Listen and Learn
Well here it is, the long awaited for Halloween issue- heh heh heh. I was trying to think of something really scary to write about, and, uh, well, not being qualified to intelligently diatribe on the current political fiasco, I decided to go with something I am much more familiar with yet find utterly frightening- I don't know exactly how to put it to words, but it might be something like, "the curse of the Ego."
I just finished reading A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle I must say, it was a fabulous read. Each page gripped my attention and seemed to resonate. In a nutshell, it admonishes living a life dwelling on the past or fretting about the future, and advocates instead, making the very best of the present moment- for the present encompasses yesterday's future, and tomorrow's past. Ow! That hurts my brain! So simple and true, yet so difficult to practice. I mean really, I have to think about not thinking! I'm sounding really blond now I am sure, but I will assure you that I am a brunette, perhaps a bonehead too, but I love this stuff of words, and thought and ultimate truths. So I am going to wander around in this amorphorous territory for the duration of this column.
Okay, let's start with ego, which, according to Dictionary.com, is:
1. the I or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.
2. Psychoanalysis. the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.
3. egotism; conceit; self-importance: Her ego becomes more unbearable each day.
4. self-esteem or self-image; feelings: Your criticism wounded his ego.
In this column, I am going to focus on definition #1 the "I." That part of who we see ourselves as "being." I am 46, I am married to a wonderful man, I have brown hair, I enjoy warm chocolate pudding, I like to tell jokes, I love to read, I love animals, I am proud of my kids, I like to travel..... blah blah blah. This makes me different from "you." We are separate entities- "you" and "I." But are these defining characteristics really who "I" am? When all is said and done, are these the things that matter about my brief presence on this planet? Perhaps...... but I don't think so. What does matter, then? That I followed the rules and lived a hard working honest existence? That I put the needs of others before my own? That I thought about things for which there are no concrete answers? That I could paint, write, sing or dance? That I at least tried to? (I just put the part about painting, singing and dancing in because it sounded good. Those of you who know me, know that I don't even investigate these undertakings....) I don't really know what matters in the end, but I am putting my money on things like inspiration, dedication, appreciation, and unconditional love rather than things like accumulation, status, appearances and other ego fanning enterprises. Oh how hypocritical that sounds! The mere essence of putting thoughts like these into words smacks of judgement. It's kind of a tough concept I am tackling here.
But back to that feeling of separateness- some believe that this feeling of separateness is the prime source of much of our human suffering. Heck, if dogs suffer from separation anxiety, why not people? Some folks will say that it is our perceived separation from God or our mothers after exiting the womb, that causes our angst. (Like how I put God and mothers in that same sentence?) Some people believe that God is everything and everybody- so whenever we feel separated form someone we care about (loneliness = fear and misery) or anything we desire but can not possess (want = discontent) we suffer. And what causes us to even be aware of the perceived separateness? Thought? And what is that? Well, it ain't easy to define, but according to The American Heritage Dictionary, the transitive Verb form of "thought" can be described thusly:
So we "think thoughts" with our brains (which are composed of 2/3rd's fats! click here for a fascinating article!) Based upon our experiences with past events and information taken in from various sources, and these thoughts invoke corresponding feelings or emotions. I'd have to agree that this seems to be the standard modus operandi for most of us. But what else are we to do with our brains besides regulate bodily functions?
As a child, I was most fascinated by the constant internal blather of my mind. I often wondered what it would be like were it to stop. No thought. I tried to will it to happen by doing what I will refer to as "thinking gray." I just painted a gray canvass, like being surrounded by a neither warm nor cool fog. No sound, no sight, no smell, no taste, no sensation- just utter peacefulness. I was always disappointed at the brevity of the strived for experience. Unwelcome mundane thoughts always interrupted my experiment! I could not do it. I would hear the ticking of the clock, or realize that I was thirsty, or that my big toe was itching, or something! Trying not to think was not so easy. So then I tried to trick my brain. (Mind you, most of this transpired when I was put to bed long before fatigue had set in (that is my fatigue- not that of my parents!) My plan was to see how far I could get by reciting the alphabet from A-Z while at the same time counting backwards from 26-1. For example: A-26, B-25. C-24, D-23, E-22. My brain always shorted out somewhere around H-19. This was generally a good sleep aid! On really rough nights, I would also count forward while reciting the alphabet backwards- Z-1, Y-2, X-3. You get the idea. This was much more difficult than I thought it would be. After all, I certainly knew how to recite the alphabet and count backwards from 26-1, but at the same time, it muddled my mind! I don't know how I came up with this idea, but it always fascinated me. I have always been interested in mind over matter, hypnosis, telekinesis, etc. Our brains are so complex and capable.
As I grew older, I was introduced to Yoga which included mini guided meditations where the students were asked to simply let everything go. The jerk in the parking lot? Poof! The pimple on my back? Poof! The fact that my dog is crapping all over the place? Poof! And we just listened to the hum of the metal drum. Ohmmmmmmmmmm. Breathe in- breathe out. Feel your lungs expand and deflate. Just simply "be" striving for nothing, wanting nothing, worrying about nothing. Give the "doing" part of your existence a much needed break.
I read recently in one of my consciousness raising books that we are human "beings", not human "doers." Very interesting indeed. So if we quit doing and simply start being- what result would that bring? It seems that we'd surely starve to death for one. I don't know. I am not there yet. But the concept is intriguing. Try it some time. Just sit in a comfortable position (preferably upright so you don't drift off to sleep) breathe in and out while simply focusing on the repetitive sensation of the breath and nothing else. Start with 5 minutes. It is amazing what you might notice afterwards. After all, how can we hear when we are always talking? How can we learn if we never listen? You might call it prayer or meditation or something altogether different, but I highly recommend it. Just listen when someone speaks, instead of using the time when your lips are sealed to formulate your well worded response. Leave the radio off for a few minutes on the drive to work and just be present and focused on your environment. See what you notice that's new. I often find solutions to problems or am inspired to create something, or experience a wacky coincidence. In any event, it helps me to reconnect.
1) What was the most popular Halloween candy in 2004?
Choose Your Answer: A: Snickers, B: Candy Corn, C: M&Ms, D: Tootsie Rolls
2) According to superstition, if you stare into a mirror at midnight on Halloween, what will you see?
Choose Your Answer: A: Bloody Mary, B: Your Future Spouse, C: Your Death, D: Dead Ancestors
3) The first Jack-o-Lanterns were made out of what?
Choose Your Answer: A: Watermelons, B: Coconuts, C: Turnips, D: Pumpkins
4) Halloween is generally considered to have evolved from what ancient festival?
Choose Your Answer: A: Lammas, B: Beltane, C: Samhain, D: Ostara
5) What was the most popular Halloween costume in 2004?
Choose Your Answer: A: Spiderman, B: Witch, C: Vampire, D: George W. Bush
6) How much does the world's biggest pumpkin weigh?
Choose Your Answer: A: 245 pounds, B: 485 pounds, C: 685 pounds, D: 1,385 pounds
7) According to legend, a unibrow, tattoos, and a long middle finger are all signs of what Halloween creature?
Choose Your Answer: A: a werewolf, B: a vampire, C: a witch, D: a golem
8) How many pounds of candy did the average American consume in 2002?
Choose Your Answer: A: 6 pounds, B: 12 pounds, C: 24 pounds, D: 48 pounds
9) How many "witches" were burned at the stake in the Salem Witch Trials?
Choose Your Answer: A: Twelve, B: Twenty, C: Thirty-three, D: None
10) What phobia do you suffer from if you have an intense fear of Halloween?
Choose Your Answer: A: Phasmophobia, B: Samhainophobia, C: Wiccaphobia, D: Halloweenophobia
Click here for the answers- this is where I borrowed the quiz from!
A Random Excerpt from A New Earth (hope it's okay, Eckhart!
People unknowingly sabotage their own work when they withhold help or information from others or try to undermine them lest they become more successful or get more credit that "me." Cooperation is alien to the ego, except when there is a secondary motive. The ego doesn't know that the more you include others, the more smoothly things flow and the ore easily things come to you. When you give little or no help to others or put obstacles in their path, the universe- in the form of people and circumstances- gives little or no help to you because you have cut yourself off from the whole.
More Food For Thought borrowed from Everyday Wisdom by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer:
Once you have learned how to enter your inner kingdom, you have a special retreat within that is always available to you.
Everything exists for some reason as a part of the perfect intelligence that is the universe.
The universe provides abundantly when you are in a state of gratefulness.
Prosperity is about process. Process is about purpose. Purpose is about loving and giving.
You can never fail. You just produce results.
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