Thoughts of a Thinker

I greet you with arms outstretched in gratitude on this beautiful morning.

I completed my first post surgical walk today. That’s not to say That I haven’t been walking, but there’s a huge difference between “going for a walk” with purpose and getting up from my desk or my couch. It is good to be back in this space. I know and have long ago accepted the fact that my running may not ever be what it once was. I have also accepted there will be a great deal of effort and time devoted to my progress.

I think when I walk. I think when I run. I do my best problem solving when I am by myself with the world relatively shut off. Thinking is one of the attributes of exercise which I enjoy. In his book “Walden”, Thoreau wrote, “A man thinking or working will always be alone, let him be where he will.”

This time alone with the birds is an opportunity for me to problem solve, long before the rest of the world becomes awake. The noise at this early hour is acceptable. I can hear the birds calling to each other. Time passes and I am allowed this brief interlude of solitude before the pace of the day begins to quicken and the time for thinking, at least for me, has gone. Now my thoughts are on autopilot. Being on autopilot is also a dangerous place for me to reside. It is necessary for me to check in frequently throughout the day and ensure I do not lose my way. When I need that time, I close the door to my office and take a few minutes before the next client enters to reflect. I also use my lunch hour to ensure I have even more time to remove the metaphorical batteries, place them back on the charger and ensure I have the emotional energy to traverse the remainder of the day.

Thoughts from this morning’s walk; which planet is visible in the southern sky? It’s Saturn by the way. Why do my healed incisions itch, especially the one on the inside of my knee? Why are my ears ringing this morning yet they didn’t ring at all yesterday? Why did the driver of that car feel it was important to run the red light? Where are they going this morning? Why do they believe they are more important than the rest of us who obey the laws? Why is Dunkin Donuts Closed at 5 AM? Why do they not open and allow their customers to travel 50 yards down the street to visit one of their competitors?  Surely Thoreau did not have to worry or think even in a more mild fashion about some of these topics. but think he did.

Thoreau was born in 1817. I believe that his thoughts today would not be to different from those he might have today. Thoreau, when he wrote his essay “Civil Disobedience” spoke of the importance of individualism. Thoreau expressed a belief in the power and what he referred to as an “obligation” of the individual to determine right from wrong independent of the dictates of society. Thoreau said, “any man more right than his neighbors, constitutes a majority of one.”

It is this belief which I share with Thoreau and reinforces my need for solitude.

Namaste

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Stop Bitching! Part II

I greet this day with hands clasped together in gratitude. Today I am grateful today for many things. They are truly too numerous to mention and this post isn’t about what I’m grateful for, it’s about you recognizing what you’re grateful for in your life.

I have been thinking a lot about what I have been hearing on the news lately. I am not going to get into those issues as they are far too large for me to deal with and I am not interested in starting what would ultimately be a partisan conflict that would not have an end in sight. Everyone today feels they know the answers. I am not alone in the world of opinions and I am not one of the individuals who feels as though they know everything. I do, like everyone else have an opinion and if you know the saying about opinions you will again understand why I won’t go there. If you don’t know the saying about opinions, here it is: “Opinions are like assholes…everyone’s got one.”

What I will get into is a take off from my post one month earlier and that has to do with the bitching and complaining I hear every day, mostly from those who will not take even one step in the direction of looking at their behavior which has resulted in both direct and indirect decision. Those same individuals are the one who refuse to believe they have any ability to make changes in their life and instead blame others. I almost got into the whole black lives matter, blue lives matter, etc., etc., etc. I also run into those individuals who ask for help, direction, etc. and still refuse to take the steps they need. We live in a culture where bitching, complaining, whining, etc. is accepted if not encouraged. If you didn’t before understand the wild success of platforms such as Facebook, you do now!

I have been in a little bit of a funk recently. I hurt my knee and running without pain and the concern about doing further damage has helped me to make a decision which I believe is in my best interest. I don’t like the decision and I want to get back to running…without pain and the fear of doing more damage. Therefore I made the decision, without bitching and complaining that best works for me. One of the questions I ask is “When did it become ok to not make a decision and to just sit back and complain?” This isn’t for me to anser…yet. I will go there in the book on which I am working but this is a question which each of us needs to answer for ourselves.

The decision not to run was a relatively difficult one to make as we are in the middle of my favorite time of year. For me, there is not much which rivals getting up at 4 AM, putting on a pair of shorts and running shoes, setting my watch and heading out the door for a run. There is no knit hat, no gloves, no tights, jacket etc. On the other hand, for the reasons which I mentioned, this was also an easy one to make.

I have used my meditation practice to be mindful of the fact that I have choices in my life. I feel sad for those individuals who refuse to believe they have choices. We all have choices. They may not seem like good choices, but they are choices nonetheless. I feel sad for those individuals who thumb their nose at interventions such as counseling and instead take the easy way out…medication. Medication can be a remarkable tool to help decrease some of the symptoms we experience, but they are in no way an answer in and of themselves. We are afraid to “go into counseling.” We believe if we “go into counseling we will “get the answers” to our problems. The answers to our problems are within us and we should be using counseling as a type of sounding board but not for the answers. I have patients who do see me looking for answers and when they feel they are “not getting help” because “counseling doesn’t work” are the same ones who leave counseling complaining.

Look within yourself. The answers, despite your belief they are not, are inside you. Ask for help. Ask for direction, just don’t ask to be given the answers. This is a powerful part of the counseling transformation and believe it or not can be a fun part of seeking therapy.

Namaste.

Business Dealings with Men

With respect,
I have been struggling of late with my new employment. It is with gratitude that I have employment with relatively fair compensation and which affords me the ability to have health insurance but there remains something lacking and it is happiness. For me, happiness in my employment is derived from fulfillment in my daily activities. There is fulfillment in my career but none in my present job. This was a job, had I known the unrealistic challenges, would have been an offer I would not have accepted.
There are moments during the day during which I am able to locate a small modicum of hope that change will follow however slowly, but those moments, as brief as they are, fade often as rapidly as they have arrived.
I sat outside on this beautiful November day thinking thoughts which poured incessantly from my brain. I briefly retreated indoors and retrieved Mr. Thoreau’s journal. I opened it to the day which accurately represents today’s calendar date, November 15th. The difference is in the year. Mr. Thoreau wrote the following entry in 1853, one hundred and sixty-two years ago. The words, while old and while they may also appear outdated are quite reflective of my current status.
 bridge
 Mr. Thoreau wrote,
“After having some business dealings with men, I am occasionally chagrined, and feel as if I had done some wrong, and it is hard to forget the ugly circumstance. I see that such intercourse long continued would make one thoroughly prosaic, hard, and coarse. But the longest intercourse with Nature, though in her rudest moods, does not thus harden and make coarse. A hard, insensible man whom we liken to a rock is indeed much harder than a rock. From hard, coarse, insensible men with whom I have no sympathy, I go to commune with the rocks, whose hearts are comparatively soft.”
This has been one of the more noticeable difficulties as I have had little time to “commune with the rocks.” It is unfortunate that my daily duties cannot be completed away from these men and with the rocks for if this was a possibility, I would certainly accept the invitation. Instead, I take advantage of days such as these and remove myself from the ‘uncomfortable comforts’ of the indoors and retreat outside to the comforts which are provided by Nature.
still the mind
I countered this force, these business dealings with men by going to what I refer to as my “second home.” My schedule, or what I used as an excuse allowed me to not venture homeward. Instead, I remained within the confines of my real home struggling with the thoughts nd feelings which are a part of these “business dealings with men.” This morning, after rising well before my clock suggested I rise, I dressed and went for a run. The skies, still dark from the ending night were cloudless and showed their residents. Before starting my run, I looked up, as I always do in wonder and saw many familiar constellations.  Visibly present in the early morning sky was the planet Jupiter, shining brightly in the early morning sky. If I would have been accompanied by a small telescope, the planet’s four main moons would have also been visible. I settled for this beautiful vision, a vision which reminds me of the insignificance of the life stressors with which I am attempting to manage.
My route, at least for the first three miles of a ten-mile run, was lit by a headlamp showing me the way and illuminating any obstacles which may serve to trip me and cause additional stress. This was one of those runs which found me enjoying the solitude which accompany’s me on most of my early morning runs. Cars and people are few, business dealings with men nonexistent and stress, at least for the moment is low. I ran at my own pace; a pace at which I found comfort within my body; thoughts, other than of what street I might turn, failing to keep up. Shortly after I began, the sun began to accompany me. It’s first whisper of light glowing a dull orange-yellow on the Eastern horizon as a reminder that despite the stresses which I encounter, another day will always dawn. As Thich Nhat Hahn has said, “It is another new 24-hours.”
Another new day will always dawn and there will always be another 24-hour period of time with which to improve our responses to the stressors which have caused us concern.
Namaste

A Sunday hike

I have not written, other than in my journal in some time. There are small pangs of guilt when I do not write as I think, “Will readers of my blog be upset?” I try not to focus on these thoughts and write when the mood strikes me. I am much more interested in writing something which appeals to the senses instead of filling white space on a page.

 
I woke Sunday and smiled as the forecast for the day promised sun throughout. Anyone who lives in the Northeast understands the importance of seeing the sun. At least for me, the sun, or more importantly seeing the brilliant rays of the sun is integral to my mood. While sunlight increases our body’s ability to make Vitamin D, it is also important to ease the bouts of sadness and depression which can also accompany this time of year.
 
Our economy continues to struggle. Daylight is scarce as sunset is at 4:45 PM. I drive to my office in the dark and return home in the dark. My thoughts went in the direction of running trails at a local park but this desire rapidly waned as I thought about going for a hike with my son. I went to his room and he smiled as he agreed to rise and walk with me. 
 
Both of us are Introverts. Anyone riding in a car with us or spending much time with us might wonder about the quality of our relationship. We spend little time speaking to each other but at the same time understand completely our feelings for each other. To understand this, one must be an Introvert. We do not require any special circumstances to fill the silent void which sits comfortably between us. My son updated me on his progress at college. As he did so i smiled inside listening to his desire to follow through with his goals; the happiness in his voice testament to his internal happiness.
 
We arrived at our destination. I donned a small pack carrying my journal and a fountain pen and a bottle of water. I attached my GoPro camera to a pole and off we went. The conversation on our walk was limited as it was on our drive to the trailhead. We both understand and agree we are acceptant of this quiet. It is the solitude for which I look forward to experiencing and I believe this is true for Stephen. We did not discuss this as there was no need to do so; our silence filled with understanding of each other as well as our need for solitude.
 
Thoreau said, “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” These words spoken by Thoreau when he wrote his journal are words which resonate with me. I rise at 4:30 AM most days of the week, don my running clothing and step out the door to begin my day. Questions from those around me pummel me at various times throughout the day. Previously I would become angry with these questions, dismissing them as “stupid” and “ridiculous”. As I grow older I have come to accept the differing opinions of others even when they seem to me to be far fetched. It is questions such as “Isn’t it cold outside?” Of course it is, it’s the middle of winter. “Why do you get up so early in the morning?” This is the time of day as Thoreau has mentioned earlier which sets the tone for my day. It helps me maintain a healthy balance when navigating through the chaos which others seem to thrive upon. This pace, the one apparently so loved by others is not loved by me. I will not say it is “hated” but that term remains in my head.
 
We drove home, again in almost complete silence. The trees passing by in a blur. A smile on my face indicating the happiness which has been gained; a happiness which will accompany me throughout the day and into the night.
 
Find those things, those activities which bring you happiness. Resist the urge to jump into the stream of life and travel along with all of the other souls on a path which causes more stress and ill-health, a path which brings unhappiness to most of us. Once you have identified those activities, do them. Do them as frequently as possible. make a change in your life that is based on happiness and enjoying your life. 
 
Happiness comes from within. It does not come from material possessions or things. Identify the people and the activities which bring this happiness to you. Cherish it and do not allow its importance to be tarnished by those around you. Assess the gifts in your life; your family, your children, your health, your happiness. Do not give these gifts, this happiness away to those who do not understand it. Cherish it. Smile. Take care of yourself and the rest will follow.
 
Namaste
 

Wordless Wednesday

“I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,–to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that.” – Henry David Thoreau

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See…hear

I get my eyes examined today. This usually means new glasses or at the very least, new lenses. This isn’t something I relish, purchasing new lenses. My eyes are bad and I require “high index” lenses to correct my vision. The cost of these lenses causes me to pay two to three times as much for lenses as many people pay for an entire pair of glasses. I’m not a fan of contacts unless I’m involved in an activity where my enjoyment of that activity would be greatly enhanced by the presence of contacts. I’m not a good candidate for Lasik surgery.

 
I take my eyesight very seriously. I’ve been wearing glasses since the second grade…that’s the better part of forty plus years. Not having glasses on my face feels as naked as my face without my beard. 
 
I have always had a difficult time answering the philosophical question, “If you had to lose one sense, hearing or vision, which would it be?” As I grow older, this question, at least for me becomes easier to answer. 
 
As I age, maturity has followed. I have an easier time accepting change, even those changes over which I have little control. I choose to accept these things. I accept my vision limitations and know as my age continues to advance this is a limitation which will not improve, in fact they will grow worse. 
 
My response to this philosophical question is my hearing. This is a decision made only slightly easier because I am such a visual person. 
 
I enjoy, even love and thrive on long periods of silence. The same silence which causes others to become anxious and even panic, in me allows happiness to be the dominat feeling. I feel anxious when the auditory stimulation proves to be to great. If my field of vision becomes cluttered, I can simply close my eyes. This does not work as easily with one’s hearing.
 
Solitude, according to John Burroughs, is “not for the young; the young have no thoughts or experience, but only unsatisfied desires; it is for the middle-aged and the old, for a man when he has ripened and wants time to mellow his thoughts. A man who retires to solitude must have a capital of thought and experience to live upon, or his soul will perish of want. This capital must be reinvested in the things about him, or it will not suffice. Either as a farmer or as a student and lover of nature, or as both, can he live as it were on the interest of his stored-up wisdom.”
 
When I struggle during winter because all color has been drained and we see the world in blacks, whites and shades of gray, I find it helpful to close my eyes and recall what my mind’s yes has already seen.
 
It is these visual changes which I love and look forward to seeing. I look for the beauty in the naked branches of the trees. Experience has told me these branches will soon be adorned by their beautiful, green coat. As these sights continue to change so the smells and sounds of the seasons.
 
I borrowed this thought from Corrine H. Smith’s blog at Thoreau farms. “We spend most of our waking hours passing through familiar territory; our homes, our cars, our commute routes, our schools and workplaces. We know these landscapes so well that we need only to glance at their edges in order to sleepwalk along their paths and through their routines. But what’s beneath these surfaces? What’s using camouflage to blend in with its environment? What are we missing, day after day? “To be awake is to be alive,” Thoreau told us. Stop. Look. Go beyond the familiar. Scrutinize. Open yourself up to further possibilities. You may very well see something remarkable. A hawk may be waiting.”
 
Open your eyes and your ears as you walk this earth. See and hear what the world has to offer. Be dazzled by the sights and sounds.
 
Namaste