Big thoughts

Consider the single thought. A bit of synapse firing in the brain. This could be in response to a need – hunger, thirst, fight or flight. This could be the processing of a sense – smelling a flower, or seeing a rainbow. Maybe it’s working through a complex problem of some kind.

Steven Pressfield, in Do The Work, writes, “I was thirty years old before I had an actual thought. Everything up till them was either what Buddhists call “monkey-mind” chatter or the reflective regurgitation of whatever my parents or teachers said, or whatever I saw on the news or read in a book, or heard somebody rap about, hanging around the street corner.”

Thoughts are precarious, and when big thoughts come, grab them! I don’t know the first actual thought that I had. It’s possible I’m still waiting for it to come along. Sure, I get ideas, but they are just in the semblance of a thought – something half-formed.

So when those ideas pop up, nourish them. Bring them to fruition. And enjoy the freedom of a thinking that is higher-level.

Routines pt. 4

So, you have a routine that’s working for you. Or maybe several routines that get you throughout your day, or your week. You’re not in a rut, and you’re mindfully going along. The routine’s in place, and now you can avoid any discomfort where your routine is concerned.

Wrong. The discomfort may just be what you want.

If the discomfort is Resistance. As Steven Pressfield said of Resistance, “We experience it as an energy field radiating from work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”

One of the sad things about a routine is that Resistance can use it to discourage us from doing real work. We issue excuses about it not being a part of the routine. We quantify and qualify our responses. We demur.

However, if we’re mindful, and honest, we’ll notice whether or not it’s the work that we need to be doing.

The night is dark

Woke up, after many troubled minutes of trying to get to sleep, with only 90 or so minutes of rest. Again, tried sleeping but couldn’t shut down the brain. It sort of rip-rocketed on overload tonight. There’s a familiar feeling in my stomach, one that harkens back to a night spent on my couch in 2004. Oh, the things you remember.

So, after trying to put myself back to sleep for near an hour, I knew it was impossible. I published my website, started writing, and read a little of Steven Pressfield’s War of Art. This month I finish this book, and check it off my reading list.

Why no sleep? Why is the brain disquieted on this dark night? Because the past is real and it isn’t. Though the Buddha teaches that only the present moment exists, the past has a living representation in our mind. When we recall a feeling, be it hurt or love, it isn’t anything external to our self that is causing that feeling. Only our mind.

And control of the mind is one (of the many) aspects of Buddhism I’ve not mastered.

Thus I decided to take the advice of Jim Collins, who said, “And what I’ve learned is I guess two or three things specifically about the sleep process for me. This is just personal. One, the 20-minute rule. If you wake up in the middle of the night and you check the time — first of all, it’s also by the way fun to see if you can guess what time it is, right? But then check the time. And then if you’re not back to sleep in 20 minutes, get up. Go back to the simple work.”

What we know

How many of us really know anything? Steven Pressfield, in his book, Do the Work, says, “I was thirty years old before I had an actual thought. Everything up till them was either what Buddhists call “monkey-mind” (chatter) or the reflective regurgitation of whatever my parents or teachers said, or whatever I saw on the news or read in a book, or heard somebody rap about, hanging around the street corner.”

Most of our so-called “thoughts” are simply the processing of someone else’s information. Some input that we took in. It stands to reason that the wider variety of input we take in, the “smarter” we get to be.

Wouldn’t we all aspire to be faithful citizens? Of the nation, of the world, of our family, and of our community.

Whatever your personal definition of faith is, doesn’t that sound like something we’d want to aspire to?

Don’t we want to have faith in our community? To believe that we’re safe? That we’re free? That we belong…

What does this mean?

Half the time, I’m not sure of the results.

The other half of the time, I’m sure, but I’m wrong about results better than 50% when I am sure.

So, really, I know very little. I’m just winging it. But aren’t we all?

I don’t know what programs are going to be successful. I don’t know which blog posts are going to be read. I don’t know who tunes in to my radio broadcasts, or if anyone downloads the podcast.

But, all in all, it’s an easy way to put something out there.

Steven Pressfield would say it’s doing the work. Seth Godin would call it “shipping art”. Some may just call it product.

But that’s showing up.

And really, that is what it’s all about. Showing up. Because decisions are made by people who show up.

On the reading bug

Started reading a book (the intro really, plus a few entries) that I had purchased a few weeks ago. Nick Hornby’s Ten Years in the Tub: A decade soaking in great books. First, I love books. The idea of what Hornby did for The Believer, where each month he would just talk about the books he read and ones he bought, was entirely captivating to me.

So, this being the first entry of the month, I’d like to take a cue from Nick Hornby:

June 2017

Books Bought:

  • The Republic – Plato
  • Atlantis: The Eighth Continent – Charles Berlitz
  • Designing Your Life – Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
  • Conversational Spanish in 20 Lessons – Cortina Method
  • Light on Yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
  • Thinking: The New Art of Decision-Making  – Edited by John Brockman

Books Read:

  • Do the Work! – Steven Pressfield
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams
  • Outrageous Openness – Tosha Silver
  • The Perdition Score – Richard Kadrey
  • Sept. ’03 – Jan. ’04 of Ten Years in the Tub – Nick Hornby
  • Worth Dying For – Lee Child
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield (started)

What can I tell you about the books I’ve read? Or bought? Why do we do this? I found a beautiful passage in the intro to Ten Years in the Tub, written by Jess Walter:

“That the books we buy are almost as important as those  we read. From the beginning there were always two columns [referring to Hornby’s monthly article], Books Bought and Books Read. By my crude math, Nick spent somewhere around ten or fifteen grand on books he hasn’t even read. Besides showing that he did his part to support publishing during a tough economic period, this suggests something important about reading. Looking around my own obsessively crowded shelves, I see there are two categories of books I tend to keep: those I love and those I hope one day to read. If the books we read reflect the person we are, the books we hope to read might just be who we aspire to be. There is something profound in that.”

I checked out Do the Work! and Dirk Gently from the library. Both came precariously close to being returned unread, but something about each grabbed me and made me change course. The library and, by extension, book stores, are sort of a second home to me. And in this in-between period, where the old life I lived has fallen away and the new one is just breaking out of its cocoon, they function more as my first home than the place that houses my stuff.

Do the Work! walks us through the creative process, highlighting the role of resistance in creation. Now, I’m a big fan of Seth Godin. Have been since I first stumbled across The Icarus Deception, oh, three years ago. At that time I was creatively stifled, my professional and personal lives not working out the way that I had intended. He begged his readers to do the work, fight resistance, and ship! Yes! I can get on board with that.

Pressfield’s book does much the same, but not as effectively. I do feel inspired to do the work, yet I get stuck on syntax when he delves into his theory on the contradictory nature of the Universe’s role in Resistance/Assistance. I’ll likely come at this book again a year or two down the road, and see if I agree or disagree more with the sentiment. The War of Art has been on my reading list for a few years, so it was time to pull the trigger and buy it. I’m just starting it, and seeing the themes revisited from Do the Work!

Adams is always fun, and Dirk Gently’s was no exception. The thought and connectivity he puts into a book about interconnectivity gives enough laugh-out-loud moments that I found myself flying through it.

Atlantis and the course on Spanish weren’t bought, per se. Rather free books in a stack at the library. There’s a girl from Barcelona I wish I were better able to communicate with, though she speaks  English more fluidly than I do. Atlantis, eh. Always curious about the esoteric and metaphysical.

In The Perdition Score, I got to resist the character Sandman Slim, aka James Stark, as he moved up and down a supernatural Los Angeles, and back into Hell. I began reading Kadrey’s series last February, what is that, fourteen months ago? Since then, I’ve read eight and just committed to reading the ninth when I saw it in the bookstore. Perdition is probably the best of the series since Sandman Slim, but I’m a sucker for watching Stark get even when someone goes after his friends.

Another series that I just began last year but have managed to put a considerable dent in is the Jack Reacher collection, by Lee Child. Worth Dying For is well-plotted mystery, and I had trouble putting it down as well. I spent the better part of two days catching up with Mr. Reacher in a little Nebraska town run by some no-goods that were, par for the course, up to no good. It’s a satisfying read, and moves the story towards him heading back to Virginia, which they adapted for film in last year’s Never Go Back.

Tosha Silver and Iyengar’s books are part of my required reading for the yoga practice. I bought Light on Yoga from a Los Angeles Goodwill on Amazon, so it’ll arrive soon. It was like five bucks. Outrageous Openness we discussed at the yoga studio, and it seems to be of big help to those of us who have trouble letting go and trusting that Divine help will be coming.

My first experience with that concept was back in November, 2015, when I started Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I know some crazy things can happen, once you say okay and let the Universe/Divine/God/Source start working on you.

I made it though five whole books this month, with two solid starts, and a few dips into other assorted writings. I can’t guarantee that many, but there is that new Sandman Slim out there, as well as a Reacher novel someone loaned me. Plus, there’s a stack of library books on philosophy that need to be returned this month, so it may be more likely that I get a sit down with Spinoza and Kierkegaard.