Lately I’ve been letting myself get bogged down with little stress-thoughts like Why did I spend so many years in school? and How am I going to lose these last few pounds?
I call them stress thoughts, because those are recurring subjects that I’ve allowed to stress me out. I didn’t have any plans when applying for university, didn’t make any while taking classes, and didn’t think about employment until the last semester of my final year. That is incredibly irresponsible and expensive kids, don’t be that guy.
The reasons behind that irresponsibility will be explored in a later post, but the point is that I’ve let it get to me ever since. While I did find employment, I found myself a wonderful career in the fulfilling industry that is insurance, and remained there for two years. Two years throughout which I grew increasingly depressed and began losing my hair while still in my early twenties.
I needed to do something, but I didn’t want to just quit my job with no other plans. I began looking for resources to manage the stress in my life, but didn’t want to spend much more money since I was paying down student loans, and didn’t want to have to go to some retreat, or hire a therapist.
After an afternoon of caffein and google, I stumbled upon two blogs — The Minimalists and Zen Habits. One idea that popped out was a focus on meditation, how practicing it could not only help reduce stress, but actually help you to feel more content with life.
I had practiced meditation in the past, my grandmother was a Buddhist nun and taught all of us grandkids to meditate when we were in primary school. She was really good at keeping us quiet and attentive now that I think about it. When we later took on wushu lessons, we meditated for 10 minutes at the end of each class.
For no other reason other than a lack of desire and obvious incentive to continue the practice, I gave up meditation in favor of more readily available things in life like video games, junk food and anything that I could fill that time with instead of meditating.
About one and a half years into the oh so fulfilling job, my girlfriend invited me to attend a class on Meditation to fulfill a school assignment about trying something different than what you would normally find in your life. Walking into the room with small square pillows scattered about, I arrogantly thought, to myself, that I could already meditate better than any other students in the room! I, the man with hereditary ties to Buddhism and a penchant for taking the easy road, didn’t need to be taught how to meditate or clear the mind. I could do it any time I wanted! Couldn’t I?
If it isn’t obvious enough, I walked into that place as a person full of shit. From my arrogant attitude to victim-mentality, I had more than enough baggage that I held onto for dear life.
My job made my life miserable and caused my hair to fall out.
College made me waste years of my life.
Those thoughts and feelings, things that I held onto consciously or otherwise, made up this identity that I gave myself and presented to the world. They swirled around in my head without ceasing during the meditation session. But you know what? I was a pro at stopping the thoughts in my head. If I didn’t want to think, just stop thinking right?
“Let the thoughts come, don’t try to stop them. They are in your mind and will come whether you want them to or not. But don’t hold onto them either. They are as the current of a river, allow them to tumble down the waterfall, and out of your mind.”
I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of what he said. I could stop thinking, and by that token ignore the things that bothered me inside, but that didn’t make me okay about them. My thoughts and experiences, both the good and the bad, are part of my life. However, they don’t determine my mood or who I will become in the future unless I let them.
If I wanted to take control of my life, I needed to stop making myself the victim of past circumstances.
I find it often that people hold tight to the things they feel identify them. Sometimes these things help us achieve what we want in life, often times they cause suffering and discontent. Having a method to accept, release and clarify the mind can be incredibly liberating. That single instruction, while simple, is a great tool. No, it doesn’t “resolve” your past and it won’t give you answers to your future. It’s not some magic 8 ball, stop trying. But with practice, it will help with gaining clarity and serenity to live in the present. No paining over what was, or longing for what “could be”. Just being content with what is.
If you were wondering about that second thought from the top of the essay; diet and exercise. That’s how I’m going to lose these last few pounds. Diet and exercise.