From the very moment I awake I seem to already be in the kitchen grabbing a banana on the run. Or, perhaps I’m catching my breath in the back of the bus after having chased it for a few blocks. When I do get to wherever it is I’m headed towards I’ve forgotten most of the songs I listened to on my commute. All of the different faces and decorated buildings melt into whatever task I’m focusing on completing.
Conversations for the most part become a practice of enduring—before I can tackle the next chore that stands in the way of zoning out. My day is over before it began and I’ve become the sleeping passenger in my own car. Sometimes I’ve checked my phone a dozen times before I notice that there’s a voice message I’ve overlooked. Other times I’m uncomfortably hungry until I remember I had eaten a sandwich an hour earlier.
If you’re anything like I am, you’ll recognize the sentiments behind your own thought process as a series of “mindlessness.” It started for me as a child in grade school. I would often sit in the first lectures of the new year and daydream of how in a matter of seconds—turned to days—turned back into seconds I would be present on the last day of school. I would time travel through an entire year of useless information and sentiments that didn’t interest or concern me and it would be summer. I was usually right. I was right but not satisfied. The problem became—as I’ve noticed as an adult—that I’ve missed out on the joys in the moments scattered between the beginning and end of any stretch.
As I grew older, things like dating became a similar chore: a series of conversations I wasn’t interested in having in order to reach a comfortable, finite conclusion. To be or not to be. Everything had a means and an end. The only gain was the loss; the splitting and parting so that I could be left to my own thoughts and salvage the remaining moments of any day where I could have the time to do as I wished. These “possessive” mine’s were often wasted in the land of re-run television and other distractions.
I’m the same person who wants to stand in front of the mirror at the gym and see their veins pop through their muscles, but doesn’t want to have to lift anything heavy. If they do, they want to do it as quickly as possible because the gym is a room and if you were to run as fast as you could you’re not going anywhere.
Despite the “gains,” I wanted to be somewhere else. Or, I didn’t want to be present for the parts of any situation I didn’t enjoy. So I developed the wonderful coping skill of “dissociating.” And thankfully It worked. I was watching my life unfold without taking part in it. I was a pro at it. I could sit through anything without flinching. I could give you my word that I would be there for you and switch to stand by as soon as I was physically present.
when I began sitting through situations of excitement with indifference. I was sleep walking. Somnambulism. Any thoughts I had once had to create into music or art became thoughts that were lost and dissolved within the membranes. I started to become so aware of being aware that I couldn’t participate in anything outside of my own skull.
Eventually, the thought occurred that if I were able to sit idle through entire years of school and social situations, have I been absent through entire decades of life? Will I wake up on my death bed and see all of this as futile and a waste of time? They’ll probably say, “that Jay was a dreamer, but he never told a soul what he dreamt of.”
This was the breakthrough I needed. I needed to buy something, so I thought. I needed to make something, or search for something. Something needed to happen for me to feel different.
It was through years of failures at “seeking,” and needing that the suggestion came from one of my spiritual friends I prided myself at having kept at an arm’s distance away from.
“Why don’t you stay in bed for ten minutes and enjoy being awake? Before you rush nowhere, sit and enjoy being somewhere.”Stay in bed for ten minutes. That was the award winning hypothesis, ay?
I knew other people who had gone on week long or month long silent retreats where they eat shitty vegan food and gain a deep insight into the way the dew forms on a blade of grass. Everybody gives up their belongings and decides to eat granola for the rest of their lives, so long as the granola isn’t harmed in its harvesting. This wasn’t where I wanted to start and it seemed hopeless before it began. But ten minutes. Ten minutes when I woke up I could do. I hated starting my day and I could sit for ten minutes to think about how much I hated waking up.
The first few times I fell asleep. When I stayed awake I started to notice patterns on my ceiling. Over the weeks, I began to realize there were days. Tuesday through Thursday weren’t “hump days,” any longer. Friday was met with the same understanding as Sunday or Monday. I stopped dreading days or the idea of days as something I needed to be sedated through. It took patience but it seemed to be a fair trade compared to the years I had paid for with ambivalence. My equation; my beautiful “slackers” guide to not hating my life nearly as much was through participation in not participating.
When I wake in the morning I try to stay still for ten minutes and reflect upon whatever I wish to. I’ve been on time for the bus more often than late. I have the time to boil water for oatmeal rather than settling on something to grab on the way out. There’s enough “time,” to embrace the taste and warmth of it. I’ve found there to be a choice in the details I wish to retain. There’s a choice in the details I strive to forget. My life can be gray, and I can be okay with a lack of color; or my life can be vibrant and I can be okay with the inevitable fluctuation of the tides of change that lead a spectrum colors to a darker gray. Forcing myself to sit broke the routine of “mindlessness.” I began finding time to enjoy hidden joys in between those mandatory mundane moments I tried to will away and to plant the seed to participate more in the things I enjoy in my life.
Jay enjoys writing from his own experience, and writes as a meditative practice. He shares his writing with the hope that others may relate and learn just as he has learned from others. Jay spends his time working on an animal rescue ranch, listening to and creating music, and helping others in their “spiritual” practice and recovery.