Accept But Don’t Settle

In spiritual circles there is a lot of talk about acceptance and surrender. The idea is solid enough: By accepting what is actually happening and surrendering the idea of changing this current moment, one can release a large amount of needless stress. By ceasing the struggle with what is, our resources are freed up for taking what action we can. The flip side is that by not occupying our minds with something which is not actually occurring (like worrying about bad news, or what might happen in an upcoming meeting) we can use that energy instead to skillfully deal with the situation at hand.

The above points are very good, as far as they go. The danger comes when acceptance crosses over into settling. Acceptance is when you understand a situation cannot be changed in the moment. Settling is when you know you want something better & you know it’s possible, but you decide not to do what it takes to get it. Acceptance is necessary when your time would be wasted in struggling against something. Settling is an abandonment of your capacity to choose. Acceptance frees your power up to do what is useful. Settling always means getting less than you deserve.

Settling is what can happen when you take the act of acceptance to an extreme. From there it is a slippery slope into the victim role.

The funny thing is, settling is kind of the opposite of acceptance. Acceptance is about the current moment. It’s about what is actually the case. It is not about the future since the future isn’t actually happening, and therefore there is nothing about the future to accept. Settling is all about the future. By settling you assume that what is happening now will also be the situation in time to come. That is silly thinking.

Settling is about giving up. Acceptance is about surrender. Those are two very different things. When you surrender, you deal with whatever is as it is. That doesn’t mean you can’t make a change. Surrender just means that you start to change things from what is actually the case, and you pursue the change that is currently possible. When you give up, you no longer take action. Having given up, you drop hope and don’t bother to help yourself.

Life throws us curve balls. That’s part of its charm. When it does, we can choose to accept the situation and deal with those curve balls as they are. Or, we can settle for what happens to us and not bother to try.

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Timey Wimey

Time is weird. According to the counter I set up on my website, I’ve been meditating for 3,544 consecutive days. As of October 4th, 2016 I had been meditating for 1460 consecutive days by the count on the app I use as a timer during my meditations. Thanks to a long, and very fun, road trip (where we made record time) I had to wait until after midnight to meditate, so the tracker said I skipped a day. That happened again on November 29th, 2016. So now it says I am down to 86 days in a row. When I first started meditating, I took a vow to do 1,000 days. When I crossed that line a dear friend said, “Pshhh! Tell me when you get to 3,500 if you want me to be impressed.”

In the paradigm I was raised, I was taught to think of time in a clockwork, tick-tock fashion. Scenarios like the one above (and not a few experiences with heroic doses of psychedelics) have taught me to think of time in another way.

In his book “The Power of Now”, Eckhart Tolle drives home the old spiritual insight that there is only now. The past cannot be found. It can only be remembered now. The future cannot be seen. It can only be anticipated now. In his book “How long is now?”, Tim Freke examines the idea of this eternal thing that now seems to be.

Looking at the now through the eyes of the old, Copernican paradigm I was raised in, when I examine the now it seems to shrink to an impossibly thin membrane of existence. Once I think of an instant as now, that instant is in the past already. Getting a grip on the now in that scenario seems impossible.

However, we have all had experiences that call that idea of now into question. Our experience of time is not consistent. Some nows pass by without us even noticing. Some nows seem to stretch out over an impossibly long duration. Not all nows are equal. When I was within my 1,000 day vow of meditation, day 1,000 always seemed far off in the distance. Looking back now the whole of the vow feels like it passed in the blink of any eye.

I have begun to think in time, not as a sequence of seconds, but rather as a dance of moments. A moment is a loose boundary of time. A moment stretches to encompass the completeness of a given scene of our lives. When we stop for a moment to catch our bearings and take a long calming breath, that is a moment. When we sit with dear friends and share a long, sumptuous meal, that is a moment.

These moments sometimes overlap, and can sometimes contain each other. They can even have different subjective experiences of duration. Rushing into the house after work to quickly change clothes to hit dinner and a show can seem like a cramped moment that goes by in the blink of an eye, but within that moment you can catch a glance of your beloved as they go about a preparation in a frantic way that is so very them that your breath gets sucked away in a split second that seems to stretch out endlessly as you are reminded of how much you love them. Then, just as suddenly you are back to scrambling to get the right shoes on. Each moment has its own characteristics, and they do not necessarily share those with the moments they overlap. I think this is part of the inherent richness of life. It can also be a source of its bitterness. The moment of mourning after the passing of a loved one can become unbearably long, and it can overshadow any other moments it contains.

Using this as a model for time allows for a richer appreciation of the nuance and emotional richness of a day than the model that sees time as a series of equal and distinct instants that proceed in a regular and mechanical manner. A given moment has a particular feel, where a given instant of equal length is just the ticking of a clock hand.

Living with moments that define their own borders, life becomes a nested and overlapping set of encounters, each enriching all the others. That adds a spice to life that I can appreciate. I think you might too.

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Emotional Impact Can Cut Off Options

I have had an epiphany. It concerns a bad decision I didn’t even know I was making. The reason I made this bad decision was because someone else made a decision. Namely, Amazon.com.

A couple of years ago I started making coloring books for grown-ups. It was a lot of fun. I wanted to get into the market in the easiest way, so I did what I saw several other authors do, I put the books up initially as Kindle eBooks with download links for PDF files so people could print the images to color at their leisure. Things went great for a couple of months, I got a good mix of reviews, mostly positive, and got several messages from fans who appreciated my work. Good times. I then created a couple of print-on-demand versions using Amazon’s PoD arm, CreateSpace.

Then Amazon made a policy change for their Kindle product. They launched an interactive platform within the Kindle application and started dumping titles that were interactive from their Kindle library. The adult coloring book market was hit hard. My books were blocked, one after the other, and all my good reviews vanished. I tried to comply by removing the links from the ebooks, and instead framing them as preview offerings, but that was a no go. Amazon informed me that coloring books were inherently interactive (even if you can’t actually interact with the images) and my books were not reinstated. That left me with one review on my PoD version, and it was one star from a person who didn’t care for my work. (Amusingly enough the specific image he mentioned in his review as being boring is one that other people have told me is the most frightening piece in the book. So it goes.)

I took this turn of events pretty hard and basically gave up on the idea of coloring books. That was a huge mistake. I realized what a huge mistake it was when I happened to check my CreateSpace account the other day. I had earned some royalties while I hadn’t been looking. (They were sent to an old address, but a quick email to the CreateSpace customer service department and some edits to my payment details got things sorted. The check was canceled, and the royalties were deposited directly into my bank.) While I wasn’t looking I had sold a few dozen copies online, without any support on my end. I recalled my encounter with someone at the one location that carries my books on their shelf, and how he insisted on shaking my hand to thank me for the hours he, and his partner, had spent with my images. I remembered the positive reviews, now hidden. I saw that I had made a very bad decision unconsciously, and it was time to reverse it.

I had failed to remember one of the single most important distinctions for creative people in the Internet age. Options. Since what I produce is mine to do with as I will, there are always options. Kindle isn’t the only eBook vendor out there, and besides there are plenty of other ways to get my images out to the public.

So, stay tuned for some more Color Your Nightmares books, folks! Be on the lookout for a Patreon effort as well. I have plans roiling in my head again, and the hours I spent today gathering images to work with reminded me of how much I enjoy this process.

Watch for what your brain decides while you’re not paying attention. It doesn’t always serve your best interests.