The title of the song loosely translates to "old time gone." I always thought the opening line was odd: "should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?" Are you suggesting I end my oldest friendships and pretend they never existed?
But the question being asked is rhetorical. The answer to it is no, no you shouldn't forget your true friends. You never should. That question, and indeed the entire song, is a call to mindfulness. It asks you to take a moment as the year is ending to reflect on what is most important to you, on who is most important to you. To remember the challenging times of the past year, we've all had them to varying degrees, but also to remember the love and friendship that made those times a little easier, we've all had those to varying degrees as well.
Thank you to all my friends, nay family, who've been there for me in 2014, in good times and bad. You know who you are. I love you. Let's grow auld together.
I'm taking a break from blogging this week, but that doesn't mean I'm taking a break from mindfulness.
This can be a busy and stressful time of year, and a sad time of year if you let it. In the midst of this hectic holiday, take a mindfulness break. Use it as a moment to reflect on the holiday season, on your life, on the year that has passed, on all the people you love. Recognize all that you have to be grateful for. Notice how taking this moment to breathe and reflect makes you feel renewed. Accept all the love that is around you and reject the stress.
Happy Holidays friends! Thank you for reading.
I love movies--the way they can take you out of your world and into another is magical. For me, peering into that other world through the camera lens is really about discovering a new perspective, and you can find that in a scifi space odyssey just as much as you can in a real life story of redemption.
From time to time on this blog I'll highlight a movie (like Boyhood) that I find particularly meaningful from a mindfulness perspective.
WILD is one of those movies.
I believe that we are best able to truly find ourselves by spending time with no one else but ourselves. Alone, quiet, thoughtful, with ourselves. You don't find your footing by using someone else or some other thing as a crutch.
That is the central theme of WILD. Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon, doesn't find herself through a self-help guide, she finds it using a trail guide and then by writing her own guide.
The other star of the film is the Pacific Crest Trail. I've found that time spent in nature is some of the best time you can spend with yourself. No distractions from people, stoplights, smart phones, TVs, or Twitters. Just you, the trees, a creek, and maybe a coyote. Without those distractions you can't help but turn inward. That's how a search through nature eventually leads you to yourself.
This is why you'll find me exploring Griffith Park, the Angeles National Forest, and the other hills around Los Angeles on a regular basis. It's my urban retreat into nature. It's my nature retreat into myself.
For each of us individually, we don't have to take on the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail, a heavy undertaking, to get to that place of mindfulness. We can start with something as simple as a walk in the park or as basic as taking a moment at home to breathe and reflect.
The movie eventually comes to a much more profound mindfulness ethos: our path in life.
Here's some questions I've been asking myself: what if I forgive myself? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn't do a single thing differently? What if all of those things I did were the things that got me here?" ~Cheryl Strayed
Regret is a powerful emotion. It makes us want to go back in time and change things. It causes us to do things in the present to make up for our past transgressions, be it seeking forgiveness or turning to mind numbing substances to forget.
But our path has already been forged, it cannot be changed.
Whether you realize it or not, you don't actually want to go back and change those decisions. As difficult as they were, they were an important lesson. The only reason you are able to know how to do things differently now, how to do things better, is because you did them incorrectly in the first place.
That mistake, that lesson, gave you the wisdom you carry with you today. Without it you'd be a different person on a different path with a different understanding of life.
Every decision we make, every step we take, is our path. It's being written as we walk, created as we go. Without both the slipups and the successes, we wouldn't be ourselves.
That's the realization Cheryl Strayed came to understand during her walk alone through nature. It makes me want to run off to the woods and start searching, thinking, being.
WILD is an exploration and a real life example of abandoning regret in order to find one's self, and it might just be the inspiration you need to start that exploration on your own. I highly recommend it for my fellow mindfulness seekers/adventurers/nature lovers/dreamers.
You gotta have friends, so says Bette.
There are the types of friends you laugh with and the types you can cry with; ideally your best friends are both.
But as adults, these types of friends are harder to come by. When you're growing up, especially in school, you spend hours a day with your friends. In college, you might even live together. It's easy to foster close bonds when you're in such close proximity and you hold close interests (class, sleeping, and partying, in no particular order).
After college many go their separate ways. Lives begin to revolve around jobs and family and the distance grows. Maintaining friendships and fostering new ones requires a lot more effort.
Enter the digital age. Facebook, Twitter, et all promises to bring us closer together, and in many ways they do. You can stay in touch (or at least stalk) friends from near and far: travel with them on vacation, watch their kids grow, follow their marathon training, wish them a happy birthday.
For all intents and purposes, you're connected, you're keeping in touch, you're friends. But if that's all you do--sit behind a computer screen and maintain a passive relationship--are you really friends?
This kind of passive digital friendship is dangerous. It's easy to get jealous when you watch your "friends" hang out with their friends in the form of check-ins and selfies. How come we haven't developed that close relationship? Why wasn't I invited to that party?
You're so close, you can see every little update, but yet you feel so far away.
So how do you change this? How do you build real, meaningful, friendships in an age where most of what you see of your friends can be broken down to digital code on a far away computer server?
It's time to foster the friendship:
All these things sound like dating advice and, in reality, there isn't much difference between getting to know a friend and getting to know a boy or girl-friend. Friendships are relationships too. If you sit at home drinking wine and clicking "like" you're not going to meet a new friend or a new partner.
In both cases you're looking for another person to connect with. In both cases you need to put in a little effort to see how deep that connection will go.
Meaningful relationships don't just happen to you, they happen because of you.
It doesn't always work out. Maybe the connection just isn't there for them. That's fine, everyone is unique, not everyone will gel. You can choose to get upset by this, or you can choose to turn to your other friends, see what other relationships you can foster, meet new people and connect with them.
It's not a finite process. No relationship, friendship or romantic, is static, nor should it be.
Keep learning, keep meeting, keep fostering, keep making an effort. The possibilities are endless.
We post a status update to make a statement, hoping to start a conversation, hoping to make them laugh.
We upload a photo of our view, hoping our friends will take a look, hoping they'll find it as beautiful as we do.
This our modern form of passive communication.
We're all just looking for our place in the world. Some sign that the people we find interesting find us interesting too. That they want to talk with us and share the view. That they get us, agree with us, like us.
But this passive form of communication--hoping, waiting, expecting digital validation--it's not mindful. It takes you out of the moment. Instead of being where you are, now, you turn away to focus on others, out there. You begin to place your expectations on them and, in turn, conjure up anxiety and doubt as you wait for that all-important *like*.
So, as you go about your digital life, repeat this mantra: there's more to life than *likes*.
A *like* is not a measure of genuine friendship. A *like* is not love. A *like* is a passive reaction to what could be a very active thought.
How a person reacts to any post is entirely subjective. Maybe they find your post funny, clever, or enlightening. Maybe it awakens an angry spirit of disagreement. You can't control that. You shouldn't attempt to.
Repeat: there's more to life than *likes*.
Even if they do enjoy the post, a digital *like* may not be their reaction. I've come to understand this even more so from writing this blog. Friends who never *like* or otherwise acknowledge a single Mindfulness Now post on Facebook, will tell me, in person, how an update really resonated with them. Their reaction was more personal than a public *like* might suggest.
That's because: there's more to life than *likes*.
Waiting for others to validate your digital life is a trap. It encourages self-editing and dishonesty. It pushes you to create a persona rather than be the person you really are.
Don't fall for it. You are the only validation you need. Be yourself, be honest, share what you want, and then let it be.
I struggle with this issue myself. Most of us do. We're all seeking a connection, hoping to be understood, struggling to be heard. When I feel bogged down, searching for validation from my digital existence, I try to take a step back and very mindful deep breath.
I remind myself: there's more to life than *likes*.
A *like* is an illusionary sign that what you posted is valuable, but in the end all that really matters is that it is valuable to you.
It's no secret that most people stick to posting positive things on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and we don't need scientific research to prove the depressive effect that can have on us (though here are some anyway).
I'm guilty of being a part of this myself: I post smiling selfies and news about accomplishments, I don't usually take to Facebook to complain.
But truth be told, if you scratch below the surface you'll find there's a lot more going on than what you see through the lo-fi photo filter of digital life.
I post smiles because they make me happy during the difficult times. I choose to dwell on the good things in life as a cure-all. Glass half full and all that.
But on the other hand, there's absolutely nothing wrong with feeling sad. It's completely natural and everyone does sometimes... sometimes a lot... sometimes a lot more than they let off.
My point is, if you're feeling blue don't let the happiness of others get you down even more. We all have a lot more going on in our lives than you will ever see on a silly social network. Pull back the curtain and you'll find we're all on this same insane roller coaster called life.