So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness
Chapter 14: Practical application
As I said before, my aim and focus is to maintain and increase my awareness. If it drops, I work to increase it again. How? By how I live:
I am vegan.
Look after physical health. Don’t get involved in things that drain my energy or make me depressed. Don’t get stressed, pace myself, don’t get tired.
I avoid a lot of the things that others are involved in such as politics. It was hard not to vote in the EU referendum, harder still not to vote in the last general election, but I didn’t. I had to act like it wasn’t real, even though I wasn’t totally there yet.
I don’t buy newspapers. I haven’t managed to give up reading the headlines in shops or checking BBC news online yet but I am working on it.
I don’t have television, I only watch Netflix or occasionally Google play. I only watch one series at a time and occasionally watch a film. As I write this, I haven’t watched anything for several weeks. Art is about trying to break on through to the other side. Once you’ve done it, it has nothing to teach you.
I aim to go through my day mindfully, ensuring I use up as little energy as possible- don’t rush around, rest when need to- or before I need to- so in that way it’s like the principles that occupational therapists advocate for joint protection and energy conservation. Use your biggest strongest joints and muscles to protect your vulnerable ones. Use adaptive equipment to make the task lighter- e.g. cook vegetables inside a wire mesh basket you can lift out so you don’t have to lift heavy pans of boiling water. Respect pain. Don’t start tasks that can’t be stopped. All this from a printed sheet from when I was a student that has survived every ruthless de-clutter of the past 20 years.
Every now and again, and especially after something intense/stressful, do something to reclaim energy and recharge yourself. Pay attention to what YOU need to stay calm, relaxed, happy and neutral. Make changes to your life that benefit you e.g. go to four days per week.
Most evenings John and I go for a walk together and talk. There’s a walk near us that John discovered, Norfolk flat, quiet lanes and footpaths, yellow wheat fields, poppies, blue skies, and it’s there that we have had most of our big moments recently. Walking along the middle stretch I said, what if it’s just us, having an adventure, and both of us really feeling that. In moments like that everything seems to slow down, and in that moment I really believe. Another time, driving home and talking, me saying the past doesn’t exist, it’s only this moment, and feeling the present moment expand and brighten as everything else faded away.
I have got rid of all of my books. I have got rid of all my no longer worn vintage clothes and little bags and purses, including items from the 50s, 60s and 70s from my grandmother and mother. I have deleted every number from my mobile phone that I don’t actually currently use or need, keeping only current friends and contacts and family phone numbers only.
Letting go of the past enables me to live in the now, and living in the now enables me to let go of the past. Doing things that increase my awareness enables me to do more things which then increase my awareness still further.
I have cut my pension contribution by half*, partly to assist with managing the impact of dropping to four days a week, partly to take a step towards dropping my belief in/need for such things. Right now, I still have a pension and life insurance.
*To do this I had to log into the work benefits site. As well as the pension contributions there were loads of other things: childcare vouchers, cycle to work scheme, purchasing of electronic goods in instalments. It reminded me that for every single thing you think of, there is layer upon layer of complexity and choice and detail designed into it. Every layer, every aspect, every detail, is a hook for your attention. This is why people talk about living simply, simplifying their lives, or reducing sensory input. Just think about the natural world. When I go for a walk along a path in the Norfolk countryside and stop by a fairly ordinary stream, there is pond weed and insects and layers of plants, and split, gnarled trees growing out of the water. The detail is just breathtaking. Then think of the rest of the natural world, the plants, animals and birds in the world, the natural world under the sea… Let alone thinking about issues such as wars, global warming, recycling, and all the layers and details and complexities within every tiny aspect of those subjects.