Nothing’s New

Yesterday, I had a really bad day – everything felt stuck. Whatever I did seemed both mechanical and self-conscious. The critical voice was extra active. To the conditioned mind, nothing is really ever new, as every perception is filtered through the memory centre which in turn triggers thoughts – old chewed up patterns. Whatever we are presented with is judged and reacted to from past recordings. When one becomes aware of it, this is quite disturbing. It is like a form of generalized tinnitus. 

Yesterday, everything felt like Groundhog Day. There was no freshness, no desire to do anything as it seemed like drudgery. Nothing new really! There were memories of being like this before, yet it was mixed with thousands of memories of me feeling well and vibrant.  I did not know how to get back to my usual self. By the end of the day, my son suggested we put some order in the house together – it needed to be done – but he also knows how physical disorder really affect me when I am irritated. I went along with it trying not to contaminate other people’s moods and went to bed rather deflated.

Today in contrast almost everything seems beautiful and calm. There is more order in the house, but more importantly there seems to be more silence in the head. In reality, everything is in constant flux, changing and different, and yes the mind is active but it does not need to take over. So long as we use our mechanical auto-pilot mind nothing is going to be perceived as new.

So how does one approach the ever-changing reality with fresh eyes, ears and aware senses? God knows? How about my nose!

This is something that I have been more in touch with since practising meditation. It is possible to be aware of the air gently passing through the nostrils while meeting the complex world of inner and outer stimulus with a beginners mind.

This series of posts are part of Incrementally – a 366 day writing challenge.

PS- When proof reading this post, I was reminded of a similar post I wrote few years ago. The title says it all:
The Same Yet Not the Same

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The same, yet not the same

thesameyetnotthesame

At times, I feel like everything is constantly changing and that there is unlimited potential. At other times, I can’t help noticing the same old patterns, and the daily routine feels like Groundhog Day. Although on the surface things appear to be moving, at the core there seems to be a psychological stagnation and the following question keeps coming to me: why don’t I change?

On the physical and developmental level, it is clear that during the formative years – I did change. From the baby born in the south of France, to the 7 year old boy who walked to school in the streets of Paris, from the 14 year old teen who went to an international school in England to the 21 year old college student who grew a beard and shaved his head – there certainly was a chain of transformations. All along, though, I assumed that I was the same person.

When I became an adult, the process slowed down – my conditioning became more rooted and I noticed that I tended to seek security. I did not really feel the years go by and in my head, I still believed that I was young. My image in the mirror altered, habits formed, and I became mentally less supple. Career changes and parenthood were challenging and made their marks. More responsibilities and busyness kept me from watching and questioning the process. I kept on learning and accumulating, but rarely did I have the energy to unlearn and to let go.

Now in my late forties, I experience a great desire to shake things – not only in myself but also in the world. I want to make a difference. Many people would call this midlife crisis – I prefer to call it midlife renaissance: an opportunity to reinvent myself. I want to learn new skills, I yearn to meet new people and start new projects. But if I am honest, I am quite attached to my conditioned self and I know that changing things on the outside is very limited. So I have a renewed interest in self-knowledge and challenging my conditioning.

Our cells get continuously replaced, our neurones make new connections and we learn new things all the time, in nature everything is in constant flux, materially speaking our world is ever changing and innovations are transforming our lives at an unprecedented rate. Yet psychologically, it would seem that humans have not really evolved. So why don’t we change? What stops us?

It is probably beyond the scope of this blog post to go into it thoroughly, but I have observed a fragmentation in myself and in everything I do. I am not sure if it is real, but it sure feels that way. Seemingly there is a division between what I think and what I do, between idea and reality. Leo Babauta calls it the mind movie and I find it a very useful metaphor. What is also evident is that within the mind movie there are contradictions and conflicting desires. I want to stay the same and I want to change.

In the last six months, I have been observing the process more closely and find it fascinating. I have introduced mindfulness and have actively applied some changes in the way I do things. I try to meet my fears and have managed to become less judgmental. Our conditioning, although apparently quite ingrained, is not fixed. It is very persistent and builds an identity, but it can be dismantled by observation. In the same way, we can declutter our house, we can declutter our minds. We can let go of most of our past hurts, opinions, and ideals. Although memories are useful, they can cloud our thinking. Are we not more than the total sum of our experiences?

Over the last ten years, I have met many people who have told me that apart from my grey hair, I have not changed. If they were to see me now, they would probably say the same thing. They have not witnessed the many Groundhog days I have been through and all the different things that I am attempting to do. No, there has been no breakthrough, but things are moving. I am the same, yet not the same.

This post was originally written a year and a half ago, is it the same now?

Breangelo*

Self-portrait, Barcelona.

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