Thursday, May 22, 2008

May 22, 2008
Woke up to a cold day! Surreal. I had stored all of my sweatshirts and sweatpants away last Sunday when we hit triple digits. Well, this morning we woke up to low sixties temps with a storm coming in. Really nice and chilly out. Another reprieve. Turned the coolers off and the chicken mister. Broke out the little chickie turtle necks and wrestled them on the hens.

All true, except for the last item.

Grief From The East
"Sure glad to hear that you avoided the chest cracker. Things seem to be going your way, my man. Excellent. Patty and I continue to keep you and Kathy in our thoughts and prayers. I can't wait to get out there. I've got to get some photos of you in a yoga class. Un-frigging-believable...Next it will be meditation, a guru, trips to India...And lots of incense."
—Mark Boardman

Mark is coming out for our annual editorial pow wow next week. And I told him if he wants to take a photo of me in yoga class he's got to come to the class and participate. Take that, you Hoosier Down Dog.

Kathy and I are reading an excellent book, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I believe one of her patients recommended it. The message is quite profound, at least to a heart attack survivor looking for new meaning to apply to the extra innings, as it were. The basic premise is we live our lives tortured between regrets about the past and fears for the future and our feverish little minds keep us from living in the moment, or the Now. In addition, our egos, or in my case MY HUGE EGO! is addicted to thinking, blaming and judging my past and badgering myself to perform in the future.

The answer is quite simple and profound. Be present now. Don't judge the past or fear the future. Both are illusions. Nothing ever happens in the past and nothing can happen in the future. The test? Try to stay in the present for ten minutes. It was close to impossible for me. Every time I thought of something in the past (Man, I hated getting fired from KSLX) I said "past" out loud. Every time I thought of something in the future (I set a deadline for Mickey Free and I'm not going to make it because I'm a failure and I got fired from KSLX because they saw through me and know I'm really not worth a damn), I said "future." Or, in this case, "Future-past." I did this as I walked up the road on my morning walk last week and it sounded pretty ridiculous, especially to the dogs, who kept turning and looking back at me as if to say, "Are you alright?"

Well, actually I'm not. I've lived my whole life, six decades, tortured by massive guilt and regrets about my past, and fears and anxiety about the future. And I'm just tired of it. Here are a couple excerpts from the book that speak to me:

"All true artists, whether they know it or not, come from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness." I've sort of always known this, but when it comes to my artwork I invariably try to think my way clear and this rarely works. And yet I keep doing it because my mind enjoys torturing me.

"Don't think about it—don't let the feeling turn into thinking. Don't judge or analyze. Don't make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. Become aware not only of the emotional pain but also of 'the one who observes,' the silent watcher. This is the power of the Now, the power of your own conscious presence. Then see what happens."

"Certain things in the past didn't go the way you wanted them to go. You are still resisting what happened in the past, and now you are resisting what is. Hope is what keeps you going, but hope keeps you focused on the future, and this continued focus perpetuates your denial of the Now and therefore your unhappiness." This sure nails me to the barn door.

Yesterday, in the hospital I found myself getting anxious ("Future!") "They're going to find my arteries blocked and fire up the chain saw, grind through my ribcage, and take my heart out and throw it in a bucket!"

That was my mind racing with future anxiety, of course. I did actually look at the ceiling tiles and tried to stay present, asking myself, "Are they poking you now? Let's enjoy this moment when they are not." It worked. They gave me no drugs beyond the local numbing in my groin area. I'm telling you, this staying in the Now is a powerful deal.

Two weekends ago, Kathy and I went to Grandma Betty's and she gave me some grade school photos of Kathy Sue growing up. I love these photos! Notice how she goes through the bangly, gangly stage and ends up, at the bottom, a gorgeous young lady. ("Past!")

Actually, as I read it, it's okay to visit the past in your mind, just don't get caught brooding there.

"Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune and misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm."
—Robert Louis Stevenson

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