Saturday, March 19, 2011
The 10% Solution
The learning curve keeps on giving. I was just interviewed on an internet radio site for my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer. It was probably a very small station by comparison to other internet feeds, but I was happy to be asked to speak about my book. The woman who asked me to be on her radio show, Jennifer Hillman, lives in Tucson and is a life coach. She was taken with the themes of my book and I was happy to expound on them while she was at my booth. Jennifer is a hard working and very spiritual being.
While we were dialoguing on the phone, she asked me many questions about how the book came about, what provoked me to write such an honest and forthright memoir, what was the most difficult section to write, what was the most fun to write, how I published it and what expectations I had about the book's trajectory. There were many more questions because it was an hour show, but I was struck by the honesty of questions. I had to be concise and honest in my answers, of course, but it was also a discipline in listening and and it gave me even more clarity about what my path, my Tao, in life. In short, I was challenged.
One of the ideas I'm thinking about lately is that it is important not to invest 100% of our energy and emotion into situations in life. Eckhart Tolle in his book, The Power of Now, writes exquisitely about staying present, being conscious in life and reflecting on ways to raise the level of our conscious being. One of the ways that Tolle and the yoga philosophy blend ideas is in the area of detachment.
For those who do not understand this concept, let me say that that is doesn't mean that we are not empathetic or sympathetic or caring. On the contrary, the way we express those feelings in any situation is to understand the nature of what we are observing. If we jump right in to the fray, into other's issues and problems and catastrophes, we lose objectivity.
Detachment involves standing back (mentally and emotionally) and disengaging about 10% or more even when we are confronted by other beings. Listen and observe more and and our reactions will be appropriate to the moment. It might sound cold to an untrained ear, but the intention of being present fully when helping a friend or family member or any human being will increase mindfulness and awareness. If we are not fully present, we cannot be of service because emotion and clarity become difficult to come by.
Which leads me into my favorite subject: meditation. Jennifer asked me if I take time daily to meditate, to the clear the mind (or try to because sometimes that doesn't work all that well), but to at least let the thoughts go by without attaching emotions to that thought. In truth, meditation isn't precisely the absence of thought because we will always, always have a thought every second or so. But the intention is to let the thoughts go by - as my master yoga teacher, Max, says - like a cloud passing. Just watch the thoughts without labeling them, judging them or attaching emotion to them.
I also learned in my drug counseling work that when the limbic brain takes over - our pain/pleasure center - consciousness is hard to come by. We make decisions on the basis of the unconscious, which resides in the limbic brain, which can lead us to making decisions that are not good for us. So practicing a modicum of detachment - minimum 10% - we increase clarity, consciousness and understanding. We are on the way to self-mastery, boomers.
Simple, huh? Yeah, but it takes practice.