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fluctuate and rotate .

November 23, 2010

in a previous entry, I wrote about fluctuating – energy and interest levels in certain things waxing and waning – rather intensely. I also mentioned rotating – going around and around – being interested, then very much not interested in Buddhism, Paganism, Vegetarianism, etc. And it being some sort of rotating cycle. Obsessive distractions coming back around, fading into others, and going ’round again.

I had not considered the word “rotation,” as meaning rotating around something – around a center, not just an empty space. I didn’t realize this until I tapped it into my built in dictionary and found that there is something that is rotated around. Something that is a center, or axis or pivot point. There has to be something there for whatever else to rotate around. It’s not going around in circles aimlessly,

.. which is what I’ve felt I have been doing.

What is the center, then? I do not consciously have all the answers to that question. I am guessing we all have a deep subconscious or unconscious component to our minds. Although I have had many psychology courses, the difference between the “subconscious” and “unconscious” remains unclear to me. It seems at times these words have been used interchangeably. Take your pick.

What I am talking about is the deep parts of ourselves, like deep parts an ocean, that send up currents – a sort of “upwelling.” Colder water coming upward from the depths and mixing with the warmer water of the surface. This mental upwelling occurs in us. Subconscious or unconscious thoughts, feelings, desires, etc. rise up into our conscious minds..

And then there is the proposed, and quite believable “collective unconscious” – sort of a group mind that we all share. I don’t know if that term originated with one of the fathers of psychology, Carl Jung, but he is associated with it.

And, if you are pantheistic, like I sort of am, you believe that everything is inter-connected, and that it is every living thing that is part of the whole, and the group mind is shared by all living things..

The difficult part for many of us is sorting out all these things that come into our conscious minds – from our own unconscious or subconscious, from the collective unconscious, and what ever stimuli we choose to take in, and whatever stimuli we have to deal with that we don’t choose.

In our immensely distracted age, we are bombarded with many thousands of times worth of ideas and concepts and thoughts and so forth than our primitive ancestors had to deal with. It is no wonder there are such high occurrences of mental illness and substance abuse! There is an over-abundance of choices in practically every category of consumer goods you can think of. Too much entertainment choices available as well. Does anyone really need over 600 TV channels? Years ago, Bruce Springsteen sang a song called “57 Channels and Nuthin’ On.” Not sure if that was the actual title or just the chorus, but he was right then with the 57 channels – now we have over 600 with almost nothing on. The scarier part is that most people are willing to watch any program that has no redeeming content at all.

And then, there is the web. I wonder if anyone is keeping track of how many websites there are. I am guessing that would be pretty much impossible. Millions and millions. Talk about possibilities for distraction!

Yes, in this age, it is becoming harder and harder to know ourselves, and easier and easier to avoid engaging in life, except through some sort of digital platform. There is a part of a classic novel by Ray Bradbury called “Fahrenheit 451” where the protagonist’s wife is nagging him for a fourth wall screen TV. The people on the screens are all that matter to her. We are practically there! If being a pedestrian or owning a book becomes an illegal activity, perhaps I will not be all that surprised. Read “Fahrenheit 451,” if you haven’t already.

We are continually and with greater intensity and immediacy becoming disengaged from ourselves. We run from ourselves. We know what our favorite brands of cigarettes or gasoline or toilet paper are, and what sports teams to root for, and the latest gossip about celebrities – but we don’t know ourselves.

And, most of us have also long since lost touch with the Earth. The rhythm of the seasons, eating food in season, observing natural phenomena, and being stewards of the earth. Most of us, including me, pollute the earth, everyday. We drive our gas-powered cars, cut down woodlands and rain forests, destroy natural habitats, and ruin our bodies of water.

Is there any hope for us?

I think that there is, if enough individuals wake up. Even doing a little is better than nothing. Trying to reduce one’s garbage thrown out everyday, driving a more fuel efficient car, riding a bike, we all know these things. I need to do these things too! Perhaps these things are closer to the center of our being, much closer, than all the things we use to distract and eventually obliterate ourselves with.

The center I am rotating around is not entirely unique to me. Some of these things we rotate around without engaging in are common to all of us. Getting to know ourselves, finding our purpose or purposes. Being good to ourselves and others. Finding time, even a little time in each day to take some deep breaths, and look around at the trees, hear the birds. Observe. Be mindful ourselves, other people, our surroundings. Become grounded in the moment instead all our thoughts being mired in an ill-remembered past or a nervous future. These are hard to do, I know, especially when we first start out to do these things. I am still a novice at mindfulness, and certainly need to work more on some of these other important things as well.

Spirituality is also a human need that should be cultivated. I am realizing that one does not need to be part of any belief system or faith in order to cultivate a spiritual life. A friend of mine, a few months ago, remarked that “everything that uplifts the spirit is spiritual.” I need to remind myself of that, and not feel really bad all the time because I can never fully accept a spiritual system and be a part of it.

I have been fluctuating and rotating around.. going around in circles, studying Buddhism, then Paganism, being side-tracked into old desires of returning to Christianity, before reminding myself that I do not believe in the Christian god or Christ.

And I’ve felt really bad, incomplete – wanting to be able to tell people – “Oh, I’m a this, or I’m a that.” Wanting to be able to label myself, and feeling sad and dysfunctional that I cannot.

Also, wanting to be part of a spiritual community of believers of one sort or another – thereby sharing special experiences, were I ever to have them, and be part of a community – I have wanted these things. Being part of a group dedicated to something hopefully worthwhile, instead of being on my own and lonely.

But I keep coming back to the same place.

I keep realizing that it is in my nature to be unaffiliated. I am not, nor have I been for many years, a Christian. I am influenced a little by Christian teachings (some of which are actually good) somewhat by Buddhist, and to a lesser extent, Pagan teachings, but I am neither Buddhist or Pagan. I learn from Taoist teachings, and others too, but remain..

Myself. I am myself. I am otherwise unaffiliated. Perhaps the world needs a bit of balance – at least a few of us that claim no religion, and go about our lives without much religious influence, and without trying to influence others to join this or that religion.

It can be quite tough not being religious. In many ways, for millions upon millions of people, being religious makes life easier. Religions can provide hope, and they can provide answers.

While sitting and watching a movie today, I could not help but still be within myself somewhat, grappling with my own humanity, wondering and worrying, dealing with existential questions that I cannot answer. The only good answers I came up with were “don’t worry about it. Be in the moment. Life goes on. Hey this is a pretty good flick, pay attention, don’t worry about your physical or mental health and don’t worry about your upcoming move and what you will do when you get there. Be here. And later, be patient, keep your eyes open, be mellow, and not afraid, and you will be much healthier and happier than you have been. And don’t worry about religion either, or what people will think about you being non-religious.”

These were my thoughts.

So often in my mind, I have what I call “the imaginary people,” not really people I know, just vague impressions of a disapproving group of people. My imaginary group of harsh critics.. you know, the “they” that appear in our minds. “What will they think?” These imaginary people way or may not represent real people I will meet in the future, or people I know now. But it’s the opposite of a mental cheering section, and something I have to deal with.

I know these people are figments of my mind. Inner critics and worse – we all have. They are renegade parts of ourselves. I don’t know how to put into words exactly how to make peace with ourselves, although I do have some ideas, which I will write about in a bit I think realizing and noticing our imaginary critics can really help.

Since these imaginary people are just internal manifestations of ourselves, it is best not to have vindictive, hostile feelings toward our imaginary critics, because we are only hurting ourselves. Somehow we need to be kind to all of ourselves.

As I said, I can’t put it all into words right now. I wish I could. These things fluctuate too. Sometimes I feel more paranoid and down on myself than other times. Sometimes the imaginary people, these inner critics are stronger in my head then on other days.

I think we can do some things to help ourselves, though. We can notice emotional triggers – people or things that set us off and make us worse. If we are stuck with people that we are not always happy to be living with, we can try to adopt more magnanimous attitudes toward them, and try at least a little to see things from their perspective. This does help. It humanizes them, instead of demonizing them. We need to take the same magnanimous attitude with ourselves as well.

For some people, it is far easier to accept other people than accept ourselves. Being kind to ourselves can be quite difficult. We all have some forms of self-destructive and sabotaging behaviour. Again, noticing these things is important. After we notice these things, we must act with compassion, not anger against ourselves.

I think what might help with this is trying not to be so stimulated. Maybe watch a little less TV, or send fewer text messages, surf the net a little less, avoid listening to really heavy or terribly profane music – or at least cut down on it. This has helped me some. I don’t play metal music nearly as much as I did in years past, and when I do listen to really hard rock it tends to stay with me for awhile. I find myself sitting in a meeting or some other place that requires my attention, maybe just sitting down reading a book – studying something, and these super-heavy guitar riffs and pounding drums and insanely aggressive singers go through my mind and my body reacts as well. My feet or hands will be tapping out rhythms or I’ll sit there and almost headbanging a bit.

And rap – rap is not even music. In order for music to be music, there has to be both rhythm and melody present. Rap has rhythm but no melody. Some rap, especially if it was made at least 20 years ago, is creative, and not so bad as most of it. But most rap, I believe, is harmful, Nothing but aggression, profanity, misogyny, material greed. And high pitched noises and deafening bass sounds which shake cars and walls and people. Definitely not something that is good for anyone!!

And a steady diet of violent and graphic TV shows and films, be they action movies or grisly cop programs – these aren’t exactly blessing us either are they?

And porn? I have heard that just about all the most infamous serial killers from the past 40 years or so were addicted to porn. Some of them started with soft core porn stuff, but ended up with the most graphic and vile images they could get. And then, that wasn’t enough. So they sexually targeted people, and killed them in terrible ways.

Not all people who are into porn turn out to be serial killers – most don’t, but still, it really isn’t a healthy thing. It can be addictive. I have almost always been careful to stay away from it. Fortunately for me, this has been easy. I naturally have a strong distaste for watching other people have sex, or to see pictures of them. I have many difficulties and my own addictive habits of various kinds – obsessive thoughts and stupid actions that I repeat, but there are some addictions that I don’t have.

It just comes down to trying to take better care of ourselves, and trying to get to know ourselves. We seem to somehow be conditioned to do the exact opposite.

It is really a scary thing for me to try working on what I feel I should do. And I often feel confused about what it is I should be working on, or think these things that I feel I should work on are of little value to even attempt – that these efforts are hopeless, pointless. I deal with that a lot.

I do not know what to do about a career – at least consciously I don’t. I’m glad I’m not going back to college for awhile, because I don’t have a plan for finishing college – what to major in, and certainly don’t have a plan for after college. I don’t know what career to get into, and sometimes this causes terrible terrible anxiety and eats away at me.

I’ve heard people say, “if you don’t know what to do, do what is in front of you.” I look around my room and I see a computer that I can use for at least some productive things, like writing this blog or seeking answers to questions that I can actually get answers to, or to order a helpful audiobook or pay a small price to download some great music, or communicate with friends.. or I can just fart around for hour upon hour, or even worse, be in the midst of an obsession, like I have been in past years – spending massive amounts of time researching this or that instrument, or this or that faith..

No, I want to use my time on this machine more wisely. Maybe someday I will even learn how to use it better, make much more use of it.

What else do I see in my room? Lots of instruments, related gear, music books, flash cards. I keep coming back to music, but I think that unlike various forms of spirituality I have been fixated on, music is actually in the center, my center, something I am rotating around and so often avoiding. I have an acoustic guitar, an electric bass, a keyboard, various sizes of pennywhistles, and some hand drums. And, what I so often forget, my voice!

I have decided I will continue to work on guitar at least some of the time, learn bass, continue practicing the whistles, and use DVD’s and other instructional materials to learn how to sing much better. I will also need to study some theory, which I am not looking forward to, but have some software and books for that as well.

The keyboard – other family members can use that if they want. It has good sound, but I have my musical priorities. The handrums I will start using if I join a drum circle later on. Mostly, they are just decorative right now, or for occasionally beating out a rhythm on just for fun, with no desire to really improve on them.

These are things that are in front of me. Musical endeavors. Also, should spend a little time drawing each day, and write at least every few days. These might even turn out to be career things, and if not, even so, they are what is currently in front of me to do.

I have not much need to spend any more money on these things. I have lots of sheet music and guitar magazines and books, software for bass guitar and music theory, books and software for bass and music theory, and have just ordered an expensive but hopefully well worth the cost set of singing DVD’s. I will try to write about those later.

This is more than enough to do! This is what is in front of me.

In order to pursue these endeavors, I will need to mellow out somewhat (quite a bit, actually.. working on learning how to do that), and relax, be patient, not overly anxious and manically rushing through things.

I am working on this as well. Taking deep breaths, listening to helpful audio books such as “The Four Agreements,” and “The Tao of Pooh,” and “Te of Piglet.” And watching good movies, after I have put in some time working on myself, or reading good novels, such as those by Tolkien or Terry Pratchett, these help too.

And finding good people to interact with from time to time. This is also important.

I am actually feeling somewhat at peace, at the moment. Getting some good food in my system, and a quality beer (only 1) helps. Alcohol though, only helps wind me down some of the time, so I’m not exactly putting it on my recommendation list. For some of us, in moderation, alcohol can be an alright thing.

Actually, pretty much everything in moderation. If you are religious, be religious in moderation. One service per week, and maybe one bible study group midweek is an example of moderation. Sitting in a room constantly listening to sermons or religious music, or going to mass every day..that is NOT moderation. You will burn out your mind doing that, trust me.

And if you are Buddhist, unless you are a monastic, spending tons of time in mediation might not be so great for you either. Might not even be good for the monks, who knows.

And pagans.. some get so tripped out! Pagans might need to be especially careful. Various forms of pagan teaching can be especially seductive, especially for those pagans heading into darker territory.

It’s your life. You can take these words I’ve just typed and do whatever you want with them.

As for me, I’m going to tget off the crazy merry-go-round. Staying on a merry-go-round too long will make us feel rather sick -very unmerry.

I will try to avoid much, if any, pagan or Buddhist study. As of now, I plan on NOT joining pagan groups, or Buddhist groups in Idaho once I get there.

I need to devote myself to musical studies and practice, and some art and writing, and eventually more animal care, perhaps – all these forms are spirituality too.

I need to deal with my self-doubt, my manic, anxious states too. Some days I will be able to get more done than on other days. On the days I don’t get much done, I need to take extra care not to put myself down or beat myself up. If I can get to the point where I am patient in my practice and not rushing, then I will know I have made major improvement, and more improvement still is on the way.

Consistency, faith, balance, moderation, patience and practice. And joy along the way, joy in the journey.

My energy levels and enthusiasm for the good things I want to do will change, and I want to adapt to these fluctuations, and become more constant – less fluctuation.

As for rotating, I want to stop that. I want to live and be in the center. That where the real work is done, what is necessary is done, where my real spirituality is, and where I find the real me.

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