Giving Space

Yesterday I went out with my roommates. Over the course of the night one of them told me something sad that occurred in the morning in her life. I could see some of the pain as we talked. I thought that she had a lot of courage to go out with us that same day. It’s as rational as it gets. It makes a whole lot of sense that unwinding doing something unrelated will help you get over a bump faster. Although sometimes it can stem from a desire to forget about an event that is troubling you. That’s why it is important to give yourself some time alone with no distractions where you can delve on the feeling. Otherwise your need to go out and do something else without properly assessing your emotional state is just going to bust up later at night or in the morning when you wake up. This sounds obvious, but people rarely try to shut their phone off, close the computer and any other distraction to remain idle for just a few minutes. I’ve always told myself that we were never given the proper tools to manage our own mind in school. It’s okay since life has a way with all of us. Sometimes much later in life.

And so we ended up dancing to the rhythm of the 80’s at a bar. I made the conscious decision to make a fool out of myself with weird dance moves so that at least we all get a good laugh. Before I knew it my roommates jumped in like monkeys and it felt good to simply be. Giving someone space, to let them be, is probably the most powerful gift you can give to someone who wants to talk to you.

Just Words

Desire, Success, Failure, Work and Time. What do these five words have in common? They are concepts. They are pointers to an idea. They are nothing more than that. It’s safe to say that most of us might cling to a few words which we repeat on a daily basis. For the longest time I had the word strength and pride going on in my head. I had been boxing for about 5 years, I had reached a plateau and I knew that the only way to further improve my skills was to start amateur fights in a league. There was something that was slowing down my progress though. I could feel it, but not quite describe it.

Either during training or sparring I kept thinking about strength. I was able to extract an identity out of a simple word. There was nothing else going on in my mind. It started feeling like I was untouchable from a mental standpoint. It made me rigid and when I made mistakes my skewed perspective was in peril so I felt threatened. It took a few hits to my ego to understand that there was something missing in my view and that my obsession with both words would lead me to another dead end sooner or later. These concepts still have power over me, but I’m okay with that. When you learn to accept this facet of yourself it helps you better understand your situation. With that, it leads to taking things for what they are. When I train or spar now I don’t feel compelled to think so much about how I see myself in relation to other people. If I have noticed anything about this slight change is that I don’t feel drained by trying to pursue something that’s out there. I still take my fights seriously, not for the sake of protecting my image like it was before, but simply because it’s enjoyable to have a nice technical fight where two individuals put their years of training to the test.

They Exist at Every Stage

When I was nine or ten years old I remember telling my friend how I would only start dating girls in college. The reasoning that backed this up was that if you made it to college then you were smart and if you were smart you would be worth my time. A kids wild imagination huh? I guess I was under the impression that each higher stage of education would only include the next tier of smartest people. Thankfully it didn’t take long to change my mind.

And so why was I reminded of this so many years later? Because I went to the bathroom and someone took a piss that completely missed the mark. Piss everywhere. On the walls, on the floor and I think I saw droplets on the ceiling. You would think that an engineering firm wouldn’t have these kind of incidents happening. They do though. Someone in this office pissed with his eyes closed and probably laughed while doing it. Or maybe he suddenly had an attack, who knows. Heck, maybe the janitor himself did it to make his day more exciting.

This makes me wonder about the people I work with. Some people might look serious, others smart, but they might be delinquents when they are given a moment of privacy. I personally thought this was quite funny for some reason. It also puts a human face on all of us in the organization here. We often look at someone from one angle. That someone might be rigid and objective in his work, but he could very well have an artistic and freewheeling side when he’s off. That’s why it might be worth looking at someone beyond the current role he’s in. For some reason it fills me with a bit of compassion for all the people I interact with on a daily basis. It can be difficult to get beyond first impressions, but the rewards of giving people a chance and to see under a different light is worth it.

Where does discomfort come from?

This has been a subject of great interest to me. Simply because, like many of us, I was bummed out when I didn’t listen to my inner voice and instead chose the easy way just to get by. It doesn’t feel bad as I get more aware of my choices and often I tell myself that every fault gives me two opportunities. One, it’s an opportunity to react in a way that gets me out of a state of fixation of an event. Secondly, it is a valuable lesson so as to mitigate a similar experience in the future.

That being said, the feeling is still there. Increased heart rate, light stress or repeated projections of thoughts in my mind, just a vicious mental state. It can be a troublesome topic though. Trying to understand discomfort is fine, but it easily places you in a position of seeking to understand as a desire for avoiding the pain. And as we have heard before, desire is the root cause of pain according to Buddha. We have to start from some point though! Zen Buddhists said that all students begin in a state of mental sickness(1). So it’s not a bad place to start in if we accept to see ourselves as being in a bind. The bind doesn’t have to be looked as an invalidating concept. To me, it procures me with a sense of freedom and lightness. I can let go and let it be.

We can also remember that duality persists, without faults, could we ever understand what success is? Why not try to see these two faces as a whole?

Food for thought. There’s a whole lot more to say about this subject, but since I like to emphasize practical application I would like you to try and stay aware when a situation feels like it’s going too fast and doesn’t give you enough time to properly think about what your gut feeling says.

(1) Soul of the Samurai translated by Thomas Clearly : Takuan Sōhō mentions this in the chapter Pearless Sword.

Consuming Quotes Like There’s no Tomorrow

I try to read a quote or two every day. There’s no need for expectations, but usually quotes are pointers to greater ideas or truths about life. I’ve been doing this for a few months and I have become a living quote dispenser. There’s an answer to every situation. It’s fun and it is a great way to stir up a conversation when you are with someone and inspiration is nowhere to be found. People who know me often say they have no idea where the hell I get all this stuff from. The fact is, it isn’t made up. I just enjoy reading and spend a few hours every week doing so. Reading quotes along with books procures me that extra peak that mysteriously creeps up on me during random conversations.

Sometimes you read a quote that really hits home and decide to read up on the author. Then you decide to get a book or two that he wrote. Bam! You end up expanding your horizons without even trying. For example, take a look at the following quote : “Rejection breeds obsession.” — Robert Evans. I had no clue who Robert Evans was. Turns out he was the reason Love Story and The Godfather ever came to be. I ended up reading his auto-biography, “The Kid Stays in the Picture”. It was a fascinating read and taught me a lot about the movie filming business. It was better than Christmas Eve. By the way, this is also a great way to build up a list of books to read if you don’t have a list already.

Quotes help you when you are in a bind. Especially when you feel doubt about a situation. A book I own in my office is Bruce Lee’s Striking Thoughts. I open a random page and read one or two paragraphs. Usually I either end up laughing at myself and the situation I am in or find something that helps me understand the situation.