Working with the Un-Common Funk: 6 Steps, 30 Days, Freedom from Despair.
Sanity is not
The modern lifestyle
seems to be characterized by busyness and noise. We get so lost in all of our
busyness that we forget about sanity and well-being. It is so sad, because we
might even say that sanity is not important, it is essential. As a society, we have
bought into the misunderstanding that sanity is an option. We believe we can
choose whether we want to invest in our health and well-being or watch the news
and hurry off to work. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding has disastrous
After just a short time,
we are depressed. We have stared into the light box or our cell phone for so
long that our brain feels like an inanimate mass stuck between our ears. We
start to yearn for some spark, some sort of vitality. We eat a bag of M&M's
or drink two or three soft drinks. This provides us with a jolt, but it is
short lived. In the end we feel only more depressed. This approach is
dangerous. A day or two is one thing, but if this goes on for weeks or months,
it can lead you into a pit of despair that seems nearly impossible to escape.
Change is not an option,
it is a necessity. But, at this point turning around is easier said than done.
We are un-motivated because we have depleted the brain of pleasurable
neurotransmitters with our junk food diet, lack of exercise, excessive sexual
activity, drinking, and/or drug use. To make matters worse, we are fighting an
uphill battle because the very physiological system that was meant to reinforce
healthy behavior was used to create and reinforce the self-destructive rut we
are now stuck in. So, not only will everything in you want to eat a pound
of candy and watch TV, but none of your attempts to change will, in the
beginning, be reinforced. Hence the famous words of St Paul, "For I
do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep
Digging out of this rut
is, in the initial phases, little more than a struggle against
self-centeredness. Basically, we are struggling against our own self-imposed
limitations, which are experienced as an inability to do what we do not want to
do, and not do what we do want to do. We are protesting our self-imposed
imprisonment. So, step one is to dispose of all un-realistic expectations about
this journey: the fire under your butt will burn out after about three
days; not being fired up does not mean you cannot move forward; knowing that
will not change the fact that at some point you will want to give up; you are
not perfect, but that is not an acceptable reason to not try.
necessarily about results.
In a situation like this
commitment can be incredibly effective. However, our sense of commitment
is only as strong as our intention. So, before we begin we must strengthen
our intention. Before we get out of bed in the morning, we need to connect with
a motivation that we cannot wear out. We need a motivation that transcends our
self-centered way of thinking. Every morning we have to dig deep and find a
sense of inspiration buried within ourselves that is sustained, not by the
promise of profit, but by a fundamental form of gratitude that reminds us of
the great potential embedded in the human condition and our responsibility to
manifest that potential in our daily lives.
So, once we have
strengthened our resolve what do we commit to? Do we commit to a dogma, a
person, or a divine presence? No. We commit to a way of life. We are concerned
with where and how, not why, who, or what? To begin with we are devoting
ourselves to action.
What follows are six simple steps that seek to reconnect you with
the center of meaning and inspiration in your life.
1.Study:Look for a book that offers you a challenge, not a source of
entertainment. If you are a religious person, sacred scripture may do the
trick. If not, look through the philosophy or perhaps the spirituality section
at your local book store. Remember the emphasis here is on open-mindedness, not
entertainment. So, pick something that resonates with you, while encouraging
you to step out of your comfort zone. We want something that challenges our
worldview and makes us think. We are looking for something that is simply fun.
If you cannot think of anything ask Google or a friend. We should read for at
least 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening everyday for a
is not a diet. The emphasis here is not on nutrition, but discipline. With that
said, keep it simple. Perhaps you would like to give up fried foods or red meat
for 2-3 days. While it is important not be so extreme that you set yourself up
for failure, it is equally important not to sell yourself short. Pick something
that is a problem for you—pizza, candy, or soft drinks—and give it up for a few
days. Honesty is all that matters. If you do not struggle with eating, one day
with no food, or two days just juicing is plenty. Whatever our choice, we
should perform the fast once a week for one month. No more, no less. Remember
discipline and asceticism are not the same thing. We are practicing commitment
(samaya) in order to break out of a
rut, not punishing ourselves for being a slouch.
3.Cleaning:In extenuating circumstances action and more action (karma yoga) is the remedy. It reconnects
us with the body, which is the source of inspiration. For the next thirty days,
we should devote 30 minutes per day to cleaning our environment. This includes
laundry, sweeping the floors, washing dishes, the whole bit. Your environment
is a reflection of your mind. If your mind is messy, your environment is messy.
If the environment is connected to your state of mind, then we should be able
affect our mind state by effecting the environment. When we have cleaned our
house or finished our yard work a sense of dignity is resurrected within us.
4.Hygiene:Bathing is another form of action based practice. However, bathing
has more ritualistic connotations and therefore a greater capacity to effect
change in one's mind-stream. We should bathe and/or shower twice daily for
thirty days. A morning shower and an evening bath have proven most practical
for me. While a shower is acceptable it is important that we work in a proper
bath whenever possible, as the full body submersion has a purifying
quality. If you would like to add candles, bath salts, bubble bath, or any
other bath product that strengthens the experience for you, please do so. Do
not skimp. When a bath is not possible, sitting on the floor of the shower
under the running water is the most effective option. This practice can be
enhanced with prayer. If you have a morning prayer routine or would like to
start one, I highly suggest bringing it into the shower. Praying under the
running water is powerful.
We can also
effect a great deal of change in our mind stream by putting on a nice set of
clothes. For the next thirty days we should pay close attention to how we
dress. Allow yourself to look good and feel good. We do not have to wear a suit
everywhere, but we should invest in our appearance as it is but a symbol. How
we look is a reflection of our quality of life. Effecting our appearance is an
excellent way of reconnecting with our intrinsic sense of self-worth. The
emphasis of step four is on self-love (maitri).
5.Exercise:We are not training for the Iron Man. Keep it simple and allow
your own capacities to define simplicity. If you are quite fit, then establish
a routine that is on par with your fitness level. But remember, fitness is not
the only thing that should be considered when thinking about sustainability. We
have to take time into account. Within the framework of our current
goal—breaking out of our rut—consistency is more important than breaking
personal records. So, always consider your daily schedule and plan an exercise
routine that you can stick to. If you are not in great shape, do not fret.
Start where you are. If that is a simple walk or recreational bike ride, then
so be it. But whatever your fitness level, consider your time constraints. We
do not want to set ourselves up for failure. We should be able to find at least
a half hour we can devote to our physical fitness for the next thirty days.
live in an age where silence is becoming more and more rare. We are perhaps the
first generation in the history of the human race that has completely
eliminated silence from our daily life. Just 20 years ago most people were
forced to be totally quiet at least once a day while using the toilet. Now we
just take our phones and look at FaceBook. We have completely filled our
periods of natural silence with noise. In order to remedy this issue, we can
take a few practical steps. First, catch yourself when you are fiddling with
your phone just to past time and quit: on the bus, while waiting in line, or on
the toilet identify mindless phone activity and eliminate it on the spot.
Second, eat dinner without the TV. Third, turn off the radio when you are in
your car. Take out the head phones while you are walking or riding your bike.
Now, we can begin to install periods of
intentional silence. We can begin with 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes
in the middle of our day and allow this to carry on for thirty days. It is
important to allow silence to form our intentions before we leave the house,
and to allow silence to interrupt our busyness throughout the course of our
day. If you are familiar with meditation practice or would like to start a
practice routine, you can use these two periods for formal meditation practice.
If you are not really interested in meditation as a practice, take about 15
minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes at lunch to sit in silence. Walk
outside and sit on a park bench or in your back yard. Take a deep breath to
begin and feel the crispness of the air and its effect on your body. Feel your
lungs and abdomen as they expand with the in-breath and contract with the out
breath. Feel the heart beating. Just notice any sensations, including thoughts,
as they arise. We do not need to do anything with them. Just let them come and
go. In fact, it is our willingness to let things be as they are, including the
compulsion to mess with everything, that qualifies this period as silence.
This simple process is intended to reconnect you with the source
of inspiration in your own life. Once you have found that inspiration, above
and beyond everything else, hang onto it. This is your journey. Making the
journey is not an option. Jobs are optional. The journey can be intentional or
we can deny it and become a prisoner within the walls of our skin. When it is
intentional it is commonly referred to as the spiritual path.
Spirituality is a process of discipleship. Once we reconnect with
the movement of bliss within, we must become its disciple, its student—allowing
it to discipline and guide us deeper into who we are. Listen to it.
Follow it everywhere. No matter where it goes. We must be willing to follow it
into our darkness and uncertainty. It will bring us face to face with our
demons and give us the courage to face them. It will teach how to be both
nurturing and strong. It will never destroy fear, but it will teach you how to
be yourself in the face of fear.