Author Archives: Urabrask The Hidden

6,400,099,980

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“In “The Merits of Home-Leaving,” which is the title of Chapter 86 of his book Shōbōgenzō, Zen Master Dōgen   praises his young monks for their commitment to a path of awakening and explicates the granular nature of time: the 6,400,099,980 moments that constitute a single day. His point is that every single one of those moments provides an opportunity to reestablish our will. Even the snap of a finger, he says, provides us with sixty-five opportunities to wake up and to choose actions that will produce beneficial karma and turn our lives around.”
~ Ruth Ozeki, A Tale For The Time Being

#01, How long is NOW?

I am obsessed with the Dōgen’s number (I am even thinking of getting it tattooed) that I first came across when reading the book mentioned in the opening paragraph. I remember how I tried to imagine it all, but never really had time to sit down and look at it in more details. So let’s look at it together, NOW, shall we?

Let’s start with some maths (sigh)…
A day has 24 hours, which adds to 1440 minutes,  (24 x 60), which makes 86400 seconds (1440 x 60).
So when we accept Dōgen’s figure as representative enough for the purpose of establishing the duration of the present moment (now), in each second, there is 74075 present moments (6400099980÷86400).

To establish how long does the present moment lasts would require opposite division, 86400÷6400099980, which would make a pretty small number, 0.00001349978 of a second to be precise. Almost unimaginable. Unmeasurable by our brain. Unnoticeable.

#02, From now to know

I am in love with mathematics after reading Jim Holt’s book, Why does the world exist?.
I am trying to live as mindfully as possible and if you have been through some books, websites about living the best life, you must have come across the idea of “LIVING IN THE NOW”.

I guess there’s some kind of obsession with that amongst certain circles, but let’s not go too far here. It’s a pretty neat concept, but for people like me, hard to understand. Thank God for the mathematics though, it can help to explain many things. Apparently it’s kind of a religion and as far as being religious goes, I’d say to love mathematics might as well be the most beautiful way of being it.

So,
I struggled to grasp the whole “EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING IN NOW” concept for a long long time. Only after reading the book from Ruth Ozeki and the one about how our world came into existence (which is advertised as an existential detective story and it really is) I started to understand it.
First of all, let’s look at the way we process what is happening.

We have certain amount of senses (we are taught that the human body has five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. But many neurologists identify nine or more senses, and some list as many as 21) and through these we interact with the outer and internal worlds. But the thing is, when we actually sense something, when our brain translates the sense’s sensation into a feeling, recognisable experience, the event has already happened, so we’re constantly behind THE NOW, as we need time for our neural paths to get the information from receiving sensors into our beautiful brain.

So then, how it is even possible to live in the now when we’re constantly behind it?
I guess it’s about the way we look at time. We have been taught that time is linear. Which it doesn’t seem to be (check the first paragraph, apparently time is granular).

We all can mind-travel in time. Recall past events, dream about future ones. Isn’t that also part of our living, inseparable from our attempts to be constantly present with our feelings? Is it really bad to rewind, or to fast forward? How is that experience different to the one we’re describing as the present when every presence we observe is actually a past by the time we have a chance to realise it?

So I am not too keen on advocating living in the now. If you’d say, living in the closest proximity of now as we can, then yes, perhaps. But no one lives in the now. No one, not all the time. Actually, make it never. It’s our separating of the past, presence and future that somehow makes the presence the automatic winner here. But what if they cannot be separated?

#03, Embracing the time / Frame of reference

NOW is AN IDEAL.
An unreachable, yet poetically beautiful concept. So I understand why people love it as an idea. It’s kinda cool and, I’d say, trendy at the moment.
But here’s a heretic thought.
This is the most beautiful statement I read about the life and living to the fullest. It’s from another book, with absolutely stunning title, The Two Kinds Of Decay, by my friend Sarah Manguso and it has nothing to do with now. Funnily I understood it much later on after I read her book.

“This is suffering’s lesson: pay attention. The important part might come in a form you do not recognize.

You might not know to love it. But to pay attention is to love everything. To see the future as brightness.

Everything that happens is the last time it happens. We see things only as their own fatal brightness, and there is nothing after that brightness.
You can’t learn from remembering. You can’t learn from guessing.


You can learn only from moving forward at the rate you are moved, as brightness, into brightness.”
And that’s that.

You don’t need to know how long is now.
How to explain it.

It’s much simpler.
Just…

P
A
Y


A
T
T
E
N
T
I
O
N

Know that, whatever happens, happens only once.
Nothing happens again in exactly same way.
Every moment is the paradox of birth and death, we’re simply living and dying at the same speed.
Speed of love. Speed of life.

I personally think, knowing this, the inescapable fact of life being unrepeatable is much easier way of appreciating your own being here as the most beautiful mystery than any attempts to describe how to live in the now.

Pay attention.
Pay attention.
Pay attention.

Then you love everything.

THEN YOU LOVE EVERYTHING.


Pay attention, the important part might come in a form you do not recognize

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“This is suffering’s lesson: pay attention. The important part might come in a form you do not recognize. You might not know to love it.  But to pay attention is to love everything.  To see the future as brightness. Everything that happens is the last time it happens. We see things only as their own fatal brightness, and there is nothing after that brightness. 

You can’t learn from remembering. You can’t learn from guessing. You can learn only from moving forward at the rate you are moved, as brightness, into brightness.”
~ Sarah Manguso,  The Two Kinds Of Decay

#01, Juggling

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon and I am tired after the rushed morning where I simply juggled more balls than I planned.

Or actually,
did I plan any of what happened? I don’t think so. Much of what happened, simply happened because, as Sir Isaac Newton wisely noted, for every action, there’s equally big reaction and as I left the house and started to interact with the world, the world responded to my actions.

It was quite interesting thing to observe and at some points, I actually shifted from being the one affected by what’s happening an I just kind of let it all touch me as if I was a wild animal that somehow let its own curiosity win over its fear of the unknown.

The reality that was then created might not have been immediately recognizable as a direct result of my morning actions (plus there might be more actions that I have taken long before today that we also necessary for all of this to happen), but I truly believe it is so. That much, if not everything, that happened today reflected the shift in my willingness to open myself as a active being to the outer environment and don’t be afraid that it will respond back in pretty much unpredictable way.

If I disattach from the story and distill the essence of it, it was as if I was living a dream that I didn’t even know I had. On occasions it felt kind of surreal.

I had this strange feeling, that if I haven’t read the book by Sarah, I wouldn’t be able  to recognise that right in front of me, life is manifesting itself in a very interesting and beautiful way and it is worth noticing.

#02, Remembering

I have chosen the excerpt from the book “The Two Kinds Of Decay” as an opener for this post because after a few years from reading her wonderful book “The Two Kinds Of Decay” I’m beginning to fully appreciate its depth. All that happened today would still probably happen anyway, but the fact is, my mind would definitely process it differently. And, I believe there’s equally likely possibility that none of this would happen and I am glad that I have paid a lot of attention to what was happening as it was magical.

(I appreciate that you might not see this the way I saw it, but please, when you will get a little, almost unnoticeable feeling that something important is happening, please pay attention. It truly is to love everything.)
So, what exactly happened?
My friend wanted to buy a book for another friend that she’s visiting soon and planned to try to find it in second hand book-shops in the afternoon.

I have changed my original decision not to go to carboot market today and shortly before 8am I a grabbed my daughter and we went. So I offered my friend that I’ll try to search for that book as there always are a few people selling books.
When we arrived to the carboot location it only had 30% of usual attendance. And it was beginning to rain. I didn’t feel great as I slept bad and I started to regret leaving the house. After we passed a few stalls where people were selling all sorts of junk we arrived to a table where two women we’re selling a fair amount of books. I asked, whether by any chance she has any books by Dan Brown. She said “Yeah, there’s one in that pile on the ground, fourth from the top, but I forgot the name.”

At that point I kinda knew it’s the one I’m trying to find.

And…

… it was.

Was I surprised? No.

I didn’t think it’s a miracle, or anything big, but I was paying attention. I let that moment of joy to fill my heart like it was a cup, because I knew my friend will be happy. It was as if I was I decided to live the best version of reality and enjoy everything that will come my way. Because I felt that it will be fun. Because all that is happening, is happening for the first and the last time. Always only once. So we truly must be paying attention because we can easily miss the most important part. 

~

“Nothing happens in a moment. Nothing happens quickly. If you think something’s happened quickly, you’re looking at only a part of it.

Firing a rifle shot seems to happen quickly, but what about the movement of the trigger finger? What about the decision to fire the rifle? What about all your careful target practice? What about everything in your life that happened before you decide to fire that rifle?
How can you separate the incidental from what was necessary to your decision to pull the trigger?

Nothing happens in an instant. Nothing starts happening and nothing finishes happening.
~ Sarah Manguso, The Two Kinds Of Decay

~

#03, Fabricating

I came to Starbucks where my friend was enjoying her morning with coffee and I joined her. It was raining heavily.

Once I given the book to my friend, I got to the counter and ordered myself the usual large Americano and I let Anneke to pick a chocolate.
As we were talking with my friend, she noticed a tiny white feather on Anneke’s jumper and pulled it out and shown her.

Anneke is a very curious and intelligent girl and my friend is a great storyteller. I sensed something magical is about to happen.

We started to talk about the angels and magic and after Anneke’s little naked doll got a new plait and a a dress from the golden foil off Anneke’s chocolate coin I decided to up the game and let Anneke to become a white witch. I was going to use the foil to create a magic stick for for her, but then I just peeled off the sticker off it and attached what we decided is the angel’s feather to the wooden stirring stick. As always, Anneke played her part really well. She immediately got into her role of magician and grabbed her stick as if it truly had the power to turn things and people into whatever she thinks they deserve to be.
She was showing off as always. It is her way of displaying trust. I could see she’s enjoying it, she always puts her whole heart into her plays. She wanted to turn my friend into some amazing animals, when I got to be turned into:

– a slug
– a frog
– a rat
– a snake
– a pigeon
you name it (anything she thought I wouldn’t like)
>>>

And in the end – a poo.
(Cheers darling.)

I heard that children are the best teachers and it is so true. I have to admit, that I am often guilty of not paying full attention to what Anneke says, or does and at this point, I realised how much I am missing. It is arguable whether we can pay 100% attention 100% of the time, but the point is, we just have to try our best. Tragedies have happened because of people not paying enough attention, relationships ended due to lack of attention, conversations turned bitter because of it.

Then I decided to turn Anneke into some ugly things too, but she and her new found ally were protecting the magic wand vehemently. So I decided to make my own wand. Black magic wand. The counter force to their white magic.

I took the black plastic fork and broke the middle two spikes to create a wand I called Devil’s horns.

As much as I tried, I couldn’t beat the white wand made of angel’s feather. And in the end, my black wand got destroyed. It was a great game and it was wonderful storytelling. 

~

#04, Only now exists

I cannot bring the whole story back. It all happened once and this poor description of it all just shows how important it is to be present in the moment when the life is happening. Moments move like a fluid one into another, but at any time, only one moment exists. We can look back and make a slow motion movie out of our moments, but that doesn’t bring their beauty in full. The beauty lies in the present moment.

With all of this being in the past, my heart fills with a little sadness. Of course there are many more new moments to live, but sometimes what we experienced was so magical that we somehow want it to last. 

But nothing lasts forever. Every moment is a hello and goodbye. Please pay attention to life around you. Smile. Look at things with respect, enjoy presence of your friends, family, strangers. I know I want to.

Love and light. 

Pictures in our heads

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A while ago, in a post from my friend Ally Hamilton, I read that much of our suffering comes from realising that our daily reality is far too different from the picture of it that we have painted in our head. We dream of A, B, C, but instead – D happens (what a shocker!) – and there goes our picture! 

I had a unique opportunity to observe this painful realisation in front of my own eyes as my six year old daughter broke into tears after  making a little mistake (that’s how she referred to it) while colouring/drawing a picture of a kitty from her new pyjamas which I printed on an A4 paper for her. (Basically she liked her kitties pyjama a lot so I made her black and white colouring pages of the kitties from it.) 

This is the pyjamas:

Here is the picture as it was given to her:

She started colouring it with a great enthusiasm and I could see her eyes shining. I think she was doing really well and I really liked how she added some nice little flowers onto kitty’s top. As you can see, there is only one flower there now, the rest were covered by black marker pen. 

I think it’s a pretty good looking kitty, but it was born of tears and disappointment. Here’s how it happened:

Everything went according to the plan up to the point when one more circle was added to kitty’s shirt to make up a flower. As soon as Anneke realised that she hasn’t placed the circle high enough from the flower below it to be able to add a stem she got really upset. She already had about six flowers done and it looked all great, but somehow the pen slipped, or she lost a bit of her focus and there it was, a mistake that was impossible to unmake. 

She started to cry and I sensed she might rip the paper. Huge tears appeared in her eyes and they dropped onto the paper, making her even more upset than she was. 

I think she got upset mainly because she was so close to the end of it. It looked so great and I’m pretty sure she was proud of it. But, it all was now gone. At least, that’s what she thought. 

It came to me as a real shock to see how attached she already is to the pictures in her head. How hard she is on herself for not being able to replicate her visions on the paper. 

Well, I draw and I know how it feels. The disappointment of looking at the paper and seeing something completely different to what you “seen in your head”. I think I even ended up making some animal caricature from what a realistic picture of a human should been originally. But unlike me, Anneke couldn’t decide what to do with her mistake so she just broke into tears. 

Of course I tried to comfort her and I even suggested a simple solution of drawing the flower in a slightly different way to the others, but she was having none of it. 

Finally she said, she’s gonna fill the shirt with black ink. I thought she meant, she will fill the empty space around all flowers with black marker and cover up the wrong one completely. You know, like in one of those cover up tattoo jobs. So I was colouring my kitty and when I raised my head I was shocked to see that she is covering all the flowers. 

Now I was upset.

I think it was partially because I really liked the idea of colouring the shirt in black and partially, because she didn’t accept any of my well meant words of comfort. I felt like I have failed to convince my own daughter that I love what she created. It hurt. 

It hurt, because I am exactly like that. The very same day I have tried to write an address on a letter to my friend in a really cool font, and although I didn’t have a specific picture in my head, the idea wasn’t executed very well and I was disappointed from the result. 

But when I sent her the picture of it, she replied:

“Great handwriting, as always”

I’m pretty sure she meant it, but I still hesitated to accept that I actually did a good job there. Like if I can only accept praise if I created a masterpiece. Like if anything less than perfect is not worth anything. 

Now, I understand where such bullshit might have come into my head, but I couldn’t believe Anneke already struggles with perfectionism. 

Is it because of school?  

Because she’s told to bring good grades?

Because she can see our faces when she doesn’t do something well?  

Because the children in school compete amongst themselves and she isn’t the best and she doesn’t like it? 

Because she saw me being upset after I drew something “imperfect”? 

Because I didn’t watch my language when I spoke about it with her? 

I don’t know. I really don’t know. 

I just decided to observe her and watch my language and the way I create stuff in front of her. I’m pretty sure she picked something from me there, but I need to remember this story and be more careful about how I express my disappointment from my own work. 

Even this simple story could have been told in much better way. I could have written a better letter to my friend. I could have said better words to Anneke as she started to cry. But, I didn’t. I did what I could in those moments. And that’s fine. It really is. 

I think we struggle so much with perfectionism. We’re bombarded with pictures of perfect bodies, holidays, food, cars, phones, mattresses, diets, jobs, the list is endless. But perfect simply isn’t real. You either want one, or the other. The picture of the perfect kitty as imagined by Anneke hasn’t been drawn. Instead, a pretty average picture of kitty made by her exists and I love it to bits. And I’m thinking, maybe it is the ordinary me, her, you that we need to fall in love with to live happy lives. Because can you imagine how difficult it would to be to love someone, something perfect? It would probably end up being worshipping, which I have no intention doing. I would much rather love something, someone imperfect, than worship something perfect.

And I hope that I can let go of trying to be a perfect father. I just need to be me. Imperfect, but real. And that’s what I’ll try to teach my daughter too. I don’t want to crush her creative spirit with perfectionism. There simply must always be joy in creating. That’s what counts the most.

So here’s the only flower that remained. Maybe that’s how it should have been. 

​Waiting for an idea

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I think. 
A lot.

A lot from what I think is rubbish.

My mind constantly creates a noise. Like the low electric humming of the big Riso printer in my work office. Same as the printer waits for a command to print something, my mind waits for some command to get busy thinking about something. Then, when I find something, the humming becomes part of the bigger noise as my mind starts to process the individual thoughts and throws them out into the output tray where I pick them up wondering where the hell these ideas come from. 
I think, because I hope that it is possible that eventually, after a lot of thinking, I would come up with some brilliant idea Tha will “make me happy”. I hope that the realisation of what we want in life comes from thinking. I hope that whatever it is that will make me happy is something that my mind can eventually hit when it will think for long enough. Like it is bound to find it, a treasure amongst the trash. 

Then when that great idea is found, I will get excited about it and I will move me into an action. So far, not much success. 
So, that suggests there is a fault in the above theory.
I keep hearing thinking is bad. Sometimes I get accused of thinking too much and not doing enough.

I have to admit that I probably don’t take enough actions and the actions I eventually take are not the ones I probably should be taking. 

Procrastinator? Maybe. 

Avoider? Maybe.

Afraid? Yes. 
So what can I do about it all? How to cross the bridge from thinking to taking actions? 
I’m not sure. Thinking about this probably won’t help. If it was the right thing to do it surely would have helped by now.  

But… Wait! 

What if I was thinking wrong? What if my thinking was like walking in circles, like when you get lost in the forest? It’s not walking that’s the problem when your goal is to to find your way out of the forest. The problem is not knowing which direction to walk, because sure, you can choose a direction and keep going that way but that’s just a wild guess. (Still better than not moving at all I suppose though.

So maybe thinking isn’t the problem here. The problem is that I keep thinking the same things. All over again. 
As in my my favourite movie, Big Hero 6,i need to start looking for an outside the box thinking. That is not enforceable, I cannot tell my mind “Find me an outside the box solution!” Mind can easily get stuck in certain ways of thinking and then outside the box idea becomes somewhat unachievable. 

I think the first step is to stop the mind as soon as you realise it’s down then same old track. 
I have a six year old daughter. One day she asked me whether she can draw with me. I said “Sure.

She started and did a few lines and then her face became red, tears appeared in her eyes and she ripped the paper in two, crumpled both pieces and threw them on the floor.

Through sobs she then said “I cannot draw.”

It is one thing to know that your mind is lying to you about your capabilities, and other to see someone so young being already manipulated into believing that they can’t do something. 

So let me give you a bit of analysis here:

> Anneke wanted to draw something, maybe a dog > She had a picture of this dog in her head and that picture is what she wanted to draw > What appeared on paper wasn’t the picture she had in her head > Based on her inability to draw that one picture of that one specific dog she ruined her joy she she originally had when she asked me whether she can draw with me and generalised that into the soul crushing statement “I cannot draw!” (even added the exclamation mark at the end)
Now I am her father and I always loved her drawings. Always. No lying. I think they capture her personality really well and although I could admit she’s not Picasso, quite close though, I would happily frame anything she drew. I like art not for perfection (although I like some ridiculously detailed works too), but I want art to make me feel good. 

I would want Anneke to be an artist (of any kind). But it’s her choice. So it hurt me bad to hear her already putting herself down because her little mind tricked her. 

I did comfort her and explained her that she just needa to practice, but I knew that she seen me doing the same so I was really careful to not cross the line where I will somehow lie to her. It was a lesson for me to don’t do the same no matter how much I will dislike what I drew (and believe me, I dislike probably first four, five sketches of what I am trying to draw and they all end in the bin, ripped). 
So what did I try to say? 

Basically, in the situation, should I see that my drawing went “wrong” and I didn’t EXACTLY replicate the beautiful picture I imagined, I could, before I rip the paper, stop and search for an outside the box solution. Not pretending that what I drew is great, or lie to myself, but what if somehow I could rework it? 

Because let’s be honest, if I’m trying to get better at drawing, for every good piece there will be ten bad ones. But those ten are necessary for the good one to be born. So are they worse than the one I will choose to publish, or keep? No. I need too learn to treat those maybe with even higher appreciation, like one would a child that has got learning difficulties. 

And that is what I want to do. 
Always search for an outside the box solution. I’m sure there is always at least one. We just need to believe in that possibility and slowly change our ways of thinking. I’m sure we can do it. 

​A peace of mind

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Me and my brother had recently discussed some aspects of human mind and as much as I tried to defend mind, my brother kept saying, that mind is the root of all suffering that we endure in our lives. 
As it was during my hours at work, I said I’ll write a little something about it, as it was an interesting discussion we started together have and to not forget where we were and what we said about mind and how do we, humans, interact with it, I said we can keep this topic open and each of us can come with some explanation for why we believe what we believe about the purpose of our mind. So here’s my opinion. 
Mind

Wiki >>>

Facts 

First of all, I think mind can only work with the facts. Or some kind of statistics, or probability. It seems to be what’s responsible for our decision making when we can divide things into black and white. Once we are talking about more shades, it kind of struggles because it can’t decide what’s best for us.
I read something like for each road we take there’s more roads that we don’t take. And when we are deciding about some long road, something like a career, marriage, any kind of long term commitment where the exact outcome cannot be relevantly predicted, naturally it will be our heart what will try to push us certain direction. 

Mind can decide what is the best thing to do to achieve what the heart desires, but mind doesn’t decide what it is that we want to pursue. 

The trickiest thing, and something I go through at the moment, is to figure out what to do when your heart doesn’t know what it wants. I mean it doesn’t know exactly what it wants. Mind is then struggling to provide the instructions how two achieve it as it doesn’t have a valid target. It feels lost and I think it starts misbehaving. It goes awol. 

I think mind can only find its peace in processing relevant information. It needs to feed on something measurable. 
– end of part I
PS: “I published this to to give my mind some peace. I got behind with my posts and I started to feel disappointed. 

I set myself some goals and with goals comes the possibility of disappointment. 

Because even when we try hard, sometimes it just won’t be enough, but that wouldn’t necessarily mean that our disappointment is deserved. I am now quite OK with what I have managed so far, this year. I’m still learning to manage my day to get the most out of each and every day and I’m sure eventually I will become fully focused on what is the best for me and the goal I want to achieve this year,or further down the line. For now a little peace of mind with where I am and how far I have gone is enough.”

​Little things

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Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.
~ Aaron Siskind
I have chosen this post about the little things and photography as I really liked it. It is amazing how a photograph, especially the long forgotten one, with faded colours, can return you right away to the captured moment of time and remind you of “everything”. 

That’s partially the reason for my writing of these, at this point, kind of meaningless, posts (I’m trying to make one every day). To have something to remember. 
And today I also have a story, a story that I want to remember. 
I had to book an appointment at dentist and that meant I would have time in the morning to take Anneke to school. 

So we did everything as we usually do. There was a moment of deciding which bus to take, but Anneke’s grandmother, who was with us for Christmas and New Year said that 8.25 bus would be too early so we went for 8.43. 
We came to the bus stop and Anneke said her hands art cold. She has somehow somewhere misplaced her gloves. As we had plenty of time before the bus arrives we went to the shop across the road to get a bit warmer and on the right side of the door they had seasonal accessories including gloves. They had a nice children’s ones with rainbow and we took them. They were £1.75 so as I had only a card on me, no cash, I decided to add four scratch cards to get above £5 to don’t be charged for th card payment. 
We went back to the bus stop and we started ti scratch the cards. And Anneke won £20 on hers. 

So I promised her a magazine of her choice for £5 which I have given her. 
This little thing made our rare morning together really special and it made me smile for rest of the day. I have pictured the gloves and the card to have something to remember this by. 

And that’s the story for today. Nothing big, nothing extraordinary but yet something is want to remember. 
>
Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindness, and small obligations given habitually, are what preserve the heart and secure comfort.

~ Humphry Davy

The Day

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There’s this song from Moby, The Day. 

It goes like this:
I try to know when to leave

She sits in the bedroom and grieves

There’s a sequence that starts all again

She can’t get up anymore with the pain
The combination of these drugs

Has left her hopeless and lost

She wants to count the ways

But she can’t count again
I will be right here

Till all the pain

Just disappears

I will always stay

Till all this light

Just kills the day
I strangle my words

Once, I tried a thousand times

Slaughtered like Gods

When the silver shines so hard
I tried to poison my life

Always dreaming on the edge of the knife

She always looked backwards

And I can sit here for even ten minutes or more
I will be right here

Till all the pain

Just disappears

I will always stay

Till all this light

Just kills the day
Oh hold on

Oh hold on

Oh hold on

Just try again, again
I will be right here

Till all the pain

Just disappears

I will always stay

Till all this light

Just kills the day
Oh hold on

Oh hold on

Oh hold on

Just try again
I remembered this song as I was trying to get an idea for today’s post. I decided to post a short text, an essay, or a poem, or just some random intellectual rant every day of this year. And I just realised how the day isn’t long enough for all the things I want to do. And it isn’t the day’s fault. Maybe I want too much from it. 
And here is the problem. I somehow came to this belief that I must spend my day doing some meaningful things and they all must be things that will get me to where I want to be be. Because otherwise what’s the point of doing anything?

If I am not doing these things, I panic. I feel sad, disappointed and generally empty. Like I wasted the day.  

Especially because whatever it is that I’m here to discover, it is my own task to figure it all out and I am still trying to understand what the hell am I supposed to do on this mission. 
I would want to say that closest to what I believe is our purpose here is to enjoy life. That wouldn’t be a problem if you truly could do what you want. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Well some say it is.
Good example is going to work, I don’t think there ever was a day when I actually wanted to go to work. At least not in the sense of truly wanting it. It somehow happened that I was raised to live with this belief that work is where the money comes from and you don’t work = you have no money. But working is essentially exchanging of one’s time doing what one “doesn’t want to do” to have money to do what one wants. And our level of satisfaction from this deal is simply a matter of how much of what we want we can afford after paying all the bills. 

Pretty sad right? 
Now back to where I started. 

I have this “ridiculous” dream of becoming an artist, an illustrator, a writer maybe and of getting to the point where that will give me enough money to do what I want (I mean more often). Because I truly wish I could make the money by doing what I enjoy doing rather then going to work. And at the moment, the only things that I really like doing and I can see myself becoming better at, with the potential of earning me some income are writing and illustrating. But it’s a long road and it still feels like a naive dream.

And I’m pretty sure that if that is what I want I must do something for it every day. Every bloody goddam day. Because if I can spend eight hours at work doing some random job, why wouldn’t I be able to dedicate some time to my own development?

Sounds cool, but I think that by the time I am able to do what will enable me to fulfil my dream I am already exhausted from doing my daily job. Then the willpower comes into play and depending on how strongly I feel motivated by my goal I can battle through the tiredness and get something done. Yet it somehow doesn’t make me happy. It gives me some sense of purpose, but from what I felt in the last few months, it didn’t give me true happiness. And that left me confused. 
Where is the balance? 

Where is the point where I need to give up on the idea when pursuing it makes me exhausted, but I still want to go after it? (No pain no gain they say, right?)

What am I missing? (Because I feel like I am missing something important here.) 
I’m not sure if any of you can give me some answer. If you have only, feel free to comment, I would appreciate that. 
Thank you.

​Struggle with being happy

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I’m sitting on the bus to work, only a few stops to go. Then a short walk through a small piece of woods and I will be at my working place. 
Sometimes my colleague asks me why don’t I get off at the earlier stop, which is closer to the work, I don’t know what to reply so I just pretend I like my routine and don’t fancy a change. 
I can’t be bothered to explain to him  that to walk 1.5 kilometres or let’s say 800 meters makes no difference. I don’t think I understand the obsession with taking the shortest route, being somewhere faster at all time. Like it’s our job to become great at coming everywhere as quick as possible, using shortest route and then be totally impressed how much time we saved for some great stuff.

I mean I get it. I do it sometimes. But if somebody asked me a question what am I planning to do do with the time I will save compared to going the longer route, I don’t think I’d know what to answer. Obviously getting home earlier is important (getting earlier this week work doesn’t seem as appealing). But if what we do with the time we gain by being super efficient at travelling, commuting is spending more time in front of TV, or killing it online, I’m not too sure whether it’s even worth it. 
I like being at home. Especially now, in winter. You spend hours and hours and a lot of money to make your house into a home so it would be pretty stupid to not want to spend your free time there. For introverts like me, staying at home with a book, or a good movie is one of the best ways of spending free time. The only drawback I see with that is that it’s not exactly healthy and we need some movement. A lot of it. And as I don’t like gyms, I decided to get my movement from walking. So I walk every time I can. I track how much I walk. I have some goals. I never had any goals before, definitely not in sport. But I guess there must be at least a little consciousness in what we do.
To live without without goal, or at least a sense of it, it’s pretty difficult. It might be OK to not have a goal for some time, but eventually you probably want to ask yourself: “So what is it that I want?” 
It’s a pretty hard question. I mean, if you want to answer it honestly. You could say “Oh, me? I just want to be happy.” Which is what I was telling myself everytime this question came up in my mind. But eventually I realised that such answer while technically correct, doesn’t satisfy. I didn’t want to admit it for a long time, but in order to o be happy, you just HAVE TO DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. So you need to ask yourself: “What makes me happy?” And after a moment of hesitation you should have your first thing that makes you happy. It might not be a big thing, it might be something as simple as having a cup of tea, or coffee with a friend. And from then, you can create your own list of things that make you happy. 

It’s not too difficult to come up with a decent list. The problem, as I see it, is with the time we have to do these things. Many of the things I like doing cannot be done while I’m at work. I can make myself happy outside of work, but I struggle to be happy at work. But maybe we don’t need to be happy all the time. Because what if what we refer to as happiness is just the awareness of the silent agreement with our deepest self and universe (God, Life) to love what we can and find love in as many things as we can. And if for whatever reason we cannot find love in certain things, just accept it. 
PS: “This post is part of my journal for this year. It’s a raw material that I might not have a chance to edit any further, so please accept its unfinished state. I decided to write more, to practice, to get to understand myself better and to be able to see my thoughts from today in let’s say a week could be useful tool for that. I have written much of this for myself, but if you found anything good in it, I am glad.”

Keep going

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Day two of trying to get through this year with creativity and strong dedication. I am determined to find my voice this year and start using it. Mainly in writing. 
For some time now I keep reading and hearing about how each of us matters and I think I’m finally willing to believe it. That I matter and I can make a difference. I’m not sure what difference exactly. It’s funny how we probably never fully realise how connected we are to the world around us and the impact our existence is making. 

In the past I believed that person’s happiness, or fulfilment depend on how successful they are in life. Mainly financially, as that means they have more resources to do what they want. Again, this is based on my belief that life is about doing what we want as often as we can. If that was true,  going to a mediocre job could be described as a suffering.
We live in a world where the first five days of the week (for most of us) are days where we exchange our life for money which we then invest into having some good time on the weekend, or into holiday getaways. Some might be actually very happy with this way if living, but I’m pretty sure the amount of those who are not isn’t exactly irrelevant. 

Eventually this will suck the life out of us. I don’t mean that this will kill us, but it seems pretty obvious that this cannot be the happiest way to spend our precious time on this planet. 
For some time now, I’m part of this all. Creator of my own suffering. Suffering based on my own perception of reality. Which was based on what I was taught and led to believe. I can’t name all the sources where this beliefs came from, but I guess much of it is based on my own observations. I guess all I have ever seen was a life where everyone just gets on with it. 

Sure, I have also been excited, inspired, amazed, but it never lasted long. And what I’m beginning to realise now is, that it never came from inside me. At least I’m not too sure. It seemed to have been triggered by something external. I mean, I cannot recall a moment in which I was totally grateful for my life here, amazed by my own existence, by universe existence. As if I was just walking through life like a ghost of myself. Without realising my own power. Like somehow I believed I am some sort of aetheric being that cannot shape, or re-shape the material world I live in. 
I want to believe I can. I’m pretty sure I can. The question is:

How? 
Well, I don’t think I know, but I know I want to find an answer to it. That seems enough. 

I guess it’s all about one’s ability to put one foot in front of the other. Day after day. 

I’m pretty sure the dullness of ordinary day jobs won’t disappear without our effort to see our own lives as something more than a slow walk towards our own deaths with an occasional excitement. I think that eventually the blurred perception of reality will disappear and we will see how beautiful we are, how beautiful life is. 
So I will keep going. You, also please keep going. And if you want to read a beautiful story about keeping going, try Rachel Joyce – An unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry, it’s an amazing book. I think you will feel uplifted and somehow, something from it will give you some strange little light that you can use on your dark days. Because there will be some for each of us. It’s part of the deal. So make sure you always carry some light within you.

Start where you are, as you are 

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​First day of the new year. 

To start (to give you a bait), I’ll borrow an excerpt from one of my favourite books of all time, The two kinds of decay by Sarah Magnuso. (It’s a beautiful book and I think everyone should read it. I’m pretty sure that if the only thing you get from reading this blog post is getting The two kinds of decay, you will gain a lot. But I still hope you’ll like some of my writing too. It however has no ambition to compete with the aforementioned book.) 

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Measuring

A nine-year period began and ended. I measure time by the movement of this planet. As any sane person would. I tend to forget that my measurement of time is designed to distract me from what’s really happening. I tend to forget I’m walking on the surface of a soft mass on fire on the inside, a surface warmed and lit by an explosion taking place ninety-three million miles away. An explosion that started at some point and will end at some point. I tend to forget that I rose out of this explosion and—despite my feeling I am unique from it—will someday fall back into it.

Why nine years? 

Why do I need to read sixty minutes in the morning, and swim twenty laps in the afternoon, and write a thousand words at night, in order to feel that a twenty-four-hour period has been well used?

What are all these numbers for? What do they measure? What do I think I’m clarifying by the act of measuring? What does measuring make clearer?

At the beginning there’s conception, gestation, the growth of the brain in the womb. There’s the crowning, the first breath, the naming. 

At the end, unless you are vaporized in an explosion, the heart stops and the blood still moves in the veins, then the blood stops and the tissues still live, then the tissues die slowly, and at some point the last neuron in the brain dies. How long this takes depends on too many variables to measure.

My Jewish grandmother lived to be eighty-five. She thought she’d been born on December 10th, but when we found her birth certificate, it seemed she’d been born at home on the 8th or the 9th. There was snow in Boston, and the 10th was the first day anyone could get out to report the birth.

I have two letters she wrote to me at summer camp in the 1980s. One is dated Tuesday 6/29, and the other, July 4—Happy Independence Day.

What times aren’t open to debate? What times are clear? 

Wars end at particular times. They end when the document has been signed. They end at the first moment the document can be described as signed. But it isn’t so much that a war ends in a single moment as much as people decide to agree the war has ended in a single moment. And so the measurement becomes unassailable. Not accurate. Just unassailable.

Nothing happens in a moment. Nothing happens quickly. If you think something’s happened quickly, you’re looking at only a part of it.     

Firing a rifle shot seems to happen quickly, but what about the movement of the trigger finger? What about the decision to fire the rifle? What about all your careful target practice? What about everything in your life that happened before you decide to fire that rifle?

How can you separate the incidental from what was necessary to your decision to pull the trigger?

Nothing happens in an instant. Nothing starts happening and nothing finishes happening. History doesn’t begin anywhere. And it doesn’t end.        

Why is it important to me to know the beginning and end of this particular decay I think I’m writing about—which is just part of my own whole decay?   

And couldn’t the decay be called by many other names—for instance, my life?

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I decided to have a better 2017 than 2016. On the last day of the year I caught myself  thinking how unimportant the new year day is as it is just our society’s construct to give us some kind of mark, a point in time, a point of reference for all our different measurements. Especially time. We’re dependent on our ability to measure the time.

But then, as I was falling for my mind’s favorite bait to trigger a cycle of negative thoughts in my head I pulled the brake. Like if suddenly a short window in which I was able to react in a better way appeared and I had just enough mental power to use it. 
This text is its result. As I said, it has no ambitions to be anything else then just a simple expression of what I felt today. 

Window of opportunity

Somehow I decided, after having a pretty shitty start of the day, and a year, to use what is left of the day (I started writing this at 14:25) to create a better reality. Just to see how capable I am of that change. 
I had big plans yesterday. I finished last year on about 905 kilometers of walking and I wanted to start this year by at least 7 km walk, as early as possible (I was thinking leaving the house at 7, 8 am latest. Dreams we dream.) You probably already guessed that didn’t happen. I started very slow and tired. I slept something like 6 hours and although I wanted to sleep more, I couldn’t. I had to spend morning with Anneke and it required a lot of energy to keep her entertained. On top of it, I spent majority of the time being with her cursing the shitty weather outside, being disappointed how tired I am and how unlikely it is that I will complete my first walk of the year early in the morning leaving me rest of the day for some relax and creative activities.

This lasted until approximately 14.25, when I woke up from a short nap. Anneke was still sleeping and while I was checking Facebook looking at other people’s posts about the new year and saw everyone’s hopes for a better year than ridiculously rubbish 2016, I somehow (have no idea how) wandered off the negative path my mind kindly and perfectly marked for me in the morning into the you-know-what-let’s-try-this area.

Now,

I am not an optimist.

I’m not a a pessimist either, but I am very sceptical and I am full of doubt. (Yay adulthood!) But there were some pretty strong moments in 2016 (some parts of it might have actually been pretty cool) and I did some good work from August till the end of the year. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since August and also did a lot of walking and lost 10 kilograms of weight. Something I didn’t think was possible. Not because it’s something hard, but because I couldn’t find a motivation. I actually still struggle to pinpoint a single factor that triggered the whole thing, but that doesn’t matter. Later on I summarised it into a quote:

“It can’t happen until it can happen.” 

What I mean by that is, that sometimes things need time and some other factors, mainly your ability to review reality and your perception of it and as I mentioned previously, maybe there will be some sort of window in time in which you can make a huge difference to your life. And you either make it, or you miss that moment and have to wait for another opportunity.
An ancient zen master Dōgen said that there are 6,400,099,980 moments in a day, and apparently, you can change your way of thinking in any of them. I can agree that this is technically true, but from my own experience the “windows” in which you truly can change your life don’t occur that often. Basically not every moment of the day is equal. Not every moment of the day carries the same opportunity. So what matters is your ability to be able to recognise the right moments
I could have decided to have a better day immediately after I realised my thoughts are negative. I could have stopped thinking that way there and then. But I didn’t. I’m not entirely sure why I couldn’t, but I simply couldn’t. I can compare it to the moment an archer releases the string. He simply waits for the right moment. I think you kind of feel that window in which the opportunity to do something with your reality exists. Although that moment can be any moment of the day, your mind must be prepared to release the string and that isn’t every moment of the day. Sometimes you just miss it. That’s life.  
So here I am, I have written this and I’ll leave my house shortly. Haven’t checked the weather and I have no idea what pictures I’ll make, but I decided to make at least three photos today. I really want to have a creative year and I am now ready to accept it’s me who has to make it so. 
I am trying to not expect much from today. All I really want now is a little test of how good I  am at this moment at refocusing on my own daily target. I am well aware of my inability to keep focus on my target for very long. But I think I have developed some tools to help me to improve here. 
Some say that being happy is a matter of choice, decision, but I think I am moving away from the desire to be happy (all the time) and I am trying to pursue the awareness instead of happiness. Ability to feel, recognise, be aware of seem to be of more value. It’s the interaction with the world that makes us privileged. No one processes the reality (including its variations) exactly the same. And since no one can truly understand you because of that, why not trying to understand yourself first of all? Why not try to be fascinated by your own existence? 

(This feels like a great place to insert a cheezy quote, here you go >>>) 

¬We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?¬
~ Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

PS: What did I try to say? 
One of my biggest problems with writing is that I doubt I have something to say. Because there is so much information around us that to add more to that seems pointless. But then, as it occurred to me today as I was battling the negativity, every writer writes mainly for and about him/herself. It’s not important who else can connect with what me, or anyone else for that matter have written. What is important is that I spoke from my center and I said what I felt was the truth. I think that between the two evils of speaking too much, or of not great value and burying my own voice in doubt and deciding not to express myself because I would believe I have nothing to say to anyone, the later one is much greater. Being yourself might make you enemies, might make people look at you strangely, but ultimately, that is their problem. As much as your mind tries to tell you otherwise. Of course you cannot disattach from that, but eventually if you keep using your voice long enough, you’ll become what you came here to be. And that’s all that matters. Because only you can be you. 
Now, this shouldn’t be a motivational post at all, although after I read it in its entirety it reads like one. 

Take whatever you want from what I have written, but please use your own personal experiences and feelings to build it into your own story. I wish we all would make some great steps towards our own greatness this year and I would like to start making more and more meaningful connections this year. I want to use my voice. Speak, write, create. 
My favourite motivational writer Ally Hamilton ends every single post with “Sending you love”. I mean, every single post, it’s like part of her signature. I don’t think I can come up with anything better, or simpler, or more beautiful. I think that short sentence has it all. I won’t use it as she does, it’s her own, but this time my friends, I’m sending you love. 

Have a wonderful year. 
(Ally, if you read this, I hope you’re OK with me borrowing your words this one time. Thank you. As always. Namaste. )