- Deep Loafe
- Go ahead, live here now
Go ahead, live here now
it's what you got
From the top:
Welcome back, friends.
Read time: depends on your speed of read
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See you out there.
At the YMCA in Black Mountain, North Carolina, surrounded by all those good mountains, living among them all those good people, and all those good, new houses, there sits, inside of the men’s locker room, a sauna.
A room inside a room, inside of a large building. Three layers removed from “outside”, I’m sitting there in temperatures around 125 degrees, trying to pay attention to my breath.
The first few breaths come in and I notice them. Or I think I noticed them. Which, to me, seems different than noticing them.
I heard Yuval Noah Harari recently talk about doing this exercise for two hours, every day. In the beginning, you attend to your breath. It’s not long before your mind is visited by passive thoughts about whether you moved the wet clothes to the dryer, what assignment is due on you at work or in school, or if you’re lucky, as things get deeper, whether you are a good friend to your friends.
The sauna is dark. I’m sitting on the top ledge of slatted wood next to one other man. He leaves after about 10 minutes, which was enough time for me to keep my eyes closed and see if I could peak through all of the thinking and find where my breath was again.
I notice him get up and leave. If I was able to just pay attention to my breath, I wouldn’t have noticed. I made this observation there in the sauna. So how many thoughts removed from noticing my breathing is that?
What I did begin to notice, which brought a huge smile to my face, is that I was present exactly where I was. Nowhere else could I possibly be - physically anyways - than sitting on the top ledge of the sauna at the Black Mountain YMCA, alone and sweating.
This was significant revelation to me. It’s been on my mind in recent years how often my mind drifts toward trying to live in some conceived future that does not exist yet.
In that future, I make up stories about the things I have but don’t want or want but don’t have. I have conversations with people under perfect conditions that I might be unwilling or afraid to have in the present (I always win those or sound smart). I’m at peace in this future.
But that future doesn’t exist. It is only made-up stories.
Not sure about you, but living in the present is quite challenging. And I quite enjoy my present. I have people whom I love that are telling me that every day. I have a bike to ride into my small town in the mountains to do work that I enjoy and that’s quite flexible (almost the total opposite of my reality 6 months ago, which I spent so much time trying to live 6 months ahead). I watch Buzz Lightyear with my son on the couch on slow mornings.
It’s challenging for a few reasons:
Suffering & pain
Life can be uncoordinated
There’s an insane amount of choices to be made every day
What to eat for meals
What to stream
What app do you even choose to stream on?
Opening YouTube seems simple but there are immediately 10 choices to make by way of recommendations
What to do between the hours of 7-11pm after kids go to sleep
Life can be boring
This doesn’t mean dull, but it does mean boring
Yuval Noah Harari again: “… the way to peace passes through boredom.”
The more you take on in life - relationships, kids, job, religion, friendship - the less control you have
Not having total control over your life is challenging
It’s smart, but it’s challenging
I imagine you have your own reasons that don’t show up hear. And of course, you do, because you are living your own very experience here that I cannot articulate because I am not you. Add that to the challenging list: “People don’t fully understand me.”
Lastly, I submit that I have so often tried to live in the future in recent years because living in the present brings a certain level of discomfort - pain even. Only in the present, with all of our thinking, associations, failures, and mismanaged time, do we understand anything necessary about ourselves.
The future is a comfortable place where we always win conversations, get the perfect jobs, have more money, and do the things we just can’t do here in the present because the conditions are less like a “perfect Saturday” and more like a fun hurricane.
Living now, here in the sauna, requires me to actively think about who and what I am, instead of being passively pricked by non-thoughts - all those places I think I need to go or do next, switching the laundry, and sending this or that email to get the right work lined up.
With courage, there is a submission to the present that cannot control what happens in the future. To be in the sauna, and only be in the sauna, is to acknowledge that opening the door of that room to go into the other room, and opening that door to go into the next, bigger room, and then opening that door to going outside, is to have a courageously loose grip on what happens after walking through all of those doors.
That is good. That is living.
It turns out, getting comfortable with living, presently, brings a lot more satisfaction and joy than trying to live ahead in the future. There’s nowhere else to be except on the couch watching Buzz Lightyear with my son.
If you’ve been here long, you’ve noticed I often reference Wendell Berry, a farmer and writer in Kentucky. I’ll finish today’s post by referencing him once more.
For those religiously inclined, there is often a component of “eternal life” associated with core belief. This can be a perfect setup for not living in the here and now. It entices one to let minds live far away in the clouds, rather than right here.
Wendell writes my favorite definition of what Heaven is. Bolded text is mine.
Stuff I’ve Been Into
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. It’s quite weird. But the last half of the book I’ve been very into it.
Cool thing to check out
Nownownow. Don’t know if you have your own website, but if you I would say to make one. Within that, there’s something called a “Now Page”. Different from “About” it’s related to what you’re doing in life right now. Here’s mine: andrewginn.fun/now.
Welp, have a great week. Thanks for reading.