Monthly Archives: January 2012

Stop, automaton.

What are you doing right now?

Reading this post, of course. But are you really paying attention? Or are you skimming over the words, perhaps just sitting down after a long day. Maybe you are reading this while the sun is rising, dreading to go to work, but looking to kill a few minutes before rushing out the door.We rarely consider what we’re doing — what we are experiencing — right now. This has been my state of mind lately, and why I have failed to post anything of substance as of late. My mind has been cluttered with the things that I “need” to do, creating an impassible barrier of tasks and toils that weigh heavily on me. Inevitably, this means I end up doing nothing. Worse still, few of us know how to live productively while taking breaks and relaxing. I find that my two modes of being are chaotically busy, or fumblingly unproductive. The latter is much more frustrating, and has been plaguing me recently. How do we, or I, break free of it? I’m not sure. I loathe reading self-help books, as many of them come off as condescending and excessively anecdotal. Besides, influencing my cognition is only going to influence my behavior so much. All but the most helpless of us know what we are supposed to do, or what we ought to work on. This knowledge almost never translates into action, however. In fact, knowing all the things that we’re supposed to do usually leads to inaction. We have to look up a dieting plan, lift weights, read that research paper, look for a job, create a balance budget, clean the bathroom, cook a healthy meal, walk the dogs, feed the fish, change the oil… . We become paralyzed, or at least I do.

So now we get to the post where we reach the good part, right? The part where I go into detail about what motivation is, understanding yourself, and knowing how to get things done.

No. I’m afraid not.

You see, I am like you. I have no idea what the solution might be, and I have no idea where to start when it comes to motivating myself — let alone telling others how to motivate themselves. Perhaps it is a cop out,  but I’ve started embracing inaction. (And, when I say inaction, I don’t mean utter passivity, and I especially don’t mean laziness). When I sat down at my computer, I had planned to get quite a bit done… but we all know what happens. (That is, not much).

My attempts to be productive weren’t an utter failure, but they were underwhelming, to say the least. As I sat back in my chair, I quietly exhaled a sigh of frustration — of disappointment. “I should be doing so much more”, I thought. Then I noticed it. I had been running on automatic. Unappreciative of where I am, or what I’m currently experiencing. In short, I had been focusing and worrying so much about where I’m going or where I might end up, that I haven’t acknowledged what I have. I’d forgotten that tiny moment that we vaguely call the “present”.

Where am I then? What am I feeling, seeing, hearing? The dull buzz of a stand-up bass rattles through my speakers, courtesy of The Bad Plus. A slightly sour, sweet, and earthy aftertaste lingers in my mouth from the tea I’m drinking. Soft lighting reflects off of a Rothko print, the red changing into orange where the light hits it more harshly. My belly is full, thanks to a nice dinner I’ve made for myself. (I’m just past being perfectly satiated, but not entirely overstuffed). My dog lays contently on his bed, as he falls asleep with a ball propping his mouth open. They say dogs aren’t self-aware, yet he often exhibits greater self-reflection than I do. And, I have a home. My last few months have been rather vagrant and transitory. I’ve stayed in a few houses, but I hadn’t found a home. I suspect that contentedness in small, seemingly insignificant things is what makes a house a home, and I hope to recognize those seemingly insignificant things more often, rather than get caught up in the myth of productivity.

I would keep writing, but I’m not sure I have much left to say about the topic. Besides, I’m out of tea.

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