Being in the world …in a new way

Tolstoy talking with his grandchildren

Leo Tolstoy talking with his grandchildren …I just loved this photo that someone sent me the other day!

A few years ago, I was hosting a party at our home and found myself very wound up, so much so, that If someone had asked me where I was energetically (and if I could have stopped long enough to really check in with myself), I would’ve felt my energy very concentrated in the front of my head, in “little mind” (thoughts fraught with tension). Being so locked in mind, I was almost completely unaware of the larger dimension of myself, and only vaguely aware of anything or anyone else.

I was in “git er done” mode, and my mind was fast and furiously telling me what to do: “Take the cheese out one hour before everyone arrives.”, “Dress the salad, no wait, it might get soggy, let people put their own dressing on.”, “Make sure you clean the bath tub (in case someone pulls the shower curtain back to check).”, “Vacuum. No, let Jack vacuum”. “Hey where is Jack? He seems to disappear when I really need him!”, “I can’t stand doing this all alone.”, “I need help!”, “Jack never helps.”, “This is indicative of the larger problems in our relationship”, “We really aren’t partners at all.” …..”Our marriage is in trouble”, ……on and on and on.

The mind, when allowed to run the show (our lives), is like an insane ringleader trying to run the circus. I’ve dealt with it by staying completely captive of its demands and trying to fulfill each one to the letter (and ended up wiped out by the end), by deciding to detach myself; not do anything that brings up those feelings (with the resultant feeling that I was on the side-lines of life), and finally, by trying to stay present wherever I am, and whatever I am doing.

I used to be quite close to a woman who was very talented, creative, and also had this intense desire (like my own) to make things perfect. She chose to retreat almost completely from the world. …and I knew why. This “thing” that emerges when we take on an important project or event (that is very meaningful to us) can feel like a monster. We hate the way we feel when we’re in the grips of it, and we think it is the event (or people who our mind has told us are the cause of the current problem) so we want to get rid of the situation or straighten “them” out, and find ourselves saying things like, “Never again!”….and truthfully, it can feel easier to avoid it..and after a little while, we begin to believe that we’ve conquered it. But we just haven’t. It has just gone unchallenged. It is still there, and we think that it is the real us. And we fear it.

But it isn’t us. It is a part of sleeping humanity’s consciousness, and it is a part of our experience until we begin to wake up. And just becoming aware of it, it loses some of its power over us. The more we stay present (out of compulsive thought) during experiences that challenge us, the more we stay in touch with what is happening within us, the more we wake up to the real Self, our Divine Self. The Self that can be “In the world, but knows it is not of this world”. The part that is aware that we are something much greater than these flesh and bone bodies who eat, drink, talk, think, dance, sleep, and plan,…so we can eat, drink, talk, think, dance, sleep and plan in new and better ways. In ways that bring Light to everything we touch with our hands and with our minds.

Sometimes say softly to yourself: ‘Now…now. What is happening to me now? This is now. What is coming to me now? this moment?‘ Then suddenly you begin to see the world as you had not seen it before, to hear people’s voices and not only what they are saying but what they are trying to say and you sense the whole truth about them. And you sense existence, not piecemeal–not this object and that–, but as a translucent whole.” pg 53, from “If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit” by Brenda Ueland (published in 1938)

14 thoughts on “Being in the world …in a new way

  1. Oh my goodness Mary, I can so relate to this! It’s that feeling after a special event or party when I will say ‘that seemed like such a blur’…and it was because I didn’t stay totally present and in every moment, instead worrying about every detail, every perfect detail! Like the energizer bunny moving from task to task with little feeling or emotion or light to give to the world…I have often wondered ‘did I even smile at anyone during that party’? Thank you for articulating this so clearly…hmmmm…XOXO…

  2. Being “victimized” or “taken over” by compulsive thought. And when it happens it builds and builds and takes on a life of its own. I continue to struggle with this, Mary; but, as you say, being aware is half the battle. Today’s blog goes to the core for me…..thanks, Mary, for helping to put it in perspective.
    Sending loving thoughts your way this day.

  3. I think I could have written the first two paragraphs (but not as well). I see that I’ve taken the ‘avoidance’ path and have stopped entertaining for the most part because I view it as a challenge I fail. Maybe your blog will help me find the courage to rethink this. Thanks, Mary, and I love the photo.

  4. Thanks, Mary. Very good thoughts. Recently I was up in WA state helping my 98 yr old friend. Two and a half hours chasing her electric cart in Wally world had me worrying I coldn’t steer her to get what she wanted & I felt deficient. Then I caught myself and told me to cherish the moments with her & know my love and help were sufficient. Two other small incidents revealed to me I was taking things too seriously & your thoughts help that conclusion. Someone dear told me once that “your best IS good enough!” & we should all believe that!

  5. I had the pleasure of watching my ten year old grandson yesterday at the Science Center in downtown Phoenix, an amazing place with lots and lots of hands on learning and playing activities for all ages. His Mom was kind enough to invite me along and we both so enjoyed watching our little guy totally engaged in whatever he was doing, – and enjoying it! Not involved with the compulsion to perfect the task as we adults so often do, but just having fun playing. Do we lose this beautiful ability to play as we get older, putting tasks and responsibilities and to-do’s ever before simply having fun? It gave his Mom and I a chance to get to know each other better while giving this little boy all the time he wanted to explore whatever station or craft. To top it off, we saw a beautiful IMAX 45 minute show about the polar bears of the North Pole, narrated by Meryl Streep with music written and sung by Paul Mc Cartney. What a perfect day. Reminded me of how soothing it can be to be in the presence of innocent and oh so beautiful children.

  6. i’ve disposed of people, places and things in the past because i was not conscious at the time; i’m liking this presence of staying with the now and waking up. it feels of alive-ness—-this “what is coming to me now” knowing.

    wonderful posting today, mary. life is abundant

  7. Mary,
    Someone sent me that photo the other day also and I loved the sweetness of the moment it conveyed and his love for his grandchildren..

    I also loved your blog today as it really touched home with me…as sometimes I get so caught up in things like you described that I do not enjoy what I am doing and I have to calm myself down and let myself take in whats happening around me and join in instead of being detached from it because I am so nervous, and preoccupied with wanting everything to be just perfect!

  8. Sometimes I wonder if I ever live in the moment, Mary and yet, when I look outside my studio window, I know that I’m present then. It seems when I get around people, I get out of myself and forget everything I’m meaning to learn.
    SandyP in Canada

  9. I think SandyP and I must be related! I’m almost NEVER in the moment…..always a day or two ahead, planning, planning, leaving nothing to chance. I get so tired of myself sometimes, I DO retreat from people.

    I hope I learn to do this ‘in the now’ thing before I miss out on the rest of my life.

    Really good post, Mary. Thanks.

  10. Once again Mary it is as if you have peered into my experience, my own brain, and described “it” precisely. I continue to work my habits of thought that drives frantic activity. Thank you for this wise counsel.

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