Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thinking? Who, Me?

Allie tagged me with the Thinking Blogger Award!

Hm. I do a lot of thinking, but I didn't know anyone could really tell, especially with all the bunny pics around here. Tidbit is known more for her beauty than her brains. But that's a different matter.

I was doing some thinking just today! I was at the office, tracking three-year leave accrual trends (yawn), and found myself lost in very fond memories of a yoga retreat I went on in 1990. The retreat was on a mountain near Las Vegas, New Mexico. It was on private property, surrounded on all sides by National Forest and reservation lands. You could (and I did!) hike for miles and miles on the old logging roads without ever finding so much as a gum wrapper, much less another human being.

There were twenty of us on the retreat, and due to space considerations, we camped outdoors. It gets cold at night at 9,000 feet, even in August! Two women cheated and took over a meditation room in the activity building, which I thought was unfair. Sure, living in a tent for a week isn’t comfortable, and even a little scary when you find bear tracks in the morning, but it’s not like we didn’t know all this ahead of time.

But it was wonderful to leave civilization behind for a week! We had no newspapers, no TV or even radio. The activity building ran on solar power, and although the building had a septic tank, we were encouraged to use the outhouse when we could. As outhouses go, it was a pretty nice one, so it wasn’t too onerous to comply with our hosts’ request.

Each morning we were woken up at 4 am by a gong calling us to morning meditation. This was a problem for me because you see, it’s impossible to meditate at 4 am. You close your eyes and the next thing you know, you’re nodding off, your face on a trajectory toward the floor. Splat! How this enhances spirituality is beyond me. I guess I'm just not there yet.

Breakfast followed meditation, and there was a no-talking rule, which I appreciated. I don’t like to talk or hear anyone else talk until I’m fully awake. So it was a pleasure to eat oatmeal and sip coffee, not having to answer any questions or hold up my end of a conversation. After breakfast, we usually went for a group walk, again in silence, followed by some yoga either in the activity building or in an aspen grove. Then we had free time and lunch, afternoon activities, more free time, and then supper and an evening program.

I spent a lot of time hiking and sketching. There was an abandoned goat herder’s shed that I liked to go to because it overlooked the valley and a little town below. At night you could just make out the lights of civilization. The glow of the moon and stars put it to shame. There was a full moon my first night there, and it was so bright I could go anywhere I liked in the middle of the night without a flashlight.

But the image that kept coming back to me today while I was at the office was of the afternoon we were given the option to help with maintenance and improvements to the property. This was strictly voluntary, but since we had paid next for nothing for the retreat and were getting so much out of it, most of us were happy to pitch in. Every 20 minutes, someone would hit the gong and we had to stop what we were doing and become aware of what we were thinking and feeling.

Sounds hokey, I know.

But what struck me was how annoyed I was with the interruptions. I was working in the log cabin where they cooked our meals, looking out the window from time to time where some of the guys (including the Rice grad student who had been flirting with me) were building something. I was so content, working at my own pace and minding my own business. And then they’d ring that stupid gong and I’d have to stop! It was the only time I got upset the whole time I was there, and I realized it was because I, like most humans, crave useful work to do.

How much of our sterile office work really feels useful? Most of us can point to a chain of events stemming from our paper-pushing, that results in positive things. But knowing that your spreadsheet helped people make decisions further up the food chain for an eventual trickle-down just doesn’t feel as directly useful as, say, cleaning the dust off a window or planting a garden, or cooking a meal. It’s no wonder so many people feel isolated and alienated, seeking refuge in mindless entertainment and shopping. What we do matters, but it rarely feels that way. It's hard to feel the same pride of accomplishment in signing a few papers and making some phone calls as fixing your car or bicycle with your own hands, or digging up potatoes you planted yourself.

Where am I going with this? I’m not sure. It’s just one of many things I’ve been mulling over today.

And so to satisfy the Thinking Blogger Meme, here are Five Blogs That Make Me Think:

Common Man Syndrome: Insightful posts about multi-sport and life in general.
Steps and Stories: Life in Puerto Plata. I love reading about life in other places!
Life of Riley: She’s 107 years old, and loves to share her memories! Fabulous!
Centre for Emotional Well-Being: Talia always finds insightful articles to share about stress, nutrition, and staying healthy in our crazy modern world.
Detroitblog: I’ve never been to Detroit, but I love the pictures and stories about the old buildings. In America, we are in the habit of thinking of perpetual progress. Detroit is a case study in how progress can stall and even reverse.

Recent Workouts
Monday: 4.5 mile run
Tuesday: 30 minute elliptical
Wednesday: 30 minute elliptical, 15 minute treadmill
Thursday: 45 minute spin


Allie Boniface said...

Ooh, see, a very thoughtful post :) Sounds like the yoga retreat was amazing!

And yeah, that's why I teach. I can't imagine going to a job every day where I didn't feel as though I was making a difference and doing something useful...

Vickie said...

Interesting post. And about Detroit, that snyopsis is right on. Detroit has not progressed in years, and even with the recent addition of Ford Field and the new Tiger Stadium, downtown Detroit still leaves a lot to be desired. The roads are in terrible shape. It is not safe to be out and about walking at dark (no matter how safe they make it seem), and there is so much blight along with reconstruction, you don't know whether you are coming or going. Don't consider it a loss to not go there. I can't think of one visit ever that left me feeling good about Detroit.

LauraHinNJ said...


Your running posts always make me think I'm terribly lazy.


Spider63 said...

You were daydreaming at the office. That counts like mental cardio!

DK & The Fluffies said...

Thank you for your kind words and thoughts ~DKM

Bolder said...

i love comm's blog.

i'm truly fortunate i was able to share my ironman experience with him as my wingman, and me as his.

i wish i woulda been there for him yesterday...