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Posts Tagged ‘sleepliving’

After conversations I’ve had over the last week or so, I can’t stop thinking about the idea of Identity. That is, our sense of who we are based on those ideas, things or people we associate with… as well as those we reject.

It’s not that we tend to sit down to take a conscious inventory of how we define ourselves. Rather, our self-definitions assert themselves when they find an opportunity to prove their truth, or when they feel threatened. Even if we start to drift in what we believe (or want to believe), our definitions can be such engrained habits that they tangle us up into old patterns. This gets even trickier when our definitions conflict.

For an example, let’s walk through the thoughts and emotions I just experienced.

I write because I tend to identify as someone who can communicate deeper meanings in an accessible way. I hesitate to write because I also identify as so quirky I risk being cryptic and inaccessible. So when I tried to think of how to illustrate this identity thing, I sort of froze up. I knew I should be able to do it, but I doubted that I could, in the time I’ve given myself. My definitions were in conflict. Because of these conflicts, I can over-emphasize or overlook times when I am and am not as clear as I’d hoped.

I then figured that I could put this off until tomorrow, when I felt better prepared. I identify as accomplishing what I set out for, but also as getting so bogged down and distracted I never make the time to post. I doubted that I’d make it back tomorrow, prepared and posting. I’ll overlook when I do keep on task with things, and I’ll overemphasize to myself the times I slip off the track.

That’s when I realized I was doing it again. I’m becoming more aware of these ways my definitions work together and at odds, nudging or shoving me through random moments throughout the day. So I figured I had a decent way to explain my line of thought, here.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll think of more to share, and find a good way to share it. I’m curious to discover my actual traits of communication and stick-to-it-iveness, prepared to revise my self-definitions accordingly.

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The Zhuangzi is considered the most essential taoist text after the Tao Te Ching.  It’s named for the author, who was properly named Zhuang Zhou.

One of his beliefs was that our past shapes the ways we perceive and understand our world. It’s our past that is responsible for the ways we experience and use language and cognition, which are intertwined. We have learned how to name things, and how we are expected to feel and behave with regard to these labels. Any of our decisions or actions might seem terribly misguided, had we experienced a different past.

He also called into question our ability to objectively know what our past truly is. I think you may have heard part of this story before, from the second chapter of the Zhuangzi:

A while ago I, Zhuang Zhou, dreamed I was a butterfly. I was completely absorbed in my butterfly experience, happily flitting about, tasting the flowers, and feeling all the marvelous enjoyment in doing what butterflies do. So absorbed was I, I didn’t even know I was Zhou; I knew only my butterfly experience.

I then woke up, and suddenly realized myself to be Zhou. I didn’t know if I had been a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man. Yet by necessity, there is something that separates man from butterfly. It’s called metamorphosis.

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Chaotic dreamscapes 
Swirling our days with dry leaves
Eye of the Stillness

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I’ve been thinking again about lucid dreaming, and of how my dreams tend to get bogged down in the same distracting tedium in the ways that can get my days off-track.  (Hence me not doing things like posting in a blog…)  It’s more than a bit annoying, and I’m done with it.

So last night, I said that I wanted to see if perhaps the hard boundaries between dreaming and wakefulness might be shifted around a bit, since they haven’t been that far different in theme.  I wanted to see about having more of the conscious world in my dreams, and bring more of my dreamtime into my waking world.

I don’t quite remember my dreams last night, but they did feel particularly mundane.  And my day today, while busy, remained distinctly dreamlike.  In a comforting, almost blissful way at times, now that I stop to think about it.

So no, how about seeing if I can bring out more of the comforting peace and focus, and less of the distracting tedium in both my conscious and subconscious states?

I think it’s worth a shot.

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I don’t know whether to credit 30 Days Without Anger so much as my household coming down with something, but I found myself getting very introspective lately.  I’ve been paying attention to my emotions and what gives rise to them, and then what they give rise to.  I’ve found that as I stop to pay attention, I’m starting to get a better sense of the stories my feelings are trying to tell me.

One of the most important things I’m learning is that it’s very important to pay attention to our internal stories.  It’s the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves that seem to shape the lives we experience.  For example, let’s say that two people are waiting in line, and one person jumps up to the helper at the front for a quick question or transaction, it’s hard to say which.

To the person who sees her personal story as someone who is frequently trampled on or taken advantage of, this might be a pretty unpleasant reinforcement of how often people are just flat-out rude and unfair.  It might even be the tipping point into a truly horrible day of tediously snowballing frustrations.  But to the person whose personal story is that folks are generally helpful and sometimes need some extra attention, she might assume there was a pressing need and be glad they got it taken care of.  It might remind her of times when she needed an emergency exception, or otherwise just be a blip on the radar of a pretty good day.

Now, I have no idea what the person cutting to the front needed, or what her story was that made her feel like she needed to jump ahead.  But it seems like a pretty neutral example of how our interactions with others can build us up or tear us apart, based on how they fit in with our broader narrative.

I’m finding it a bit difficult to get back into the swing of sharing my thoughts as I shake this cold.  But then, right now my self-narrative is that I’m someone who’s been having difficulty getting what she wants to say out so that people can see and understand it.  So maybe instead of fretting about how well I’m communicating right now, this time I think I’ll just save and Publish.

Meanwhile, see if you can’t take a few moments over the next day or so, and listen in on the story you’re telling yourself about your place in life and how it’s treating you.  Jot down a few notes, maybe compare them over the course of a few days.  You might learn a little more about how you’re treating yourself, and how you might like to be the hero of a better story.

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Okay, I really need to figure out how to remember to post when I’m in a position to, rather than only when I’m not.

I’ve been meaning to write something about this idea of “free love” I had a week or two back. I was thinking in terms of “free radical“, as in the idea of atoms, etc. with an open structure that allows them to readily interact in important ways.  From Wikipedia:

Free Radicals play an important role in combustion, atmospheric chemistry, polymerization, plasma chemistry, biochemistry, and many other chemical processes.

Anyway, I had a thought about being able to truly and freely love involves not being totally closed off or hung up with too strict a structure.  Too often our love is unwittingly tied up on the boundaries with needs and expectations that close us off more than we would otherwise choose.  If we can find ways to identify those bindings and open them up, we too will open up with deeper and freer love.

I’ll see if this thought gels more, and if so I promise to share soon after.

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I’ve got a bamboo wind chime outside my back door. Every now and then I hear it plinking in the wind, all light and wooden.

It’s like a bell for me each time I hear it, reminding me to stop and take notice of who I am and where I’m at. It interrupts my distraction, and I’m momentarily grateful for the beauty of it all. This is especially true when I happen to be awake in the middle of the night, particularly if it’s because I or someone else isn’t feeling well. It soothes me.

I remember that some cultures say that when bamboo rustles and creaks against each other in the wind, the spirits are trying to communicate.

So I try to listen.

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I have just one reason for not posting again on a regular schedule…

My ‘present mind’.

While at times it will jaunt off into an internal tangent and take me somewhere completely removed from a current situation, generally my mind is on exactly what’s in front of me.  And little else.  Meaning thoughts I had even moments before entering the room, intending to do something very specific, are gone completely when something there needs even a moment’s attention.  The past is fully in the past, even if I’d intended to bring it into the future.

This means that not only do I need a list to go shopping, but I also have to take measures to ensure I remember to bring the list. It also means that unless something is such an established habit that it has become a part of the schema of where I’ll naturally go — it won’t happen.  Almost no matter how much I want it, chances are good I’ll forget.

So when reading about the ideal of the Present Mind, focusing and knowing completely only that which is before you — don’t take it too literally. Oh sure, it’s a valuable skill to be able to pull off, but only when it’s appropriate. It’s not meant to be an ‘all the time’ thing.

If you don’t believe me, try it for a while, and see how many possible ‘presents’ go unopened…

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I saved a quote from an article last week that I thought spoke very well to how important it is to always keep the mind questioning and open to new answers. So much shifts around us, so many new things are revealed each day that previously were hidden, that if we can’t maintain a habit of keeping our eyes open to them we’ll wind up blind. We’ll only see a world that once was visible to us, and project it onto what’s really in front of us, seeing our illusions rather than reality.

That’s a super hard habit to keep though. Maybe the answer is to every week (or day or month?) pick one thing we’ve assumed and try to find as many different ways to look at it as possible and see if we change our assumptions. Like when I challenged my assumption that I hated mushrooms (done wrong, I still do, otherwise I LOVE them).

We should find a way that works for us, though. It’ll take practice. It’ll take trial and error. But I think we’ll hit on something that works for us. Because Marty’s right.

[I]t’s dangerous to always think with exclamation points instead of question marks. Your stance on any particular issue is far less important than whether your worldview is a product of inquiry or incuriosity, whether you feel more comfortable questioning the crowd or blindly marching with it. No ideology has a monopoly on reality.

– Marty Beckerman

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Speed Bump 8/21/2009
Speed Bump 9/21/09

I saw today’s Speed Bump cartoon and had to use it for today’s thought. I think it’s kinda funny, but it also illustrates for me the dangers of studying any kind of religious or philosophical path. It can be so easy to get sidetracked with the over-arcing insights and generalities that it becomes hard to apply them to the everyday choices of living. They can be a great guide, but they’re not exactly cut out to act as specific instructions.

That’s why I’ve set out to keep up my agreement to do a ‘daily zen’ thought, and end up talking about very mundane things. The zen is the compass, but it’s the mundane that is the actual journey. The more we learn how to live each day with a pretty clear perspective, making pretty honest choices and feeling pretty much at peace with them, the more we’re living zen.

An active sense of humor helps, too. 😉

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