Busy

There’s been this article circulating around on Twitter and Facebook the last few days called “The “Busy” Trap.”

Terrific piece. The author says that everyone is busy, even kids. But “busy” isn’t something that happens to us, “busy” is a choice.

And what is even more pernicious, this “busy-ness” business is a dodge. “Busy” is something you call your life to pretend that it is “meaningful.”

The author says that he is ambitious, but not busy. He is ambitious and lazy. He works (he’s a writer) in the morning and then goes for a bike ride or runs errands in the afternoon. He likes this pace. But recently something changed at work and suddenly he was sucked into the “busy” maelstrom.

But he hated it! So he fled. To an “undisclosed location” where he could carry on being “defiantly indolent.” (Love that! What a rebel!) And while he was being defiantly indolent he noticed stuff like buttercups. And he read. And he wrote.

He went on to claim in this great article (that you really need to read for yourself), that “idleness” is indispensable to the brain. He claims we need quiet and space to be creative. He says idleness is a basic human right and we should claim it because life is too short to be busy.

So now I am all inspired to be defiantly indolent and thereby feed my creativity. (And what better season, no?) Plus, I’ve been feeling in a total creative drought lately, so maybe I really need to make more dates with my hammock.

Life is too short not to.

Busy

To Sit Down, Think Clearly, And Execute Your Ideas

Quote from novelist Ayn Rand.

Image via Wikipedia

Today there was this thing by The Onion called “The Last American Who Knew What The Fuck He Was Doing Dies.”  

Although The Onion is devoted to satire, this little piece wasn’t really satiric. It was supposed to be, I’m sure, but it sounded like hard reality.

What it said that resonated for me was that Jobs was the last American who was able to 1. Sit down. 2. Think clearly and 3. Execute his ideas.

At the beginning of the summer I made this rather ambitious reading list, and wound up reading virtually nothing on it. Instead, for some reason, I decided to read Ayn Rand,. (Even though I was  a Lit major in college, I had never read Rand.)

I started with Atlas Shrugged and then went immediately into The Fountainhead.  Everyone I know was appalled that I was wasting my time reading Rand in the first place, and then doubly appalled that that I was actually enjoying her.

Nobody, and I mean none of my peers approved of Rand. But I loved her. (And I still do.) I know I probably shouldn’t love her, because I am a flaming liberal who doesn’t believe that (gravity notwithstanding), nothing really trickles down from the pockets of the rich.

What I do not understand is how Rand became the darling of the Tea Partiers and all the political groups that I find totally repugnant.  I think a lot of people misinterpret her.

The whole time I was reading Atlas, all I could think of was Steve Jobs as the present day embodiment of the Randian hero.

Steve Jobs is Dagny Taggart, Hank Reardon, John Galt and Howard Roark all wrapped into one. Steve Jobs is to Apple computers what Dagny Taggart was to Taggart Transcontinental, what Hank Reardon was to Reardon Metal, and what Howard Roark was to the whole field of architecture.

What Jobs had in common with all of Rand’s heros is that he was passionate about, and lived and breathed his work. His work was who he was, his identity. He wasn’t in it just for the money (but he made a lot of it). He didn’t give his money away, either, nor did he apologize for making a lot of it (And this is where a lot of liberals part ways with Rand, and where Jobs, too, finds his critics.)

USA Today, in its first piece on Jobs’ death, called him “mercurial” and said he could be merciless on people he didn’t think were doing their jobs, not simply firing them, but railing and ranting at them, cursing them out. My guess is he probably could not bear to see incompetence or laziness in any form.

He worked for what he earned. And his work was pure and noble and innovative. He did it for its own sake. His work and his life were the same thing. That’s what it means to live in integrity: think, feel, say, do–all the same thing.  The creative process drove him. It was his prime motivator. In that, he was just like Dagny Taggart and and Hank Reardon and Howard Roark.

He was clean. He wasn’t a fake or a hack. He earned it.  He wasn’t a second-hander. He wasn’t a parasite.  He never had his hand out, but offered the fruits of his work for the betterment of his consumers.  Without him we would still, to this day, be playing with sticks and abacuses and adjusting the vertical holds on our tv antennas instead of storing our music in the Cloud.

So when I read that Onion piece, it really reminded me of the three things I admire and strive for in my own work.  First, the ability to sit down.  Sitting  down in this context implies clearing the slate for creative work.  Jobs was a Buddhist. He probably knew something about the power of “taking one’s seat” and being quiet, and letting the mind settle into its innate freedom.

He also knew how to “think clearly.”  A unique skill in itself.  A skill that needs to be cultivated and honed over years and decades.  Mostly in silence. Like practicing any art.

And finally, and most importantly for me, he knew how to execute. Or as Seth Godin would say, he knew how to “Ship.”  Unless your ideas can be birthed into the world, they lie stillborn inside you, rotting, and putrifying your system.

I wanted Steve Jobs to live for a long time because I wanted to watch and learn from him.  I wanted to see what kind of rabbit he would pull out of his hat next. It is sad that one of the only true innovators of our time had to die so young.

As another quote I read today said: “Heaven just got a little more sleek, well-designed and profitable.”

Indeed.

RIP, Steve Jobs.  I, and the world, will miss you.

The Journey

Drink more water

Break a sweat everyday

Meditate

Learn to speak Spanish

Tend my own sadhana

Express gratitude

Get to 12% body fat

These are my “resolutions” for the coming year. But I don’t think of them as resolutions so much as things I need to do to get to My Best Self. I am excited to do these things,  find out about them, and to see what would happen if I actually could pull some of them off.

I read in the paper today that for most people, their New Years Resolutions are already toast.  (Today is January 8th).  They’re done and it’s back to business as usual. “Resolutions are stupid; I can’t do this.”

I think the big problem is that most people think of their their resolutions as skinny, treacherous tight ropes they have to inch across carefully and delicately, and if they fall: Game Over. They’re out.  (Thanks for playing.)

But what if, instead of a tightrope, we looked at resolutions as noble challenges deliberately placed along the way in a “Sacred Pilgrimage” we are making to the “Shrine of Our Best Selves”?

Because if you are on a journey, a journey that you may even think of as sacred, to find your True and Best Self,  what you now call your “resolutions” are simply part of the trail. If you do them, you’ll proceed faster and more efficiently, so you want to do them.  But if you don’t, you can’t abandon them.  That’d be stupid because progress would halt.

So when the inevitable happens, and you stub your toe, or get a blister, or it starts to rain, or you get lost, or a wild animal frightens you, you don’t say, “Fuck it, this quest is stupid, I can’t do this, I’m done.” No. You just get a bandaid, or put on a poncho, or consult a map, or carry a pointy stick to defend yourself.  That’s because you realize that the setbacks come with the territory.  You’re Indiana Jones for crissakes! You’ve got to get this job done! Even if it takes your whole effin’ life! (And guess what? It WILL!!)

Am I right?

(Of course I’m right.)

There is a Zen saying: Fall down 7 times, get up 8.

So let’s boot up and get this journey goin’!  Whaddya say?

The Power of Intention

Cover of "The Power of Intention"

Cover of The Power of Intention

It’s been disturbing me that I’ve gotten rather spotty in my posting here.  Every morning I wake up and check on myself, mainly to read (and cringe at) what kind of sleepy nonsense I managed to type into this space before I hit “publish” and then the pillow.

It’s just that it’s November, and I am not a fan of November. My skin is dry, my lips are chapped and I am already wearing down clothing, albeit just down vests at this point, but down nonetheless.

When it’s November I want to curl up and read all the books on my bed table. I want to join NaNoWriMo. I want to go to Springwater for a month and meditate. I want to wake up at the ass crack of dawn and do ashtanga with Christine again (but not feel ass-draggy all day as a result.)

I’m reading more these days (and writing less).  I’m reading Wayne Dyer’s the Power of Intention at the moment and trying to the apply its principles to my life: creativity, kindness, lovingness, beauty, expansiveness, abundance and openness. In that vein:

What if I am an infinite being in a temporary physical incarnation?  How does that change things? And what if my life is magic?  And what if everyone I contact and connect with is being brought into my life to teach me something, or point me in a particular direction?

And what if they’re not, but I pretend as if they are anyway? And what if I pretend as if everything I want is already mine (because it is)?  How does that change how I roll, how I operate, how I live?

This is the stuff I’ve been thinking about, so do you see how it might be hard  sometimes to sit down and write a blog post, especially at night, when I am newly home from my class, and tired?  Do you see how it might be hard to know where to begin?

I wonder what I’ll think of this when I read it at 5:30 tomorrow morning? Remember Rule #6, Kath.  Rule #6.

**Rule #6: “Don’t take yourself so damned seriously.”

Everyone Is Enlightened But Me

The weekend at the beach was perhaps the best time I ever had there.  The weather was perfect, the water temperature was 70 degrees warm, the surf was amazing–strong and forceful and foamy.

Our place was just “eh” but it was 100 steps from the beach and tucked away behind Rehoboth’s only Juice Bar, so I just walked down the steps to get my juice every morning: carrot, apple, ginger.  Yum.

In the evening I had a blast dancing to great music and met a great crowd of very fun people.

All the beach rituals were observed: sunrise, Starbucks Triple Venti soy lattes meditation, yoga in the afternoon, and dancing at the bar at night.

The beach was its typical “Where’s Waldo” crush of beach towels, umbrellas and dysfunctional families and I loved it all.   Jack Kornfield’s A Path With Heart was my book of the weekend, and at one point he suggested trying this exercise:

Imagine that everyone you see and encounter is enlightened–everyone except YOU. And all those people are buddhas, there to teach you something you need to know.  That would have included, for me, the crying babies, the whining kids, the sullen teens, the overbearing parents, and especially the people with no sense of personal space and boundaries. All of them were buddhas, all of them were enlightened!

It was a great exercise for me because instead of getting peeved at some petty, trivial behavior, I had to adjust my normal, “Oh you are such an A-Hole judgment and think instead: Oh, rude little whipper-snapper, you’re just trying to teach me patience, or, you badly parented little kid having a tantrum, you’re trying to teach me compassion and acceptance.

Try it sometime.  It’s a very cool exercise.  Everybody is Enlightened but you.

The More Busy, the Less Creative

I have been running around very chicken-no-headish today, cleaning, packing, tying up loose ends, so that I can leave right after Yin Yoga class tonight and drive halfway to Rehoboth Beach,DE so that on Friday morning I can stand on the beach and wave to Hurricane Earl as he whooshes past.

Packing up and leaving, even for a weekend, is majorly “fraught.”  I always use my trip to India 3 years ago as the benchmark to shoot for in packing.  My suitcase for that trip was LIGHT!  Scandalously light, ridiculously light.  Someone advised me: “You’ll get there and feel like a tourist in your zip-off safari pants and will immediately buy India-appropriate clothes in the market for a few rupees.  Don’t pack much.”

I believed her, and she was right, …more or less.

But for this trip to the shore?  Omg.  I’m ashamed.  But apparently not ashamed enough to pare down.  Nope.

The other day I read this post on Zen Habits about the concept of underscheduling and it has been stuck in my head.  This is genius, but I think you have to be a maverick to implement it in your life.

Either that or a genius.

I’m going to share the post with you here.  Let me know what you think–or better yet, comment to the writer.  As the new school year begins I think it’s the perfect antidote to “busy.”

http://zenhabits.net/cultivating-passion/

Some thoughts about aging

I can remember the exact day my mother became old. One day she was walking around in stylish clothes, sporting a nice haircut, and the next day she came home from the beauty parlor with short hair and a hideous perm.

She suddenly started to talk about “acting her age.”   I heard her say “change of life” a lot to her girlfriends on the phone. My young vibrant, youthful mother turned old and dowdy in the span of a few months.  She stopped doing her nails, wearing makeup, plucking her eyebrows.  Her clothes started looking dowdy and matronly.  She was a yo-yo dieter her whole life, but now she completely stopped caring about what she ate and how much. A French cruller from the bakery was a scandalous treat one day, and the next she was polishing off a dozen donuts all by herself in front of the TV.

She stopped going out, and her whole life  became consumed by TV– mainly old movies and roller derby. She had always been an avid reader, and then, for some peculiar reason, she just stopped reading books.

I got an email forward today about aging.  It was by a woman talking rhapsodically about the freedoms of growing old and of how she was now eating desserts everyday and she didn’t care that she had a belly, or gray hair.  She had seen too many people, she said, become obsessed with chasing after youth at a time in their lives when they should have been relaxing into life, not fighting against it.

A big part of me wanted to champion that point of view, but then I thought about my mother and her ugly perm.

Back then there wasn’t HRT, or any herbal support for women going through what my mother’s generation called “the change.”  There were few, if any, models for how to negotiate the territory between old age with its inevitable loss of vigor and vitality, and what my mother was going through which was, as I now see it, a period of readjustment.  A person doesn’t have to surrender to old age like my mother did.  My mother’s aging wasn’t a function of time or birthday candles, but of choice.

Granted, back then there weren’t many role models for how to gracefully negotiate the new territory she found herself living in, but nobody has to get a perm, or eat a dozen donuts in one sitting. She just threw in the towel.

My mother never heard the word “prana” or “life force” in her day.  It wasn’t in the air then, like it is now. Nobody went to the gym or did yoga in my mother’s world. Good Housekeeping magazine didn’t run stories about how to stay vibrant into your 60s, 70s and 80s back then.  My mother never dreamed that she could maintain youthful vitality into old age with moderate exercise and a good diet.

So when I read this email today from the happy, self-satisfied woman with the big belly and the gray hair who is now free to eat  desserts everyday if she wants because aging has given her the freedom to be unconcerned with the opinions of others, I kinda recoiled.

This is not for me. The new paradigm of how to age, doesn’t involve being self-indulgent and self-satisfied.

The new paradigm says, in effect, “Hey, let’s see how long we can keep this party going!”  If we practice a little self-control with our food, get moderate exercise, reduce stress and keep our minds sharp, aging doesn’t really mean anything.

This new paradigm is built on staying mindful and taking responsibility for  “energy management” and being  meticulous about our fuel, whether that fuel is food, sleep or fun.

If I just throw in the towel and say, “Well, I don’t have to watch what I eat anymore, or exercise, or get enough sleep, or feed my mind because I am coming to the end of my life anyway so now I can coast and enjoy the ride,” what that says to me is that you had the wrong idea about what life is about in the first place.

Life isn’t about practicing painful austerities for most of your life, and then cutting yourself a break at the end.  Life is about amping your vibe.  Period.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80.  If you want to amp your vibe and then keep it jacked up, it’s going to involve putting enough, and quality “fuel” into your tank everyday.

This means quality food in modest amounts, enough sleep, daily exercise, and daily fun.

I’m going with Dylan Thomas on this one:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And for goddsakes, whatever you do, don’t get a perm.