having a scratched lens. While not downplaying it, however, I can see it as an opportunity for me to be mindful. To refocus through the lens, while I refocus my perspective. To use my awareness of the scratches, whenever I become aware of them after not being aware, to increase my awareness generally – to increase my mindfulness and therefore my positive engagement with life!

As a backup plan, I still have two older (unscratched!) pairs of glasses, which are fine for everything but close work and watching TV… 😌

The Potentially Contradictory Dichotomy of Patience

I am impatient with impatience.

This may seem like a contradiction.

In a sense it is.

But in a sense it isn’t.

Patience is waiting. Being able to wait. Being calm about waiting.

It is also tolerance.

I am a patient person. I consider myself to be. I have been told that I am.

But I am impatient with impatience.

I have no time for intolerance. Well some. But not much. I find it hard to tolerate.

I also find it hard to tolerate people who can’t wait.

“Be patient!,” I say. While I sit there seething with impatience.

I contradict myself.

But I think that’s okay.

Or maybe it isn’t.

Doing, Thinking and Thinking About Doing

In my childhood, I didn’t spend much of my time thinking, “What shall I do next?” At least I don’t think I did. I did things, then when I tired of doing those things or I thought of something else to do, I did other things. If I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do, I either thought of something else to do or asked the adult who was currently available and serving as my current caregiver if I could do the things I wanted to do. Unless, of course, it was obvious to me that I wouldn’t be able to do those things, in which case I thought of something else to do. There were, of course, many occasions when ‘thinking’ about what I wanted to do was not an option. The requirements of the available adults, those who were currently ‘in charge,’ meant that there were many occasions when I was required to do what the adult or adults required me to do. Go to a certain school lesson. Do the things required of me in that lesson. Clean my room. Get ready for school. Get ready for bed. Help my dad with the washing up. Move some breeze blocks. Help with the gardening. And so on. Some of the above did not necessarily require that the available adult(s) specifically request, normally by verbal means, that I “tidy my room” or whatever, but were moreso required by the situation and/or circumstances: for example, I should get ready to go to school or sixth form college, because it was a particular time in the morning, and if I didn’t get ready to go to school or sixth form college at that time, then I wouldn’t get there in time. I was a dawdler, no question about it, but I also hated to be late for things, hated to get in trouble, particularly with people in authority (e.g. teachers), so I would generally do whatever was required of me to prevent this from happening – being late for something or getting in trouble, that is.

The point is, generally, that there was little time, potential or scope for ‘thinking’ in childhood. That is, thinking about what to do, thinking about what to do next, and so on. I did think. I was quite a big thinker. Then and now, my mind was usually full of some kind of thoughts. And it’s not to say that I didn’t think thoughts along the lines of, “I will now watch Ski Sunday with my brother,” or, “I will now ask Grandad if we can go and rent a video from the video shop,” or, “I am hungry, so I will now go and make a cheese sandwich” – but said thoughts were, I would say, in the sense that I actually remember any of such things, not particularly at the forefront of my mind, but more unconscious or semi-conscious precedents to what I did. They preceded action, but they didn’t hold much conscious presence in my mind.

Less so in adulthood. Again, I am a big thinker. I have endeavoured, of late, to try and reduce the amount of thinking that my brain expends energy upon. Thinking about what I will do, what I should have done, what I will say to so-and-so about such-and-such, and so on. Rarely, nowadays, will I just ‘do.’ I will think about what to do, whether I should do it, whether there is something else I should be doing, then I will do a thing based on this pre-doing analysis. As you can probably imagine, I don’t get as much ‘done’ as I might otherwise. There are times when ‘doing’ exceeds or surpasses ‘thinking about doing,’ but I would say that perhaps these times do not occur often enough. And the whole point of writing all the words above is that I intend forthwith to increase ‘doing’ and decrease ‘thinking about doing’! So there you are. That’s that. So what shall I do next…?

Switch Off!

The amount of people who don’t just chat on their mobile phones, but have business meetings, whilst travelling to or from work! I wouldn’t particularly mind, but the tone of a business meeting tends to be more intense than a ‘chat,’ thus precluding my ability to actually relax and do some reading or something!

Switch off!! 😬

Rant over…

Hyperomphalism

In preparation for teaching a section in RE at my school on alternative beliefs, I came across parody religions, such as, for example, Last Thursdayism. It has just struck me that there is a connection here with mindfulness.

Last Thursdayists ‘believe’ (or say they do) that the universe was created last Thursday. Any memories we think we have before that were implanted in our minds*. So…

The past does not exist! Or at least not the past before last Thursday.

What could be more mindful? 😌

Image result for queen cat
Queen Maeve the Housecat

I also came across The Flying Spaghetti Monster and The Invisible Pink Unicorn, which may or may not have a connection to mindfulness.

Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the title of this post derives from a word which describes the belief of Young-Earth Creationists, that the world was created just 6000 years ago, as per the Christian Bible, and that any appearance of being older, such as the fossil record, is down to God just making it that way – a belief which I don’t share, by the way. The word for this kind of belief is ‘Omphalism.’ And so a belief that the world, or universe, was created much more recently, such as last Thursday, is ‘Hyperomphalism.’

*By the Creator – who may or may not be Queen Maeve the Housecat.

Social Media Mindfulness

There is a lot of talk these days about the toxicity of social media. What kind of people it is turning us into, what kind of society we are becoming. This is without even mentioning the potential risk of hackers and unscrupulous companies to our identities. I have, for example, just read an article in The Sunday Times Magazine, about Jaron Lanier, a “star of Silicon Valley,” who believes we should all just delete our social media accounts.

No!

Like it or not, social media is, nowadays, if not society itself, then a pretty big extension of it. Whatever you think of society, should you just step out of it? Some do, granted, but I wouldn’t say that’s the general solution. The general solution, I’d say, is mindfulness.

On a personal level, I grew up finding society difficult. Socially awkward and generally preferring my own company. Since social media arrived, exploded even, onto the scene, my sociableness and my general appreciation of people has increased. Sure, there are bad guys, trolls, situations you should probably try to avoid getting into, but isn’t this just life? Isn’t it better to find ways of dealing with the bad stuff, avoiding where necessary, and focusing on the good stuff? Through mindfulness, you can maximise your awareness of your own and others’ actions, their impact on yourself and others, and find a positive and even potentially enlightening path.

Social media may be corrupt to the core, but there is no reason you can’t mindfully step lightly around the core, perhaps even working towards a process of decorruptifying. And if nothing else, you can have fun making up new words like ‘decorruptifying’… 😌

Pepsoid’s Theory of Chaos (not to be mistaken for Chaos Theory), Success and Happiness

I recently had a conversation on Facebook with a Texan pilot, who, at first glance, would seem to be at the politically opposite end of the spectrum to me. We did, however, ultimately concur on some fundamental points, regarding morality and social/individual responsibility. To whit, that one ultimately should (and generally inevitably will) look to one’s individual conscience regarding the making of moral decisions. Such may be informed by, for example, law, but ultimately one weighs up (or should) what one believes to be ‘right’ against (potentially) law or other consequences, and acts accordingly.

My Texan Fb friend and I also concurred that one can contribute to the State/society financially, through taxes etc, but there are other less measurable, but equally or more valid ways one can make a contribution and be a Valuable Member of Society. The Texan was talking about this in relation to his idea that one should ‘earn’ the right to a vote, rather than just acquire such through an arbitrary happenstance of geography, but we didn’t travel too deeply down this particular rabbit hole.

The reason I mention the above is that it has led me to think about other things. Namely, in a nutshell, the nature of ‘success.’ There is measurable financial/material success. This can be born into (so one has, in a sense, ‘succeeded’ before one’s life has even begun) or it can be earned. It is easy, in retrospect, for the materially successful to say, “I did these things, which led to my success” – and even to perhaps write a popular self-help book about the things that person did and that other people can do to achieve the kind of success they achieved. But there is, in my opinion, no magical formula for success, material or otherwise!

I believe there is a substantial element of luck. Some folk seem to be genetically blessed with the ability to talk themselves into (material) success. I believe these skills can only be taught or learned to a limited degree, hence my reference to being ‘genetically blessed.’ For most folk, however, you work hard in some sphere of life or other, and you achieve material wealth or you don’t. As I have said, those who achieve said wealth can retrospectively conclude the reasons for this achievement (often, it seems to me, to the point of arrogance); whereas there are those who work equally hard, perhaps in the same sphere, perhaps by following the advice in a popular self-help book written by the former, who do not achieve said wealth. Then there are the ‘lazy’ who achieve material wealth and the ‘lazy’ who don’t.

Randomness. Chaos. Life is, I believe, far to complex for one to be able to follow a certain path, a certain algorithm, and expect a certain outcome. Real life, anyway – but let’s not get into the possibilities of a virtual life.

So what is to be done? Should we not even try?

Nay, I say!

Of course we should try.

But what should we ‘try’ at?

While there is randomness and chaos, there is also probability. Calculating the probability of achieving a certain outcome (e.g. material wealth) by following a certain path, algorithm or set of instructions, seems to me to be impossibly complex, but that’s not to say that such probabilities don’t exist and can’t be maximised. One can maximise the probability of achieving material wealth, but given the large element of luck and genetic predisposition, I would say it is unwise to focus solely or even primarily on one particular type of success. By all means work towards material success, but only as one strand or path amongst other types of success – for example, social, spiritual… and that pertaining to personal happiness!

Life is random, chaotic and often does not go according to plan. There is so much outside of our control. But what I believe we have most (potential) control over is our inner life – or inner selves. That is, our emotions, our sense of personal fulfilment and happiness, irrespective of (although of course influenced by) what is going on outside of our selves. If we can find a way to feel fulfilled (‘successful’), regardless of any external successes (including, but not solely, material)… are we not more likely to achieve true happiness? It is my view that the pursuit of this kind of happiness – internal, intrinsic, relatively non-contextual – is the noblest of goals. It is this kind of happiness that can reflect and shine into all spheres of your life, and while it may not be easy to achieve, I believe this kind of success is within everyone’s grasp.