meditations – superfluity

Of all the lessons, revelations, advice and guiding principles that I’ve gotten from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations there’s probably one that’s been most influential. Well, I actually hesitate to say that because I don’t always follow it, and because I’ve taken so much from reading the book that it’s really hard to pinpoint which one singular passage I think about the most; but if I had to choose one, this would be it:

Most of what we say and do is unnecessary: remove the superfluity, and you will have more time and less bother. … And the removal of the unnecessary should apply not only to actions but to thoughts also: then no redundant actions either will follow.
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 4, Chapter 24

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temps perdu & retrouvé

Yesterday I went to my usual book store to buy a copy of Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being. I’d been reading a copy I borrowed from the library, but, having finished reading it on Saturday night, I felt strongly compelled to buy my own copy because I just knew I needed this book in my own collection.

Sadly, there was nothing but an empty space on the shelf where it might have been, and I left the store empty-handed.

Perhaps it was not meant to be… or perhaps I’ll just go search through other book stores until I find it. Maybe I’ll never re-read it in its entirety, but I feel like there are parts that I’ll most probably like to revisit at some point in my life. If nothing else, I feel like it’ll be comforting to have a copy of my own, easily accessible in my home. Sort of like a salve in a literary first aid kit.

Anyway, as you probably gathered from the above paragraphs, and possibly also from other posts in which I’ve mentioned A Tale for the Time Being, I really, really like this book.

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At the end of last year, I wrote a post about my 2015 goals, and how I did reasonably well with them, and about what I wanted to carry over to, or aim for, in 2016. You can go and find that post if you want, but I’m not linking to it from this post because I realised that I didn’t really try very hard at these “goals” this year.

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last year (#3)

This year has been huge. I mean HUGE. And in a good way.

I almost forgot about my “last year” post series. Basically, around this time in 2014 and 2015, I wrote posts reflecting on what I would/wouldn’t change about my life if I had just one year left to live. I’m essentially contemplating how I’d like to spend my “last year” of life. My priorities didn’t seem to have changed much from 2014 to 2015, but this year’s post might be different…

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79 and counting

I feel like there’s been a resurgence of posts on my Reader this last week compared to the weeks leading up to the end of the year. This is not a bad thing; it makes me smile, like seeing a familiar face again. I mean, after all, I wouldn’t be following blogs that I don’t want to read, right?

This afternoon, I caught up on some blog reading. I spent almost two hours reading blogs, and I’m kind of wondering if that’s a bit much. Granted, there were about three days’ worth of posts to read from various bloggers, and I’m not exactly a fast reader, but two hours seems like a long time. I could have watched a movie in that time.

Just checked my Reader, and it tells me that I’m currently following 79 sites. To be fair, though, I scrolled through part of the list quickly, and there are a lot that I don’t even remember because they haven’t posted anything in so long. I’m kind of wondering if I should unsubscribe from these dormant blogs, since it’s kind of pointless to follow them; or if I should just leave it as is, since they’re not posting anything anyway (but might resume posting one day!) Well, I’m feeling a bit lazy tonight, so it’s probably going to be the latter option.

I’ve already been limiting my Facebook time, so maybe the next step is limiting my blog-viewing time too. But this means I’ll have to be more selective about what I decide to read, and I don’t know if I’m ok with missing out on good content because I’m supposedly time-poor, or should be doing other things (what other things??)

Theoretically, though, I should have more free time this year. My CPD and reading goals are lower, and I’m not attempting to write a book. (Side note: reading goal is probably not going that well, seeing as I haven’t done any reading these last two days, and I’m only on page twenty-something of David Copperfield.)

The question then, perhaps, is ‘Do I want to reallocate this loose concept of “extra free time” into blogging?’ Maybe I should just reallocate it to reading my books…

Something else that I’ve been doing more and more of in recent-ish times is listening to music – either on the radio or on my phone/computer. I’m almost always doing something else while listening to music, but I suddenly feel more productive (and less like I’m wasting time) if I have some music on (irrespective of whether I’m actually, really productive or not).

What else is great, though, is when a song I really like comes on, and I pretty much just stop what I’m doing, and just listen to it. Something so simple, but it really is great to know that I have that luxury of time. That would be a good enough use of my free time, right? I wouldn’t consider that a waste.


moments of stillness

In recent times (I feel like I start a lot of posts with that phrase or something similar, but I suppose it makes sense to be writing about recent happenings), I’ve been reflecting about my “moments of stillness”. After seeing this post on what is probably one of my most favourite blogs, Campari & Sofa (which may be unexpected because I’m not necessarily in their target demographic, age-wise, but, then again, I have been called an “old soul” before), I decided it was time for a post on this.

The article in the post that really caught my attention was number three, which is about the Time Wasting Experiment conducted by Alyson Provax. The Experiment involved recording/documenting all the ways in which she wasted time each day, including for how long she wasted time doing those things. Sounds like a lot of work to me, but also quite fascinating.

It seems that “there’s not enough time” has become the mantra of the modern world. Often I’ve had conversations with friends where we discuss how much better life would be if we didn’t have to waste time sleeping/eating/waiting/etc – if we could take every minute from each lot of 24 hours and use them for something productive, enjoyable, memorable, worthwhile.

(Note that I do not agree that eating is a waste of time (unless the meal is bad), even though I have been known to eat incredibly slowly. If I could actually eat more (and not gain weight), I’d be qutie happy. Sleep is also good, but it’d be nice to be able to survive on, say, four hours of sleep every night. I’m not known to sleep in – even on week-ends – but any less than six hours of sleep, and chances are I’ll be struggling a bit the next day.)

Back to my “moments of stillness”: This is the term I’ve given to those random meditative day-dreams I have each day, sometimes several times a day. In these moments, I feel like my mind is both perfectly still and also wandering, searching, drifting. Often I’m also physically still – maybe lying in bed, sitting on the bus, standing in the shower, or pausing somewhere to gaze at clouds – but I reckon it also happens a lot when I’m running or walking. Even so, “moments of stillness” just feels like the best term for it.

I wonder if this is what it’s like to meditate, except that I’m very aware during these moments.

In these moments, I know that I’m not doing anything: I’m not progressing toward an obvious goal, and there’s no measurable outcome for what I’m doing. Yet, I continue to have these moments of stillness, and then later lament that I don’t have time for this or that. Unlike Provax, I’ve never timed these moments, but I reckon they last anywhere from half a minute to… well, who knows…

But they’re not a waste of time; I don’t consider them so, anyway. Perhaps they’re not essential for my mental well-being (there have undoubtedly been many times when they’ve helped, but certainly many times when they’ve hindered) but I’m yet to experience any regret post-MOS. The items on Alyson Provax’s list all seem to carry an element of regret, and I suppose that that might be a key determinant of whether something is a waste of time or not.

Another factor seems to be displacement: whether you actually get somewhere, or whether you end up back where you started. Yeah, I suppose a lot of the time my thoughts are the same fears, worries and anxieties being rehashed, so these moments seemingly provide zero displacement. But if I’m re-visiting a fear to allow my mind to return to a state of ease, that’s justifiable, right? Other times, though, my mind wanders to the day ahead. In these moments, I kind of psych myself up for what’s to come. (That probably makes my life sound way more dramatic/traumatic than it actually is.) Sometimes my moments of stillness give way to lightbulb moments.

And going back to the “no time” lament: I once read somewhere that if you really want to do something, if you really want to get something done, you will make time for it. I can’t remember where I read it (probably on someone’s blog, actually) but it is so true. I mean, you probably can’t apply it to everything (practicality and logistics enter into it too) but certainly for small things – reading, writing, baking, exercise, catching up with friends – you can organise your day/week/month to allow yourself time for the things you really want to do (and still have time for some moments of stillness).