Sunday, March 22, 2009

Doing What's Next...

"Doing what's next, without a mental argument, is devotion to God."


I love Byron Katie, I love The Work, and I love "A Thousand Names for Joy," the book she wrote with Stephen Mitchell, her husband. It's so powerful, all this stuff, and the more you follow it, the more incredible it gets. So to get to THAT point, to just do what's next, without a mental argument - that's being present. That's being awake. She describes it as "doing the dishes." If the thought arises to do the dishes, you follow the thought. Or you don't. But you don't need to ARGUE with it.

For example, I read that quote, and immediately knew that I wanted to write about it. The thought came up "put that in your blog!" and I thought, "I should do that now." But I noticed instead that I wasn't. What I did was to finish the chapter, and then I easily put the book down and then I wrote about it. Had I kept going back to the "I should do that now" thought while I was reading the rest of the chapter would have kept me from my purpose: to read the chapter. I can have all kinds of ideas about what's next, but until I am doing it, I have no idea what will happen next, and if I argue and debate over what to do next, then I lose.

This has been the theme of my weekend, and I am so glad - AMAZED! even - that here at the end of the weekend I have been handed this gorgeous quote to give me some completion to the lesson.

It's been a big, crazy party-party weekend here in my city. A huge music and film festival has been upon us for the past week, and it's kind of expected that you will go to the free events of the festival and, you know, participate! BF and I had plans to read up on it, make a plan, and get out and go out (we don't go out much; we like to go to bed early and be out during the day), and then suddenly he had to leave town. Defiantly, I boasted to him that I was going to "go out and have fun without you! ha-HA!" But when the time came to go out and have "fun," I had other things I really preferred to be doing, circumstances that made "fun" seem a little not-so-fun. My new, overwhelming exercise routine exhausted me and made walking for hours and standing for hours a little less than preferable. My inspiration to work on my own projects made leaving the house for other purposes seem like a distraction. Essentially, Reality was handing me a nice, normal, quiet weekend at home, while Expectation was taking me out on the town 24-7.

I argued mentally with Reality the whole time. "I should go out." "Everyone is expecting me to go out." "If I don't go out, I'm just a big, dumb loser who doesn't know how to have fun and I totally suck." "I don't have any friends." "I'm lame." Etc. And as Katie says, "when I argue with Reality, I lose. But only all the time." And I kept that argument up! I spent 2 1/2 days arguing with my reality, justifying my reality, making excuses for what I was doing and not doing, and in a lot of ways, I completely missed out on the miracles and amazing experiences that were happening in my life, in my Reality. Reality doesn't change when we argue with it; Reality only changes when it changes.

For example, there were outdoor concerts going on. I had the expectation that I would go to these concerts, because I "should!" Excellent bands, free, not very far from my house so I could walk and not have to park the car, show's over early so not even that late a night. Sounds great! My Story: my legs were in no condition to walk the 2 miles each way and to stand for an hour or so during the show. I wanted to have my dinner, at home, during the peak time of the show, 7pm. I hate crowds when I'm by myself. I could hear the show from my open door. So the expectation and the story battled it out, ferociously, while Reality just continued along in the foreground. I walked as far as my legs could take me. Each time, a friend intervened at just the right moment and gave me direction to turn around and go home. I had exactly what I had for dinner at exactly the right moment. I spent my evening listening with delight to the music coming from my young neighbors in town for the festival (they went out very late, so they kept me entertained until they left!) and working on projects that I enjoyed. With the arguments raging, this seemed like an inadequate way to spend my festival weekend. Without the arguments, it's pretty nice.

As I was walking home yesterday evening, a neighbor around the corner smiled and we said hello. "Enjoying the music?" he asked. I waited for the words to form, and I said, "I'm enjoying not enjoying the music!" He laughed and said he knew exactly what I meant, and we passed a few pleasant words about the virtues of staying away from the crowds. He gave me that moment of validation - that it was OK not to be in festival mode - but I didn't need it. Of course it's OK not to be in festival mode! How could it be anything but OK? It's been perfectly wonderful.

I've been to the park, I've ridden my bike, I've chatted with my neighbors and spent time with a good friend. I've done my laundry and washed (most of) my dishes. I've eaten my good food and enjoyed a few treats. I've received more emails than I can count and participated in my online forum. I've exercised and taken long walks. I've stayed up till 1am writing a business plan that felt as much fun as playing with Barbie's fun house and making up worlds of imagination and seeing its reality as clear as if it were directly in front of me today, all the way down to the colors on the walls. I've made some vlogs and gone to the coffeehouse and took a quick trip across town to upload them at Kinko's. I've petted the kitties and turned the compost. I've slept like a queen. And tonight I even went out with a friend and saw some music, which happened to be amazing (Katzenjammer Kabarett, from Norway. love.), so I DID go to the festival after all! Really, what more could a weekend ask for? Reality is so amazing, it always gives us so much more than we realize, but never more than we can handle.

So the trick, I think I'm learning, is to simply stop arguing with Reality. I will sit here writing this blog until I stop, and it is useless to try and predict when that is going to happen or what else I may do, or what I'm going to do afterwards, or what will make me stop. Will I stop because I'm done, or will I have to get up and go to the bathroom? Maybe I'll get a glass of water, or perhaps I'll suddenly have an urge to clip my toenails. Who could have predicted that itch on my head I just scratched? It's amazing. And it's useless to argue with it. I will do exactly what I am doing until I am doing something else.

That doesn't mean it's not a good idea to make plans or to have ideas of things you would like to do or even "need" to do - I need to wash the dishes, but I'm not going to wash them until I do, and harassing and berating myself while I am doing something else may be fun and entertaining, but it is neither getting the dishes done nor is it adding to the other activity I'm doing. Stay with Reality. Have the thought "I need to do the dishes," and then notice when Reality schedules it for you. Reality is so kind - it always gives us what we need when we need it.

I beleive that Experience is kind as well. Katie doesn't talk much about experience, but I think it's in there. Experience is kind in that I know from my Experience that the dishes will get done. I trust that they will get done because they always have gotten done before. It may be right away, it may be later, but it will happen. So I trust Experience to carry me gently through Reality, giving me reference points for everything I see around me, and adding to my Experience database. Yes, Experience is kind. It's kind of like my "Navi-guessor."

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