Now I’m not a scientist or scholar and can’t claim to have the foggiest idea of what the late Stephan Hawking’s scientific contribution completely means to the world, however, as I watched the broadcasted tributes to this man I can’t help but be in awe. Upon seeing this man’s picture alone, one would right away know that his life was not an easy one and that he faced more than a few challenges throughout his life. Despite those obvious challenges, never mind those that we can’t even pretend to understand, he accomplished great things. As I watched the video dedicated to Mr. Hawking, I found myself all the more grateful for the blessings I have; the working limbs, my ability to speak without assistance, the ability to walk, run and hug those I love and so many more.
On top of the reminder of how much I have to be grateful for, the bigger lesson this week has been that I can’t only want to, need to or intend to change, I need to act. The meeting of goals I have set for myself or the place I want to be in my life will not just magically happen; I need to choose to follow those intentions with actions.
In each of our lifetimes we are going to encounter moments that we feel ‘we can’t’ or ‘it’s impossible” but it’s going to be in these moments that we choose to take action, that our journey will become an extraordinary one. It won’t always be easy; the things in life that are, rarely are the ones that mean the most to us. Taking that first step and continuing to work towards our goals and to face the challenges that stand in our way, we will not only dig ourselves out of the holes we may find ourselves in but may inspire and motivate others along the way. It is a shame that so many of us are blind as to our contributions and to what we are truly capable of, we limit ourselves and deprive the world of what we have to offer. So I challenge each one of us to take action and go after the lives we want, fill the world with extraordinariness.
This journey of self discovery has proven to be quite a journey indeed. I was in no way expecting what happened, to happen. I practice meditation every day as a means to clear my mind while meditating, make my thinking clearer when I'm not meditating, learn how to have a break in thought, and live in each moment as it happens, appreciating each one as it comes along. When my mind does wander, I bring it back and make notice of what takes my mind away. That alone tells me a lot about myself. One thing I have recently learnt, is that I have a fear of abandonment. Not only that I have it, but through constant quiet practice, I have come to understand where it originates from. This has been incredible insight for me.
My mind never stops. It goes from one thought to the next, like a monkey jumping from tree to tree. They call it monkey mind, and I've had it bad. It can be annoying. When I'm out cross country skiing, I don't want to be thinking about work, or personal issues. I want to leave my mind free to notice the warmth of the sun on my face, or the frost on my chin. I want to feel how my skis glide across the snow, and the sounds of that glide. I want to smell the trees, and hear the birds. When my mind is too active, those things go unnoticed. When I'm doing my forms, I want to feel the energy from the ground, hear my breath, and notice how my body works together. Or how it doesn't work together. I want to feel as if I'm one with my form. I can't progress in my forms without this.
Often times when my mind is off wondering, I'm telling myself stories. Going through conversations I want to have with people, thinking through an email I want to write, or making assumptions about events that are happening in my life. All of these things take me away from the present moment of where I am and what I am doing, seeing, feeling, hearing, and smelling. A couple weekends ago, I had a lot of such stories in my head as a result of an upsetting event in my life. Without knowing the real truth, I put myself into quite a state. I made several assumptions about why this was happening to me, and told myself stories about what was going to happen as a result of this incident.
I continued on with my daily practice of mindfulness, sometimes sitting quietly twice a day. I worked towards finding compassion and peace with my situation. I sat quietly sending thoughts of compassion towards the person I thought was the cause of my situation. I worked hard at clearing my mind, so I could continue to think clearly even while not on the meditation cushion. I also took time to sit quietly and ponder about why I felt the way I did, and what I should do about it. I learned a lot about myself in the coming days. I came to realize that there were some really great qualities about myself that needed to be celebrated, not scorned. I also learned about some unwholesome patterns (habits) in my life that I have, that limit my ability to see clearly, and make inappropriate assumptions about my upsetting situation that happened days before. I realized that my fear of abandonment had totally distorted my perceptions of my situation. This in turn put me in the state I was in, which in the end, was quite unnecessary. Being able to come to this kind of awareness was very humbling to me.
Some of the things I learned about myself were very valuable when it comes to being able to progress forward. What happened to me was not my fault, and I had no reason to be down on myself. It wasn't anyone's fault. It is, however, my responsibility to fix it, and no one else's. I am the only one responsible for my happiness, heart, and life, and when something becomes amiss, it is up to me to figure out what needs to be done, and do it, so I can get on with my life and further progress in a wholesome direction. The wrong thing to do would be to look for fault. That can be damaging in so many ways.
I've noticed a shift in my thoughts lately. When my mind starts to tell stories, I get bored with it, and simply let it go. I used to get songs stuck in my head on a regular basis. I find it it interesting that I rarely do anymore. This is a very huge deal for me, and it feels great. I am starting to notice small bits of progress in my practice of mindfulness. It excites me to think of what this means for my increase of self awareness, which will in turn benefit my Kung fu.
Over the years I have conditioned my mind to be constantly on the go, allowing me to miss out on so many wonderful moments. I can't think of how many times I've eaten a great meal, but realized at the end of it, that I didn't really take the time to taste and enjoy each bite. I had stepped outside of the moment from distractions of thought, and lost the enjoyment of the meal.
I don't only practice mindfulness for my own benefit, but for all those around me. I do it so I can have more compassion, empathy and an open heart towards others. The world is made up of individuals. By improving my own little "individual" space, perhaps there is a chance I can inspire
others to do the same. In this way, the positive and wholesome space around me ripples and grows.
Have you ever tried following in someone else’s footsteps through the snow, only to find that the footprints have a different shoe size, that the stride does not match your own or to find that the trail you choose to take leads a little to the left or right of the already existing path? This will most likely be a similar experience we will all have during this year’s journey in the Year of the Dog.
Although we may all start off in relatively the same spot with similar year end goals in mind, we will each have our own way of getting there that will be individual and very personal and will not fit in anyone else’s mould. There will be lessons and experiences along each individual path that will help build and determine our own end result. We may go a little backwards with an injury, or sniff a rabbit that leads us in a direction going right into the bush or maybe it will be a hard left in an effort to help a friend who is struggling and lost, each step leading us forward in one way or another.
Along the road you may even come across those, who with a lack of understanding will doubt, question or even discourage you. It’s in these moments we may need to remind ourselves of our goals. We may even have to be a little selfish in making choices that look after us first, with the clear understanding that when we take care of us, we will be better equipped to help and take care of others.
It is so important that we each show patience and respect for each journey for the simple fact that until we walk in someone else’s shoes, we will not completely understand the reasons their trail led in the direction it did.