Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Stay put a thousand times.

It's healthy to write. I'm sure it is. I can feel myself get into a near panic. Is it the caffeine? The procrastination or the low self-esteem? Is it stir-craziness? I respond to this state regularly with the most unhealthy of looping futile habits and distractions. I have thought recently that a great route to a more positive mental state, a more peaceful level of thought, perception and increased productivity would be to time myself - set timers for all my activity. Spend 25 minutes on this, 10 minutes on that.

Also I keep coming back to the idea of a long list on both problems and topics. Problems like - wanting to punch my own face, feeling overwhelmed. Topics like - self-esteem, self-hatred, procrastination, perspective, fearlessness. Googling these things or collecting my thoughts on them into neat categories in Evernote.

Technological solutions for organic problems. Maybe that's the problem.

There's something hugely powerful about "return to your breath". Your mind will wander a thousand times, bring yourself back to your breath a thousand times. Come back to the present. If you wander into the future or amble back into the past a thousand times, then come back to the present moment a thousand times. Once you know an impulse or a habit will keep knocking at the door, then resolve to acknowledge it and stay put. Stay put a thousand times. Then a thousand more. It's very comforting to know that each time it may well take less willpower as the benefits of refusing to answer that knocking make themselves clear.

The flurry of thoughts that hold me back and hold me down is a constant assault on peace, productivity and change. I'll try to describe the timeline of the most recent instance of such a flurry. Habits and impulses force an internal dialogue - I need the loo and literally have to consciously assess whether following that urge is a good plan. I need to drink some water, the urge to have coffee seems wrong, what with my state of almost-panic. I briefly hate myself for my seeming inability to drink enough water. While in the bathroom, I consider the tension in my back and think to myself that there is not enough time somehow to deal with that, remembering the other day writing that "things that clear your head and make you better don't take time, they make time." I think how I should organise this simple things I've learned in some new fashion in order that I might recall them when they might be useful. I think how I should move from the sofa to my desk to be in a better posture then feel fear that sitting at my desk will make my head clear enough to feel my panic, worry and critical thoughts too intensely. I am, at this point, fighting clarity.

By this stage, I've already lost track of many of my little worries, lost track of the little jabs I've had at myself. Losing track of my thoughts on how to change makes me feel insane. "There's no way", I think "no way I can affect change when this is my mental landscape." I think to Epic Win and how I seem never to complete the basic items of life that I have set out for myself. Tony Schwartz wrote, in the Harvard Business Review that "the proper role for your pre-frontal cortex is to decide what behavior you want to change, design the ritual you'll undertake, and then get out of the way." It seems wonderful and I have sought, over the past few months to truly understand how much of my experience is living out habits and how I might change them. It's so hard for someone so deeply pessimistic in their interpretative style as I am not to hate themselves for relenting to the unforgiving force of habit, familiarity and repetition. Associated calming releases of dopamine bring you back to the screen, the endless repetition of clicks, familiar apps and keystrokes creating your destiny as Lao Tse predicts. Destiny follows character follows habit follows action follows word follows thought. You are what you do is more accurately expressed as you will become what you think.

Each habitual urge needs a proper response. The desire to have a healthy response to an unhealthy or unproductive urge is fraught with self-criticism. I berate myself for procrastinating, then think of hitting myself in the arm, then am in the blink of an eye berating myself for not stretching more as a more healthy response to delusion, distraction and confusion.

Knowing that listening to music would help you is not the same as listening to some music. The map is not the territory.

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