Its been a little strange since I last blogged. Ive become very aware of the impermanence of everything through my own trivial little sufferings, and when I say suffering I mean the personal emotional and mental trials that are just tiny and unimportant in the grand scale of things. However, these things seem massive to me when Im experiencing them as they cause me to think, a very dangerous hobby of mine, as that can lead me to overthinking . My head is like a bad neighbourhood, I shouldn’t go in there without automatic weapons and adult supervision.
What’s this got to do with impermanence?
Well… nothing lasts forever. Never the less, every period of struggle manages to convince me this time is worse than any before. This time it wont pass, this time I may very well flip out into some full on lunatic state of consciousness and never return. In other words I start believing the BS my self destructive default setting tries to feed me on a regular basis and I loose contact with the present moment. Yes we are back to that (both literally and figuratively), the whole purpose of this blog… How I stay present in the only permanent thing in this whole Universe, the always constant present moment. Life is always Now!
But when I loose the Now I start shadow boxing the ghosts of the past, wrestling with the fears and anxietys of the future. I disconnect, the world becomes very small and Im off on one. Thoughts of drinking myself into oblivion start moving up my to do list and a general shit storm is visible on the horizon (well to me at least, coz like I said it all becomes deeply personal).
But Ive come to believe that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This nightmare scenario isn’t real, its an illusion. Nothing more than growing pains. After getting heavily drunk through four different decades I find Ive been left some growing up to do. Im learning to unlearn. And with each period of so called suffering I shed another layer from the onion and get closer to who it is I really am. Thats growth and its a beautiful experience if I just get out of the road and let it happen. I have to get out of self, and though it pains me to say it I need other people to help me do that (always hated people, but that was a few onion skins back).
I finally get to introduce you to my good friend Slim and this is how he sees it…
Slim’s Reflection on living in the Moment
Most of us, at some point in our lives wonder whether it is just too painful to get into relationships with other people. Sooner or later they let us down or they leave us. And its hard to disagree. As a Jewish saying puts it “If you dance a lot at weddings you’ll cry a lot at funerals”. But if we don’t form relationships and look beyond ourselves it becomes a sad and lonely existence. Sure we might protect ourselves from the pain of losing something or being let down but we also shut ourselves off from all the joy, the learning and the sharing that other people can bring us. Every person we encounter whether it is a stranger or a friend can bring happiness, love and acceptance. We can give it or receive it. A few years back I remember a stranger smiling at me one morning as I walked to work, a completely genuine smile without an agenda. It made me feel so good and it taught me how easy it is to connect and to touch other people in profound ways. This is the way of love. So now I try to smile (appropriately) at others, talk to the person at the checkout, look out for older people who may be struggling with a heavy load or the tourist who is looking lost and pay full attention to the person at work who is talking to me. And on those days and occasions when I let it slip or can’t be bothered its usually because I’m more concerned about myself and my needs. But when I do look out for these opportunities I turn my eyes away from myself and for a time at least, halt the constant preoccupation with what I think/feel/want/plan. And in reaching out to these other people I bless them and through that I am in turn blessed. This is the topsy-turvy world that Jesus spoke of, one which is counter-intuitive –a world where we gain and receive through giving things away or sharing what we have. The way of love. But if we don’t work at living in the moment (and it is work) then we aren’t going to be able see another person’s needs or understand their situation. I often fail to give proper attention to someone who is talking because I’m thinking about what I was doing or thinking ahead to what I’ll say or do when they stop talking. But if we are busy reviewing and re-playing the past or else anticipating or worrying about the future then we aren’t present in the now. And if we don’t live in the moment then we can’t really find happiness or contentment. It is in the moment that we will find true contentment. As John Lennon put it “life is what happens when you are busy making plans.” Today is a unique, special day in each of our lives, so let’s live it like it really matters.
Wise words indeed, so what has life been doing while I was too busy making plans?
Ive been seconded from my role as an assertive outreach worker (Homelessness) to a drug and alcohol rehab, I never saw that coming! Its a short term thing, Im covering a workers maternity leave. Its a real joy and a very positive environment, a welcome break from frontline homelessness. Been around people who really want to change as opposed to those who are struggling to find any hope. Both are rewarding in different ways. Never more than just before I swapped over.. an old fella been sleeping rough for 3 years, many issues that I wont go into, finally agreed to move inside. Left me with a lot to do that last week or so and my manager regularly updates me by email of his progress and his full on engagement with the team. A real buzz, again its that connection thing I spoke of in the last blog, when Im helping somebody else Im really helping myself.
I got invited to the House of Lords for afternoon tea through my Churchill Fellowship, it was incredible. Winston Churchill’s Grandson came up to me and said he remembered me and my project from the interview two years ago. I loved the occasion, especially taking my Mother as a guest, she always been heavily into politics and I think it was a bigger deal for her to go there. I enjoyed just showing up and watching her take it all in.
What really made the London trip special was the awesome welcome and feeling of connectivity I got from all of the four gatherings of “Mutual Friends” during my short stay there. I checked in almost as soon as I landed in the capital and stayed close the whole time.
These last couple of months have been a real journey and I wouldn’t change a moment, it goes on and the best is yet to come.
“When you find yourself going through Hell… Keep going” – Winston Churchill
“I think 99 times and the problem is unresolved, I sit back, swim in the silence and the answer just comes” – Albert Einstein
Thanks for listening… John