Meditative Monkey: Learning Who You Are by What You Do

phontoSo the Monkey and I have been reading…

We found a lovely little book at Bay Used Books in Sudbury called Let Evening Come. It was written by Mary C. Morrison and published when she was 88 and in sight of the last encampment.

There is much wisdom in this slim volume, including a phrase that the Monkey grabbed onto and continues to fill my mind with in moments of stillness.

Watch what you do to learn who you are.

It is one of those clear and simple, common sense ideas that fills me with dread. I struggle constantly with this overwhelming idea/knowledge/CERTAINTY that, deep down … I’m just a lazy-assed good for nothing. I so RARELY feel like I do “enough.”

Of course, I am slowly beginning to see that my idea of “enough” is a tad… overblown.

But…scary or not, this phrase, this idea of watching what we DO in the world to see who we ARE makes perfect sense to me.

The simple truth is that I live a great deal of my life inside my head, running through my never ending lists of things to do, whipped on by the deadly shoulds. “I should do this, I should do that.”

I spend heaps of time in a state of … guilt for things not being done instead of enjoying or even really paying attention to what I AM doing.

I spend great huge whacks of time berating myself for “time wasted.” But in my clear and quiet moments, I’ve come to realize that… I don’t even understand what that means. What do I mean by “wasted” time?

Is it even possible to waste time? Is it not all… just living?

I am so freaking tied to the shoulds, to the musts, to “I need to do this, that and the other.”

And hey, don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have plans and ambitions and dreams to work towards. It is good to have a vision of who we would like to be in the world, and what we want to accomplish. I’m never gonna get this damned novel written if I don’t sit the hell down to do the work…. But there is also something to be said for … stepping back and observing ourselves to see what we are doing and who we are right now.

“Watch what you do to learn who you are.”

I stare at the sentence and let it sink in a bit.

It isn’t just … OUTPUT … that we are talking about here, is it?

It isn’t even entirely about how we spend our time.

I think it is also about how we relate to others, how we speak to and think of ourselves, our attitudes, what we hold sacred and… the whole freaking shebang.

It is … how we live this life.  How we move upon the earth.

And if we really watch ourselves, by which I  mean just… watch, observe, notice… we will see a range of things. Some will make us wince or blush or want to give ourselves a shake. Some will give us a warm feeling of accomplishment or at least a slight glow if we allow ourselves to acknowledge a thing done well. A small kindness. A situation handled well.

Quick aside here – I’ve been learning a bit lately about how our brains work and one of the most fascinating things I have learned is how seriously hard-wired we are towards negativity. It is deep deep in the reptile brain. It stems from our survival instinct. We learn quickly from negative situations and we are ever alert for them. Ever alert for danger/fear and so on. It is much much harder to hold onto POSITIVE things. To feeling safe and content and to really let that glow, however small, SINK in. We need to practice. To consciously take a few seconds to register that this is a good moment. This is a good thing I have done. This is a “job well done.” If we can do this, it will help us observe ourselves more clearly. We won’t focus JUST on the negative.

Because here’s the thing. When we start to watch ourselves, we will probably see the negative things first.

Take me for example… I look back on this past week and the first things to come to mind are…

  • You didn’t get up at 6 everyday, even though you know it is BEST if you do.
  • You watched way too much tv online – hours and hours of it. Did you REALLY need to watch 3 weeks of Coronation Street in one day? Do you really need to watch any of this stuff?
  • You reacted incredibly badly to a situation with…

Well, you get my drift.

I look back and find a bizillion things to back up my idea of myself as a “lazy-assed good for nothing.”

And I hang my head… and come near to despairing… and then I go… “Wait. Wait. Look again. What did you DO this week?”

And I must acknowledge the hours (6-10 hours on four days) that I spent outside working in the yard toting/hauling/gardening or in the trailer, painting.

And I remember how GOOD that felt. How right and how happy I was just to be outside working hard, making the place look better, moving the ole bod, soaking up the rays. How I sang while I painted. How the singing led me to pick up the guitar once I came inside and cleaned up. Oh yeah… I forgot about the guitar….and how the stiffness in the muscles was a clear call to the yoga mat in the mornings and … oh yeah, see, I forgot about the yoga and… so it goes. Six loads of laundry done and hung in the sun to dry. A friend comforted and listened to.

Not a bad week at all.

Now, let’s take a look at the negatives my brain handed over first and take a stab at understanding, maybe, WHY I might do them. Not to excuse them. They remain things I would like to… change/work on…but let’s just see if I can shift them from “pure evil stupid laziness” to something a bit less… hurtful.

  • The “sleeping in”? Hard to let go/forgive but I will admit that there has been a lot time spent outside, working hard in the sun and in the trailer. I am physically tired. My insomnia is kicking up again and I am exhausted but awake late late into the night and… being honest… the best REST this week often came between 5 and 8 am.

OK. I see that. I still also know that the sleeping in led to a feeling of being “rushed” to get things done in the day – especially the things I do primarily for myself in the early morning hours. So… I got rest, but a sadness built up as well. This morning, I dragged myself up… and now, hours later, I’m glad I did.

Balance is needed. As in all.

  • The bad reaction to the … situation … I still need to work on and I don’t want to talk about here.
  • And the TV thing… well that is an ongoing thing. I binge. On TV shows or movies or books. It’s a thing I do. A lot. I seek stories for a bizillion reasons. To escape. For comfort. For inspiration. For sheer entertainment. I have always done this… so… what do I gain? It is one of those strange activities that – when I am in it, I am perfectly content, and then afterwards, I feel bad and guilty and often have a bit of a headache. So, why do I DO it?

This is what I know, so far.

It is always to story that I run. It is in story that I hide. It’s like I am madly searching for something. The word, the phrase, the idea that will … comfort me, save me, allow me move forward.

It is also by story that I stand and by story that I SPEAK.

So… story is the worst of me, but it is also the best of me.

TADA! That’s a freaking good thing to realize, right?

Doesn’t give me a free pass to loll about eating bonbons watching TV or reading all day, but… I can see that I do need story and will, no doubt, continue to binge…on occasion.

That’s not so bad.

I guess this whole “watch what you do” thing is sort of what I’ve been doing with the weekly Chickens (Shake & Bakes). Looking back. Shaking it all out and trying to BAKE some things in.

Maybe a thing for me to work towards is… noticing things a bit more in the moment. Maybe that will help with the balancing vs the binging.

OK, Monkey. I’ll give it a shot.

And as for my passport? It needs renewing. I brought the forms home from the Post Office earlier this week.

Best get on that.

go easy ~p

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Starting Over

Because there's never enough time to do it right the first time but there's always enough time to do it over

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

Cathy Standiford

Historical fiction, poetry, essays

Keeping the Dream

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Starting Over

Because there's never enough time to do it right the first time but there's always enough time to do it over

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

Cathy Standiford

Historical fiction, poetry, essays

Keeping the Dream

The Healing Journey and Covert Abuse

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