My Thoughts: Life and Modern Times

a list of idea-tools that I may/may not use depending on if they turn out to be useful or true


LIFE’S PURPOSE IS ITSELF. Enhance all life; yours and others. That is all there is too it.


MOVE THE BODY. STILL THE MIND. CONNECT TO THE OTHER. A triad for living in the modern world. (This really, really, worked for me.) (See My Daily Practice.)


MOVE THE BODY. We evolved to be spending most of our day, stood up, and walking about. And not sitting. So go for a walk. It is that simple. And that profound. A walk in greenery is our natural state. We default back to our factory settings of body and mind. For when the body is in its natural posture, the blood flow around the body, and distribution of fat (even if you are not over weight (LINK to be added) is better. Depression and stress are reduced by a method of exercise that has a very low risk of injury, and is free. (LINK to be added) Getting this fundamental foundation of you right, helps with everything else. “Each hour you spend watching TV increases your risk of dying from heart disease, according to a new study. And if you watch the box more than four hours a day, you are 80 per cent more likely to die from cardiovascular related disease than those who watch less than two hours a day. ‘Many people simply shift from one chair to another – from the chair in the car to the office to the television,’ said Australian researcher Prof David Dunstan. ‘Even if you have a healthy body weight, sitting for long periods has an unhealthy influence on body sugar and blood fats.’” Metro Jan 11 2010 p11. Therefore perhaps in the modern world one should meditate standing up or walking as we spend so much time sitting down.


STILL THE MIND. A still pool allows for reflections. In the reflection we see ourselves. We may also glimpse beyond those reflections to what lies beneath. (LINK to be added on the value of meditation research). Walking is an ideal way to allow your mind to still itself, to be more aware of what is around you, and become more aware of you and what is bothering you. It allows all those buzzing bees of things to remember and things to do, to fly off, and instead to listen to the quiet voice that questions, and gives good advice. Creating an empty space in the workbench of our mind so that you have space to work. Busy = procrastination. A displacement activity from what maybe more fundamentally important. So we need to pause to regularly review ‘How am I really?’.


CONNECT TO THE OTHER. When your mind is still and free from noise, then you can really listen to others. And a truer connection is possible. Difficulties in that connection become more apparent and easier to work on when you are not distracted. ‘Connect with others’. There are more others now and more means of connecting in this modern technological age. But are the more numerous connections shallower? Perhaps one needs more emphasis on a smaller number of close friends you see regularly and on your role in the real-lived community?


A QUIET MIND CAN LISTEN TO ITSELF. When it is still, and not busy busy with loud thoughts, and feelings, tasks and worries, then the quiet whisper from the depths has space and time to emerge. ‘How do I feel about…?’ ‘What do I think about…?’ ‘How should I proceed?’ Intuition, reasoning and discernment are all improved by this.


LISTENING CAN HURT. Those who are hyper aware, have increased connectivity and sensing of world around them, therefore need to be more isolated and quieter than others to protect them selves. (An idea from The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram 2007) Is the opposite true? The insensitive need extra stimulation so that they can feel something? And is it possible to easy to tune ones sensitivity up and down?


BEING IN THREE MINDS – A MODEL. On the left hand is intuition. On the right hand is reason. The head is discernment, the balance point between that can weight up what each say. But only when they are held at arms length from the two with space allowed to dance between. The space sustains all three. The empty space is the key ingredient.


THE MIND IS LIKE USING A DIGITAL CAMERA. Most of what the mind does is automatic at this covers most situations pretty well. Occasionally we have to switch it to manual to deal with a situation. Knowing when to switch to manual or to just allow the automatic to continue requires discernment. (See Third Thoughts).


DEVELOP BOTH YOUR MENTAL LEGS. Intuition and reasoning work together (According to Dr. Richard Wiseman in The Luck Factor 2003). Only use one and you are walking only on one leg. The balance point at the top of the legs is judgement. How much time do we devote to developing our reasoning and judgement (discernment)? Developing our  intuition just sounds much more fun. But we evolved both because we need both.



PRACTICE WITHOUT PURPOSE. Playing without a defined goal is of great psychological value. It is very under rated. As is doing nothing. (LINK to be added)


WANDERING WALKS. These are not focused on a destination or a distance or a fixed route. They allow for chance and put one more in the moment. Not focused on the objective one thus you enjoys the journey, not just the destination (which you may never reach). It is about the flight of the arrow, not the target. A gently resets the mind to its factory settings (the hunter-gatherer mode). Quietly and slowly describe what you see, draw it in your mind, but do not judge it. Look at the world as if it were an art gallery. Try to have as unmediated an experience as possible. One can use this same technique to look at either nature or culture. (LINK to be added to spatial theory of Tuan)


THE VALUE OF MEDITATION. Of all the spiritual practices, this is the one with the most evidence for its beneficial effects. (LINK to be added) It allows a pause in the constant automatic activities of the mind the rut of old unquestioned habits etc. This inner work has been shown to have clear benefits for others in raising the empathetic response.




REPLACE ‘MUST’ WITH ‘CHOOSE’. Replace ‘I must do’ certain things, with ‘I choose to’. Most of what we do turns into binding obligations to others or ourselves, when most of them are not anything like as important as that. There is so much that we can do in the modern world, but we should not feel obliged to do everything we are capable of doing. It is impossible to achieve.


A FORE FILLED LIFE IS NOT ONE THAT IS STUFF FULL. We need space to appreciate the few things that are really important. And it is the fill of this appreciation that gives real satisfaction.


REPLACE ‘THE TO-DO LIST’ WITH ‘A MENU’. Calling it a menu implies that you have a choice. And you do. The only thing you have to do right now is breath, everything else is optional. You also do not have to do all it right now, or at all. This is a menu of things you could do, and it should include both chores, and nurturing activities a both are equally important. Do each task slightly slower than you would normally to give it your full attention. Act purposefully and mindfully. Pause between tasks to reflect on what was done; ‘Is it finished completely?’ ‘Did I enjoy that?’ Then consider with thought and feeling what to choose from the menu next.


GRAZE LIGHTLY ON THE ENDLESS BUFFET OF LIFE. You can never fill your plate with all of it. Pick a few dishes and really enjoy them. Don’t end up stuffing yourself or you will just get indigestion and end up feeling sick and not enjoying any of it. You must learn to let go of the desire to have it all. You can’t. It is a race that cannot be won.


SOME SAY ‘WORK HARD. PLAY HARD.’ THEN HAVE A HARD LIFE? ITS HARDLY WORTH IT. Many factors drive us to over-effort, over-busyness, over-straining, over-reaching. Taking it easy is worth it, though it can also be hard to get there in this culture. It is worth it to better appreciate what is most important in life. (See Gill Roberts ‘Hard time, Soft time’).


PLAY NOT PROJECTS. RECREATION AS RE-CREATION. So often a new interest or hobby, grows from a piece of fun to a grand project, or even a business! Then often all of the fun leaves it. It becomes a chore. Re-creation is what it should be. The re-creation of the self. To restore yourself. To recharge. A chance to return to childhood and re-create yourself indirectly, in simple, purposeless playing, music, art, whatever. Do it just for the joy of doing it and for no other purpose, not money, not status, not as a gift, not for show.


REASONING IS REBELLIOUS. The modern market lead world with it’s advertising, encourages us to buy now pay later, get instant gratification, don’t think just do it. Instant access. Instant comment without consideration. Be a consumer not a person or citizen. Be reduced from a whole human being to merely a mouth. ‘Go on spoil yourself’. And spoiled is what we become. (Unfortunately this infects spirituality too). This free-for-all market is big on sensation, but not on reason. For if we don’t reason we will be the easy playthings of the market and authority, neither wants a thinking public. Thinking is more anti-establishment than reacting. It is less easy for others to control. Yet reason and science are painted as the cause of the problem and the props of authority and the market. But greed, hate, anger and lust for power are the problem, not the tools they selectively misuse.


THE THRESHOLD OF CHAOS & ORDER. This is where life is. Balanced between play and goals. Variety and regularity. Future planning and living in the moment. It is in very way the brain functions (LINK to be added). It is also what underpins the natural world, through the simple repeated patterns that create endless diversity on a single theme; neither totally random, nor totally structured.


IS SPONTANEITY ORIGINALITY? Instantaneous / spontaneous could merely be repetitive old patterns of cliché and habit; circumstance driven and not necessarily original. One needs to make the space for the ‘original’ to appear. To listen, and look beyond yourself. Perhaps consider the opposite of the first thing you think of, or the third thing instead?


THINGS COME, THINGS GO, SUCH IS THE NATURE OF THINGS. I say this to myself when things arrive or leave, to reduce the attachment to the new, and ease the departure of the old; to link the end with the beginning, to help me hold the things lightly. For change is the only constant, and though we both crave and fear it (for it hints at our mortality), we must learn to live with it.


HOLD THINGS LIGHTLY. Neither be detached and disinterested of the world, nor desperately clinging to it. Hold things lightly. Do not crush them or casually drop them. It will also allow them to grow and fly away on their own journey. Imagine the leaving at the first meeting, link the beginning and the end. There will be both joy and sorrow, so accept freely the shadow and the light.


NOT ETERNAL BUT STILL TRUE. Friendships and Loves come and go. Even an ancient tree or a solid mountain is not eternal; once the ground was level and empty, and in the future it will be that way again, or something else will be there in its place. Never the less the truth and beauty of it was no less true for its temporal nature. In fact it makes it all the more something to cherish. A pronouncement of ‘eternal love’ was true when it was said, but all existence is change. Friendship is based on  proximity of geographical, social connections, attitudes and interests; and these are as liable to change as anything else.


ECONOMY OR PEOPLE. The purpose of the economy is to provide services to people, not as if often stated for people to service the economy. It is like the environment, it is part of our society’s life support system. We do not make people ill to justify the function of the machine. And though we are dependant on it, we should not utterly sacrifice our lifestyle for the sake of the work/job that is meant to give us the lifestyle we want. That is simply crazy.


MONEY = VALUE? Not everything we do has to be valued because you get paid for it. Too often creative work gets pushed by others into paid work, which makes it become what others want it is no longer the self exploration and re-creation that nourishes you.


CONTENTMENT IS ENOUGH. “The moment we are content, we have enough. The problem is that we think the other way round, that we will be content only when we have enough.” (A Tibetan Buddhism saying.)

“No calamity is greater

Than not knowing what is enough,

No fault worse than wanting too much.

Whoever knows what is enough

Has enough.” (Tao Teh Ching.)


MAKE THE BEST OF WHERE YOU ARE. Make the best of where you are to gain contentment. For it is where you are, but remember where you are is not what you are. Watch the beauty of clouds on the way to work. Any improvements you might make start from where you are. Any goal elsewhere may never be reached.


SPACE IS USEFUL. FULLNESS IS A BURDEN. When it is full, there is no spare capacity left. It is a strain to hold it all in and together. However, when one has space, when one has capacity, then those remaining things that are left to be done can be done well. Thus less is more. It is more rewarding, and you are more and not reduced to less; spread thin and worn out. ‘Embrace simplicity, put others first, desire little.’ (Tao Teh Ching)


SIMPLIFY YOURSELF NOT THE WORLD. We need simplicity when acting, and complexity when considering. Not the reverse. Simplify your life, and not the world. Simpler considering leads to conflict with the evidence in the complexity of the world, and so the round world is forced and broken to fit the small square hole. From the simple consideration complex actions are required to ‘make it fit’ complex reality. However if the complexity of the world is accepted in considerations then simple acts are needed to judge their effectiveness in the complex chains of causality and consequence. E F Schmacher “The fool complicates. The genius simplifies.”


THE WORLD AS A CHALLENGE OR A PLATFORM. Use the challenge of the richness of existence to stretch your perception/mind, don’t try and squeeze it down to fit it all in. It will never fit in something so small as our minds. We will never completely ‘get it’. The world should be a challenge to you and your ideas, and NOT trampled under foot as platform for them and one’s ego. Try and open your tiny mind to get a grip on the vast world, even though you will never fully encompass it. But do not try and crush the vast world into your tiny mind. It won’t work. And it will hurt you and others to try and reduce it that way. The evidence of the world can be seen as a threat to a worldview or an opportunity to expand it. In the long term the later is the easier choice.


THE WORLD IS BIGGER THAN YOU. DEAL WITH IT! It is easier and more rewarding to change yourself in the light of experiencing the world, than it is to extinguish that light of the world so that it does not illuminate our own inadequacies. The world is not going to go away. It is much bigger than you are.


WORK ON THE SELF IS WORK ON THE WORLD. By working on yourself you improve everything you do in the world. For unwittingly you may be harming the world through a lack of consideration of the consequences of yourself. Our thoughts, conscious or sub-conscious, shape our actions. “With our thoughts we shape the world” Buddha.


NOT A CHOICE BETWEEN SELF OR WORLD. We have a foot in both the external and internal worlds. We (our consciousnesses) stand on that uncomfortable, uncertain threshold, betwixt and between the imagined and the actual. We can neither fully grasp or fully drop either of these worlds. Hold both lightly, neither in avarice nor abhorrence What we do to the world we do to ourselves. Hold it lightly and in care.


ACTIONS AND BELIEF. It is not what you believe or what you do, but how you apply what you believe that counts. How you apply your discernment to adapting the model of life you use, to the experience of life.