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Closet Fascination

A blog about a journey, smoking, not smoking, vaping and everything in between

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meditation

Waking Up By Sam Harris- A Book Report

This is the first book that I have finished reading in a long time. I’ll probably read it again before I fully grasp the impact it will have on my life because for me it was one of those life changing books; not because it taught me something I didn’t already know, but because it articulated so eloquently something I’ve deeply believed for a long time.

I’ve written about religion on my blog before and my views on spirituality. I’m agnostic when it comes to belief in God in that I don’t really think we will ever be able to prove God’s existence. I also don’t think it really matters if we do. I have a certain amount of awe about our world and how much we still don’t know about it, but to simply explain natural phenomena that we can’t explain (yet) by saying that is ‘proof of God’ isn’t good enough for me. Perhaps that makes me a full out atheist. I don’t like labels.

I’ve always considered myself spiritual, but never really been able to articulate what that means to people. In my post on spirituality, I sum up a lot of my views, but there was still something about being spiritual that was could not be explained by living my values or even just being with nature.

Enter: Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion By Sam Harris. I think I first read about this book about two years ago. I follow a website called Brain Pickings on Facebook and they had written an article about the book and it seemed interesting, but much like unacknowledged or unobserved thoughts that come and go into our minds, I never gave the book a second thought. What rekindled interest? Oddly, it was this post on Dilbert writer’s Scott Adams’ blog entitled, Sam Harris Induces Cognitive Dissonance in Ben Affleck. The video for that is here.  This got me interested in him in general, so I went to his website and promptly started to devour the podcasts. Many of these were a useful, intellectual analysis of what is going on right now in America, unlike what is currently being posted by my friends on Facebook. It is critical of both sides and I appreciate that. Wanting more, like the obsessive fiend I can be, I bought Waking up on Thursday and have since read it cover to cover.

For me, this book explained to me something I have, albeit only briefly, experienced but could never put to words what it was.

These two paragraphs from the book sum it up:

We seem to do little more than lurch between wanting and not wanting. Thus, the question naturally arises: Is there more to life than this? Might it be possible to feel much better (in every sense of better) than one tends to feel? Is it possible to find lasting fulfillment despite the inevitability of change?

Spiritual life begins with a suspicion that the answer to such questions could well be “yes.” And a true spiritual practitioner is someone who has discovered that it is possible to be at ease in the world for no reason, if only for a few moments at a time, and that such ease is synonymous with transcending the apparent boundaries of the self. Those who have never tasted such peace of mind might view these assertions as highly suspect. Nevertheless, it is a fact that a condition of selfless well-being is there to be glimpsed in each moment.

I think I’ve had a few of these moments through out my life. They were fleeting and Waking Up  assured me that this is completely normal. The missing link in my description of spirituality is self-transcendence or going beyond the self.

Typically, these moments have been when standing a top a tall mountain or skiing down a steep slope. More recently, when I ran the marathon in 2014, there were moments where I felt a oneness with the world and joyful beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before. My first marathon was such as awesome experience that I hesitate to run another for fear that I will be let down should I not have that feeling again.

The book takes your through five main topics: Spirituality, Consciousness, Self or rather the illusion of self, meditation as a tool for transcending self and finally a catch all chapter called Gurus, Death, Drugs and Other Puzzles. I found the first four chapters to be really strong so the last chapter seemed as if it were a grab bag of interesting topics (I’m glad they were there) but that didn’t have enough substance to be discussed in their own dedicated chapter.

There are some interesting exercises and really I think the book is meant as a ‘here is what spiritually might look like without religion’ rather than exactly how to access it yourself. The exercises are an interesting starting point but left me wanting to learn more. I think this is probably the point. I don’t think Sam Harris fancies himself an expert on any individual’s awakening. He is simply describing what worked for him and how one might go about being spiritual without religion.

A few quotes from the end of the book really hit home for me and in a way summarize the feel and intention of the book:

First:

It is within our capacity to recognize the nature of our thoughts, to awaken from the dream of being merely ourselves and, in this way, to become better able to contribute to the well-being of others. Spirituality begins with a reverence for the ordinary that can lead us to insights and experience that are anything but ordinary.

And then:

We are always and everywhere in the presence of reality. Indeed, the human mind is the most complex  and subtle expression of reality we have thus far encountered. This should grant profundity to the humble project of noticing what it is like to be you in the present. However numerous your faults, something in you at this moment is pristine- and only you can recognize it.

Open your eyes and see.

And so I will continue to try…

To meditate…

To eat mindfully…

To exercise…

To be present in nature…

Because all of these things, lead my existence to be better. Happier. Even so, sometimes it can be a struggle to do them because of another hedonistic desire pulling me in another direction. I’ve noticed everything actually worth doing in my life requires some effort, some level of what could be called discomfort to reach the pleasantness. I think I need to commit more intentionally to my meditation practice as I think this would help me shift my perspective to be more present focus and thus better able to appreciate tasks I currently think of as arduous or boring.

Day 30: A day in the life of me

Well, 30 days has flown by. I like blogging everyday, but sometimes it felt forced. Today was a fake friday as tomorrow is Canada Day. Today was a pretty good snapshot of a typical day for me.

4:50 am- Dog wakes me up to get fed. (I know I need to work on this, but it is only this early during the summer, once the sun starts rising later she will be back to getting up later.Damn circadian rhythms!)

5:00 am- Go back to bed.

5:30 am- Dog needs to go outside to go pee. Get up to let her out.

5:35 am- Back to bed. Dog comes with.

6:10 am- Alarm goes off- I decide to sleep 20 more minutes (Which feels like 5)

6:30 am- Get up and put kettle on for tea.

6:30-6:45 am- Eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth.

6:45 am- Make tea for husband and I

6:50 am- Pour tea.

6:50-7:00am- Get ready to leave, get dog in car.

7:00-7:20 am- Drive Husband to train station

7:20-7:45 am- Drive Dog to daycare

8:00 am Arrive at work.

8:00 – 8:50 am- Mark student work, get ready for class.

8:50- Morning Meeting (later than usual which means I missed going to the bathroom before my class started.

9:00 am- 10:50 am- Teach my class (This week I was teaching intro to computers)

11:00 am- 12:30- Lunch with co-workers (Sushi- to die for as usual)

12:30-1 pm Prep for class.

1-1:15 pm- Class arrives. My class was good this week so they got to watch a movie this afternoon.

1:15- 3:10- Class. I marked, they finished assignment/watched a movie. It was awesome.

3:15-3:30- Coffee Break (For them, I worked through it)

3:30-4:00 pm- Gave students their marks in the course, watched some funny Kevin Hart clips.

4:03 pm- Arrive at my vehicle.

4:15 pm- Pick up my dog.

4:40 pm- Pick up my husband.

5:02 pm- Get the mail. I had a package and the post office was closed. 😦

5:08 pm- Arrive home.

5:15 pm- Decide what to eat for supper.

6:20 pm- Actually start making supper.

7:00 pm- Eat supper. Salmon chowder. My husband and I are trying to eat at home as much as possible and not just go out or to the grocery store every time we need supper.

7:30 pm-9:30- Google hangouts with friends to play an RPG. Tonight we were building our characters.

9:30-10:20- Worked on my character alone for a bit. Then realized I should write this post.

10:40- Finish writing this post.

10:45-11:05- Meditate

11:30 pm- Go to bed.

When you write it out like this is it pretty mundane, but honestly I had a great day today.I’m not sure I’ll post every day next month but I certainly want to keep up with blogging.

Meditation: Street Relief

Challenge Day 29: If I had a million dollars 

If I had a million dollars:

  1. I’d pay off my debt. All of it. 
  2. Invest some. 
  3. Travel
  4. Take care of my parents
  5. Look into buying an acreage.
  6. Donate some

I wouldn’t quit my job. I love my job and a million isn’t that much. With not having a mortgage or any other payments, my pay cheque is more than comfortable to live off of.

I’ve heard winning the lottery ruins people. I think it is because people buy lottery tickets thinking it will change their lives for the better when really you are the same person with the same problems just more money to waste on them. 

Meditation:Peaceful Sleep Meditation


Ironically, the peaceful sleep meditation says to have the room at the right temperature for you. It is do hot here. Impossible.

Challenge Day 28: Favourite Movie and Quote

Carpe, carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.

The above quotes is from my favorite movie of all time. The Dead Poet’s Society. I rented this movie on a whim when I was in grade 9 and loved it from the first time I watched it.

I’ve always loved this movie. The message about seizing the day, going after your dream, living life to its fullest has always resonated with me.

I think a large part of it is because I really identify with the character Todd Anderson. I didn’t always know why but today I figured it out. Both Todd and I suffer from anxiety.

I actually have only been putting this together recently. I can’t believe I never connected the dots with this before now, but I think I’ve been anxious my whole life. It certainly explains a lot. It explains my overeating, my compulsive use of nicotine and why I was drawn/liked smoking to begin with. As well as various other coping mechanisms developed along the way.

Like Todd, I suffer from social anxiety. How I cope: normally if the social situation has food, I eat the whole time I am at the event. I think this could be why I feel drained at the end of a drain- less so now that I work with adults and don’t like I have to ‘put on a show’ for them as much. If you were to ask me which vape or smoke I miss the most it would be the one right after work. Probably because I feel totally anxious right as my work day ends. Today, I used deep breathing in the car to calm myself down.

I used to think that I was getting really hungry at the end of the day but it turns out it is anxiety.

My next ongoing challenge: figure out the healthiest ways to deal with my anxiety. Meditation works, so keeping up with that will be key. Exercise works. The smoking/vaping thing didn’t work out so well. Eating isn’t working so hot either. So learning how t change that will be my next challenge.

Meditation:Peaceful Sleep Meditation

 

 

Challenge Day 26: Favourite Books

quote___the_alchemist_by_lllrares0ullll-d6k5hrwDay 26: My favourite books

I have lots of favourite books but I only have two that I come back to again and again. I mentioned these in the random facts about me but I don’t think I went into why these books are my favorite.

1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

I first read this in grade 11 when it was assigned as a book study. I ended up reading the book in one night. I found it inspiring, like nothing I had ever read before. I remember I was going through a rough time in my life. I was very depressed due to a combination of factors. My self-esteem was low and I had some of the most self-destructive self-talk which just helped me stay in my negative behavior pattern. The book talks about omens and how life is often trying to tell you through omens what your life’s path is. The book talks a lot about destiny, which I’m not sure I believe in but enough of it rang true that it helped motivate me to slowly start taking action to better my life. I wouldn’t go to the counseling I desperately needed until a year later, but it started the upward crawl toward being happy again. The main ideas of the book are summarized in this blog post written by Paulo Coehlo. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read this book. I get something different out of it every time I read. Just reading the quotes from the book, this one stuck out as being true in my life right now.

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

2. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
I first read this book at age of 13. My best friend had just read it and told me I had to read it. I think I like this one because it talks about who we are as people, as humans and puts to question the nature of sentient life and what it means to be sentient, amongst other themes. I think I partially like reading this again and again because the familiarity of the story is soothing.

My favourite quote from this book is:

In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.

Those are my two main favourite books. A month of blog posting has gone by fast. I’m already contemplating my next challenge. More on that in the next couple of days.

Meditation: Heart Centered Meditation

Challenge Day 25: Love

What makes you feel loved?

Cuddling. There is nothing like it. I think this is something that I’ve loved since I was a child. My husband prefers to sex, says he finds it more intimate.

The second thing is people being there for me when I need them. And sometimes just being there even though they don’t know I need them. I don’t expect that of people so when it happens it is that much more special.

The third and last thing is actually just being told that I am appreciated gives me that warm, loved feeling.

Meditation: Expression of gratitude and love

Challenge Day 24: Honesty

everybody-lies-dr-house-quote-backgroundDay 24: What is the most common reason for you to be dishonest?  What do you think this means for you?

Easy question: Anything I feel shameful or that other people will judge me for. Smoking was a big one. I used to lie about smoking all the time. I mean that is what closet smokers do.

Why? I think it is normal to hide the parts of ourselves that we are least proud of.

The thing is, in order to get close to people, you got to be honest with them. You have to be vulnerable. Which opens you up to getting hurt. Hence why we lie.

To quote House: Everybody lies. What I’ve learned is the people I can trust the whole truth to are the people I’m going to work hard to keep in my life.

Meditation:Breathing Calmness

Challenge Day 23: What makes me grin

Today’s question: What makes you grin or captures your attention for no reason other than it is fun for you?

This one is easy for me. My dog. She is always doing something entertaining.

image

I find it most entertaining when she decides to roll in the freshly cut grass. Less entertaining when she decides to roll in poo.

Meditation: Meditate in the moment

Challenge Day 22: Playful Interests

Today’s question: What interests or hobbies feel playful?

I feel like this is a trick question. My answer: all of them? Most of my hobbies could have been considered work at one time, but to be honest even my job feels ‘playful’ at times.

Maybe that just means that I find the joy in everyday living. I guess that is a good thing. To be honest, as long as I’m feeling happy I can usually find the fun in most things.

I recently did a paint party- one of those things where you get together with a bunch of people and paint a picture under the guidance of someone that actually knows how to paint. I had a lot of fun and think I was pretty good for my first time. I think painting is something that I would love to learn how to do. Now that Bob Ross is on Netflix, perhaps it will be the next thing that I teach myself how to do.

What I noticed is all of my hobbies and interests engage my mind. All of them involve me actively doing something or learning something.

As I was walking the dog today, I realized that I had lost track of how long it has been since I’ve quit. Did a quick count and it has been 64 days or 2 months and 3 days. To be honest, I haven’t had a ton of cravings lately (although I am sick right now) and have felt pretty stable mood wise. I can’t say I miss the nicotine rollercoaster, as much as I might have once loved the rush. My mindset feels completely different this time.

We were talking about this in class today. Change is all about your mindset. Perhaps even this question is actually about mindset. All of my hobbies could be considered work, but I see them as play, so they are. Instead of seeing quitting as a part of me dying or the loss of something I love or desire, I see quitting as the path to inner peace. That is what is different this time. That difference has made all the difference. Now to channel a mindshift in how I think about food.

Meditation: Connecting with Your Inner Child

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