Rock.Paper.Scissors

I read a good article on Tiny Buddha recently (I’ve attached it below).  
The message was great – but I read a lot of great articles; the difference with this one was – there’s a really good chance I might actually remember it. Why? The author chose to use metaphors in this article and I’m a big fan of metaphors – I guess that’s because I’m a visual learner. I’m wondering if most creative people are.
But even though I’m aware of the fact that I’m a visual learner and that I relate well to the use of metaphors; I was also a bit curious why this was.  

I know that metaphors create mental images that help to paint a picture or tell a story. I know that. I get that. I actually create metaphor scenarios all the time; it’s my version of mental note-taking, but I’m sure not everyone benefits from it as much as I do. I wanted to know why.  

So, I went on-line hoping to find the common denominator. Finding a common denominator is helpful when I’m trying to sort things out or organize thoughts and ideas. It’s usually a first step in my thought organizing process.    

And I think this quote by Orson Scott Card sums it up nicely. “Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.”

I like that.  

The power lies in its ability to drill down to the subject immediately without the additional confusion of gathering too much information too soon. Like diagramming a sentence to determine the noun and the verb before worrying with all the other stuff…(a good example of one of my metaphor scenarios in action) and for those of us who need that type of organization, simplifying makes perfect sense.  

 So, here is the article…hope you benefit from it too (whether or not you need the help of metaphors!).

You Don’t Need to Fix the Past in Order to Have a New Future

By Amy Johnson
“The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.” ~Pema Chodron
My family recently drove from Michigan to North Carolina—twenty hours roundtrip. To entertain themselves, my five-year-old daughter Willow taught my three-year-old son Miller to play rock-paper-scissors in the backseat.
Miller learned the hand signals and got the overall concept pretty quickly, but he had a hard time with the fast speed of the game. Willow narrated, “Rock-paper-scissors…go! Okay, next round!” But Miller wanted to linger.
When he chose paper and Willow chose scissors, he’d see her scissors and quickly try to change to rock so that he could win the round.
Or if he chose rock and she chose scissors, he’d want to stop and hang out in his win for a while. He’d celebrate, gloat, and become frustrated when she was already on to the next round.
My husband and I tried to explain to Miller that it was a quick game with no time to hold on to what was already done. There’s also no need to hold on—each round brings a brand new chance to win or lose.
While we tried to teach him that it made more sense to leave the past behind and look toward the next round, his let-it-go-and-move-on wasn’t up to par compared to his older sister’s.
Miller turned rock-paper-scissors into a slow, thought-heavy emotional roller coaster, where every move felt important and meaningful. What could have been a fun and easy game was not very fun for him.
It was clear to see how Miller was getting in his own way. And then it hit me that I—and most people I know—do the same thing in our adult lives. We innocently get in our own way as we focus on what we don’t like and try to make it better when it would be far easier to leave the past behind and look toward the “next round.”
Life is always moving through us—nothing is permanent. New thought and emotion flow through us constantly, creating our rotating and fluid experience of life.
Sometimes we stay out of the way and let our experience flow. Willow was staying out of the way as she played rock-paper-scissors (and she was having a great time, I might add). And sometimes we’re more like Miller, innocently blocking the easy flow of life with our opinions, judgments, and disapproval. We don’t pick up and move on as much as we focus on righting what is already over.
In hindsight, I can see how I’ve dammed up my own flow of experience at times in my life, especially when I was struggling with things I wanted to change.
When I was facing a confusing and uncontrollable binge eating habit, for example, I thought what I was supposed to do was to examine it, analyze it, talk about it, and focus on it with a whole lot of emotion and energy until I made it go away.
But more often than not, that created more suffering… It left me even more convinced that my habit was a serious problem that I needed to solve, and it left me feeling hopeless because I didn’t know how to solve it.
Of course, there’s a lot to be said for understanding ourselves and our experiences in a new way and taking action where action is needed. Those are absolutely necessary. But keeping our “problem” under a constant microscope, trying to use our intellect to solve it as if it’s a crossword puzzle, is not the way to freedom.
If new thought, emotion, and insight are always flowing through us like a river, doesn’t it make sense to look upstream at what’s coming next, especially when we’re experiencing something we don’t like? It’s just like we told Miller in rock-paper-scissors: if you don’t like what happened in this round, let it go and look toward the next round.
But we forget this when it comes to the big things in life, don’t we? It seems responsible, necessary, or adult-like to hold the problem tightly until we fix it.
If our moment-to-moment experience of life is like a river rushing through us, our “fix-it” attempts are the equivalent of standing in the middle of the river, filling a bucket with the water that has already flowed past and carrying that bucket with us everywhere we go.
We obstruct the momentum of the river and analyze that old, familiar “problem” water to death, not realizing that if we only turned and looked upstream we’d have an excellent chance of seeing something new and different.
Looking upstream we might see with fresh eyes—looking downstream, we’re just looking at more of what we already know.
With regard to my binge eating habit, I realized that my best chance for change would come from letting go of everything I thought I knew and being open to fresh, new insights and ideas. Not carrying around the past or analyzing the problem; instead, being open and unencumbered.
As I began to see my habit-related thoughts and behaviors as things flowing by me that I didn’t need to grab ahold of, they passed by more easily. Each and every day I found myself less in the way, realizing that I was very separate from those unwanted thoughts and urges.
When my habit-related experience looked more like leaves floating on the surface of the river than like gigantic boulders, life took on a new feeling of ease. I saw that I could gently dodge some of what was coming down the river rather than stop and fight with or fix it. The healthy “me” was more visible than ever.
Not staring at your problems is not ignoring or denying the issue any more than Willow was ignoring or denying the previous rock-paper-scissors round when she easily moved on. Take note of how your experience feels. When life—which really is very game-like—feels like a difficult, not fun, emotional rollercoaster, you’re holding on to something, innocently getting in your own way.
Maybe even the bigger issues in life really aren’t so different than rock-paper-scissors—you get what you get, but you don’t have to stay there and try to change the last round. Let life flow and as you do, the healthy, clear, peaceful version of yourself will be more visible than ever too.  
Dr. Amy Johnson is a psychologist, coach, and the author of The Little Book of Big Change: The No-Willpower Approach to Breaking Any Habit, and Being Human: Essays on Thoughtmares, Bouncing Back, and Your True Nature.

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How to Simplify when you Love Your Stuff

“It all depends on whether you have things, or they have you.” ~Robert A. Cook

This is an article by Barrie Davenport; as a guest post on Zen Habits.

Simplicity.  It is a lovely ancient spiritual tradition that has seen a recent resurgence in popularity.  As we try to make sense of our erratic economy and the accompanying financial anxiety, it is natural to leap to a less risky lifestyle extreme — stop spending, scale back, live lean.

If you are a regular reader of Zen Habits, you are probably intrigued by the idea of simplifying. In fact, you may have even given up many material things and actively live a very simple life. People who have adopted this level of  simplicity, especially in the land of consumerism, are incredibly inspiring and fascinating.

But let’s be real here. In spite of embracing the concept of simplicity, most people really love their stuff, and they love acquiring more stuff. Like our attitudes about a healthy diet, our feelings about material things are complicated. We know what’s good for us, but we just don’t want to give up what we like. Our stuff makes us feel good.

Is it possible to live a simple life and still love stuff? How much letting go of stuff really counts toward simplifying anyway?

Living simply and detaching from material things will make you happier. There is real research and lots of anecdotal evidence to support the truth of this. But is it possible that some material things can add to our happiness, sense of contentment and joy in life? If so, how do you go about deciding what’s good stuff and what’s bad?

Perhaps the deciding factor is motivation. Do the things that you own or wish to buy support your ego, or do they enliven your soul? Some material things can afford you a sense of warmth, coziness, beauty, fond memories, or comfort. There are other things that offer only that fleeting rush of acquisition.

If you infuse mindfulness into your ideas and actions around material things, you can create a gentle balance between loving stuff and living simply.

Here are some thoughts that might be useful.

1. Look around your house now.

Walk from room to room. Do you see things that you never use and don’t really care about? Why not give them away or sell them? Clear physical and psychic space by removing the “dead wood” in your environment. Someone else might really need these things.

2. Examine why you are hanging on to something.

Is it truly useful or meaningful, or does it feed your ego in some way? Are you holding on to it just to impress others or to make yourself feel better or more important?

3. Look at how you spend your time.

Do you have things you own for hobbies that you never pursue? Do you have a kitchen full of gadgets but you rarely cook? If you truly think you will come back to a hobby or activity, box things up and put them out of sight until you do. Be realistic about how much time you have to use your extraneous stuff.

4. Are you in a career that is thing-focused?

Decorators, car dealers, retailers and others involved in creating, buying, selling and marketing merchandise, can have a hard time detaching from material things because they are always surrounded by the newest and best. There is beauty and art in many things, but consider this: you don’t have to own them all to appreciate them. Eckhart Tolle once suggested to Oprah Winfrey that she not buy everything she likes or wants — just savor it for the moment in the store.

5. Consider experiences rather than things.

On the whole, experiential purchases provide far more pleasure than material purchases. The memory of experiences improves with time, but material purchases are harder to think about abstractly. Experiences also encourage social relationships which provide long-lasting happiness. If you are itching to spend, spend on a great experience with someone you enjoy.

6. When you think about your things or want to purchase something new, consider these parameters:

  • It brings beauty into your life and stirs your soul.
  • It supports a passion or hobby.
  • It helps bring family and friends together in a creative, meaningful way.
  • It educates and enlightens.
  • It makes life profoundly simpler so that you can pursue more meaningful things.
  • It helps someone who is sick or incapacitated.
  • It is useful and necessary for day-to-day life.
  • It’s part of a meaningful tradition or a reminder of a special event.

7. You will know you are buying mindlessly if you:

  • Buy on a whim.
  • Buy to impress others.
  • Buy because you feel you deserve it.
  • Buy when you can’t afford it.
  • Buy just to update something that still works or looks fine.
  • Buy because someone else has it and you want it too.
  • Buy because the advertisement seduced you.
  • Buy because you are bored.
  • It’s purchased because buying soothes you.

It is possible to balance a simpler life with owning and acquiring material things. You can enjoy stuff without living the life of an aesthetic. The exact balance you create is a matter of personal preference. But realize there is a diminishing point of return with accumulation and materialism that undermines authentic joy and fulfillment in life.

Apply mindful purging to your current lifestyle and belongings, as well as thoughtful consideration to your future purchases. Carefully examine your motivations for keeping possessions or buying new things. Once you allow things to serve your soul, rather than you being a slave to your things, your life will evolve into an artful harmony between what you have and who you are.