Elephant Adventure 37: The Wind

[insert fart joke here]

The exercise: Become aware of the movement of air.

The wind. It’s everywhere, almost always. I know this, because when everything is still I notice something is different.

Wind is what makes plants come alive before our eyes. Wind is what the countless fans in our device and appliance filled lives produce. Wind is snoring. It’s voice. It’s sound. It’s the fog before my eyes, the person walking by, the fly buzzing across the room.

Wind is power. It spins turbines and shapes landscapes.

Wind is change. Ubiquitous, constant change.

Elephant Adventure 38: Listen Like a Sponge

Elephant Adventure 36: Are You Overlooking Something?

The exercise: Stop and become aware of what you’re ignoring.

Look up, listen, feel. We purposely block out so much as a matter of routine, and miss so much of what’s going on around us.

We can’t notice everything all the time, but it’s amazing how much is happening all the time when you open yourself up to take it in.

Here’s a baby Elephant to take with you: Surfaces. In nature, the color and/or texture each surface is the result of erosion and or evolution. In human-made environments, most surfaces are the result of deliberate choice, design, and debate.

Everything we see and touch came to be that way for a reason.

Elephant Adventure 37: The Wind

Elephant Adventure 35: Notice Dislike

I’ve spent the last 3+ weeks noticing dislike. Goodness, this was a long adventure.

Not that I dislike a lot of things. I only wrote down one Thing I disliked: clutter and disorder. (Maybe that counts as two.)

It’s People I dislike. Rather, their actions. I wrote a tome on people. The abridged version is below:

  • People who waste my time because (I think) they’re not trying.
  • People who waste my time by making me repeat myself.
  • People who waste my time by being late.
  • People being grumpy.
  • People being thoughtless, inconsiderate, unkind.

Really, I think it all boils down to the last bullet point. If we’re considerate of others, we won’t waste their time. We’d think about how we’re acting and how it affects those around us.

Maybe I can be more succinct: People being self-centered.

Or maybe I just don’t like people.

Elephant Adventure 36: Are You Overlooking Something?

Elephant Adventure 34: The Great Earth Beneath You

The exercise: Being aware of the great earth beneath us.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t get whatever it was I was supposed to get out of this.

What I got out of this: The earth is large and steady and it’s there beneath us no matter what we do to it, or what structures we build on top of it. It’s beautiful and amazing when untouched.

I was on this Adventure for over 3 weeks. In that time, I traveled to Boston and back, then Vegas and back. It was interesting to think about the great earth beneath me as I was in the air. I felt oddly disconnected.

What I also got out of this: Regardless of what city I landed in, what continent you are on, we’re all in this together. Except most of us aren’t thinking that most of the time.

That wasn’t the point of this exercise either, according to the book. But if most of us thought this way most of the time, we’d all be in a much better place.

Elephant Adventure 35: Notice Dislike

Elephant Adventure 33: Hot and Cold

This week, I was tasked with noticing hot and cold.

I don’t mind hot, I thought, and I’m always cold. What else would I notice?

A lot. For one, there’s always a temperature difference between me and the ambient temperature. For another, different parts of me are different temperatures all the time. Also, the temperature around me changes constantly, depending on time of day, geographic location, when I move myself outdoors, indoors, under a shadow, from room to room.

Sounds obvious, but I’ve never taken the time to notice it.

This exercise also tasked me with resisting the urge to alter my surroundings in response to hot and cold. As it turns out, we do this all the time: taking our coats on and off, opening and closing the window, turning on the heat or A/C. I spent the latter part of this Adventure in Boston, and several times a day Penny would stop in the middle of her crazy running around with, “I’m too hot,” and take off her sweater.

This reminds me: In the earlier part of this Adventure I finally installed a fancy Japanese style bidet in my house. I thought about how much I enjoyed the warm seat every time I sat, and then about how I’ll have to turn this feature off when summer arrives.

Elephant Adventure 34: The Great Earth Beneath You

Elephant Adventure 32: This Person Could Die Tonight

The exercise: Consider that the person you are talking to might no longer be here tomorrow.

I had some trouble actually doing this one for a couple reasons. For one thing, my Adventure reminders are lock screen images on my phone. I’ve trained myself not to look at my phone while talking to people, so I could never remember when I needed to. Funny how my efforts pay more attention to people when I talk to them thwarted this Adventure’s efforts to make me pay more attention to people.

When I finally remembered this exercise in a conversation, I was at work, and I immediately wanted to stop my coworker from saying whatever he was saying and send him home. “You might die tonight!! Forget this work bullshit, go be with your family and live your life!”

I didn’t, but this was pretty much the theme the few times I did remember this exercise. So much of what we talk about, so much of what we do every day, is absolutely not what we’d be doing with our final hours.

So I kind of failed this adventure. But I get it. Make every moment count. And don’t do things thinking you can fix them later. Fix them now.

Elephant Adventure 33: Hot and Cold

Elephant Adventure 31: Notice Smells

Everything has a smell. Every location, every being. Every time of day.

I naturally take time to notice the smells I like: fresh air in the morning, the outside world just after a rain, freshly ground coffee.

Freshly ground, because it smells different from whole bean, different from when it’s being brewed, and different from how I drink it, with cream.

Eating is full of smells. I had dinner the other night with someone who is anosmic. “You eat in 3D,” she said, “I eat in 2D.”

Sometimes, smells happen all at once. As I stepped off the train the other night, I smelled popcorn from the nearby theater, meat grilling at the restaurant next door, exhaust from the train engine, cigarette smoke, urine in the stairwell. All in the span of about 10 seconds.

The book talked about how smells trigger memories and emotions. I didn’t encounter any smells of this type over the past week, but I agree. When my sister and I were little, we used the term “Mommy smell”. I couldn’t describe it to you then or now, but my nose will never forget it.

My gyms have a smell. They hockey rink has a smell. They register as familiar, tell me where I am, and resonate with my definition of self. What am I doing here, why am I doing it, and who is the person I am crafting?

Tennis balls have a smell. They take me back to high school, when being a tennis player was part of my definition of self.

I never considered smells to have a connection with identity. Interesting. Thanks, Adventure 31!

Elephant Adventure 32: This Person Could Die Tonight

Elephant Adventure 30: Defining and Defending

Become aware of how you define yourself and defend yourself and your personal territory.

My introspective self found this exercise really interesting.

See what I did there? I defined myself.

I define myself in various ways. Some of these definitions determine what I publish here, and on social media. Others affect my actions, decisions, and interactions. I check my definition of self every morning when I plan my day.

When I consciously determine what to do, I’m guided by how I define myself.

On the other hand, defending myself is mostly reactive, and often triggered by perceived unfairness or distortion of truth. When someone takes more than their fair share of space, accuses me of something I did not do, interacts with me in a manner I do not deserve, my hackles come up.

They may not stay up, or even be noticeable to others, because those hackles go straight into the filter of how I define myself.

I may act. Or I may not. But if I do, those actions are the result of both how I defend myself, and how I define myself.

My analysis of this exercise was completely different from the book’s. The book drove more toward not having a self, because the self is ever-changing. I see what it’s saying, but I’m not there yet. My definition of self is what drives me and guides me.

For now, that’s okay.

That definition will change, and that’s okay too.

Elephant Adventure 31: Notice Smells

Elephant Adventure 29: Look Up!

Look up! What do you see?

If I’m outside, blue skies, fluffy clouds, and nature. And the occasional utility pole, plus wires.

If I’m inside, mostly utility fixtures. Lights, microphones, wires, vents. Looking up is an afterthought to most of us, which is perhaps why we put all that up there.

The final discussion talked about how adults don’t notice much about their environment in comparison to children. It’s true, and our indoor environments are clearly a reflection of that.

Elephant Adventure 30: Defining and Defending

Update: 2018-04-26 @ 6:43 PM

I’m visiting my folks right now, and while running around the indoor playground at South Shore Plaza, Penny laid down on her back and stared at the ceiling. “I like to look at the clouds,” she said. Turns out there’s a skylight above the play area, and the clouds are beautiful and fluffy today.

Look up!

Elephant Adventure 28: Water

Water. Notice it. It’s everywhere. It falls from the sky, it’s part of us, it’s in the air, in the foods we eat. It’s one of the things that makes the Earth what it is. Water is everything. Water is life.

Water is also that stuff I’m learning to swim in. Because water is powerful, and if we’re not careful it can also claim our life.

Like these past few days. The floods in Massachusetts. The avalanches in Tahoe.

I breathe water. I drink water. I swim in water. I skate on water.

The final discussion talked about how ubiquitous, flexible, and impermanent water is. Can we be the same? I feel this is one of the key concepts on this journey of mindfulness. And really, understanding and embracing it makes all the small annoyances of life not matter.

Understanding this is crucial to achieving equanimity. Or, in my words, becoming imperturbable.

I love that when I wrote that post, I had no idea I’d make the connection I just did here. Impermanence wasn’t even a concept in my head. Progress. It feels… peaceful.

Elephant Adventure 29: Look Up!