Meditations – Slowing Down: Reading Environmental Clues

Sunrise Light by Tim CarlThe key to finding more time is by using the time we have more effectively.

Most of spend our time split between three areas: 1. the past, 2. the future, and 3. the present.  If you are like most of us, you spend only a tiny fraction actually in #3…the present.  How odd is that?  We really only have one real time – the present – and we only spend, lets say 20% of our time residing there.

We sit around thinking about what we’ll be doing next, not even paying attention to what we are doing right now.  Then our minds flit to some past event, and we spend time critique, maybe regretting, what we should / could have said about this or that to some person, maybe a person that we perceive as doing us harm.  We move from worrying about a future that will never exist (your imagination is about as far from the real future as it gets), or fretting about a past that will never exist again.  All the while spending no time in the only time that does exist.

How strange is that?

As an example, you might sit there at work thinking about the rest you’ll get on the weekend and how much fun it will be to see your friends, thinking how tough work is and how hard it is to advance in the company, and maybe that that other person got a promotion when you clearly deserved it more.  However, If you work to spend time in the present, you’ll end up focusing on the task at hand, which will result in your do better and your being more productive.  This will end up leading you to becoming more happy and satisfied.  You will know that the work you did was the level of work that you are capable of.  All this and you will actually feel less tired at the end of the day.

So, simply spending time in the present will make you happy, healthy, more productive, and more rested.  It is as close to magic as I’ve ever seen.

Try this to help you slow down and being in the present.  Next time you are in a car and there is someone that gets in front of you and is driving slow, just slow down behind them.  Do not rush past with a frustrated glance.  Just slow down. Enjoy this moment.  What are you experiencing at this moment.  Anxiousness?  Acknowledge the feeling. Breathe in.

Now feel your hands on the steering wheel. Feel your foot on the gas pedal. Acknowledge your distance from the car in front of you. Listen to the traffic sounds.  How often do we drive without even being aware of driving!  Take a deep breath and thank the driver in front of you.  They have given you a great gift.  You are now aware that you are here, now.  If it helps you from getting frustrated, think that this person is saving you from an accident that may have occurred if you were speeding along.  Or a ticket.  The point is that you should be thankful for this experience.

You might be saying, ‘wait, I’ll be late.’  I say, if you got the ticket or in an accident, you’d be really late.  Plus, you might find that you are actually not late at all.  Time is relative, after all.

Here is the take home:

  • Remain in the present at every opportunity
  • Use environmental clues to help you slow down
  • Look for opportunities to find ways to become more grateful

Coppola and the Apocalypse

Oil & Water by Tim CarlOriginally published in the St. Helena Star:

By the time the 1970s came to a close we had come to expect summer blockbuster movies — “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” “Halloween” — each one more exciting to young impressionable minds than the previous. By 1979 some of the top movies included “10” with Bo Derek, “The Jerk” with Steve Martin and “Alien” with Sigourney Weaver — all of which fit our new sense of what a movie should contain: action, a touch of sophomoric humor and a large dose of titillation or fear.

But that year another type of film broke onto the scene. These movies brought social issues to the surface in an honest and riveting manner. And although the top grossing movie that year was “Kramer vs. Kramer,” a story of divorce, another movie that set the bar for such films was “Apocalypse Now.” The director for this groundbreaking movie was Francis Ford Coppola, a local Napa Valleyian whose kids attended the same public school as me and my slightly less famous cadre of friends. Read More >>>

Waterskiing after watching the movie Jaws. A ten-year-old’s perspective.

jaws-movie-poster“The year was 1975, and my friends and I had been invited to go waterskiing at Lake Berryessa by my older brother, Scott, and a couple of his friends. A few weeks prior they had taken us to St. Helena’s little movie theater to watch the movie “Jaws.” The movie had been traumatic but exciting.

After arriving at the lake, we got into the boat and motored out from the dock. The sun was high in the sky and beat down on our unprotected skin.” More >>>

Always We Hope — Lao Tzu

tree fort by Tim CarlAlways We Hope — Lao Tzu

Always we hope
someone else has the answer,
some other place will be better,
some other time,
it will turn out.

This is it.

No one else has the answer,
no other place will be better,
and it has already turned out.

At the center of your being,
you have the answer:
you know who you are and
you know what you want.

There is no need to run outside
for better seeing,
nor to peer from a window.
Rather abide at the center of your being:
for the more you leave it,
the less you learn.

Search your heart and see
the way to do is to be.

Abide at the center of your being.

Farewell 2013 – My Top Literary Finds


My top three (OK, four) literary finds of 2013: Mary Szybist (poet), George Saunders (Tenth of December), Dani Shapiro (Still Writing), and rediscovering Steinbeck (East of Eden). All of these writers have provided me insight and encouragement in their own way, and I am grateful for their talent and excellent work. I am sure you’ve heard of the others, but just in case you haven’t heard of Mary Szybist, check out her poem below (or, better yet, listen to her reading it here — I think you’re going to love it!)

Wishing everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!

On Wanting to Tell [  ] about a Girl Eating Fish Eyes

By Mary Szybist

—how her loose curls float
above each silver fish as she leans in
to pluck its eyes—

You died just hours ago.
Not suddenly, no.
You’d been dying so long
nothing looked like itself: from your window,
fishermen swirled sequins;
fishnets entangled the moon.

Now the dark rain
looks like dark rain. Only the wine
shimmers with candlelight. I refill the glasses
and we raise a toast to you
as so and so’s daughter—elfin, jittery as a sparrow—
slides into another lap
to eat another pair of slippery eyes
with her soft fingers, fingers rosier each time,
for being chewed a little.

If only I could go to you, revive you.
You must be a little alive still.
I’d like to put this girl in your lap.
She’s almost feverishly warm and she weighs
hardly anything. I want to show you how
she relishes each eye, to show you
her greed for them.

She is placing one on her tongue,
bright as a polished coin—

What do they taste like? I ask.
Twisting in my lap, she leans back
sleepily. They taste like eyes, she says.

Source: Poetry (November 2008).