In my last few posts, I’ve focused on the physical process of leaving my old body behind through fasting and food portion control and exercises to improve body control and flexibility.
This is good and necessary, if I am to change my life.
But significant weight loss and greatly enhanced bodily awareness — proprioception — are only two aspects of what I am trying to accomplish.
I must also shed a deeply toxic environmental albatross that affects us all.
That albatross has a common name: Other People.
I am only half-joking.
As I get older, I increasingly get the feeling that the people whom I occasionally see in the news or gabbing on political cable talk shows — which I almost never watch for more a few minutes nowadays — are more akin to aliens from planet Klingon. And that’s just the talking heads and huckster politicians.
Ditto the loonies with BAN ABORTION or SUPPORT TRUMP signs hanging out in front of the post office, or the befuddled slow-motion dotards at the supermarket, or the crazy road rage folks.
Throw in your dreaded relatives, the unpleasant psycho dickhead who monopolizes whatever spiritual meeting you’ve been going to lately, or the backstabbing barracudas at the office, and you’ve trapped yourself in a perfect psychological storm.
Perhaps you may think that is what happens when you’re about to turn 68. I have news for you: it affects Millenials and the Z crowd too (see previous link) — even the dog.
As I turn inward during yoga class, for instance, I discover a landscape filled with interesting detail, with correspondences and affinities and connections that only become apparent as I deliberately slow things down and meditate on what is going on in the moment.
The focus on breath is a wonderful thing.
When I went yesterday for a 16-mile, hilly bike ride in windy, humid, almost 90° weather, I became tired about half-way through.
After all, I am 67, fat, with greatly reduced aerobic capacity.
But I focused on my breathing. Just the breathing, while remaining aware of the traffic around me.
Mile, after mile, no matter what was going on: a barking dog, a snake in the grass, a huge tortoise, hills, or speed bumps in the road and potholes along the way.
Inhale. Exhale. Just keep pedaling.
After you do this for a while, you stop being on your bike, in a manner of speaking.
Your mind kind of hovers above the bike, as you move though open space, sweating lightly, and panting when you push it, but establishing a sense of distance between your observing mind and your physical body sweating in the sun.
You notice but do not fixate on other bikers or dog walkers who say good morning or hello as you pass them by.
You no longer are competing with them or annoyed that they are clogging up the path you have set upon.
You are doing it because you want to transcend what surrounds you, without ever losing awareness of what can hurt you.
At a certain point, you lose interest in childish things, such as politics or the accumulation of wealth or reading pulp novels about people who don’t exist.
You do not think about the love lives of famous strangers or the comments of unpleasant presences on social media.
You do not think about friends or girlfriends from long ago, or what happened in your almost legendary career, but for that slight hiccup along the way that temporarily or permanently destroyed your life.
You will not even sneer at the repugnant sight of a John Bolton trying, yet again, to lead this nation into a Middle East war, even after you learn that he deliberately evaded being drafted during Vietnam.
Stop being an arrogant doormat.
Instead, allow yourself become increasingly fascinated with interpreting your internal landscape, but without lapsing into contrived autism; that is a fancy way of saying, listen carefully to what your body and mind are telling you: examine the detail, notice the topography, and recognize that you are at least as interesting as anyone else out there.
One should never get morbidly fascinated with the rhythms, aches and pains of one’s own body or become some solipsistic bore. There are few things more tedious in life than listening to a geezer rattling on endlessly about his or her physical ailments or memories of yesteryear.
However, when you get older, and realize your time is running out, you dispense with irrelevancies. You get rid of everything that doesn’t matter, that doesn’t mean anything any more.
It’s mental minimalism: like getting rid of all the junk in your house, but it’s the clutter in your head that you’re now leaving at curb edge on garbage pickup day.
Your goal is to obsess over nothing.
To recognize and enjoy the company of enlightened people.
To be completely beyond the reach of the provocateurs whose greed and moral vapidity used to stress you out.
This includes local pissants, such as the insignificant yet deeply annoying, if not downright evil, old dirtbag across the street, who will live inside your head forever unless you deliberately become insensible to his or her existence.
They cannot touch you now. Nobody can.
What they talk about, what passes for things of consequence gradually fades in importance.
What you once deemed crucial to The Good Life — remember when you used to tell yourself that your “number” was 3 or 5 or 10 million dollars? — you now consider vaguely ridiculous.
Eventually, the pretentiousness of most “successful” people will stop rankling you.
Their shallowness will begin to appear almost bafflingly perverse.
But you will no longer care.
That is quite a liberating thought.
You will dress, talk and act the way you want to, without turning into some unwashed, unshaved eccentric crank.
You will live, at long last, on your terms; no longer needing to please anyone but yourself.
It does not have to be selfish.
In fact, much of what you do probably involves helping others, with no material gain to yourself.
You will only do things now if you chose to do them, not because someone else tells you to.
You are free.
You are at the delightful age of being able to say fuck-you-6-ways-till-Sunday, if someone tries to rub you the wrong way — especially since you know that anyone who tries fisticuffs on a senior would face a class D violent felony conviction.
You are golden, dude.
You have empowered yourself to ignore negativity.
Free of absurd and meaningless distractions, you soon realize that an internal landscape can be a fascinating place to explore. It is of little interest or consequence to anyone else, and this is as it should be; but it is crucial to you, if you are ever to understand yourself before it’s too late.
Where is my mind going to take me next?
I’m enjoying this trip.
I hope it lasts a long time.