Sometimes, it feels as if I’ve been sucked into a vortex – like there is a tornado whirling around me and I want to step outside of its energy field but I can’t seem to do it. That’s a lie, of course. I CAN do it, but instead I’ve allowed the energy to suck me in. The energy field is habit, bad habits. I’ve been at war with my electronic devices as I’ve fallen into the black hole we call the internet. I am seriously contemplating starting a support group – IJA: Internet Junkies Anonymous.
The other day, I read (skimmed) an article about how just having a smart phone close by interferes with your brain’s ability to concentrate. I get it. Nothing can hijack me faster than having internet access. At traffic lights, while awaiting the green light, I check my Facebook feed. I check my email. I had to turn off notifications so my phone doesn’t ding at me all day long. When I’m included in a group text, I invariably have to “mute” the conversation otherwise I’m sucked into the chatter.
The world is at my fingertips when I am online and there is so much good stuff out there. I LOVE being educated. I LOVE learning new things and so much of it is fascinating. I was reading the other day about how the Dutch, who are very accustomed to dealing with rising sea levels, are building reservoirs rather than walls. They “give back to the rivers some of what we had taken.” Run into it. Don’t resist what is, work with it.
I will never manage to read all that I want to read, learn all the things I want to learn, or write all that I yearn to write. And as much as I romanticize unplugging, the truth is that much of what I need to do each day requires being online. I have prayers to publish, A Course in Miracles lessons to do, bills to pay, houses to sell and don’t get me started on all the books I need to download from the library!
I need to take a cue from the Dutch – run into it. But how do I do that without being sucked in? I find myself constantly tempted by the allure of social media, email, and just plain doing my job (which requires looking up information a good part of the time). Unplugging is not an option and it’s erroneous to believe that disconnecting from the internet will solve my problems. My problem is not the internet. My problem is believing the answer to my problems is “out there.” It’s a self-discipline problem. It’s a habit (neuros that fire together, fire together) problem. It’s the reason most alcoholics can’t take one drink without tumbling all the way down the hill. It’s why drug addicts shouldn’t dabble in occasional lines of coke. When I find myself being sucked into the vortex, it’s not helpful to think that I can control myself. That’s a lie of the ego.
I’m in my sixties. I am in the second half of my life and every day that I waste is a day I won’t get back.
Everything is in divine right order. I remind myself of this daily as I bump into situations that my mind tells me “should” be different. In reality, resisting “what is” is the root impetus for escape, and urge to escape is the unwillingness to be present to life on life’s terms. That doesn’t mean I continue behaving in ways that arouse guilt or shame, but it does mean I forgive myself for the past. I can’t invent a time machine and go back and reclaim the wasted days, but I can be gentle with myself for disappointing myself.
It seems like I should have learned this by now, but apparently, I am still learning it.
This morning, as I lay in bed reading myself back to sleep, I read Thich Naht Hanh’s Cultivating the Mind of Love and realized that the core of my focus was askew. I was thinking that I needed to fix myself, forgetting that the “self” is comprised on many “nonself” elements. As John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” I preach no separation, but act as if I’m disconnected from whatever I find happening when my assessment of it is less than pleasing.
What I found in those wee morning hours was wholeness. Hanh’s says, “The idea that man can do whatever he wants at the expense of non-man elements is an ignorant and dangerous notion.” We take care of the earth and each other and ourselves because we are all connected and what happens to anyone echoes out to affect everyone. He says, “We have to vow to practice for everyone, not just for ourselves. We practice for the tress, the animals, the rocks, and the water. We practice for living being with form and living being without form, for living beings with perceptions and living being without perceptions. We vow to bring all these being to the shore of liberation. And yet, when we have brought all of them to the shore of liberation, we realize that no being at all has been brought to the shore of liberation. This is the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism.”
In our ACIM group last Tuesday we read, “The children of God are entitled to the perfect comfort that comes from perfect trust. Until they achieve this, they waste themselves and their true creative powers on useless attempts to make themselves more comfortable by inappropriate means. But the real means are already provided, and do not involve any effort at all on their part.”
It is the world that brings healing – not by avoiding that stuff I don’t like but by seeing it as the way to heal. Run into it. Maybe the answer isn’t to avoid being sucked into the vortex but to see the vortex as practice. It’s like the ego – you can’t kill it or work at eradicating it; you have to see it as the path. The call for love (fear, the ego’s cry) is showing me all the places that need love. As Hanh says, “When we realize that to take care of the self is to take care of what is not self, we are free, and we don’t have to push away either.”
Wasted day. Not wasted day. None of it matters. The only thing that matters is love. And that gets squeezed out the moment I assign value judgments about the merit of how I’ve spent my time (or how others have spent their time), or money.
“Teach only love, for that is what you are,” says the Course.
Someday perhaps, I will stop forgetting who and what I am. In the meantime, I just keep practicing.
Namaste, my friends, Namaste.