Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Doing it Over Again, for the First Time

Doing it over again, for the first time: Have you ever noticed how, with a routine task you have done a hundred times, that you may become almost lobotomized when you do it, performing the task half awake with your mind a million miles away occupied with something else? I have literally arrived somewhere to do something and not quite recalled how I got there! Has that ever happened to you? We get so caught up in our thinking that half the time we are not aware of what we are doing.

This is the opposite of being present, and is a state that is all too familiar to a lot of us. Eckhart Tolle calls this being "unconscious" in that we have no awareness of what we are doing or what is going on around us. I could carry it further and call it being "dead" because whatever record is playing on the track in our mind is not real, is not alive, has nothing whatsoever to do with what is happening here and now.

Some of us may try to block out our surroundings by excessive use of electronic devices or plugging ourselves into some repetitive soundtrack. The problem is, no matter how beautiful or entrancing those sounds or videos or electronic signals may be, they deaden us to relationships, to nature, the song of a bird , the whir of a cricket, the brush of a falling feather; they deaden us to life.

It's not possible in today's world to avoid the use of technology or even to always be fully engaged in every task. That's not the point. Rather, try this: when you do something you have done a hundred times, sometimes do it as if you had never done it before. Do it again. For the first time.

Let me give you a specific example. I just put my phone down and lay beside my son in bed doing nothing. I looked at this, however, as a new experience. I just lay there and looked at him. Nothing else; lay there gazing. Then I noticed his breathing deepen. He rolled over and snaked his arm across my chest as he slept. His arm went totally limp. Complete trust, surrender in a state of deep relaxation and acceptance. My own state then started to lighten. Always remember that even though you have to pay bills and think and plan to get by in this world, none of that abstract stuff is real. Live your life here with the surroundings and people in front of you. Keep coming back to that every time you wander; and, remember this: That's the only thing that's real. So, do it again, for the first time...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Life, Love, Learning

When a task is difficult, we often want to run from it. But often the difficulty is a way of sending us a signal that we should persist and see it through to the end, whatever that may be. The irony is we never know if a task is worthwhile until we have completed it. Then the results may seem to tell us it was not worth it, or was a waste of time. But then we are wrong still a second time, for it is not about the task at all, but about who we are while we complete it. When we do the work before us, no matter the nature of it, no matter the outcome, with love, the outcome can never be 'bad' in any meaningful sense. Our state of mind and heart while we work or even perform a routine task determine it's value, whether we are paid two million dollars, twenty five cents, or nothing, is not the point.

For me, the man who mostly taught me this did it without teaching. He just lived. His life was the lesson. He enjoyed talking and having a laugh but he never used talking to teach. He just lived. He was my dad. He used to love to make things out of wood, he was a skilled carpenter, and, though he worked as a flame cutter for his living, he made beautiful things with wood. Chairs, tables, benches, lattice work. I used to cut patterns for him, and sometimes I would just watch him work. He would touch the wood softly like caressing the wings of a butterfly. He spent hours in his shop. His eyes were soft and caring while he worked. He always placed the wood on the bench, never throwing or tossing the wood, even the scraps were gently placed in the bin or often re-used.

Then, when he was finished, he gave the things he made away. Many times people tried to pay for his work, but he refused the money. He made some of the most beautiful things ever seen and gave them all away. And while he worked, he taught his son, me, not how to work, because I am a lousy carpenter, to be quite frank. He taught me something else entirely. I watched him work, and I learned how to live. I learned how to love....