January 23, 2017

Alone And Undistracted

 Anne LaBastille knew what it meant to be alone and undistracted.

You don't need to live isolated in the wilderness to be alone and undistracted, like Anne LaBastille did in the Andirondack Mountains of NY. But it helps. She loved her cabin as her place for "refuge, quiet, and as a peaceful place to write and contemplate". 

A lot of people would find that attractive today, but perhaps not for too long. Even LaBastille was a part time hermit, engaging in a full life outside her mountain retreat. Perhaps it was the amount of time she spent with a lack of distractions that allowed her to be as involved as she was.

Never before has being distracted while with others been so easy, and solitude so out of favour. Too much connectedness. Too many screens, apps, devices, phones, movies, shows, games, and an expanding universe of virtual realities to choose from. When does it stop?

When are we ever alone and undistracted?

Crowds and distractions are hallmarks of modern life. Consumer entertainment is everywhere, in your face 25/8. It is normal to spend long periods of time as part of actual and/or virtual crowds or groups, sharing distractions through entertainments and other illusions.

A 1996 Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll indicated 31% of U.S. residents wanted more time to themselves, whereas only 6% wanted less (Crossen, 1996).

Humans have important biological needs for attachment, affiliation, and sociality. But we also harbour yearnings to spend time alone. Just like being with others is good for us, spending time alone and undistracted also has positive benefits.

Benefits of Solitude 

- wards off potential perils of over stimulation, a very real threat in these days of infinite choice and content

- can result in decreased self-consciousness

- enables freedom of choice with respect to thoughts and actions one finds intrinsically interesting

- the mind may be better attuned to, or more likely to generate, daydreams, shifting emotions, and novel thoughts and associations that contribute to creativity

- sets the stage for self-examination, reconceptualization of one's self, and coming to terms with change

- is a precondition for enlightenment

Being in solitude is a common spiritual practice across time and traditions. Just ask Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and the Buddha about solitude, and they will tell you what wonders they discovered. You must admit, that is a pretty good endorsement.

You do not need to be a spiritual leader, or wilderness hermit, to gain the benefits of a little solitude now and again. You just have to remember to make it happen. It may be beneficial to set aside some time each day to practise quiet listening in solitude.

It can be done inside, or outside. In the city, or in nature. Still or moving. At home, or away.

Do not try to force anything and do not give yourself a hard time if you are not able to do what you hoped. Do what you can to make time to be alone and undistracted, and most importantly, be kind to yourself in the process.

Bring that kindness into the interactions you have with all life. Authentic experiences of solitude will ultimately bear fruit in greater kindness and compassion toward ourselves, others, and the planet.

January 20, 2017

Beauty Abounds

I think every carrot from the garden is a gift of beauty from the Earth. Every carrot, large, small and differently shaped.

There is a lot of pain in the world right now. It is real, and it is not necessarily your fault. Brace yourself, after today there is likely to be a lot more.

Joe Brewer thinks that what you are feeling is a symptom of capitalism dying.

It is that, and more. It is just about everything we know that is dying. Systems that we have relied on for decades are ceasing to deliver the goods. Diminishing returns are everywhere. No one seems to know what to do, although times like these do spawn slick sales people that appear to have all the answers.

The death knell of change even tolls for The Circus, which is closing after 146 years. The billionaire owner said something to the tune of "more has change in the last 10 years than the last 40". A lot of that change has been ugly, and not just for the circus.

In spite of this, beauty remains.

Yes, there is a lot of ugliness out there. But there is always more beauty. Ugliness and pain have limits. Beauty is infinite.

But only if we have the time and calm state of mind necessary to perceive it.

Now, more than ever before, it is important to find the beauty in every moment. Because there is always something beautiful regardless of where you are at. Open yourself to it, and it will appear. Enjoy it. Revel in it. Share it around.

As the rate of change continues to accelerate, and as yucky stuff rises to the surface, we need something to get us through. That something is the beauty that exists in every moment. It is a salve for the mind.

Then, refreshed and reassured, we can do what needs to be done.

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