If I’m honest, “nothing” is something I’ve ever never been all that good at doing! All my life, there seems to have been a logger-head situation between an aspect of me that wants so desperately to stop everything, to just get off the merry-go-round, cease all the thoughts and just be…and an aspect that can’t bear to be inactive. That latter part has generally got its way, being the louder and more dominant-seeming aspect, and so I struggle to be still for even a few moments, generally speaking. Even when I notice how much I’m enjoying the stillness, part of me clamours to get to a keyboard to share all about the sensations I’m having (well, look at me now…), to multitask with something else or plan ahead. It’s a typical state we seem to have got ourselves into as human beings, and I’ve been all too aware of it for the longest time though, paradoxically, being aware of it doesn’t solve it…just as knowing what it is to be “zen” doesn’t make it happen.
Yet since my AuraTransformation™, in amongst the many and varied, incredibly layered and (still) far too new and personal experiences to be noticed is that I’m getting somewhat better at inching closer to this kind of stillness or abstinence from “doing” or “cogitating” all the time, even if it catches up with me eventually (yes, like now). Its subtle and its like the butterfly that, as soon as you show you are aware that its there, flits off to land in someone else’s back yard. Its made me start to see things in a somewhat different light and appreciate how others get closer to what, to me, was previously so elusive as to be necessary to almost “write off” as unachievable or even undesirable to avoid disappointment. For instance, my husband is going on a five-day silent mediation retreat in a few weeks and, whereas I previously supported him in this but felt it was not “my thing”, I suddenly find myself almost envious and looking forward to a time when I could do something similar; this is a new urge. For me, I imagine, it would be torturous, one of the hardest things I ever attempted…and yet, also, transformative and so incredibly powerful that I doubt I would ever be quite the same again. Perhaps this is because I am starting to gain a real glimpse of this place it would allow me to step into, uninterrupted, for a sustained period of time whereas, for now, its something I’m having to grab onto in ever-more eager handfuls, like sand running between fingers, when I can.
On my walk today, in gloriously golden though bitingly cold February conditions, I found myself putting one foot in front of the other so slowly as to almost not be walking so much as taking a series of joined-together pauses. I was on the familiar pathway up the hill towards the churchyard whose bench I like to sit on…ostensibly to “meditate” (for as long as my fidgety dog will let me) but, typically, this turns out to be somewhere I tend to cogitate about what I’m going to “do” when I get back home in twenty minutes or so. But today I was in a different groove, even as I was still putting one foot in front of the other, long before reaching the bench, like a walking meditation. It was like I was straddling the gap between two possibilities and one of those was allowing me to notice things going off in my environment without engaging with the attachments around them or falling for the mind-trick that generally gets me drifting into thoughts of past or future. This got the other part of my awareness wondering what it would be like to be able to take in sensory stimuli all the time, without having the associations and responses that come with a life-time’s worth of such attachments to what we are experiencing in the moment. Really, when do we ever get to do that since every single response we have is coloured by previous experiences quantumly entangled with whatever stimuli we are being exposed to? For instance, for me in that moment, what would it be to hear the drone of the light aeroplane looping-the-loop up above and respond to its sound at face value or with straightforward curiosity, maybe even with a sense of dislike or annoyance at its waspish noise breaking the tranquility, instead of feeling somehow that I quite like it for the way it signals the imminent arrival of bright summer days or acts as a sound-trigger that germinates the seed of some old nostalgia about lazy afternoons in my childhood garden. Or to walk without a particular song playing in my head because it reminds me of, again, something to do with this time of year in my youth. Or to enjoy this particular walk because of its inherent beauty, not because it is also layered with all the memories of a zillion other walks along this same path by myself or with the family when the children were growing up chasing each other or throwing balls around. Its not a case of wanting to eradicate fond memories but to not be so dictated to by them that every response is almost a program running in my head. The possibility of such experience is something I would like to get closer to the more, in fact, I seem to be getting there at last…like all my stray memory sectors got tidied up, made coherent and put into folders in the last week or so; so that, now, they are optionally there when I want to gain access to them but are not spilled out knee-deep all over the floor of my mind. I feel clearer and better able to access what feels inherently “me” in each moment; not the amalgam of many learned responses triggered like the knee-jerk reactions of a memory sponge. Better still, I seem better able to leave the files on their shelves and go into experiences with the sense of being the virgin explorer of new territory; a new arrival equipped with basic curiosity and a fundamental love of life.
What must it be like to have that near-death experience and, for a few moments, to suddenly see your own life with all of the filters removed…for there is nothing that we experience through human eyes that isn’t seen through the tinted glasses of a life-time (or more)’s accumulated experiences, belief systems, good and bad associations, cross-references with so-called information from a multitude of variably reliable sources and all the many layered stitching of the whole vast tapestry of our life. What we would see in such a moment would be so obvious to us, as though all the scales fell of and we could take in the unobscured view of what was really important to us without all the piffle and distraction; and unlikely that we would ever have to see through all those programs again once their spell had been broken. What must it be to then go back into life and really, with fullest attention, see a tree with golden light fanned on the ground beneath its strong silhouette, to notice the extraordinary beauty of a bird-song as through for the very first time (and then to really hear all its complexities, not just tune it out as far too commonplace to be bothered with), to notice the way sunlight creates iridescence on water that defies life’s regular colour palette, to notice the animation of all those teeming sensations in your limbs as you walk and the astonishing efficiency of nerve impulses that travel from brain to sinew so fast that you get to move your legs with hardly a moment’s hesitation after the initiating thought. Is this what it would be like to relearn life after some sort of devastation like a stroke, an injury or profound loss of memory, where what we once knew would have to be remembered and remastered as though from scratch; and how do we get to regain the marvel-factor that must come with each small achievement or observation following an event such as that without having to go through the terrible loss or trauma of anything being “lost”, even if only temporarily? How do we get to that level of awe and appreciation without the devastation of severe illness or a close brush with death? Because, as a species, we need these perspectives more than we ever did; they round us and they rebalance us in ways critical to our ability to thrive and survive.
Stepping closer to this perspective is where I seem to be at and there is a subtle yet powerful tipping of the balance of importance that I seem to be giving to such experiences over the endless “doing” that has always dictated my life so far, even when I gave lip-service to a more meditative life (for all those years of doing that, I never really got close to this though, paradoxically, I always tried so much harder). Which takes doing slightly oddball things whenever the whim takes me, I find; and pulling rank when that other part tries to insist there are other things I urgently need to be doing. Like, when I got home from my walk and, though its been no more than 5º today (and was snowing just last night), I kept my work computer switched off and, instead, wrapped myself in layers and blankets in a deckchair in order to sit there in the slowly setting sun of my garden for a couple of hours doing precisely nothing. It wasn’t the obvious thing to do as I have been in a whole lot of pain this week and cold is an agravant yet I felt I knew what I was doing and this just wanted to be done more than anything supposedly more pressing or logical. Just closing my eyes or soft-focusing towards where the birds were flitting with their iridescent tipped wings around the bird-feeder by the budding cherry blossom tree, listening to the sound of their wings as they darted overhead, enjoying their trust and proximity and, otherwise, just being there; nothing more. No thoughts, no projects, no cogitations, no nostalgia, no planning, no reason for doing this, no reasons I shouldn’t be doing it either…just allowing. Its nothingness generated more power inside my human engine than I can amply describe; its inactivity the most productive way I could have spent my afternoon…this was no holiday, it felt essential to the very core of my very being.
Its new territory for me; you could say, a new balance of power or carving-up of key roles inside that lifelong behaviour paradox of mine and I think I like it. I’m already noticing far more than I ever did, marvelling at details that are as commonplace as they are routinely overlooked, feeling as though life just lit-up from the inside and took on a whole other sheen. With it comes a sense of being more fully alive, more abundant, more thrilled and excited and optimistic than I can easily describe or give reason for…and it was there all the time, I just couldn’t seem to see it so clearly until I allowed myself to stop and then integrate this “stopping” aspect into my life on a fifty-fifty basis with all the other stuff, not just making it into a spiritual hobby made to fit around other priorities. This is not just a case of ceasing all thought and activity occasionally, as I thought I had been doing so amply before I cleared down my entire system, which felt cluttered up beyond description until now, for all the many years “work” I had done clearing it (and what I am describing feels way more integrated than meditation; far easier to drop in and out of in the midst of everyday life). Rather, it involves allowing myself to sense there is a whole other layer to that area of potential, beyond all ideas that have become so knotted up with who I think I am, and then reaching fearlessly into the territory, beyond what was still, really, conditional or learned or held within boundaries, identities and expectations…far out there into realms so unexplored by me that they have no form or preconception; and this is only just the beginning of their full collaboration with that more active aspect of who I am.
It’s surprisingly difficult to ever do ‘nothing’. It is something I can do sometimes, but then I’m always reaching for words to describe it, just as you mention. I probably find it easier to do ‘nothing’ when I’m walking – sometimes the thoughts and the plans creep in, but quite often I can just enjoy the world for what it is.
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