Archives for posts with tag: student of life

I am sipping my coffee and considering the excellent work week that has ended, and the long weekend ahead. I am feeling eager and inspired, loved, and valued. It’s easy to bask in these lovely feelings and find myself soaking in what eventually could become an expectation that I feel this way, enjoy work weeks such as this one, evenings like those I’ve shared with my traveling partner this week, sleep of good quality, and the resources to continue it all quite indefinitely…only…life isn’t a painting and doesn’t stand still; what I enjoy in this moment may not be near at hand in the next. Allowing expectations to develop over time that are based on experience, but not confirmed explicitly, result in painful moments of disappointment, almost as if scheduled deliberately. When I allow myself to be open to enjoying what is, without projecting that it will always be so into future days, I’m largely free of those painful moments experienced when life finds it necessary to correct my departure from reality.

Assumptions are similar; if I make assumptions about what’s going on in someone else’s mind, or experience, I exist in a fictional narrative. When others make assumptions about me, incorrectly, I feel disregarded, invisible, unheard, or misunderstood. If both conditions occur together, life feels as if I am only visiting, unwelcome in my existence, and of little value. Plus – if I’m making all manner of untested assumptions moment to moment, I’m wrong a lot. A lot. How can I be so sure? Pretty simply, because I see it in my own relationships; people who make assumptions about me (what I think, what I like, how I feel, what I know, what I value, what I want…) are wrong a lot. It’s not always easy to avoid making assumptions; making assumptions is a cognitive tool improving our speed to decision-making. Certainly there are circumstances when deciding whether to run away, or taste that strange food, requires me to make some assumptions for safety’s sake. It easily gets to be a habit.

Making assumptions isn’t easily avoidable, which makes testing our assumptions entirely necessary before we rely on them for longer term understanding of our experience. Assumptions, like lies, don’t have their foundation in what is demonstrably real, or provable – and are no more likely to be innocent of purpose than a lie! The intent of the assumption matters; it says something about the person making it. Most assumptions are not of ill intent, they function for efficiency’s sake, and while that seems harmless enough, there are so many circumstances when asking the simple question would provide better data. Other assumptions are the hallmark of a consciousness that is not invested in knowing, understanding, or building – preferring to just move quickly through circumstances ‘successfully’ to reach a goal with minimal investment in connecting with any other consciousness involved. Assumptions – particularly assumptions about the state of someones mind, or content of their emotions or thoughts – are shortcuts for speed and efficiency, resulting in a significant loss of intimacy. Assumptions are no more real than day dreams, doubts, or fears, and not to be trusted.

In conversation, refusing to make commonplace assumptions can quickly derail dialogue (or meetings) in the most hilarious way; people are very used to making assumptions, and are often quite unprepared for any one member of a group to abruptly stop doing so, asking instead for confirmation of simple things typically assumed (and often incorrectly so, but generally unnoticed). I enthusiastically endorse exploring the amusing delights of refraining from making ordinary assumptions now and then, but must state clearly that the consequences of choosing to do so are also your own to explore; your results may vary. (Remember to keep Wheaton’s Law in play!) 🙂

It’s easy to demonstrate the value of not making assumptions by considering the puzzle of buying a gift for someone else. If I buy a gift based on what I know of my own taste, I am not likely to buy a gift that suits that other person well. If I buy a gift based on common assumptions about taste and current trends in the marketplace, I may have improved on whether I am able to buy a gift that suits that other person – but it’s not a certainty, though it often feels as though it is a better choice. When I buy someone a gift, with what I really know of them in mind, I am by far more likely to select a gift that truly suits them…only…what do I really know about that other person? Is it enough? It becomes tempting to begin to build additional assumptions about them, crafted from what I know, to create a sense of deeper knowledge… it isn’t at all real, or reliable. Then what? Settle for accepting that gifts are often received graciously, however unsatisfying the gifts themselves may be? I don’t really find that comfortable, either, personally. I would rather invest in the delight of the recipient, and put aside my assumptions and ask questions, build intimacy, gain deeper knowledge – both of that other person, and through emotional intimacy and connection, deeper knowledge of who I am, myself. Emotional intimacy is powerful, and nourishing. Sustainable lasting love has its roots in emotional intimacy.

Interacting with those dear to us on the basis of assumptions may actually be the direct opposite of emotional intimacy. This is a new thought for me, in these simple terms. I plan to spend some time considering it further.

My traveling partner was the first to point out to me that expectations are a relationship killer, and I have seen the truth of it. I throw assumptions onto that same bonfire; few things fuel the failure of intimacy with such efficiency. This particularly excellent week of living and working has been peculiar in how few expectations I have had – or held on to – and how few assumptions I have relied upon. It’s been telling, as well as exceptionally connected and satisfying in terms of my interactions with others. Refraining from holding onto implicit expectations, and refusing to make assumptions about others, look like valuable practices, from this perspective.

An artist at work? A student of life. I am having my own experience. (Your results may vary)

An artist at work? A student of life. I am having my own experience. (Your results may vary)

I’ve a long weekend ahead, and even without expectations about what it holds, it looks very promising creatively and emotionally. Where will the journey take me? I won’t assume I know. 🙂

I’m sitting here with a nasty headache (not unusual) and a feeling of anxiety that just isn’t entirely going away, but also isn’t attached to anything specific in my right-now experience.  I pause now and again, practice mindfulness, meditate for a few minutes, do some yoga. I ‘feel okay’ in the sense that life isn’t bad, even my mood is mostly quite nice, but I have a clear sense that there is commitment to practice and effort involved.  I’m not troubled by that, today, it seems rather obvious that a desired change would take actual effort; a verb.

Here are two photos taken within a few seconds of each other. Take a moment to consider this:

What we see often depends a great deal on...

What we see often depends a great deal on…

...what we are looking at and what we want to see.

…what we are looking at (and what we want to see).

So, there’s that.  So much is really a matter of (wait for it…) perspective. (Why does that delight me so? Why does it seem to offer so much hope?)  Yeah, I’m still meditating on perspective. It remains a worthy concept for contemplation, always fresh, always adding some twist on something, and not once have I had an experience where having more perspective was a disadvantage. Not even once.

Somehow, my musings on perspective brought me around to considering that archetypal question of childhood – “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  (How many times is any one of us asked that question? Who ever has an answer at that age? Hell, I’m still fucking working on that one!)  I found myself imagining that I had taken on first one career/calling, then another… and when I got to ‘lion tamer’ my creative thinking brain threw ‘tension tamer’ into the conversation! Suddenly, I was imagining making taming my stress some kind of vocation, a calling, a role – dressed for the circus big top, with a whip or a riding crop, making my anxiety do my bidding.  LOL! I delight myself with the image and imagine further a whole circus or carnival cast – with my anxiety somehow ‘The Main Attraction”.  Metaphors dancing with allegories in my busy imagination playground.  My in-the-moment stress and anxiety faded away, for the moment.  (Nice one, Brain, that was fun.) 😀

(I wonder if I can call upon my Tension Tamer any time I want to? Is this a new tool, or was it an experience?)

Mindfulness is making so much difference for me. Being a student of life and love is providing me with an education of such immense value that it could never be measured in grades, or student loan debt.  More questions than answers seems to be a way of approaching my experience that pays off in a lot more good days than bad, fewer sleepless nights, and less bitter rumination and emotional pain.  Finding security and contentment in ambiguity and uncertainty is an unexpected outcome, but here I am. More content. Healing. Finding more peace in my heart and more comfort with my experience. This is a good place to be, and in spite of the headache, and the arthritis pain, this is a good day [for me].

There’s this one thing that bums me out though… I can only share words about this experience.  I don’t know how to convey how utterly necessary it seems now, how helpful, how lovely.  Well, at least I do have words, and I can share those.  (I’ll count on you to read them, and take from them what is meaningful for you.)   🙂

Mindfulness sees the unexpected heron in a field along a busy road.

Mindfulness sees the unexpected heron in a field along a busy road.

There is still so much to learn.