Tuesday, December 19, 2006
There are days when everything seems very daily and ordinary. For me, today was one of them. I didn't have any superbly profound thoughts or ideas. I didn't collect any amazing world class experiences. I didn't achieve any special goals or write any excellent words or climb any steep hills. I just went ahead and lived my little old life.
So today wasn't special in the way most of us want days- and life in general- to be special. Sparse moments of stimulation separated by big cracks of ho-hum. Know what I mean?
But wait a minute. What's this about ho-hum? By now, surely I know better: ho-hum is hokum. It's my sleepy, inattentive self that ho-hums. The parts in me that work can always find something profitable to extract from time. They have to become pointed, however.
There is a solid, saturated value to the day if I refer myself to the body I inhabit: the breathing in and out of air, the impression of colors- colors are quite remarkable, really, if I take the time to try and see them a bit deeper than just surface value- and the sensation I get as I touch things. Hey, even the green of the road signs on the New Jersey turnpike can be pretty darned interesting, all things considered.
This delicate sensibility, this immediate sense of contact with my life- that's special. But I need to do a number of things to help make that available for myself in a day.
First, I need to spend at least 30 minutes in prayer and meditation every morning. As it happens I have a quite structured routine for that but any routine will do as long as it includes having a routine.
The alternative to routine is chaos. Chaos is the enemy of discipline, and discipline is the architect of spiritual life. Yes, it means getting up early- but that's a good thing, because every waking moment, no matter how sleepy-eyed, is an opportunity to work on my response to my life.
Second, I need to have reminders during the day. Reminders to stop myself and come back to specifics. Now, that could take a lot of forms, but anything that works will do. The trick is to have ways to remind myself at least once an hour to stop for a moment- and then actually do it. I say that because to think of this is easy, but thinking does not constitute action. Instead, it convincingly poses as action, and if I am not careful, I buy right into this decoy and waste the precious ammuntion of my attention on a wooden replica.
If I want to shoot the ducks, I have to point my attention in the right direction. I must demand this of myself- it takes a little extra. The more often one demands it, the more often it becomes possible.
The important thing to do here is to remember to make the demand and then act on it.
Third, I have to believe in my possibility, to want it. I must tell myself, I can take responsibility for my life. This idea of assuming responsibility is very important because for as long as my inner dialogue is one of negation, of believing that everything is impossible- or at any rate far too difficult- I'm not going to even bother trying very much.
I have to believe in myself.
In the Gurdjieff work we often repeat to ourselves the phrase, or prayer, "I wish to be." That is an effort at self-affirmation. It's a way of asking ourselves to value ourselves. To value ourselves, rightly, positively. If we don't value ourselves we won't make the efforts we need to.
So with some preparation, even the daily grind doesn't grind so much. Every day becomes an exercise in right valuation, beginning within. Its encounter with the outer may be tentative or tenuous most of the time, but it is at least a beginning.
All the centers inside us have their own individual ability to value this being, this life, so there is a terrific amount of support available if I learn how to solicit it. It takes time and effort to awaken those "extra" senses, but as more of my parts participate, ordinary life becomes much richer, more tangible.
On days like this, as I participate, gratitude seeps into the still moments.
Check it out: Gratitude is the best cement for filling cracks.