Monday, September 18, 2006

Pray, with a little eat and love

I have to stop.

This week’s Sunday Scribbling really brought something home for me. I am an inveterate researcher...I simply LOVE to read and learn and research forever and forever, amen. And I’ve learned so many wonderful things, from books and the internet and all of you.

So why is it so difficult for me to finally shuck off my insecurities and my doubts and just try to BE who I want to be? I don’t even seem to have the vocabulary to describe it...when pressed, I mutter vague mealy mouthed phrases about "being a writer" or "being more creative." But those words don’t seem to capture the force of my desires, the strength of my dream to change. So why can’t I even put words to it? Am I so fearful that even the idea of formulating the exact combination of the elements that would make up my ideal life makes me quake? Or is it that it all feels silly, somehow, adolescent?

And so I become convinced that if someone else hits upon the perfect combination of words and deeds and philosophy and action, then I’ll be able to step into their blueprint and create from there.

I have to admit, some people come very, very close.

All this by way of saying that I finally finished Eat, Pray, Love and I really enjoyed it. Whenever I found her words obscured by my own haze of envy, I stopped to ask myself, "what exactly do I envy here? Do I envy her power of expression? (yes) Do I envy her freedom? (yes)" But I realized that above all, I envied her honesty—she undertook a fearless examination of what her life was, and decided that it needed to change. And that’s possible for any of us, even those who are not well-heeled magazine writers whose craft is justly well-praised and remunerated. It took a lot of courage for her to say, "No, I want more," to circumstances that many of us would see and say, "We-ell, this isn’t quite so bad."

What struck me most about the book was the "Pray" section, set in India—for those of you (there have to be some) who have not read the book, Gilbert spends four months essentially meditating in an ashram. This seemed like an incredible luxury to me, this time to sit and think and ponder.

Then I really thought about it, and realized I would last about five minutes in that kind of environment. What would I think about, if left to my own devices, devoid of entertainment and books and blogs? How could I survive just sitting?

I’ve never been able to meditate; as soon as I start trying, my mind goes insane, rattling off a million thoughts a minute, all seeming to pull me in different directions which are anywhere but the place I sit. I’ve always rationalized this by saying that there are many different ways to enlightenment, and clearly my way would involve lots and lots of books.

Well, since moving here, I’ve been reading lots and lots of books, devouring one right after the other. And frankly, I’ve enjoyed it. But this frantic pace has left me almost enervated, like someone who has drunk a whole lot of coffee and then followed it with a few pots of tea (um, not that I would know anything about that). I don’t feel like I’m digesting anything, just accumulating a lot of knowledge I barely understand that never seems to go deeper into my bones and my life. It feels a lot like the futile clicking I used to do before I started a blog, bouncing from one website to another growing frustrated. I was looking for something, but I couldn’t even articulate what.

I think what I am looking for, most of all, is possibilities. One of the things I love about this wonderful blogging community is the variety of experiences and lifestyles and ideas that you all discuss and live out. I love seeing how many different ways there are to make a life.

But that formula, that exact way of life that will fit me perfectly, seems to elude me. I can’t find it online, or in a book, or hanging in a store.

And maybe that’s the whole point. Stubbornly, I keep waiting for the answers to come from outside of me. I keep stockpiling knowledge without action, information that is barely understood, because I don’t stop to think about it. I fancy myself a thinker, but in reality, I suppose I am a consumer of other people’s thoughts. And while this keeps me entertained and allows me to feel like I’m always learning, in reality, I can barely remember most of it.

So I’ve decided to take a radical (for me) step. One day a week from now on, I will not read any books, or websites, or newspapers, or watch any television. Instead, I’ll use the time to actually think, to get to know how my mind would work if I stopped entertaining it or "educating" it for a few minutes. Can I finally learn to meditate?

I mentioned in an earlier post that most of the decisions in my life can be made simpler if I answer the question, "Does this make me like myself more or less?" This is true, but it’s made me realize that I’m still essentially just reacting to circumstances—seeing life as a binary proposition. Maybe I don’t like my choices anymore. Maybe I want to create more for myself.

Now, I have no idea how to go about this, yet. But I’ve decided that, just maybe, the answer doesn’t lie in more research, more information, more books, more blogs.

Maybe the answer just lies, undiscovered, somewhere in me.



Blogger la vie en rose said...

ouch! this post really stepped on my toes. i do the very same thing you're talking about. i think that somewhere out there is my answer, that thing that will make everything click and all the pieces fall together, then i will finally feel whole and full. i think that's why i retreat into my immagination so often. there i can create the things that i can't seem to create in my own reality. why do you think i'm reading women who run with the wolves? hoping i can find that missing piece. just today i sat in the living room floor staring at the bookshelves wondering where to go next, what could i open that would hold the very thing i'm needing.

i hope this experiment is helpful and that it offers some clarity. i want you to keep us posted and let us know how it's going and what you're learning.

7:04 PM, September 18, 2006  
Anonymous beansprout said...

I'm with both you and la vie en rose. I keep thinking that a "magical intervention" will happen for me as well. That I'll happen upon something that will bring healing and wholeness. May your commitment lead you to yourself. Be well.

9:06 PM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger deirdre said...

Several years ago I had the sudden realization that every time I bought a new how-to book I was just trying to fix myself, and I wasn't going to find it in a book. It had to come from inside. It was a terrible disappointment. And yet, I kept reading. Eat, Pray, Love is now on my library list. I'm 56th in line. I believe the answer is always inside you, and a good book, or a blog, might help bring it into focus.

1:01 AM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

You've brilliantly articulated the process so many women take in seeking themselves. I recognize it. I've done it, too. And, like you said, sometimes it seems to obscure more than it enlightens. Until you realize that those things you are reading are someone else's path, and the sharing may light a candle on your path, but it does not BECOME your path. I think we can joyfully take nuggets from one another, bits of wisdom that resonnate and can be "meditated upon" until they become part of our physical makeup - which doesn't happen automatically. It's a choice. Listening for your own voice - what a wonderful exploration on your journey.

I always feel that when I am the most agitated, unsettled and dissatisfied I am really on the verge of a life change, which I can either embrace or reject. Rejection may mean that you are more peaceful, but your growth may be drastically stunted.

(Sorry for the long response - but you provoked a lot of thought!)

11:40 AM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger Ally Bean said...

I adored Eat, Pray, Love. It's one of those books that I'll reread over and over again as I go along. She was so true to herself that, like you, I was envious.

And, for what it's worth, the question that I ask myself is: does this make me feel more alive? It takes the binary out of the equation and makes me focus on a worthy goal (or so I think).

11:55 AM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger rachel said...

Honey I do the same when I mediatate, mind races all over the place. I love yoga but never get the full benefit of it cos I can't free my mind.
And as for a magical intervention, well there just has to be one, because I can only take me so far.

2:22 PM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Here she is, typical Virgo, had to remove that last comment because of typos. Sigh. As I was saying, moving outside our comfort zone is often scary - change, however welcomed, is difficult. And I think we all need to take time to listen to that small still voice within - too often, it's drowned out by all the outside chatter. You'll find your way; just don't expect instant answers overnight. Sometimes the answers change as one's life circumstances are altered. The important thing is to stay true to yourself - and that requires paying attention to your heart's desires - and then creating the reality you want. Good luck with your journey - I think you've already embarked on this voyage of self-discovery, by reading, considering and writing out your thoughts.

4:59 PM, September 19, 2006  
Anonymous fern said...

A day without outside influences? what a concept! I don't think I would know what to do with myself with that much quiet. Let us know if this helps your gain some clarity.
Any step toward finding your voice in a world of noise is wonderful. I hope you find time to breathe and grow and see what emerges from the silence.

5:27 PM, September 20, 2006  
Blogger Jerri said...

Absolutely fabulous post. Thought provoking and real, my girl.

About meditating: everyone's mind goes crazy in just a few minutes. The difference between those who meditate and those who think they "can't" is only that the meditators persist despite the craziness (which yogis call "monkey mind").

Meditation may be just the thing for you. It is for me, anyway. It is in that stillness that my soul speaks to me, shows me the way. I will hold you in the Light and send loving support for the picture to develop as you wish.

9:43 AM, October 02, 2006  

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