It’s been a little while since I’ve written a poem. Thought I’d do one today.
There’s madness in the things we enjoy –
what brings us to the edges of feeling alive,
the spaces we encounter our essence.
To the men and women, boys and girls –
and beyond the illusion of a binary choice
– who enjoy a mud covered face on a
Sunday morning, road (trail) rash, let’s lift
a glass. To those in the pews, the ones
sipping tea in a neighborhood gathering
spot, those nursing a hangover, let us say,
“blessings.” Take a breath and notice how
what is felt here is felt in all of those. The
way we choose to live, given freely. The
sense of experience, the core of aliveness.
This might be all that really matters.
Natural state of mind
Today I’ve been thinking about my mind. I know I’ve written in the past a bit about how I’d love to retrain my mind to be more focused, more present. As I was thinknig about this earlier today, it ocured to me that it is in many ways the wrong way to think of it. Much as I wrote about pace the other day, I think the mind has a natural state — a state that becomes obscured when put into environments designed to pull the mind into different states.
Our entire world (largely) has become an environment pulling the mind into being rather stagnant. We are put into loops — grooves — the keep us relatively the same. There’s plenty written on this about how Facebook does this, for example. That said, I think it’s just about everywhere. And digital devices are largely the culprits (there’s more to it than that, but it’s an easy go to). Take the mind out of those environments, and it will eventually return to its natural state.
What does that look like? It’s creative. It connects with others. It expands itself. It moves toward novelty. It moves toward its own enlightenment.
The natural state of mind sounds pretty good.
A little bit of kindness
I understand that today is World Kindness Day. It seems like a good day to reflect on what it would mean to organize our society around kindness. What would that look like? Imagine what it would look like to support yourself via an economy rooted in kindness. What about housing? What about food distribution? I get excited when I think about what our education system could look like. Or health care — oh, goodness, healthcare rooted in kindness.
I suspect our political debates would be very different if the organizing principle was kindness. What types of people would we be attracted to electing? How would we treat those we don’t understand, or those who are different from us? What would our response to seeing someone exepriencing homeless be? I’m very curious what our gun policies would look like. Take it even a step further — what would the Constitution of the United States say if kindness was at its center?
I know I’d have to make some changes in my life in order to have kindness be the central driving principle. I think most of us would have to. As a society, I think we’d have to re-envision, well, pretty much everything. Transit. The social safety net. Taxes. The military and our foreign policy. Our approach to interfacing with the “natural world.” I suspect that we would think about “sustainability” very differently. What I mean by this that we’d have a very different answer to the question, “What exactly are we trying to sustain?”
I wonder what our neighborhoods would look — and feel — like. Sporting events would probably take on a completely different tenor. How would we view addiction and mental illness? Might we see a decrease in mental illness? A curious thought. How would we treat ourselves? Would we need a self help industry? Would we need to buy so much? Indeed, our orientation would probably shift away from consumerism and toward an engaged citizenry. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in a kind world?
Okay, I think my point is coming across. It’s safe to say that we don’t center kindness in the world today. Instead, we make a day of it. We raise our awareness to the importance of kindness. But we stop short of complete social overhaul.
It’s kind of ironic to me that World Kindness Day is falling on the first day of public hearings in the Trump impeachment inquiry. It’s an event that is rooted in anything but kindness. It’s easy to point the finger at Trump and say, “Well, he’s not very kind, is he?” I’d ask, however, just how kind is the “other side?” We are living in a time where we have so deeply divided from one another that we can’t see the ways in which we are behaving exactly as those we see as our enemies.
I’m not saying we should be push overs. In fact, I’m not even saying we should be nice. But I do think we should be kind. At least, we should find our way toward kindness. More and more I’ve come to believe that we won’t be able to solve the significant problems we face as a society without this sort of shift.
That said, it’s just the beginning of a deeper conversation, one that asks the question: why, exactly, is it so difficult to create a society rooted in kindness? I think there’s an answer to this question, and it’s a tough one. I’ve written about this a teeny tiny bit. There’s so much to explore in it.
In the meantime, happy World Kindness Day.
I mean that.
The last minute
When we choose to bring something in under the wire, perhaps we’re not asking ourselves the right questions.
Today is my birthday. I decided to make it a quiet day so as to reflect and give myself some space. We’re having a spate of great weather here in Seattle, so it made sense to spend some of the day outside. I took a wonderful walk at a park that I enjoy. As I was walking, a thought ocurred to me: I want to understand the best pace for me to move at in my life. Paces, really.
I started to ask the trees, “Show me the best pace to move. On this walk. With my clients. With my wife. With myself.” I noticed myself slowing down. Feeling my body a bit more. I noticed the layers of leaves on the trail, and an overwhelming thought came over me: take off your shoes. Walk on this trail with your bare feet. You will feel the pace if you can feel the earth.
I’ll admit, I tried to talk myself out of this. If I slow down enough, it will be as if I took off my shoes. It’s fine, I don’t need to feel the earth to understand. I debated this for a few minutes when I came around the corner and saw the bush in the above photo. Suddenly I knew in my heart that I was looking at an entrance. It was an entrance into something that could only be experienced if I could feel the earth on my feet. A couple of people were approaching on the trail, so I gave htem a couple of minutes to pass. Once they were gone, I sat down, took off my shoes and socks, and felt the earth.
Standing on the path for a couple of minutes, feeling the solidity and moistness of the ground, I could feel myself softening to something more. To a larger connection to the world we operate in. I took a few breaths, and slowly walked through the arch formed by this bush. Through the entrance the forest had made for me. I walked the path for a few more minutes, loving the feeling of the soil on my feet. And then something said to me, go ahead, put your shoes back on.
I walked the rest of the trail in a deep reverence for the natural order of this world. It knows how to unfold. It knows what it needs. And if we listen, what we need.
The official time of my birth is 2:36pm PST. I went outside a few minutes ago, and put my bare feet into the grass so I would feel the earth at the exact moment I turned 47. It is a welcome feeling this feeling of wet dirt on skin. I think this way of listening is going to be central to this next year.
Let’s let the dirt help us find the pace.
Where two or more are gathered
The space between people is the space where the magic happens. We connect, we create, we explore. The opportunities are endless. One thing that is beautiful: you can do this on your own. What happens in between you and the very many versions of you? What unfolds?
Yet, to hold the idea that it’s always between us and us would be a bit nuts, right? We are almost always in relationship with others. And it is in those relationships that the world unfolds. It must be within them that the world can be changed. If we only slowed down enough to notice.