Midlife Crisis

I watched this video on youtube earlier:

https://youtu.be/AvfF7vwWN04

It offers some helpful advice on how to deal with a midlife crisis. Something I feel like I am going through at the moment.

I liked the analogy used in this video. That a midlife crisis is like a second birth.

For the first half of your life you have been focused on trying to be the kind of person you think you want to be. There’s a lot of ego, ambition, the need to be good at something, a desire to be recognized & loved as somebody of worth in the world.

Then you hit the second part of your life & suddenly it’s like you don’t know who you are anymore. All the things you aspired to be & do just don’t seem important. The person you thought you were isn’t who you really are deep down inside.

It’s frightening because everything you thought you knew turns out to mean nothing. It’s like the world around you that you are familiar with just doesn’t have the same effect on you anymore. You feel intensely that something is missing from your life.

You search at first in all the wrong places, you go back to things that helped you cope & feel good about yourself in the past, but now you can no longer find solace in them.

It is a frightening change. You are faced with a stark choice. You either run away from what you’re feeling & hide from your true self by continuing on a superficial level with the status quo; or you let go & allow the change to happen, even though it scares the hell out of you to take this step into the unknown.

Birth isn’t a pleasant experience, it is bloody terrifying. The midlife crisis is like the cocoon a caterpillar spins for itself. In the cocoon the caterpillar completely dissolves & the soup that was once a caterpillar slowly changes into a butterfly.

I feel like everything I thought I knew, thought I was, is becoming like soup & even though I’ve lived on this earth 40 years, I feel like I am now only just discovering who I really am. Things that seemed important to me before, no longer matter.

Where this is going to take me I don’t know. I feel very soulful at the moment, like someone who got off a bus in the middle of nowhere, looked around me & thought what the f#ck?

Is Meditation a Bad Thing?

I read this article today:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/11629029/Mindfulness-is-stopping-the-world-from-thinking-warns-Oxford-academic.html

Seems to be an argument on how meditation/mindfulness is bad for people; apparently it is stopping people from thinking. Which in turn stops them going outside living there lives & interacting with other people, which stops them understanding different points of view. The man in this article (who was also promoting his new book,) believes we should move away from the era of self discovery. (At least I think that’s what he was trying to argue.)

It is my opinion that this person misunderstands what meditation is. It isn’t about stopping thinking. Mindfulness is a tool we use to help us be present in the here & now & get the focus needed to gain insight. It is a practise that helps people to see the truth of something or a situation which may be troubling them. It can also be used as a way to deal with uncontrollable thoughts which can create inner suffering in many people. It can help these people gain insights into their behaviour & thought processes & help to set them free from that which is causing them suffering.

One thing I will say that p#sses me off though. I don’t like this corporate commercial invasion of  mindfulness. That isn’t what it is about either.

You don’t have to believe in God to practise mindfulness/meditation, or believe in anything spiritual; but the goal of it isn’t to improve your output at work & to reach your full potential as a robot. It is about setting your mind free.

It isn’t about stopping thinking, at least it isn’t supposed to be. Thinking is fine, it is part of being human to think. The goal of meditation/mindfulness isn’t to turn you into a mindless detached emotionless being who stares blankly at the world around them, that is a misconception.

Meditation helps you be more in charge of your head. You will still think, only that thinking will be clearer. It improves concentration, & makes the mind sharper. It helps you gain insight into yourself, others & the world around you.

The Buddha didn’t spend his whole life sat under a tree meditating, when he got enlightened & saw the true nature of reality, he got up & tried to help others see that too. He didn’t stop thinking. He was in control of his thinking. He still conversed with others, made friends & enjoyed the simple pleasures of life.

The goal of meditation is to help you see that you are alive, to set you free, to gain insight into the true nature of things & take charge of your mind.

I believe we all walk the path in different ways. Which is great, cause having different flavours makes a meal more enjoyable, if a meal was just one flavour, it would be dull. Difference is what makes life interesting.

Before I got ill & developed mobility problems, I had practised Tai Chi & Bagua Chuan for roughly ten years. I had reached an intermediate level & had learnt a lot of different forms; even though physically now I can’t do it as well anymore, one thing that stuck with me, was the idea of taking your time, the mindset of only doing what you can manage to do & being patient. There is no great hurry to learn it all in a single day. It takes time. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

It helps to know this because the huge mountain of gaining control of your head can seem daunting. It can put people off, or make them give up after only a few attempts. It helps to look at it differently. To see it as a path & each session no matter how long it is for, as a footstep on that path, all you have to do is just walk the path & as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other you will reach your destination. Don’t worry about how long it takes. Just accept yourself & walk at a pace which suits you. If you do this the mountain seems less daunting & it’s easier to keep going.

I’ve read how some people say you should meditate for hours on end, 6 hours or more a day. If that works for someone, that’s fine; but that idea may be too hardcore for many of us.

I believe people should just do what they feel comfortable doing. If it’s just 5 – 10 minutes at first, that’s fine, you just do that till you feel like you want to do it for longer. I started with just 5 minutes, but found myself after a couple of weeks or so wanting to do it for longer, so increased to 15 minutes a day, didn’t force myself, just wanted to do it for longer. I eventually got up to 30 – 60 minutes & then I stopped bothering to keep track, cause it didn’t matter to me anymore. I just do it now for as long as feels comfortable/natural for me.

No matter how long you meditate for, everytime you regain focus it is a victory. Each of those victories strengthens your inner muscle.

For some people it will happen slowly & gradually over time, & for others it will happen quickly. But either way it doesn’t matter, it’s the same path with the same destination. Some people like running/jogging to get there, others like to walk. There’s no hurry, it’s not a race, people should just go at their own pace & do what feels right to them.

  Not everyone finds enlightenment by sitting under a tree & meditating for days/weeks/months on end. There are other ways to be mindful, to practise insight meditation. You can be mindful at anytime in your life, doing any activity.

Think I’m waffling a bit now & losing the thread of what I’m saying – time for bed…

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Don’t Let Libraries Die

http://www.alternet.org/books/why-libraries-matter-more-ever-age-google

I remember when I was roughing it years ago, the library would be a place of sanctuary. It didn’t matter if I was homeless, noone looked down on me or barred me from entering. I could go there, keep warm & dry if the weather was crap, & read & find out about all sorts of stuff.

That’s the cool thing about libraries they’re open to everyone & they’re free, you don’t have to spend money to be there, no pressure to be a consumer, all the knowledge on the shelves is available to everyone.

I don’t want libraries to end up going down the private route of becoming another cold corporate monopoly.

I know books use paper, but we don’t have to kill trees to make paper. Good quality paper can be made out of hemp.

I like libraries… Don’t let corporations kill them.

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Insight Meditation 6

As it always seems to be at the beginning, meditation was a bit ropey at first. Fears & anxieties overwhelming me, I felt that familiar panic attack sensation, a tight chest closing in on it’s self, a feeling of sinking & freezing up at the same time. I regained my focus however, remembered I was meditating, & became aware of how my body was reacting to my anxiety. I relaxed my hands, noticing how tight they were gripping each other, took deep breaths, told myself I was just experiencing a panic atrack & it would be over soon, in fact I was already over the worst of it & I practised some very simple yoga exercises I learnt from YouTube, turning my head left & right, then interlacing my fingers & stretching my arms up & outwards & from side to side. I opened my eyes & focused on a point in front of me on the ground. Things started to mellow & I thought about how each time I regain focus in meditation it is a success. Doesn’t matter if I only manage to focus for a split second in a single session, it is a successful meditation.

I had some God thoughts, & attempted a prayer but then forgot what I was praying about mid sentence & laughed & wondered why that was so funny, & then thought it didn’t matter & if there is a God, he probably found it funny too.

Then my thinking went into guilt & regret, things I wish I had done; & things I regret doing. Going over the past & feeling anxious for the future. I focus again & at first I am not gentle with myself about these thoughts, & try to be firm about just accepting there’s f#ck all I can do about the past, what’s done is done, let it go, be in the moment.

I then think hey up there’s no need to be so hard on myself, it was just a thought man.

I regain focus & release tension & while I do, gently allow the thought to go on for as long as it wants to, but not pay it much attention, as if it was a conversation happening at another table, & I return to the focus…

Then I think about writing the next entry for this blog, then I remember I’m meditating & this thought is a distraction.

Then I think why do I want to write a blog about this anyway?

The first thing I think about is ego, but then I think it is more than that. I think the main reason for writing this blog is communication, meditation can be a lonely experience & part of being human is wanting to share your thoughts & feelings with others.

Feel a critique thought say : Buddha never had the internet, he managed to find enlightenment without talking to anyone… I’m not the Buddha, everyone is different, we all have our own way of walking down this path. Nobody should judge how another finds the truth. Someone could find enlightenment through dancing or perhaps even writing, sitting like this is only one form of meditation.

I refocus, try & get my head round what I’ve just been thinking about, decide I can’t, & let it go like a conversation happening somewhere in the background that is just a part of the ambience. I open my eyes & focus on the floor again.

I feel a bit sleepy, & tell myself I can stop meditating when I’ve successfully regained focus one more time. I can’t remember if I did though, once I lost focus again, I think I decided balls to that, & it was time to go to bed.

Insight Meditation 4 & 5

#4

Read earlier about a large oil spill on the Californian coast. It made me feel sad. All this stuff we have around us that depends on oil, right down to something simple like a toothbrush, it comes with a heavy cost to the earth.

My heart & mind was low & I struggled to be mindful. I remember reading in a meditation book somewhere that you should observe emotion, & see it as just emotion & be detached from it.

The insight I gained contradicted this idea however. I saw that feeling sorrow for the things that are harming the earth is not something to detach yourself from, people should feel grief for the things we are doing to the natural world. 

#5

I was feeling depressed.  I did another session of insight meditation. It was rough going & a bit ropey at first. Lots of oppressive thoughts, clanging like cymbals in my skull. I got so involved with them, it caused my heart rate to go up & I nearly had a panic attack. Then I remembered I was meditating & gently brought my attention back to being mindful. I remember reading somewhere that each time you do this, each time you regain focus in meditation, no matter how brief or how long it takes for you to get there, even if you can only manage it once in a session, it is a success, & each time you succeed your awareness grows stronger.

I thought for a moment I might be a Buddhist Christian, I have grown up familiar with the bible, & as a result I find it easier to relate to biblical stories & texts spiritually. And I thought this could easily be the case had I grown up in another culture like Tibet & become familiar with Tibetan spiritual texts.

Truth is I am neither a Buddhist or a Christian, these concepts are manmade – labels used to divide us. People can’t be put in boxes, cause we are not those boxes. We just are.

After this train of thought my attention returned to the focus. (The focus can be anything which connects you back to the here & now.)

My thoughts begun again, I thought about Jesus/Yeshua whatever his real name is, I don’t know… I realised you can call him either & it doesn’t matter, it is pedantic daftness to get caught up in such stuff. It isn’t so much the name that matters, but what it represents.

Sadly for me the name Jesus often  conjures up negative judgemental feelings of bible thumping right wing Christians who come across hostile & self rightous from their unshakeable faith; some of them even going out of their way to persecute & hurt others who do not conform to their beliefs.
These people are not enlightened & do not know the father.
They have completely missed the message, it is as if they never heard Jesus words. They call on his name but they do not understand what it represents.

I realise this is me judging others, & I gently let it go & return to the focus.

I feel the urge to pray. I see prayer as another form of meditation. Sometimes great insights can be gained from this practise when it is done in complete honesty & from the heart.

I pray for the oil spill in California, that Jah will help the people to clean it up & heal the damage that has been caused to the environment there. I pray that the father will honour all the living creatures that have suffered & died as a result of this oilspill, that they will not be forgotten & their spirits will find their place in his heavenly kingdom.

I then ask for forgiveness because of our addiction to oil & the modern day comforts it brings us, as these are what cause the oil spills to happen. I pray for Jah to set us free, so that we can gain insight & change our ways.

I return to the focus, then I wonder if there is a God.

Why did Jesus have to die for our sins, why was this necessary for us to be forgiven? I still don’t understand. I became aware of the good & evil within us, something we all share. Nobody is perfect, everyone has their moments were they f#ck up. We have all done stuff we regret in our lives that we feel ashamed of & wish we could change. No human being is exempt from this.

(this next part is a bit mental.)

I felt Jesus being crucified inside me. I felt the pain of the nails, & felt a hole in my side where he had been pierced. It was unpleasant & I said I was sorry & still didn’t understand & I also felt ashamed to ask for the blood of Jesus for my forgiveness, it seemed selfish & wrong to do this, that another suffered so we could be free, I…

.. A great hush fell over me & I had a strong thought in my head & it was both a comfort & a mystery.

‘I abide in you & you in me.’

As Jesus abides in the Father, & the Father in him, so we abide in Jesus & he in us. We are one with the son, as the son is one with the father. You don’t have to ask for anything, it has been done. You are free, it is just our minds that hold us back.

I felt a warm glow in my heart, then I doubted what I had just experienced & felt it subside… dissipate like a cloud of smoke.

Returning once more to the focus…
and..

  I pray for help to find the faith that can move mountains. I find faith difficult, almost impossible, a part of me just thinks this is all a load of boll#cks.

I get a questioning thought asking why this faith is so important to me?

For a moment I am silent & take a while to reflect on this. I answer that it is because I hear about tragic events, feel sad about the suffering in the world, I feel powerless to change anything, to make a difference, that anything I try to do to help will be futile, the forces which are causing this planet’s destruction are so great, & those that care about it so few, it feels hopeless & I despair. I want my prayers to be heard & answered, so that I no longer feel powerless. That’s why I want to have faith that can move mountains.

I return to focus again, sit in silence. I start to feel tired & decide to call it a night.

Insight Meditation 3

Despite my earlier feelings of wanting a wee break from this, I felt the urge to sit outside & practise again. I know this stuff sounds New Agey or hippy, I don’t see myself as conforming to either of those labels. I’m just me, a human being. I don’t really care much for what others think anymore. This is just who I am & I accept it, & it doesn’t matter anyway.

The meditation was a lot easier this time, different & more energizing. I could feel all the life around me, in the plants, birds, insects & this tiny spider who was spinning a web next to my shoulder. I no longer feel afraid or ashamed to talk about God. I felt like all this life was God. An amazing place this is, this planet is teeming with so much life, many of us, me included, just trundle about in our day to day existence & never fully appreciate the wonder of all this life on Earth.

I felt connected to it, & remembered how if someone remains still enough animals will come to them out of curiosity, a blackbird came to investigate, but so did my cat Butey, & it flew off making alarm calls.

I really need to find a way to get strong again physically. I feel so weak & fatigued at the moment, movement is a real effort. I need to be patient, I won’t get better over night, any improvement will take time. I’m thinking of trying yoga, nothing strenuous, just gentle stretching to help my muscles gain strength again.