Thursday, September 15, 2011

Change Yourself, Change The World Part 1

This blog is specifically for a friend (Jere') who asked "Please tell me how we can do this?" to a post I made on Facebook. Yeah, I really showed Facebook didn't I?  Never mind that post from a couple of weeks back.  

Here is what I posted:
Truth isn't specific to any religion or political ideology. The truth just is and no amount of twisting it or ignoring it will make it go away. Let's wake up and take our world and country back from those who control us with fear and the promise of a happiness that can be bought. 

Now, I'm not talking about day to day things that people are involved in that may work for them and not for others. In those regards, truth can be held by the individual and not necessarily a truth for another individual. But ultimately, there is a truth to our existence, and the way our culture and society work. That's what I'm talking about. 

Before I even get going, I want to make this clear.....

I am as full of shit as anyone else. I don't believe I'm any smarter than anyone else. I don't have any secrets that others don't have access to. Really, seeing the world differently is a choice. But it's a tough one. 

Our brains were cultural blank slates when we were babies and even a little older. We didn't recognize sound, sight, noise, or smell as being separate things like we know they are now. Everything was stimulus for us. We were wide eyed, taking in everything, with no way to really process it. We were without ego. But, then as our brains developed a sense of self, we started developing our minds and who we are. All of things we have encountered, been taught, seen, listened to, etc., started forming paths in our mind. These paths would eventually map out our personality and soon after that, our world view. We even started functioning on "auto pilot". We started responding to things automatically based on our experiences. Think about how you react to a situation. Sometimes we overreact to something and then later we think back and wonder why we got so bent. Why did we react the way we did? Because it has become automatic. We were not in control of the moment. We let our unconscious mind respond the way that it had calculated we should, based on our past. That is the very thing a person has to start working on changing, if they want to start understanding themselves and who they are a little better. It's the way to change how you feel about people and our world. Most people really do want to live a life that is controlled by love....not fear, hate, or anger. Easier said than done. It takes practice and self awareness to begin controlling your mind and not allowing your brain to function on "auto pilot".

Let me ask you this; moment to moment, what are you thinking about? Are you in the moment most of the time, or are you thinking about the past? Are you thinking about the future? People spend most of their time somewhere other than the present. There is a saying almost all of us have surely heard; "there is no use in crying over spilled milk.". Think about that. It's telling you that it's nothing to sweat. It's just spilled milk. Why be upset? That saying is about mindfulness. Realizing there is nothing to be gained from being upset or angry over something that is beyond our control. Each moment SHOULD be like that. Realistically, we are not likely to get to that place. But, we can get to a level where most of our time is spent surrounding the present and reacting to situations with a "here and now" approach. Trying to be mindful of the present has helped me quite a bit in my interaction with my wife, kids, friends, and co-workers. I don't get near as many people coming to me at work saying "Let me tell you what're gonna be pissed.". I am doing my best to take each situation and approach it from the present and use the following mindset:  There are no problems, only solutions. (thanks John Lennon)  What can I do to change any situation that has happened? What can I do to "unbreak" something? Nothing. All I have is what I can do in the present to make the situation better or fix it. 

Every time that a person takes control of the moment and reacts differently than their immediate, emotional reaction wants to, they are creating a new pathway in their brain. A different approach. The old way is still there. And it will be for quite some time. But, the less you use it, and the more you use the new path, the better things will become. The "new" way will replace the "old" way. You will slip. You will fall back into your usual patterns. But, you have to immediately change that as soon as you bring yourself back to the moment. It's work. But if you want to change your world and how you feel about it, you should be willing to work on it. 

I'm going to have to break this blog up some, because this is something I could write a book on. So, I'll leave this little exercise for you as a closing point for what I'll call part one of this "Change Yourself, Change The World" blog. 

Take five minutes every day and find a place where you can just sit by yourself without any stimulus going on. No radio. No TV. No kids hollering at you. Do this with that five minutes; focus entirely on your breathing. Feel the air coming in and going out. No effort. Just feel yourself breathing and try to only think of your breathing. When you start to float away and think about something else (your day, dinner, plans)........and you will......don't be upset or beat yourself up mentally. Just come right back to the breathing and focus on it. Just keep pulling yourself back. Start doing this every day and you'll get better and better at it. Then, throughout your day, when you think about that five minutes or this blog (and hopefully you will) stop and bring your mind to the moment. If you are doing your job, be in the present and have your mind only on what you are doing, without thinking of what you are gonna do when you get home, who will win the game, how you are gonna pay the mortgage.....just push that out of your mind and focus on what you are doing. Bring your mind into the moment. Even if it's while you are washing dishes or some little task. It matters. It's practice. Even if you can only do it for a few seconds at a time. You are retraining your mind. 

Devote your mind to the moment. Because really, that's all we have. We can't go back to the past. We can't instantly be in the future. All we are and all we will ever be is the present. The past is gone and the future is an's just an idea. NOW is the most important time of your life. Live in it. 

I realize that most people are not going take the time to watch and focus on an hour of You Tube, but if you ever get the time, I recommend this video...........

The speaker is Jon Kabat-Zinn and this video is from a class he did for Google on mindfulness. Sitting with total focus on his words and putting myself in that class room, doing everything he asked, has had a significant impact on my life. Being in the present as much as possible is the most important thing we can do for ourselves. It really is. It allows you to deal with your life on a moment to moment basis instead of concentrating on what has happened and what MIGHT happen. 

Our lives are happening right now. There is no starting gun. If you are waiting for you life to begin or waiting to be an idea of yourself, you are going to look back with some confusion at the end of your life. How many of us ask, what the hell happened to the last 10 years? They happened while we were busy thinking about other shit, like the previous ten years or the next ten years. Chances are, most of us are doing that right now. 

My next blog will focus on taking this a bit further. Trying to find out who we are. I'm not talking about our name, our body, or how others see us. I'm talking about......who the hell is that voice in my head. If you took your mind out and put it in someone else's body, would you cease to be you? No.....what is in your mind IS who you are. Don't define yourself by a job, body type, skin color, religion, political affiliation, or favorite ball team. Who are you? 

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there's no problem,
Only solutions,
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind,
I tell them there's no hurry...
I'm just sitting here doing time,

John Lennon
 "Watching The Wheels"

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