Mental muscles

(Inspired by "If you're too busy to meditate, read this").

The feeling described in that article is one I recognize very well. It's the feeling of being somewhere else in time and/or space when you should be focusing on the moment. Forcing yourself to spend some time - even if it's only 10 minutes - on actively rejecting your every impulse will make you aware of the moment, aware of your weaknesses. Even if you can't always resist them, it's important to at least acknowledge them. If you fail to do this then eventually you'll lose the ability to self-actualize.

Case in point. Before summer (I want to write 'last year' because it feels like last year) I was incredibly dissatisfied with my life. I was trying to clean up loose ends and get rid of my apartment and horrible estate agent. Every single conversation with my estate agent made me extremely frustrated. One day after such a conversation I just couldn't take it any more. I needed to blow off steam and process the experience, but somehow I couldn't. I remembered from past experience that I used to go to a riverside park to 'contemplate', back when I was living in Japan. So I went for the nearest park I could find, sat down, and told myself I wouldn't leave there until I was calm again.

But that moment never came. I saw there for at least an hour, trying to make sense of my life, trying to see things in perspective. But I couldn't. All that kept entering my head was the immediate issues at hand: estate agent stuff, urgent issues at work, preparing to travel. I just couldn't get a clear head, despite mimicking all the usual actions that helped me focus in the past. After an hour I gave up and spent the rest of the day (and even the week) feeling frustrated and annoyed at my situation. I just didn't have the mental muscle to crawl back up.

In hindsight I think I know why I couldn't 'fix' myself at the time. I had grown extremely complacent over the past year. I did not spend a lot of time thinking about my situation. I just lived from moment to moment, fully immersing myself in my work and my girlfriend without spending too much time self-actualizing. I gave in to myself too much. Eventually I lost the ability to criticize myself, to acknowledge what was going on. Even though I didn't consciously feel an urgent need to intervene, I probably booked the one-month trip to Japan to 'reset' myself, so I could try again afresh upon coming back.

Looking back on my life, some of the periods I remember best and would never in my life regret are the periods where I am suppressing the urge to get too comfortable, sort of like doing things against my immediate will. Three clear examples of this in my life were the periods I spent cycling to the seaside a couple of times a week in Japan, the slightly-out-of-my-comfort-zone trip to Africa and the time I spent cycling in Holland after coming back from Japan. I won't count the long cycling trips I did in Japan because I actively wanted to do those, whereas the aforementioned activities were always something that I would at least partially feel... unmotivated about.

I stopped eating big dinners. My dinner these days usually consists of an apple and a banana. I thought I would feel the urge to eat, but although I feel empty the urge to eat is hardly there. I do slip occasionally, but I'm aware enough to recognize it, and I can use the slip-up as energy to prevent the next one.

I feel focused and alive, and I think that's because of the diet. Strangely enough I feel more alive than during my holiday in Japan. Before that holiday I could only think about the future. During the holiday I relived the past, but now I'm back in the present. Exercising my mental muscles has given me the power to anchor myself in the now. And the now is, without a doubt, the best time to be alive.

Posted in Daily Life , Thoughts