Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Step by Step

The continued journey with Desiderata yields the following line:

"Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans."

Perhaps said another way, learn to enjoy the journey not just the destinations. I don't even know where the inclination to do the opposite came from.  Maybe through school, where "completions" & of course those that met a particular criteria, were the only thing that yielded a reward. Nobody ever suggested to me that I enjoy the process - learn to find satisfaction along the way. The mindset I formed was "I'll be happy when this is over."

As I now consider it, given how much time most anything is a "work in progress" - if I were only happy when it finished, that wouldn't leave much time for being happy.

How often have you been "counselled" regarding a trip your planning, or heard after you returned; "oh you must see such and such," "what you went all the way there and you didn't see ... blah, blah, blah... respectively. As though nothing else existed but these specific places, nothing of beauty along the way, no side roads, hidden coves, enchanted forests..... what a way to live!!

It is my opinion that all "small steps" toward any achievement should be enjoyed..... each combines to yield the "destination.." The accumulative momentum of the small victories (points of interest) will make achieving the destination, that much sweeter.

Certainly enjoy your plans. You've come up with them because they appeal to some part of you. It's very personal and you need no other justification than to honour that in yourself. You may get little or no fanfare from people you speak to regarding your plan. Aside from a known trusted confidant, you might want to consider, not even letting others in on your sacred plan. Chances are many won't have the same enthusiasm for your plan you do - which is fine, they don't need to share your vision. But you don't need anyone raining on your parade either.

Go ahead pull out all the stops, and celebrate yourself.

R.O'Neill (June 20, 2018)

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Them Good Vibrations

A couple of mornings ago, soon after arising, I found myself to be in a foul mood. Just to give some context, for me, this denotes; the sort of inner landscape, that can lead to even inanimate objects, being included in the snare of my intolerance and simmering ire. There was no particular "reason" for this angst - though it's fair to say, of late I've been processing a goulash of feelings & considering how they pertain to past, present and future.

There are times when the presence of a seasoned witness is invaluable - this was not one of those times. For you see at other times, the mere presence of someone else, is apt to rub me the wrong way. Nobody should be subject to this, through no fault of their own - suddenly they'd find themselves on the receiving end of Misérable!!

I wouldn't  say I'm "anti-social," (except of course, during those moments when I am) - but when the dark clouds of "restless, irritable and discontent" descend upon me - I'm definitely "anti" - anybody in my face. At these times, "well-intended" advice, suggestions, attempts to "cheer me up," fly like a lead zeppelin.

I decided to incorporate some of what I had decided, were necessary "errands," into a morning ride on my motorcycle. I had to work, beginning mid-afternoon, so this wasn't going to be a "long ride" - but it most certainly would traverse more asphalt; than was minimally required, to complete my errands.

I have experience with meditation, walking/exercising, journaling,  and it all plays an integral part of my wellness - that is of course, when I actually consistently incorporate these things, into my wakeful day. None of the above would occur this day - that part of me that perhaps, would benefit the most, was making a strong case for taking a pass (which is summed up thus: "Fuck it!!)

I got my riding gear on & went downstairs to the underground parking. There held in suspended animation, was seven hundred odd pounds of trusty steed, just waiting to be unleashed.

I put the key in the ignition - it actually went through my mind, "am I in the best frame of mind to be considering being in "care & control" of this motor vehicle? I pulled out the choke, gave the throttle a quick twist and hit the start button......

The sound of this beast waking from it's slumber (all 1500 c.c.'s of it) amplified by the acoustic properties of the underground parking was... well enough to wake the slumbering - including me. The sound and palpable vibration, instantly transformed my disposition. After a brief warming of the engine and stowing my stuff in the saddle bags - I would soon be ushered to a particular form of freedom on my Milwaukee born, rubber and steel - Magic carpet.

Yes I'm aware that I am blessed to have the option to seek such freedom. I'm also aware that my inner freedom cannot be defined by whatever I own. Nor can lasting inner peace be attained through distraction, adrenaline rushes, or seeking to alter my inner state, through outside means.

I have run the gamut... I have sought first solace and eventually oblivion, through alcohol and drugs - that represents 15 years of my life.  Over the now last, over thirty one years of my "sobriety" - I have compulsively exercised (in the form of running) obsessed on attaining the magazine physique, spent a small (maybe not so small) fortune on all sorts of "quick - but not cheap" fixes. Sex, drugs, rock & roll - spirituality (in all shapes & sizes) - all of it, cobble stones that comprise the road; I incrementally chose. None of it necessarily problematic (except when it is being used explicitly to escape myself)..

There is no motorcycle fast enough to out-run myself. But there is no crime in seeking those "zen-like" states - and whatever brings you there. I'm not advocating everyone go out and buy a motorcycle -I'm not advocating anything.

I know full well, there may come a time when I can no longer handle the bike. One day when I was out at the Harley shop there was an older gentleman (meaning "older" than me!) and he was looking at the 3 wheel Harley "trike"..... They are pretty cool, however just the same, he was struggling with his present reality. I was commenting to him - "what a beautiful bike", he was looking at! His concern was "well it's either this, or my riding days are over - my bike is too damn heavy for me now!!

I felt for him - I sensed his love of riding and imagined all the experiences he'd had on his other bike. Compassion and shared humanity, maybe not what one would expect to find on the sales floor of the Harley shop - where it could easily be lost in the leather and machismo - but there it was just the same. An irony reared it head - this iconic symbol of freedom and non-conformity (the Harley Davidson motorcycle) though able to give one, hundreds of thousands of miles of open road, soaring heart and exhilaration; it is still not able to by-pass physical realities (that would also apply to emotional/spiritual).

My mental/emotional/spiritual state is as "they say" an inside job. I fully intend to enjoy this motorcycle while I can.

As time is inclined to do - it slips by pretty quickly; before I know it, I could be considering how I'm going to customize my electric scooter and more importantly. how will I get it to produce that guttural engine sound, and give me more of those "good vibrations!!"

Humility's Whisper

The next line of Desiderata reads:

"If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater & lesser persons than yourself."

Who hasn't compared themselves to someone else at some time or another? Even embedded within the question, is a comparison with others. The duality of "right/wrong" comes into play, in as much as,  if what I am doing through my comparison, is to try and make myself feel better about myself - then you (or something about you) is found to be wrong, so that naturally that would make me right.

The opposite is also frequently employed, by putting others on a pedestal, it can continually reinforce beliefs of inadequacy, I hold toward myself.

While it's true we can all be "mirrors" for each other, there is nothing to be gained by pumping myself up or tearing myself down based on comparison with others. Though it can appear ever present, life is not a competition. If what I'm interested in doing, is to forward my own evolution, then I can use my own life as the bench mark for comparison.

It's not my business what other people are doing with their lives or how poorly or well, they are doing it. I don't need to be "the best" at something in order to enjoy it. It's a flimsy measure at the best of times. If I were to base my self worth on my perception that I'm so exceptional at, lets say, playing the guitar - the moment I realize there is someone more skilled than me (which is another perception) the basis for my self worth vanishes.

For the record I'm not an exceptional guitar player and don't consider myself "the best at anything." I suppose there's no one that could hold a candle, at being me - but then again, some days I'd wonder about that too!

R. O'Neill (June 19, 2018)

Monday, 18 June 2018

Change The Things You Can

As I continue with the exploration of Desiderata:

The next line reads:

"Avoid loud & aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."

Vexation is defined as: "the state of be frustrated, annoyed, worried.

Certainly I don't have to look far to encounter "loud and aggressive" people - I work casually in a residential care/rehab setting - health care is a cornucopia of dysfunctional people & contrary to what you might think, often the lion's share are among the staff.

People who are far too identified with their position in an arbitrary hierarchy and who have an inflated sense of their own importance, based on illusory power within a union work environment. This doesn't begin to address what they might have "been through" in their lives which has formed their persona. 

No question extended exposure to some of these folks is the epitome of "vexation." My short term strategy is spend only as much time in their company as necessary. I get away from the floor on my breaks and get some fresh air and/or read something uplifting. The last thing I want to do is spend my break in a staff room where the collective comes together and turns the air toxic in moments.

The longer term solution is going to be get myself out of there. I was away from it, while I travelled for 6 months - coming back, made me aware of how desensitized I'd become while I was working there more regularly and how undesirable it is to be back there.

It's not immediately clear what the alternative is, but it's clear one must be sought/created. Life is too short for this malarky.

Having said that, and from the other side of the coin. Reading this reminds me, that my acting out in loud and aggressive ways, is a vexation to someone else's spirit (quite likely my own as well). The searchlight of my assessment; most certainly must shine upon and within me, as well. Truly the wisdom attained from such writing as Desiderata, is far more powerful, when one applies it to themselves.

There is nothing to be gained by my dwelling on the perceived short-comings of anyone one else. But it is up to me to learn to look after myself in the presence of these loud and aggressive sorts; optimally without meeting their aggression with the same energy.

There in lies the challenge and for me, the healing path.

R. O'Neill (June 18, 2018)

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Speak Up & Listen Deeply

The Desiderata goes on to say:

"Speak your truth quietly & clearly; and listen to others, even the dull & the ignorant; they too have their story."

Once again their is attention drawn to the need for each to speak their truth. I know in my life I have lamented "not being heard" .. but further analysis revealed that I didn't necessarily ensure my voice was heard. This is a spoke on the wheel of my reticence to take responsibility over all. After all is the end result - "I wasn't heard," based in you're not listening - or me either not speaking or taking measures to make sure I was heard. Will I fall on silent scorn and feeling wounded - if "told" to be quiet - or will I stand in my power and refuse to silenced?

On this matter (as it indicates here) the truth can be spoken "quietly and clearly." In other words there is no need to yell. Certainly I have resorted to such tactics - on occasion when I believed my voice was falling on "deaf ears." Trust me, turning up the volume does nothing to be heard. It is my experience that a clear expression of my truth can practically be said at a whisper - such is the power and presence of the truth. It will find it's mark without the need to beat someone else over the head with it. It won't necessarily change anyone else's point of view nor their behaviour (and isn't meant to). My actions and decisions are to be based on what is true for me. It is not necessary that anyone else "agrees" with what I'm doing. It is beneficial to me that it be clear where I stand. I'm not trying to convince anyone else.

Next there is the supposition that others be "heard" as well. That their truth is equally important. I suppose the reference to and framing some as being "dull & ignorant" - is to emphasize that everyone has something to say -worth hearing. And that they certainly are (no matter who they are) entitled to be listened to.

I would caution the kind of judgment that would label anyone "dull & ignorant" in the first place. To cast someone in such a negative light and then in turn use that as a justification to ignore them is not okay. I would suggest that such a practice would be more indicative of the arrogance of the one doing the judging than any accurate appraisal of the one being judged.

There is no just cause to deem anyone "dull or ignorant" and certainly not to conclude they have no life experience, current views or visions for the future that could be of great value to any discussion.

They get up in the morning, put their pants on (assuming they wear pants) one leg at a time; the sun shines equally upon them, and if the two of you stand in the rain - I don't care who you are, you will get wet.

If you are so enraptured with what you perceive to be your own gifts (and believe that some how gives you an elevated status over others) this hierarchy exists only between your ears; further if it is then supposed to be just cause, to refuse to even be curious about, the gifts of another - you might consider acknowledging these gifts you wear like a badge - with a modicum of grace and gratitude. Chances are you've done little or nothing to develop them - so what makes you think, you deserve some special recognition.

Those that cast dispersions and judgement upon others are the true embodiment of dull and ignorant. It serves no useful purpose to single them out. It does merit an ongoing self-assessment for any behaviour such as this from myself. I am fully aware of the pain such behaviour causes and that is not how I want to present in the world or the contribution I wish to make.

R.O'Neill (June 16,  2018)

Friday, 15 June 2018

The "Gold" Standard

My apologies for the delayed continued treatment of "Desiderata."

The next line reads:

"As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons."

Similar guidance comes via the bible - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

In the case of the Desiderata, there is the added provision: "without surrender." For me, what that is suggesting is that (I) or one, not abandon themselves in order to attempt to gain or maintain the good favour of someone else. ("To Thine Own Self, Be True....") Consider how powerful and impactful societal grooming has been through espousing the virtue in being self-sacrificing. Certainly that can become a problem if taken to extremes.

Personal experiences have taught me that while people I might encounter in my day to day life, may present as "disagreeable.." - it certainly doesn't serve to butt heads with these people; especially if I need to continue to work with them, or this person is on the other side of the counter, where I hope to then get "service." Defensive/offensive behaviour certainly will wreak havoc in personal relationships.

Of course in the case of someone that is an abusive presence,  I don't surrender my safety/well-being, it's up to me to remove myself from these situations, whether it's a personal relationship, an employer etc. "Being on good terms," does not mean I'm willing to "take in on the chin."

The opening phrase begins: "As far as possible..." - this I would suggest is not necessarily a fixed way of being. It might look different from one day to the next (even toward the same person). All I can offer is my best (as determined by me). I don't do so with any intention to be taken advantage of; or, to be treated poorly. I can and will, utilize a fully functional "No."(when it is deemed necessary).

The other side of the coin is, that seldom (if ever) is my being disagreeable warranted (let alone effective). Truly I only hurt myself when I behave in a hurtful manner toward someone else. 

Unquestionably when I have felt hurt and not had the where-with-all in the moment to take ownership of that, I have lashed out defensively and have been every bit as offensive as my perceived perpetrator.  Those "good terms" need to exist within and toward myself as well. Consider what would there be to "defend".. if I believed there was, nothing to defend?

So I'm advocating for myself, some sort of middle ground. I neither wish to be a door-mat, nor do I wish to be a reactionary, retaliatory perpetrator either.

I can certainly be kept busy monitoring, "my own eye for a sliver, rather than pointing out the log in someone else's."  
Some continued focus on developing some humility, self-empathy and compassion can go a long way toward how I relate to others.

I am practicing a respect and valuing, of my own inner peace. In doing so, the importance of this inner state of being, can be preserved by not being so quick, to "surrender" it, when faced with conflict. So then, how can I be true to myself; while preserving my inner peace, at the same time not giving in "just to keep the peace - which ultimately leaves me in a state of turmoil.

Again, "all persons" - includes my (one's own) self.

R.O'Neill (June 15,  2018)

Friday, 8 June 2018

Piece-meal to Peace

I felt inspired to use the piece: "Desiderata" as daily writing prompt. Therefore I will take it one line per day and write into/around, what ever that theme contains. This then could include my past or current experience, and anything that comes through for me, at the moment I'm writing.

This study/treatment of this old poem operates under the premise, that there's no need to "reinvent the wheel.." In other words, I can relate and express myself "originally," upon something that already exists.

So to begin:

"Go placidly amid the noise & haste, & remember what peace there may be in silence."

To begin with placidly is defined as: "not easily upset or excited."

So then the suggestion is that in the presence of "noise & haste" - I maintain an air of composure. Certainly as an urban dweller, I can vouch for the incidence of both noise and haste. Particularly now with (as noted in the media) "unprecedented volumes of construction is occurring" - roads and residential/commercial. Many are in a great hurry, to go - (God knows where) so much so, they are willing to place themselves and others in jeopardy.

Just today, I popped out (on my motorcycle) to do a couple errands. I was on my way home when while in traffic, and waiting to make a turn; I could see, that though I was proceeding to turn into the closest most available lane ... the vehicle turning through the intersection from the other side was not intending to do so. I yielded (my "right of way") the women driving the car making the turn waved and appeared pleased with both her getting one car length of additional asphalt and her perception of the courtesy extended by me. The point is I didn't "give" her anything... in the interest of staying alive I didn't insist on my right-of-way as to do so would have got me creamed while she executed her illegal turn and cut me off. Of course there are times when I offer courtesy on the road - I'm not however interested in having my epitaph read: "I had the right-a-way!!"

So what I'm saying is I can contribute to the noise and haste (which admittedly I most certainly have done) and continue on occasion to do - though I do make a concerted effort to preserve my inner peace or I can choose differently.

I most definitely "remember" the peace available - in the silence. Although on some occasions, it would be have I have obliterated it with considerable inner (and at times, outer) racket. There are countless examples in my life whereby I have tasted the sweet peace in the silence - but not far from the "cushion" where it was attained I go about creating an uproar. Naturally, I've often rationalized said ruckus, with a heaping helping of righteous indignation. All I've ever managed to attain thus, is an explanation for why I'm feeling so agitated and irate - in other words the righteousness did nothing to bring about any peace - it just gave me an excuse for my foul disposition. And as I consider it now, most often (if not always) just compounded my dour mood.

As far as I can determine - the noise and the haste, are not going away anytime soon. All I can do, (drawing from the wisdom of another old standard) - "Accept the things I can't change" & have the wisdom to know, the only one I can change, is myself. In the above mentioned traffic scenario, there was no "incident," because I chose to deal with the situation proactively. I haven't been back on a motorcycle a very long again - but I definitely adapted a certain vigilance, from when I frequently rode my bicycle. In some ways the two modes of transportation, have some parallels. One need assume complete, responsibility for their well-being on the road. The truth is, you as a cyclist or motorcyclist, are largely invisible, in the consciousness of many drivers (that is until you're being picked out of the grill of their car) - so I never assume, I'm being seen. Also due to a skewed sense of entitlement, far too many drivers, believe they have more right to the road, than you do, and they will take it. Whether this is derived from plain ignorance or lack of attention,  in the intersection, is no place to have such philosophical debates.

I'd maintain that a general practice of stress reduction and attention to well-being better prepare one to weather the onslaught of noise and haste. I can leave early - so that I'm not "running late" and contributing to that haste. If I'm inevitably going to be late, then I can try and call ahead and take the pressure off myself and just arrive when I get there.

Another key element for me is to deal with the feelings that are triggered when a situation arises while navigating through the world of noise and haste. I certainly feel gratitude when I am guided to successfully avoid a traffic altercation. But I also feel the surge of adrenaline, a mixture of fear and anger. It's up to me then to determine, do I need a "time out.." in the motorcycle scenario, to continue in traffic, afterwards, if I'm still agitated etc. doesn't hold me in good stead for further negotiating upon the road. The same would be true with personal interactions. I need to find a way to get back to my centre and place of calm.

"Road rage" does not make any form of positive contribution to the world. Neither though is it practical to commence meditation in the middle of downtown traffic. It is possible, to employ some relaxing breaths, at the next light or if need be, pull over somewhere & just chill.

It is indeed a gift to avail myself to the peace in the silence - it is also a very powerful awareness for me to realize that the loudest voice breaking the silence, is my own.

R.O'Neill (June 07, 2018)