Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020: A Time to Look Inward

This new year, 2020, is loaded with meaning for me. 20/20 is the well-known designation for normal eye vision, but it suggests something much deeper to me. As my body declines with age, my optical system joins in the downward spiral. Once blessed with stellar vision, it has been a long road to acceptance of these new weaknesses. But beyond the interventions offered up by modern medicine, there is no way for me to stop the process. I have made peace with aging and that has pushed me to focus inward to find a much more powerful vision that resides within me.

My blog, Lookology, allows me to observe and share the myriad of visual delights I see in the world around me. The images I view daily will always captivate me... from a delicate sleeve of ice on a winter branch to a breathtaking piece of art. But the truest place of observation, for me, is within my soul. It is here that I find stillness and contentment that was not available to me when most of my time was spent gazing outward.

Without practicing awareness, our brain is largely dominated by egoic thought, which flourishes easily in the unconscious mind. The ego causes us to be laser-beam focused on how we are perceived by others.  Am I smarter? Richer? Thinner? More athletic? Our society reinforces this system of comparison and often our daily lives are fully controlled by these thoughts... although we are usually unaware.

These non-productive thoughts and feelings that dominate our daily lives leave little space for the introspection that might lead us to self-awareness. In order to access the authentic self that lies dormant within most of us, we need to shift our perception from the loud, frenetic, external world to the calm, quiet, inner landscape within ourselves. This is not an easy task, but it is obtainable for everyone with effort. The most accessible pathway to this authentic place within yourself is through the practice of meditation.

Meditation has been touted for thousands of years as a powerful and productive technique for accessing inner peace. It has endured because it is effective and has guided millions of people to a more peaceful way of living their lives. When you meditate, you bring yourself to the present moment. Most of us live anywhere but the present. Unknowingly, we are immersed in the mire of the past... reliving anger, feeling regret, replaying the stories over and over and over. And, at the same time we dwell in the future, perseverating about the unknown. One of my teachers once asked if I was a fortune-teller, and was I able to predict the future. Clearly I am not, and I laugh now when I think of the wasted hours I spent predicting the greatest and worst outcomes for my destiny. The future is largely out of our control and will only reveal itself when it arrives here, in the present.

In a universe where reality is constantly being questioned, the undeniable truth is that you only have one moment that is real. And that is the present. The past does not exist, except for the importance you allow it within your mind. Memories are also notoriously inaccurate as the ego often adjusts the recollections according to its own agenda. And the future, of course, hasn't even arrived. Still, many people focus solely on what they plan for and hope to achieve in this unknown space we call the future.

Either way, the only moment that is authentically here to be lived, is in the present. Please take a chance in this new year and stop to experience the present moment. You may surprised at the simple, sweet joy you will find there.

To learn more, please feel free to come visit the Foxboro Mindfulness Meetup Group that meets every Wednesday night, 6:30-8:00pm in the basement of the Foxboro Universalist Church, 6 Bird Street,  Foxboro, MA. Join us under the fairy lights and see what you discover.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on any of the above, I just read and listen to a lot of Buddhist and mindfulness teachers and practice daily. This process has helped me in my quest to find a happier life... and I want to share my experience with you.

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