I have been reading Zen in the Art of Writing ever since reading Vicki Winslow’s awesome post about it. The book is a collection of essays, all by Ray on writing, and I have been working my way slowly through these precious pages. There is one essay called “Run Fast, Stand Still” which has been sitting like dew in my brain cells; and that essay is the inspirational backbone of this post.
This blogging world is pretty new to me. It’s so new that I don’t even know if it’s obvious that it’s new to me or not. I’m still learning everything from how to keep track of posts I like to finding a blog a second time.
When I first started making posts and actually putting effort in, I got a handful of followers. Some of them, who are probably reading this, were great people who actually read the post, actually liked it, maybe commented, and in either case, kept coming back for more.
Other new followers had blogs which I instantly checked out; I found something rather peculiar. A tiny handful of them had somewhat interesting posts, sure, but they also had loads, and I mean loads, of comments which were unanimously: “thank you for following my blog!”
Oh, that’s what this is, I thought. People aren’t following me because I’m an as-of-yet-undiscovered-genius; they are following me so that I follow them. Then it hit me, aha! I have had this feeling before!
I was sitting on the dirt next to a tree on the sidewalk in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. It was night time, so the only lighting was a juicy mix of streetlights and store lights, maybe some Christmas decorative lights as well, even though it was the later part of sweet early June.
I was selling necklaces that I had made; living out of a van with my guitar-playing gypsy boyfriend and a new puppy. A girl came up to me that evening and spent a lot of time asking me about each necklace; where I was when I made it, where I got the beads, how they would affect someone’s energy, and so on. She just wanted to know it all, and I was incredibly touched that a stranger was so kind and curious; and yet there was something strange. She was asking question after question, but wasn’t really engaging with the answers. I was just happy to be talking to someone.
After about a half hour of this flowery girl talk, she told me that she had come to tell me that there was one true savior and that he wanted me to be saved. My heart broke. It broke in half and fell to the bricks, oozing down into the crevices with leftover cigarette ash and dog pee. It made me hate her and anyone like her. I would not have minded had she walked up to me with a bible, stating her point, even if she wanted to yell at me or make fun of me. But she took the trouble to engage me in conversation, to find what mattered to me, and only then tell me her true purpose for starting the conversation.
That was the feeling I got when I looked at a person that had just started following me and realized that they had made a day of following any blog that had made a new post. Except the girl at least had looked me in the eye.
Now, it’s really not such a big deal. I may even be imagining that there is anything wrong with that approach to blogging; maybe it is just a common practice and I am in the dark.
My concern that since habits start to form around the ways we relate, the more time we spend on social network sites, the more that these patterns become part of the fabric of our being. We start getting careless and mindless in one arena, and slowly that mentality spreads like a stain on the rest of our lives. I believe that we can use the act of blogging, and of doing anything on the computer, to become more aware of the present moment.
My suggestion is that we all spend a teensy bit more time being aware of the things we do and the way we relate to people on our social media network. The quality of the things we write; the effort that goes into them and how that effort ends up impacting us when we leave the screen. There are so many things we can pay attention to in order to enhance the other parts of our lives. For instance, the more honest and clear I can be with a comment, the more it helps me to express certain feelings in my novel. Here is a list of a few things that you can pay attention to as you blog:
- Your posture as you read, write, and work.
- How you eat your food, if you eat by the computer. How you chew, swallow, and digest.
- How it feels when your eyes move from the screen to the surrounding areas of your home.
- How it feels in your body when you stop to pet your dog or cat or pay attention to other people in the room.
- How your stomach feels right in this moment.
- How your feet feel on the surface or air that they are touching.
- How it feels in your belly or chest when you think about a sentence that you want to type; how it feels to type it.
- How it feels in your body when you listen to the noises happening around you.
- What the air smells like.
- How high above you the ceiling is; or the sky.
- The feeling of your head on your shoulders.
- How tense your shoulders are.
- How tense your upper arms are.
- How tense your forearms are.
- How tense your hands are.
- How tense your pointer finger is.
- And so on.
There are literally endless aspects of this moment that you can pay attention to. So why not try it? Why not try out how it feels to follow other blogs mindlessly, and how it feels to read a random post, read what it says, and comment on how it affected you even if it is a post you never would have read otherwise?
Since trying to leave more meaningful comments and make more meaningful relationships with my blogging world, I have felt better in many writing-related ways. I have gotten over a huge blockage I had in regards to working on my book, and I feel more able to write my silly articles without bitterness for my job because I can take little breaks and leave a meaningful comment or two. It is my little exercise of verbalizing how I feel from a present state of mind.
The internet is a fabulous tool, a wonderful way of getting your voice into living rooms, coffee shops, parks, and minds all over the world. Pay attention to how you relate to it; and maybe you will learn more about how you relate with the rest of your daily scenery and relationships.
So let’s try to add a dose of awareness to the cocktail of all the things we are doing. Let’s be aware of our intention, our attention, and our inattention.
Sometimes it is tempting for me to read a post and love it, and simply hit “like.” But when I do that, the person doesn’t get to know how their words really affected me, sitting here in my hot little city with my feet on a dog and a glass of iced wine at my side. So I try to be honest and clear. It helps me in the rest of my life; and I think that those that don’t take advantage of such opportunities are missing out. That is why I left you a comment.
Writing is a personal art. There are countless types of writing, and endless authors. Even the child that scribbles their name illegibly is a writer, as are the people who put in half the effort of that child and produce an endless chain of Facebook statuses. Some writings are never seen; others are predictably found on any shelf of an intellectual, backpack of a traveler, or drawer in a hotel room.
I don’t know about you guys, but lately I am absolutely loaded with things to do! Working my own hours with my writing job means that I consistently have the “I should be working” feeling if I try to do anything else. Having a book to write leaves me with a little voice whispering “Stop neglecting me, I want to play!” Oddly enough, that’s also what my dog keeps saying. In my head.
Then there is hiking to be done, meditation to commit to, a yoga practice to maintain, and my physical health! Not to mention the songs I’m trying to write on guitar and the little garden I’m building up, my dog’s training classes, and this blog! Also, I want to get better at spinning fire poi. Endless loves of my life, these things, and yet sometimes an entire day will pass where all I do is one or two of them. I’ll think of them all, but my actual energy will not be spent on them.
This can lead me to feeling in a rather bad mood. You could easily look at me like I am crazy, since I make my own hours and can, at any point, decide to do my book or guitar or dog play time or anything. Yet it’s hard for me to get out of the funk of “I need to work-work-work” and “I need to only work on my book when I have a whole day to devote to it,” and yada yada yada.
What I realized today is that there is a magic secret to all of this.
Today when I woke up I realized that my moods were getting a bit powerful. I set my little timer and meditated for five minutes. It was the first time in several months that I had done so. Then, when I brushed my teeth, I stretched more than usual. Pandora was playing Bob Dylan, and I danced. I pretended that I was spinning my fire poi, and tried to make sure that my feet reached every part of the floor at least once.
Then I took little breaks during my work day and recorded some versions of songs I was working on, and found websites that relate to this blog entry so that I could make the links more easily. Never taking more than five minutes to do any of these things.
Turns out, five minutes is a long time; and not only that, but there is a snowball effect when you start indulging in these lovely things!
If you care about how many calories can be burned in five minutes, there is a great chart on this link. You can see that five minutes of anything can burn up some of the calories you’ve eaten, which can feel great if you are looking to do that sort of thing.
For those of us that are avid anti-calorie counters, there are also immense benefits of five minutes of meditation. With such a short period of time, you are not going to be getting as much cumulative benefits as with a longer sit,but you are getting something; and something is better than nothing. You can reverse your stress response. For me, I notice that even after a five minute sit, my body feels more grounded and I am more likely to think before making snap reactions during the day.
Furthermore, there are benefits of five minutes of massage! Of course, it is great for someone else to do the massage; and ideal for it to be longer. But when is the last time you sat in a comfy position and rubbed the back of your head and neck for five minutes? It will help move your lymph, reduce your stress, prevent some trigger points from forming, and make you feel good.
The last thing I’ll discuss here is how great it is to spend five minutes outside. When you see the health benefits of spending five minutes outside, you will realize that it is one of the easiest things to do. I’m willing to bet that plenty of you guys are just like me in that you spend a lot of time doing what you have to do, a bunch of time doing what you want to do, and yet you still feel that there are things that you do not have time for.
I think that the five minute mark is a great one to work with. Anyone has time to put five minutes into a sitting meditation, or into a walk. And then, once you do one of those things that you know you need to do, you will end up doing more; I almost guarantee it! At least, that is how it worked for me. The five minute snowball miracle.
What are some of the things that you wish you had more time for in your daily life? Are you ever surprised with how much you can accomplish in five minutes? I know I sure am!
I’m experimenting with a shorter blog post this evening.
Last night, a giant black Texas cricket got into the apartment. It was sitting there on the carpet, possibly trying to not jump because it saw the dog drooling. I ran over with a cup and piece of paper- the sissy way of getting a non-stinging bug outside.
I heroically (in my mind) moved the thing to the porch, and closed the door as much as I could while still getting my arm outside, and knocked over the cup while whipping my hand back into the house as fast as possible. As you can imagine.
While I watched it through the door to witness its fate, I saw that it was stuck in the bottom of the side-turned cup. All it had to do was to turn around and get out, into the open air, the free night, the huge field below. But it was obsessed with the bottom of the glass; with looking out at the barrier, and freaking out about it; jumping and struggling against nothing.
Huh. I thought. How often am I in that same position, without realizing it?
That is, that my world all of a sudden feels restricted and insane (someone putting me in a sissy cup & paper concoction), and then feeling trapped when all I have to do is turn around?
I’m not one to believe in the big-dude-in-the-sky God, but I do believe in something. At least, something that can nudge things into one direction or another. I couldn’t control that cricket’s every move; but I could get him outside of my living room. And I’m not a God, but I am bigger than him.
And that leads me to wonder:
How often do I need to just turn around in order to see the big open space, instead of assuming that the one barrier I see is the be-all-and-end-all of my freedom choices?
How often does a thing that acts as a trap in one situation turn into a simple shelter in another? What are the restraints that we get so used to, that we fail to even notice when they are gone?