After Friday’s more reflective post about managing your energy (brahmacharya, in yogic terms), the long weekend in the US gave me the opportunity to retreat. Not the kind like giving up in a war. I hate war, but this is not a post about that. And I don’t mean a fancy spa (I wish!) or escaping to a meditation center, though I’ve done the latter. I mean I’m house and petsitting, which is a nice chance to do less outward activity and to do other things that have been neglected. Go within, reflect, journal, rest and read. To experience something many of us forget is there all around us and within us. Stillness.
Religion Is a Smile on a Dog
If you’ve read my post about being an agnostic athiest, you know A Dude is not big on religion. But spirituality I can dig, and before decamping to my poor man’s retreat center, I found two copies of Echart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. That seemed like a message that I finally might benefit from looking at an older but still timely book. Of course I’m still doing my three daily duties: walks (with a dog for part of it), yoga (about which I have a big milestone I’ll mention later this week), and writing. I’m biking just a little, mostly to retrieve provisions. And yes, I’m also having a little fun by catching up on some streaming stories that I lost access to, so I’m definitely doing that. Let’s face it, enlightenment is probably not arriving via Amazon Prime. One can always try to find meaning in any area of human endeavor, though.
I don’t have permission to post a photo of the dog, and although it’s probably fine, I will do so later if allowed. The one here will suffice, as it’s also of a cattle dog. She does not fetch, but does alot of other tricks — even knows how to high five! — and she already loves A Dude. (What’s not to love?)
It’s not just because I’m giving her treats and food, but a lot of attention. It took her about two hours and the need to make a poo before she insisted on a walk, and then promptly required me to bag up her goop. It was supposed to take a day or two before she warmed up to me, even though we had met at least twice. That’s ok. I won her over quickly.
The chickens, on the other hand, seem like they also want petting. I have no experience with them so politely decline. It doesn’t seem like they understand their nature in the pecking order of things (pun intended). They need feeding, watering and being let out of their pen in the morning and put back in at night, and are kind of fun to watch. I need my fingers so declined the warm and fuzzies. But they provide another perk: free eggs.
The house is nice if small, but generally quiter due to double pane windows and not being in earshot of a friggin’ highway. It helps there’s no cantina next door like at the place I’ve been amazing loaned over the last few months. So no thumping repetitive bass line from south of the border music being drummed into my brain while a dozen workers guzzle down their cheap watery beer. Stillness is easier without that distraction.
I spent the morning skipping – not with joy – but to the loo. I had some affliction of the less noxious of the Rrhea Twins, as a high school biology teacher had put it. (Think it over and you’ll get it.) A nap helped some, but I was still pretty miserable. I had bland food like oatmeal, applesauce plus some sugar-free hydration liquid. Probably it was due to some excess the night before, the early wake-up time demanded by the animals, or possibly a speck of chicken stuff invaded my system despite the fervent hand-washing. Eventually that passed, literally, and then I realized I had a headache, which I seldom get. I didn’t have anything to take for it, except another nap and plenty of water. Not the best way to retreat.
Tonight’s walk took the four-legged sidekick and me into a cookie-cutter type neighborhood. There were actually ping-pong tables installed in the common area. It was next to some soccer fields, which I used to play and watch the World Cup every four years.
Here in Central Texas, it’s already baseball season. A bunch of little kids were playing at place run by the Optimist Club folks. Hoping their little one makes it to the major league one day? It was a warm afternoon, and the parents in the crowd were not super enthusiastic. But the rhythm of the game was mesmerizing. There was a stillness to it, the space in between the activity. It reminded me of the days I played a little for fun.
All About That Base
Which reminds me about regular reader and cool cat Sorryless. He has been writing about his sport of choice, baseball. Recently he wrote about a trip with his kids to see the New York Yankees. We got into some comments about W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe and the movie based on the book, Field of Dreams. For some, the game can be a spiritual experience. Especially since we all know there is no crying allowed, by order of Tom Hanks in League of Our Own. But a single old guy taking photos of kids playing baseball from beyond the fenceline is frowned upon, so I moved on.
The dog, eternal optimist that she is, chased two squirrels unsuccessfully. I read and soaked up some sun before moving to the shade. Sounds of the Austin, Texas neighborhood arose and passed away, as does everything in its time. A lawn mower, passing cars, a barking neighbor dog, even a baby. Someone was having a barbecue. I put my headphones with some classical music on to soothe my pounding head. I’m reminded that when I was a kid, I had a poster my mother must have given me that was an orangutan sitting on a tree branch. What now would be called a meme said, “Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.” Words to live by.
Taking the Time to Be Still
Finding stillness may be simple, but it’s not easy. It takes intention and practice. The mind is like a monkey (and like this post), jumping around from limb to limb. “Chores must be done!” was one thought that bubbled up. Laboring to get up with my head pounding, I gave the fowl fresh water and feed, and retrieved two eggs for my trouble. Inside, the dog plopped down on her throne and sank into a quick sleep to recover from chasing the tree rats. I got myself together enough to bike the seven miles round trip to pick up some things at my soon to be ex-abode. While home, I wondered, not without some very un-Zen-like worry, where I will land. The Dude Abides, but A Dude just needs an abode. And pretty soon before I’m out on my ass living under an overpass. I’m not even joking about that.
But I still haven’t found an affordable and suitable place, with the looming deadline approaching fast. It’s already been extended two or three times, so I’m very motivated to move. What’s out there ain’t pretty. I scoured some Craigslist ads, to no avail. Another thought bubbled up, equal parts logic and emotion: how to solve the problem and anxiety about where I’ll find work for said housing. And I need to find a workplace. If it’s not remote or from home, it is tied to where I live. It’s a chicken and egg situation; I need to know where I’m living before I take a job, but I need the income from a job to get a place to live. Hard to be still with all that noise.
Then there’s my car-free transportation situation, which is dependent on health, and that isn’t nearly where I want or need it to be. My biking especially is sucking right now. All the interlocking pieces of this thought puzzle are like an ouroboros in my mind, the snake eathing its tail. I need a time out. We all do, from time to time.
So is stillness a way out of the stress of modern living, for you, for me, for everyone? Tolle seems to think so:
Becoming conscious of stillness whenever we encounter it in our lives will connect us with the formless and timeless dimension within ourselves, that which is beyond thought, beyond ego. It may be the stillness that pervades the world of nature, or the stillness in your room in the early hours of the morning, or the silent gaps in between sounds…. To be still is to be conscious without thought. You are never more essentially, more deeply, yourself than when you are still. When you are still, you are who you were before you temporarily assumed this physical and mental form called a person.-Eckhart Tolle, The New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
Returning home, the dog was pleased to see me and to get her dinner. The yoga mat called. Then the blog wouldn’t let me dash off 500 words in 30 minutes. The bed has been calling for quite a while. After the three-day weekend, the engines of capitalism fire up again to full throttle. I will have to engage with them as I am still without portfolio, as they say. This weekend brought no great revelation, despite my moments of stillness. The chance to spend more time over the next week being still may yet create the space for inspiration. Amidst the chickens, dog, peace and quiet, I hope to find and stitch together more pockets of stillness. When I do, it is good. May you find some of your own.
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