May 27, 2013

The Power of Now: Who knew being present could feel so good?

I’m reticent to say a particular book has changed my life to avoid sounding overly dramatic and impressionable, but let’s just be honest here: The Power of Now blew my effing mind away. 

I have read other books that have transformed my thinking:  The War of Art, The Power of Habit, The Secret, and The Four Agreements.  And while I don’t want to discount their value, particularly since they all likewise had lasting impressions on me, The Power of Now took things to the next level for me.

With a Buddhist bent, though with no particular religious affiliation, the book deals with such themes as time (past, present, future), the true self, peace vs. pleasure, and consciousness vs. unconsciousness.  As someone who often grapples with worrying and sometimes anxiety, particularly about the unknown future, Eckhart Tolle’s words spoke to me in an extremely profound way, in a way that I’ve never heard them before – or perhaps have been open to hearing them before.  “You can always cope with the Now, but you can never cope with the future – nor do you have to.  The answer, the strength, the right action or the resource will be there when you need it, before, not after,” Tolle writes. 
While I pride myself on being a pretty good communicator (I thank my Moms for that one), I find myself in my head a lot – thinking, processing, analyzing.  (Maybe it's my INFJ/Piscean combination, who knows.)  Only until reading Pema Chodron’s teachings and then reading this book, did I realize how counterproductive that is, how unnecessary that constant thinking, processing, and analyzing actually IS to making good decisions and attaining the best, most meaningful life possible, which is what we're all striving toward, right?  While Pema Chodron’s words in her beautiful simplicity made complete sense to me, I wasn’t quite sure how to DO it, how to even begin stepping outside my mind.  Tolle put it this way:   

You are cut off from Being as long as your mind takes up all your attention.  When this happens – and it happens continuously for most people – you are not in your body. . . .  To become conscious of Being, you need to reclaim consciousness from the mind. . . . It will free vast amounts of consciousness that previously have been trapped in useless and compulsive thinking.  A very effective way of doing this is simply to take the focus of your attention away from thinking and direct it into the body, where Being can be felt in the first instance as the invisible energy field that gives life to what you perceive as the physical body. 

Since reading this one little paragraph have I been able to reduce my overthinking, by focusing what is going on at the given moment.  Here I am typing on this keyboard/sipping my tea/my legs are extended and crossed at my ankles/a cold draft is hitting my calves.  In other words, I am in the complete present – not feeling bad about some stupid comment I made to a coworker the other day, not regretting the ice cream I had last night, not worrying about making sure I work out today.  I am completely and utterly in the present, because that’s all there is – not the past, not the future, but the present. 

Even in our present lives, though, there are circumstances or situations that make us unhappy or dissatisfied.  These may be where we live, our jobs, friendships or relationships, certain addictive behaviors, and even our daily routines.  Tolle suggests that “[w]herever you are, be there totally”, but “[i]f you find you’re here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”  Being in the present is the knowing you have the power to change the situation and that the situation does not have power over you.   That is such a freeing concept to me:  the idea that we are as much in control of our life situation as we are our life destiny.

There’s so much more, but as with everything it's much better experienced firsthand.  Just read the book, and if you're as taken by it as I was, they even have The Power of Now Inspiration Cards!  (Totally worth it, in my humble opinion.)  I may not have it all figured out, but so long as I have the tools I’m at least partway there, right?  That's what I tell myself anyway.

May 18, 2013

"What You Won't Do For Love"

I am utterly obsessed with Jessie Ware these days. 

Her voice, her style, her essence and soul -- to me, she represents everything that I love about music.  Needless to say, if you haven't heard about her, you're missing out.  Tonight I discovered a cover she did of one of my very favorite songs of the 1970s, Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do For Love", and it's so disgustingly beautiful I can't stop listening to it. 

Even though the original is one of my favorite songs of all time, I am honestly not sure whether the original or Jessie's remake is better.  (As a sidenote, 2Pac and Gwen McCrae also have some pretty fine renditions of the tune as well.)  Alas, without any further adieu, here's a side by side of Jessie's version and Bobby's version.


May 10, 2013

Overwhelmed by TMI

I have been feeling overwhelmed by too much information lately. Not in the “I’m-all-offended-because you’re-telling-me-too-much-information” kind of way, but more in the “I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-all-this-information-overload-in-the-world” kind of way. 

And the Internet is in large part to blame.

It has become so fundamental to us for so many things – for researching, for communicating, for creating, which is why I freaking love it. Practically everything you need to or want to know is on there, at your fingertips at any given time. But because of this kind of access, the Internet has produced a kind of live information feed of EVERYTHING that you either WANT or DON'T WANT to hear or read about.  And it all has become incredibly overwhelming.

I am admittedly a full participant in what the web has to offer: I’ve got my various social networking accounts and profiles (Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, you name it); I keep most of my favorite websites on Google Reader, except for the stragglers that I have bookmarked on various computers, the lack of organization of which is, quite honestly, driving me bananas these days; and I have my various favorite go-to news sites (in particular, the Daily Beast and Huffington Post). 

While I like to feel connected and informed on current matters, there is an undesirable byproduct of this all, which is as true and as cliched as it sounds: information overload.  For this reason, I admire my good friend Elizabeth who up and quit Facebook cold turkey several months ago. She finds herself more content and at peace, not to mention the fact that she doesn't even miss it.  She has also found herself making more of an effort to initiate contact with her friends and family the old-fashioned way:  via telephone or email. While I admire that, I know that quitting Facebook is not the answer.

Because for me, it’s a bigger issue.  This was revealed to me as I was driving home last night clicking through all my SiriusXM presets and feeling overwhelmed by that too. I love the liberty of being able to choose, but what good is choice when it becomes so limitless that we continually feel unsettled in our decision(s)?

Technology is supposed to streamline things – and it does in many ways – but if the side effects are stress, dissatisfaction, and feelings of being overwhelmed, something ain’t right, right? While I want to find a way to scale back my reliance and the pressure I feel from it, I know that giving it up completely is not realistic or something that would be beneficial to me, since it is very much a fabric of our/my contemporary existence.  And, besides, I like a lot of what technology has to offer.

I am a believer in self-awareness, especially as it relates to being the first step toward addressing anything.  So, for now I'm going to sit tight and think about it for a bit, but my hunch is that I might need to simplify my life or tweak my perspective.  But if you have any tips or pearls of wisdom in the meantime, I’m all ears, and eyes, AND fingertips. (Oh, you know it's true.)