The Revelation in Prague and the Power of Now
I've been having a bit of trouble accessing the Random Transmits lately. That part of my brain that just clicks on and starts spitting out absurd ideas like chandelier swastikas and morphing into a babushka seems to be on an extended break. This is a strange side effect of harnessing my anxiety, I think, because the same voice that says, "You know where you should take this tangent? Lingonberries. Or your fictional great great grandfather's need for Cambodian hookers" is the same voice that pulls me out of reality and projects my thoughts into the future.
It's the same voice that screams at me every time I wonder about my career. It's the voice that has already created 100 different outcomes of a shitty conversation that may or may not happen in a few weeks. It's the voice that says, "You haven't written anything decent in weeks. Maybe you'll never write anything decent again. All of your creative goals...well, it's a nice thought, but I don't see how it's going to happen if you can't actually write anything down. Also, no one is ever going to pay you for your thoughts because you have to actually communicate those thoughts via words to get paid as writer. So, you're going to have to spend the last of your money to fly home, move back into your mother's basement, and get a job at Starbucks. But don't worry, you'll be my favorite barista. I hear you make a mean Java Chip frappuccino. Sucker."
And so, I'm writing about not being able to write in hopes of being able to write again.
Because I change locations each month, I've found that each month has naturally developed it's own theme. I don't show up to each country and say to myself, "This month Thailand, the theme will be acclamation! And you Cambodia, you will get romance. Malaysia will take transition and Croatia gets reintegration." Instead, I wait until I show up, and within a few days, the theme emerges.
This month, in the Czech Republic, the theme is presence. "Presence" sounds a bit precious for me, though. The theme is really I'm finished listening to you, brain. Your nonsensical babble is distracting me from this beautiful tree in front of me. Also, you're wrong a lot and seem really insecure about the future. You should work on that. I, however, am just fine because I am here and this tree is pretty much my best friend."
The theme emerged after a few days into Prague. A friend asked me to read over a draft of a new blog post he was writing, and he mentioned that a book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle finally helped him overcome his anxiety and harness the superpower of happiness. (Stop reading this right now and go buy that book.) I'd just finished reading Dorie Clarks' Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Find a Following Around It and was feeling a bit down because my breakthrough idea of "just be sort of a mess and mildly funny" really wasn't going to get me anywhere.
So, I downloaded The Power of Now, curled up on my bed, and began to read. Two or three pages in, I had one of those HOLY SHIT, I FINALLY GET IT moments that you hear people talk about but don't think will ever happen to you. I suddenly understood the meaning of presence and being in the Now. It's not about controlling the voice(s) in your head and changing the "What if..." thoughts to "What is..." thoughts. It's about understanding that whatever my brain thinks is unrelated to me. If I'm able to say to myself, "I can't stand myself" that automatically implies that there are two things at work here — the I and the myself — and the myself is my thoughts, my feelings, my judgements, my insecurities, my whatever it is at the moment. But, since the I and the myself are two separate things (and I can't be two things at once) the I does not have to pay attention to the myself because the myself is not the real me. It no different than saying, "I can't stand the Beastie Boys," and if the Beastie Boys start playing, I either leave the room, change the music, or accept that there's not much I can do about it and direct my focus from the Beastie Boys to the fact that its existence has no actual effect on this moment other than creating noise to ignore.
This revelation has been amazing. (The separation between I and myself, not the fact that I hate the Beastie Boys.) You may think that this is some ridiculous Tom Cruise level of psychohippie babble, but that sounds like a you problem. If you're drawn to it and want to explore it, great. Buy the book and see if it's for you. If not, and you're instead glued to current events and tweeting about all the things that might go sideways in the world, keep on being you...but isn't that exhausting? I've spent the past two weeks walking around Prague just staring at trees, feeling the energy of buildings, and redirecting my focus from my anxious thoughts to the crisp chill on my cheeks and the crunch of my boots on the ice. It's been terribly unproductive as far as getting all the things done that I said I was going to do, like book proposals and Grandmother websites, but learning to ignore the beast in my own mind has done more for my day to day quality of life than anything else I've accomplished so far on this trip.
I'm nowhere near mastering this new way to be, and I don't think anyone ever really masters it. Now, the challenge is to separate the Random Transmits from the rest of that crap. They may sound the same, but they're not the same. One thousand words later, I know that now.
(Seriously, give the book a shot. Also, if you click on the little links in my post and buy the book, I get a wee little kickback to keep me eating this month. Everyone wins!)