Mindfulness and Meditation (Finding benefits despite a distracted disposition)

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Meditation has been “in” for awhile now. But it seems 2014 has produced an even greater surge in the practice’s popularity and with those who tout the benefits. In his book, Waking Up, Sam Harris addresses meditation and mindfulness in lucid detail. Waking Up proved effectual for me in many ways, so much so that I emailed Harris expressing my appreciation for his work in the volume. Much to my surprise, he promptly responded — which was pretty freakin’ cool. I was particularly influenced by his knowledge regarding Vipassana meditation. The practice, as presented in the book, is fairly straight forward, and Harris demystified the contemplative approach for me by grounding the concepts firmly in the language of science and overall intelligibility.

In the past, I have mostly approached meditation with skepticism. This is not to say I doubted its potential benefits, I simply struggled sitting still and thought myself incapable of the necessary patience and commitment. Hearing a lot of misinformation and some of the peculiar rhetoric from committed proponents of the practice also contributed to my reticence. My own biases were certainly hedging up the way. Concluding that there was just too much weirdness surrounding the concept and practices of mindfulness made it far easier to be dismissive. “I’m a self aware dude, I don’t need this esoteric jibbery jabber. Meditation just isn’t for me.”

It remains my opinion that meditation is not very well taught or explained because it is more often being proselytized. What resolved my doubts, or rather frustrations, was having the discussion brought into the realm of secular understanding; learning about the real and proven effectiveness of contemplative rituals. Not only this, but reading about and pondering the theories of mind as well as the neuroscientific principles at play when it comes to meditation. What became clear was that I was knowingly denying myself, and remaining ignorant of, a distinctly powerful aspect of human experience; one that didn’t require much effort to partake in if I could merely discard my stubborn preconceptions.

Here are the myths that needed to be dispelled for me:

1. Meditation is about relaxing

Meditation is often work, or effort, or whatever word you’d choose to describe a not entirely comfortable experience that requires training the mental faculties. It is work making myself sit down and do it; something I still frequently struggle with. It’s often strange getting settled, consciously disengaging with the activity of the day, to only sit and breath and do little else. It’s initially discomforting. For me, the use of guided meditations helped significantly for engaging something so novel and outside my normal realm of experience. It provided some structure. I used Sam Harris’s on SoundCloud (9 and 26 minutes depending).

Fair warning, when looking for guided meditation audio, just know that you will find funky ones. This became clear while looking for some other options on youtube. I don’t like the accompaniment of floaty music or poetic instruction that tries to guide my thoughts towards imagining sensation as a fire that represents the force of my being. This kind of esoteric approach might appeal to some folks, but it is not my particular cup o’ metaphysical/contemplative tea. What was important for me was having a voice prompting and reminding me to bring my thoughts back to breathing, for helping me engage the immediate sensations and contents of conscious awareness.

2. My mind can’t wander during meditation, if it does I fail.

This isn’t true, although it is part of the challenge when meditating. What becomes interesting, once feeling less frustrated by a wandering train of thought, is discovering what made the mind wander in the first place and what patterns emerge when learning how these distractions occur. When disciplining myself to notice thoughts as they arose, and acknowledging them as thoughts and potential distractions, the moment grew easier to stay in. This keener momentary awareness also afforded more patience, comfort, and with time, a desire to meditate longer…the length became less and less important. It wasn’t a fight with boredom or restlessness anymore, although this ease only comes when the habit is being kept to steadfastly. It’s a tool that requires constant use, or the mind gets quickly reoriented to the more distracting nature of everyday life.

3. Meditation is going to blow your mind and expand it into the multiverse

While I’ve had some meditation sessions that I came away from feeling pretty damn good, I’ve never noticed a third eye on my forehead or come away from it sensing that I was floating on a new plain of existence. I can attest that my later and longer sessions led to a more distinct and welcome calmness — both of mind and body. The “spiritual” or “mind expanding” quality of meditation I would more appropriately describe as gaining an understanding for the workings of ones thoughts. With meditation, we can learn what habits of thinking try incessantly to tear us away from the moment, and develop a capacity to guide our awareness back, or rather stay in the present; so much so that the experience in meditation becomes something of a thoughtless state, where guiding and redirecting ceases to be of necessity because the mind is literally in a state where what is being thought is immaterial to the mere sensation of present experience…as it has been described, this is what pure consciousness is. This is the more difficult but rewarding quality that meditation can provide.

Humans are really bad at being able to sit and embrace a calming sense of everything being okay just because it is okay. We always seem to believe we need reasons for it, or that we need to be working to achieve a better situation for ourselves, a situation that likely does not exist. This immediate moment that I am in right now CAN be okay and I CAN feel okay about it being okay.

4. That I should “know” when it’s working
Although meditation works, it isn’t something that must be or even can be made/forced to work. Certain conditions are more conducive to having an effective session, but thinking too hard about whether I’ve done it correctly or deliberating with myself about whether I’m in the proper mindstate will basically defeat the purpose of the practice. Just by making a habit of meditating, I was able to slowly get past the nagging concern of whether I felt like it was working or not. It was indeed weird for me to just sit in a room and breath and do very little else. That awkwardness also dissipated as I continued to just do it, and do it daily. Know, within yourself, that sitting still for 4-5 and later 10-20 minutes is quite impressive for a modern human being in a consumerist society. Later on, the “working” quality — the benefits — become apparent without having had to think about it very hard.

5. That I could not sit still long enough to succeed at meditation

Yes I could, and I did. I just simply had to do it.

To sum up my sentiments concerning meditation: it’s been quite the departure from what I normally participate in, but it’s that very foreign quality that was probably essential for me. I needed to be shaken from my normal frame of mind, from my normal day to day scrambling — and scrambling is often what I am doing. Although, with new habits taking shape in the area of exercise and mindfulness, scrambling has been less of a problem for me. But recently Caitlin and I packed up and moved from Lakewood, WA to Emmett, ID, and I’ve let the meditation habit grow more sporadic. It is something I’ve seen benefits from if and when I’m committing myself to doing it daily, and regardless of any anxiety or a busy brain. Writing this blog is my manifesto for declaring the goodness of meditation as well as my recommitment to making it a daily habit again. Here are some resources for getting started if perhaps you were interested at giving it a shot:

The full text and audio of Waking Up Ch. 1, of particular relevance being the section on mindfulness

Guided meditations:
9 Minute
26 Minute

Further information:
Dan Harris and Sam Harris talk mindfulness and meditation
Wherever You Go, There You Are
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14096.Wherever_You_Go_There_You_Are

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Course Corrections (On choosing what our missteps and detours mean)

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The day came for posting a new entry to the VO Review, and it passed by while I balked on my weekly commitment. Though it’s not too late, as this now posted just a few days following. I had my original concept prepared and basically written out, but while doing the edits, my enthusiasm slowly and depressingly waned. I chose not to use it; not now anyway. I was still determined to get something posted in an effort to remain true to my new habits and goals

Good creative decisions require knowing when an idea or project must be shelved, or axed completely; and finding the thin lines between procrastination, lost causes, misguided perseverance, and giving up too soon. In this situation I knew that the original article just wasn’t ready yet. It had not reached the level of desired cohesion. But publishing and sharing is vital to growth as a writer. For this entry, I want to describe the course correction I made with the hope of illustrating an overlooked element of the creative process.

As creators, writers, and artists, we make choices that determine what our efforts or lack thereof will eventually mean to us. If we aren’t making these choices with awareness, external or subconscious forces will take up the slack, and before long what we intended originally with our efforts is mired in a narrative of doubt or inauthenticity. It’s the way our minds work. We imbue past actions and choices with post-hoc interpretations and rationalizations for why we did things and in describing the bigger picture we hope we’re apart of. Without diligent awareness, it’s easy to take on a self serving bias or a victim mindset. A narrative starts forming that excuses or construes the meaning of our inevitable mistakes and detours. By deciding that the post I was working on wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I consciously determined to write something else and to decide what that meant about for my developing goals and writing habit. But these decisions did not come without doubt and dissonance.

It’s difficult not to allow self doubt, insecurities, or outside pressures color what it is we believe about our actions and decision. Sometimes we unconsciously surrender the freedom to shape the story ourselves. “I’m a quitter, a procrastinator, a model of inconsistency”…this could easily be what I said about my first post not coming together quite right. In fact, I did say these things to myself, and believed them momentarily. The question I had to ask myself about how to label my creative decision, action, or lack thereof, is this: are these labels and interpretations my choice or are they the identity I’ve allowed uncertainty and external forces to impress upon me?

There were both subtle and simple reasons behind my decision to write this post, in an effort to keep me on a disciplined creative track. I had doubts when I felt that my other write-up hadn’t taken on the desired shape. I started telling myself, “nobody cares if I post this week anyway” or, “how can you feel so good about something one day and find it to be utter nonsense the next?” However, I chose a different train of thought. I consciously discarded this old habit of fixating on my inadequacies. Something that could easily derail me in the past.

I’m not faking it ‘til I make it, or making excuses for giving up, or browbeating myself for being a few days late on posting. I made the willful decision to take action in a different direction, rather than hold myself to the impossible standard where every action must result in brilliance, and that it must go according to the plan or I’ve failed. And with this willful decision, I’ve written another blog entry for the VO Review. Here she be!

 

Quick hits

Thoughts on the Marvel film universe (after viewing Guardians of the G): the more bloated the installments get, the less I care about the paper thin plots and any impetus for the conflicts. They’re basically visual roller coaster rides. I enjoy them and move on.

Things I’d forgotten: how cold the winters get, how hard habits are to form and how easy they are to break, how smart people still do plenty of dumb things (mostly speaking for myself).

Rediscovering for the first time: the value of lists and keeping notes

Awesomeness of the week: seeing our cat use the stuff we’ve packed in boxes as her personal jungle gym and sleeping perch.

New shows for me: Broad City, Hell on Wheels

Books I’m enjoying or enjoyed: No Country for Old Men, Founding Brothers, Dataclysm

Albums to give a listen: Divisionary by Ages and Ages, Room 93 by Halsey, Wildewoman by Lucius

New irrational appreciation: Vintage sodas in glass bottles (chiefly Root Beer and Cream Soda)

Is Nolan Who We Think He Is? (A VO Review of Interstellar and its director)

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Spoilers are VERY minor with story elements and devices only hinted at.

Often after seeing a major release from the likes of Christopher Nolan, my first inclination is to defend the work. Without question, when it comes to Nolan, my critical sense is in what I would term ‘High Art’ mode. His films have their various flaws and his technique is at times clunky, but I have my theories for why this is the case and why these are insufficient for disputing his greatness as a director. Chris Nolan, often with his brother Jonathan Nolan in the writer’s seat, makes ambitious and praiseworthy overtures towards bridging the gap between mainstream, big budget fodder and a more sophisticated artistic vision. Naturally, this brings out the trolls, contrarians, and the hyper-critical.

Soon after The Dark Knight was exalted by critics and audiences alike, there were detractors who felt a special need to temper the conversation with a “hey now, folks, hold your horses.” Some did it tastefully and brought appropriate realism to the consensus of what Nolan’s work means in the public conscience and consciousness. Others were in full on take-Nolan down-a-notch mode, and invariably their go-to zinger went something like, “Nolan is no Kubrick”; delivered as though they’d been personally insulted. It’s easy enough to respond to such contempt by saying, “well no shit.” Neither are The Black Keys any sort of Led Zeppelin, but they are still pretty damn great. It seemed to be a commonplace demonstration of intellectual grandstanding following Inception for someone to write or tweet “Inception wasn’t THAT mind blowing, I understood the WHOLE thing” or “the reason your mind was blown was because of the Earth sized plot holes you didn’t catch onto, so you FELT like it was deep and epic! But if you were smart enough, you’d know better.”

So before delving into my own critical breakdown of Interstellar, I’d like to address the issue of minds being blown and glaring logic loopholes. Firstly, spotting plot holes doesn’t always entail that you were the smarter viewer. On repeat viewing of Nolan’s films, which are often packed like puzzles, it becomes clear that he and his brother are very particular and most questions are answerable or purposefully left ambiguous. I will admit that his pacing and degree of explanation is sporadically suspect; an issue of editing and cutting down to digestible size I imagine. But simply because I’m unsure exactly what transpired in a scene, or because I didn’t gather why so and so did such and such in scene ‘A’ or ‘B’, doesn’t give me free rein to accuse a director or writer of laziness or speak of those who enjoyed viewing it scornfully.

Secondly, when it comes to Nolan’s work, viewers run a high risk of becoming prisoners of the moment. I know this was true of me when it came to The Dark Knight Rises; which in retrospect I now see as being Nolan’s most flawed effort, paling as compared to TDK. However, when I first saw it I was convinced it was superior; that he’d taken his TDK template to that next epic level. I was a POM to the IMAX experience and the mythic/epic Chris Nolan overtones. TDKR had a certain level of hubris, the auteur attempting to elevate the pulpy comic book action movie to the plain of legendary. To Nolan’s credit, this vision was mostly realized. But, on additional sit downs with TDKR, I started noticing its glaring blemishes. Nolan’s shortcomings became more readily apparent: a telegraphed twist, clunky and disengaging action sequences, Shakespearean and dramatic flare occasionally drifting into silliness, pacing issues, and distracting editing. But let’s remember why the susceptibility for being caught up in Nolan’s magic exists in the first place; he indeed makes magic on the screen and often evokes transcendent and sublime emotionality.

So, I went into Interstellar with my bias detectors as fully in check as I could muster. But I still possessed the sort of giddiness that a youthful me had whilst attending Jurassic Park or Return of the King for the first time. I was stoked. So as I hunkered down for the feature presentation, I was of two minds. Despite Nolan’s flaws, he still creates awe inspiring movies that equate to what I would only describe as ‘spiritual’. With Interstellar, some of his directorial tics show through again, yet, in the IMAX setting is wholly engaging in the ways that Nolan is known for. This is why I go to the theater. These are the kinds of movies I hope for and rarely ever see.

Most movies are just that, movies (crude and entertaining). Christopher Nolan still adheres to this ambition of making FILMS; not simply moving pictures that assist the popcorn going down more smoothly. He often manages to deliver on both fronts. Interstellar, however, might alienate the more casual tenants of weekend features. More than any of his other projects, the Nolan brothers are firmly in the driver’s seat and were given ample amounts of leeway to try the patience of standard movie goers; not only in its mood but with its near 3 hour length. Movie goers that are likely more accustomed to the Marvel comic freneticism, hokey one-liners, and a predictable cadence of rising conflict, climax, and clean resolution. This isn’t a criticism of movie going audiences as much as it is an acknowledgement that a certain style of filmmaking is going extinct, and Nolan refuses to let it die. Of this I am grateful, because that style is a beautiful thing.

From the get go, another brilliant score from Hans Zimmer sets the tone for a journey that is grand in scale. The aesthetic of the film is clean and noticeably free of obvious digital doctoring and clutter. The setup for the premise does require patience, but I didn’t feel any annoyance watching it unfold. A number of plot devices are left unclear, and at times might frustrate. Here, I’d suggest, is a known problem for Nolan in general. In an effort to save some of the big reveals, we are kept in the dark maybe too much. Conversely, he is prone to expositive info dumps that are unusual for wide audience releases. I wouldn’t be surprised if some folks felt that they were sitting through a science lesson that, even though laden with dialogue, left them scratching their head for having not brushed up on their cosmology and astrophysics. I didn’t have a problem here, but I’ve taken an interest in these subjects most of my life . This isn’t a tooting of my horn, I readily admit that Nolan could have done better explaining some stuff.

As Interstellar takes off into space, Nolan’s nods to Kubrick’s 2001 are so obvious that it can hardly be levied as a criticism. He is PURPOSEFULLY paying tribute to particular aesthetic touches from one the greatest sci fi films of all time. He has said himself that “you can’t pretend 2001 doesn’t exist when you’re making Interstellar.” But these are mostly visual and not tonal or thematic similarities. The storytelling and manner of how the plot unfolds is almost entirely unique to Nolan with the exception of what I would term Interstellar’s ‘monolith moment’. Thankfully, Christopher Nolan felt the need to inject humanity into this epic space opera and also grants the audience a sleek resolution, rather than leaving them like a quivering fetus in space contemplating their existential insignificance.

I anticipate that some will say the resolution was predictable, cheesy or too tidy. Without giving it away I can still express understanding of where these criticisms would come from. I had my moments of skepticism and I wasn’t in love with the ‘monolith moment’ myself, but the epilogue of the film largely erased my doubts. I left feeling respectful of how Christopher Nolan chose to solve his little puzzle. He’s one of those artists that seems deliberate and calculated enough that I trust his choices without over thinking whether I completely agree with it. This allowance of artistic latitude when it comes to exacting scrutiny is a conscious choice, and honestly it has made most movies and shows more enjoyable for me. I have spent too many days being prudish and pretentious in pursuit of something searing to say as a demonstration of my intellect. I think it doubtful that anyone else could have managed a better denouement without just leaving the end ambiguous, which is often the typical route taken by art house or more idiosyncratic filmmakers of the Lars Von Trier variety. There is a reason those movies often don’t get wider releases. They might be cool and interesting, but they’re weird, even awkward, and they often conceal their intentions and message to a maddening extent.

Interstellar is not for everyone and that doesn’t mean it’s not still great and admirable in most respects of these words. Lovers of the Dark-Knight-Nolan are going to get something worlds apart from those installments. The Inception crowd will have its patience tried as Interstellar is light in the action department. Where it tries to create tension with action, the movie slips considerably. A middle act devolves into an awkward astronaut fight that felt forced while also attempting to overlay poetic flourishes that frankly didn’t work. But this was brief and the film then moved onto its epic finale. This is mostly a character drama set in space that saves the bombast for the key moments. The meanwhile-on-earth plot gets significantly more screen time towards the latter end of the picture, and the editing choices with that were at times clunky, frustrating, and less engaging.

I would suggest this film be witnessed in the full IMAX glory, but I imagine it’s still great in other formats. Chris Nolan is one of the few filmmakers actually choosing to utilize the IMAX cameras during principle photography, so the entire geography of the screen is covered for most of the running time — no doubt looking spectacular. The non-IMAX intercuts are in a narrower aspect ratio, noticeably darker and less vivid; perhaps bothersome to purists or perfectionists. I await the day that the IMAX cameras and film are more affordable and versatile so Nolan can just have the entire experience be properly wide and tall, as the ambitions of his films demand it. But I’m also hearing that the format might altogether be retired, and this could very well be some of the last times we can witness this preferred Nolan medium.

Some will go in expecting life altering and world changing cinematics. Many of these folks will probably prisoner-of-the-moment their way right to that desired conclusion. And more power to them, it’s awesome to feel like your life was altered and your world was shattered and reformed in a 3 hour span. Others will go into it expecting epic action and coolness, and I imagine some of these cravings might be left unsatisfied. There are also those who will attend looking to depreciate Nolan’s stock with a how-dare-anyone-compare-him-to-Stanley chip on their critical shoulder. Admittedly, there are poetic and romantic touches that Nolan paints with that sometimes come across more silly than intriguing; but he hits far more often than he misses. I’m not going to let one badly delivered Matt Damon pontification spoil the experience. And yes, Matt Damon is in this movie…I’m not getting my Matt’s mixed up.

Let haters hate and allow some people to have a fleck of bitter taste ruin an entire heaping pile of delectable, satisfying, intellectual and creative desserts. This is the way of the modern movie goer and hyper-critic: to feel like they are owed what they want or expected. Those who don’t get it will haughtily levy labels like “overrated” and “pop sci-fi” against Insterstellar more as an expression of their dislike for Nolan and people who revere him. There are relevant criticisms of this and his other work; that they are “pop” or “silly” are not some of them. I also anticipate that the media narrative will paint the response as more polarized than it actually is. But there will be yay-sayers and naysayers, as immutable a fact as time itself…wait, is time immutable??…

I for one was satisfied to a large extent. There were a handful of moments that created that undeniable upswell indicating that I was witnessing greatness. I wouldn’t want to belittle that with minor grievances. Christopher Nolan has done for the medium in its early 21sty century form what is otherwise not granted by major studios to most other filmmakers. This sort of freedom and ambition should be applauded, even when it doesn’t match all of our expectations. Otherwise, we’ll be condemned to a smattering of Michael Bayesque CGI orgies, Judd Apatow knockoffs, and overextended franchise money pits; with the occasional bright glimmers like Edge of Tomorrow or the Hungers Game series. Even those often lack the same ‘high art’ aspirations that Nolan and his team clearly hold themselves to. Color me fooled or hoodwinked by the magic, but I see the sophistication present in his craft as being real and achieved, not some hallucinatory mindtrick of cinema. Go forth and enjoy, and do not over think all the over thinking I just did with regards to Christopher Nolan’s Insterstellar. PEACE

Fuzzy Boundaries (The merits of intentionally getting lost)

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I recently started reading a gem of a book entitled ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’ by Rebecca Solnit. Sometimes I get lucky enough to stumble on a book like this; the sort of book which defies any solid genre distinction. Solnit’s work here reads as a collection of biographical essays but is more a philosophical contemplation on the concept of ‘being and getting lost’. It’s rife with existential fodder…and I am loving it, because I’m apparently psychologically masochistic like that. Other books that land in this fuzzy, challenging category are Colin Wilson’s ‘The Outsider’, John Gray’s ‘Straw Dogs’ among others — these kinds of books often end up in the favorites column. I’ll likely also recommend them insistently to my friends; both those who read and those who don’t.

I have a hankering for getting lost in reading and more generally in the experience of discovery. I typically delve through art and information that cannot be readily categorized or otherwise covers a swath of stimulating subjects (psychology, philosophy, physics, social criticism, etc). The Pacific Standard (website and magazine) is particularly notable for this kind of content; the Brain Pickings blog being another. I encourage myself in this sort of thorough, even scattered, approach despite being somewhat anarchic and occasionally without direction.

My music listening habits follow this form of ‘looking to be lost’. In building an extensive playlist of new music from 2014, I’ve been aiming for the deep end hoping to find the unexpected. It’s an ongoing project of perusing the web for albums I can add regardless of whether I have heard the artists/bands before; then later, semi-randomly picking a release, often unsure of what I’m about to get myself into. With these efforts, I’ve almost exclusively listened to new music and new artists this year. I can say that its been largely worthwhile. Some of the best music I’ve heard in several years I found via this process — the process of intentionally looking to get lost.

I’m an enthusiast for taking walks. This interest unfortunately eluded me for decades. But now circumstances are such that I have little choice but to take part in this simplest of activities. I was please, however, in finding out that I truly enjoy walking. And even more so, wandering. The A and B of my treks would often be determined, but there were always alternative paths to take and strange corners to behold. Where I currently reside, there is a strange patchwork of Pacific Northwest greenery, suburban homes, retail strip malls, semi-urban apartment complexes, as well a few historic and longer established fixtures. I wouldn’t qualify it as mind blowing by any stretch, but it is unpredictable. Once again falling into that not so neat category of defying distinction.

A key point that Solnit establishes early in ‘Field Guide’ is that being lost is OKAY if that is our desire and if we are equipped for it. Because people crave certainty, and seemingly require the formation of narratives and memories that bolster this sense of certainty, getting lost becomes of particular importance for self awareness and spiritual/emotional well being. There is too much in life that we will never know or be able to fully understand. An appropriate means for exploring the fuzzy boundaries of reality is essential. Without a healthy methodology for ‘getting lost’, people are prone to drift into madness, despair, or rigid and dogmatic thinking.

“Touching the edge of the unknown…sharpens the senses,” she suggests. The wording here could be interpreted several ways. Are we touching the edge of the ‘unknown’ as we stand still within our personal area of the “known”? Or are we always within the ‘unknown’ and we discover its edge where we manage brief glimpses of the realm of knowledge? Is putting knowledge and understanding into geographical terms utterly facile? I could easily be over thinking this simple quote, but it felt relevant to explore the paradoxical ways it could be read — which highlights the paradoxical nature of knowledge altogether.

Could it be that we are better served assuming that we are already, and always will be, lost? And knowing how to be lost well, accepting this fundamental characteristic of being in existence, is how we can stay sane while also finding joy in the uncertainty. Awe and wonder are undeniably some of the most sublime of emotions that anyone can experience, and they both seem intrinsic in this act of discovering — or ‘being lost — when we are going about it with the appropriate reverence for the elusiveness of reality.

I once wrote in a poem/meditation “let go of what I cannot control / embrace and have reverence for mystery / always aware of that uncertainty / but inviting towards the possibilities of each new day.” Personally, I have long felt that much of life was beyond my control. I easily could and have used this as an excuse to put little effort towards having control in my life — to eternally “go with the flow”. Those who drive their sanity into the ground seeking control in every aspect of their life are equally misguided. As is true with most things in life, balance and moderation are critical to emotional well being. And key to our balance is knowing that nothing is ever completely balanced, or rather, such harmonious states are never known or felt by us as individuals. If ever they are permitted to us, they’re gone before we can fully comprehend the purity of such moments.

For awhile I assumed that it was not up to me what my moods were going to be from day to day or where my motivation would be at. I left it up to chance. Or, I was so convinced that chance was in charge, that I took more drastic measures in trying to “feel” how I wanted to feel. The reality was, I could DO a lot more than I realized in helping myself wander through this inexplicable conscious experience, but it required work, willingness and discipline. Maybe extra work for someone with a mind and disposition such that I have. Regardless, it takes time for that work to demonstrate its benefits, and that’s where I struggled mightily. I didn’t want to wait, I didn’t want to believe in the process of self mastery and discipline. I wanted to believe these were a fiction, or at least wholly beyond my grasp.

These were just ways in which I chose to crumble in the face of perceived futility. I’m now beginning to see the journey for what it is. A journey that is inevitable but rife with possibility for joy and satisfaction. It’s an active process learning how to ‘be lost’. Part of that process is continuing to seek out the unknown and uncomfortable so that my mind avoids the lull of complacence. Always watchful for that fallacious sense of thinking I know the nature of things. A habit of thought that led me to assuming all was futile was in fact that exact fallacy — thinking I had the universe figured out. I had forgotten how to be lost.

When I listen to music with a concerted effort towards keeping it fresh, and when I take a walk with the intention of wandering, these are small measures for reminding me how to be lost. They may seem mundane or even trivial when it comes to contemplating the existential nature of my very being. But, in fact, they are essential to being at peace with the strangeness and inexplicability of it. What better way is there to face challenges then to always be uprooting our perceptions of art, society, self, and reality itself? So watch a movie you maybe wouldn’t have ever thought to, start a journal if you’ve never recorded your thoughts, play a video game if you’ve never tried. Is this getting self helpish? Meh… whatever, it’s sound encouragement. We spend too much time convincing ourselves that we don’t believe the good advice and ideas that we are often freely given. I meditate and jog now even though I never used to and thought I’d never be able to make a habit of it. Let’s continue surprising ourselves.

Quick Hits:

A fitting dialogue exchange, given this blog entry, from the film ‘Boyhood’ between Mason (the boy in Boyhood) and his father Mason Sr. (played by Ethan Hawke)
After discussing graduation, breakups, and other ‘normal’ things Mason inquires: So what’s the point?
Mason Sr: Of what?
Mason Jr: I don’t know, any of this…everything?””
Strange stare from Mason Sr, unsure if the question is a joke: everything?! Befuddled chuckle. What’s the point? I mean I sure as shit don’t know…
Mason Jr smiles and roles eyes in a ‘aww geez Dad’.
Father continues: neither does anybody else, okay, we’re all just wingin’ it, you know. Shrugging and look around, looks back at Mason Jr: I mean the good news is your feelin’ stuff, you know, and you gotta hold onto that.

By the way, watch ‘Boyhood’, easily one of the years best.

Currently in excited anticipation of: Viewing of Insterstellar in IMAX on Saturday No. 8th
Thing I’m cutting it close on: my 40 book goal for 2014, currently at 23 with 2 months to go
Simple pleasure I appreciate: Having the perfect pen around that glides well and writes dark and makes me feel like a boss when I write with it.
Activity that makes me feel surprisingly awesome: Running in brisk autumn weather while wearing dorky wool socks and listening to my ‘Get Pumped’ playlist.