Posts tagged awareness
Beavers building their dams
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There are some people in the world that are very determined to debrief. Regardless of the situation you might be in with them they need to download. They need to tell you what’s happening to them, why it’s happening, what it means to their life and so on. This doesn’t always feel like a conversation in fact it feels more like you are being talked at than conversed with. For the listener it can feel as though you are cornered, trapped until the story ends unless you can find a means to contribute or your phone rings and you can say it’s really important that you take the call. Good listeners, I presume, have means to withstand or perhaps even enjoy this type of information exchange. There is a difference between someone carrying you along with a story and an outright information dump. It can be particularly difficult if you already know the story but the teller pushes on regardless.

You might be busy, you might have a hundred things to do, but the neighbour, or your child, your parent, your partner or your colleague doesn’t see that. They just see a person before them. A set of eyes and ears that can perceive their information and regardless of your interest they must share it with you.

When I’m caught in this situation I imagine a beaver building a dam. They go about their task with determination and a single-minded focus. They are doing what they have to do. They can’t stop, they can’t waiver. Just like the determined little semi-aquatic mammals, some people are trapped by their biology and their life experience. While a process of self-awareness could assist them, in these moments they have no alternative but to push on, to relive their experience and give it to you with as much detail as possible. Seeing someone in this process, in this uncontrolled one-way information dump, has at times triggered my compassion. I’m not so much moved by the story but I am moved by the human being before me that is unaware of their actions to the point that they can’t see the human being in front of them is smiling politely and is not really interested. At other times I give my all to listening to the details. I pick apart what the person is saying and try to see if there are sensible things I can say to help them. There are other times when all I can do is allow the process to come to its natural end, escape when I can and take my battered psyche and lick my wounds. Ok, a little over dramatic but let’s face it, we have all heard things from time to time that we wish we could un-hear.

To be fair, I’m no different. I do it too. I’ve caught myself debriefing. I’ve felt the need to share as much as the next person. And this has made me wonder what is it about telling other people things that is so important? Does it help us validate our fleeting existence? Does it assuage an unconscious fear of being meaningless? I for one am guilty of pandering to a desire to make people think and more importantly to make people laugh. But so much of what goes through my mind is lost once I’ve thought it and moved on. It’s only what I share that remains. But for how long?

I don’t have any great answers. What I can share is that I think it’s a fine line between sharing a deep and meaningful conversation and thinking you are sharing a deep and meaningful conversation. Sharing ultimately creates connections and as social beings those connections underpin our sense of well-being. Perhaps that is what we are grasping at when we don’t stop to consider if we are truly sharing or just downloading. So if you do find yourself captured, remember while listening you can also observe and as our brains are very clever we can take in multiple means of information. We can console a listener and have compassion for them while in the same instant disagree or hold what they say in contempt. We can also observe our own judgment and perhaps consider how similar we are to the person in front of us. A human being caught in any behaviour that is not totally under their control is a being that deserves understanding. If they have no tools or means to bring about awareness how will they ever have self-understanding or change their behaviors?

Beavers however, to the best of my knowledge, don’t concern themselves with such things. They just go about building their dams. It’s only we humans that expend the same or more energy on thought around an action as the actual action its self.

Information dump over. I leave it to you to consider.

 

Evan Shapiro www.amazon.com/author/evanshapiro

This blog is edited and used with permission of the author. Originally posted @ www.evanshapiro.net/blog

STOP pretending START living
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Being alive, feeling truly, fully alive, as though your life depended on it, is the result of a healthy meditation practice. In fact, after developing the habit, this vividness of being becomes the side-effect which lingers with you, eventually becoming your default state of being. That’s if you don’t get all caught up in trying to meditate! So it would be correct to say you can’t meditate if you’re trying to meditate, or to quote Yoda “Do or do not, there is no try.” But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves… 

I first discovered meditation in 1996, in fact it actually discovered me! But that’s a story for another time. At any rate, I was in my late 20’s living a dream life in the most famous city in the world, New York City! I had a career in high fashion, there were celebrities, models, art, parties and the rest. My life was on the brink of my first major implosion. Everything I was trying to do was producing the opposite result. My career became my jail, my dreams became a painful reminder of what I was NOT and friendships triggered feelings of isolation. My self-image was as dark and all pervasive on the inside as it was a shiny pretend facade that I polished on the outside. There was something creeping into the world I had created that threatened to demolish its foundations and I didn’t want to see it. The cracks were obvious to those around me but I couldn't hear my friends concerned voices and to admit any of it would be like smashing the floodgates open, and that would just be inviting the thing I feared most.

It was at this time that I found myself walking into The Three Jewels, a Tibetan Buddhist bookstore and Tea House in the Lower East Side – it was their opening day. I really don’t know what it was that moved me to walk in, but I did and it was an impulse that I’d be grateful for for the rest of my life. They offered FREE or by Donation meditation classes and I jumped right in, ready to treat the symptoms – imagining that once I meditated I’d be “cured” of the pressure building. And “cured” I was, but not in the way I imagined. 

I learned to sit and on the first sit, the young monk said: “if you think your mind is “yours”, if you think you have control of your mind, then let’s focus your mind on your breath for 10 rounds of inhales and exhales without letting your mind move onto anything else but your breath.” Sounds easy right?

I thought this was stupid! The monk was stupid, maybe this was a bad idea, why were people so stupid? But I couldn’t get up and walk out. I was sitting at the front of this stupid class, with a whole bunch of other stupid people who were wasting time counting their breaths! How could this possibly help anyone! I had real work to do! Since I was stuck sitting there I decided I could show them up. I would out-perform all the other breathers. So I started focusing my awareness on the sensation of air moving into my body through my nostrils. 

It was surprisingly invigorating. I was re-discovering the pure sensation of breath for the very first time. I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten how air fills our lungs and oxygenates our bodies, this most basic, natural exchange between the world and me. I had been doing this since I was a child. I imagined my childhood lungs filled with air. I remembered being a child – I could see myself playing outside, feeling the air on my face, my friends around me laughing and joyfully playing football cards in the sun. Then, out of the blue, a voice interferes with my experience. “If You find yourself wondering from the sensation of the breath, just gently bring your attention back to your breath again.” I hadn’t lasted more than one inhale. I don’t know how long I was lost in my wondering thoughts. I tried again, and then again. I left the Three Jewels that day “cured,” of being lost in the symptoms. In its place an infinitely more powerful thought arose, “if I do not control my mind…then what does?” This question burnt in my mind enough to keep me returning to The Three Jewels day after day, learning the basics of an active meditation practice.  The practice put a stop to pretending. Twenty Years later, I sit on a cushion at The NEW Three Jewels, teaching all kinds of New Yorkers not to try to meditate, because an authentic, congruent and meaningful life really does depend on it.

Author: Hector Marcel is an accomplished  change management professional and Buddhist teacher based out of New York City.