A quiet mind is a happy mind
By Lorna Foreman
Every once in awhile I will re-read my old columns. It takes quite a while as I have contributed to Fifty-Five Plus since 1998. That is amazing in itself, but what really catches my attention is how much my attitudes and views on the same topics have evolved over 18 years.
I am — or should say was — a product of our society and my upbringing. It is a society that seems to thrive on ‘doing.’ The busier the better. It appears to be a badge of honour to be able to tell everyone how incredibly busy you are. This way of life reminds me of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland:“…no time to say hello, goodbye….” It has become essential to carry day-planners and phones with apps to keep track of the many meetings and appointments.
At the age of 75, my mother told me she loved to sit in her favourite rocking chair to knit, or to just meditate on life. “Mom,” I said, “you’ve got to get out and do something. Well here I am, roughly the same age, sitting in my ‘dream chair’ and enjoying silence, peace, and the occasional cat who joins me by sleeping on my lap. I’ve certainly changed. And I find that while sitting quietly, I feel much more alive than I did 20 or 30 years ago during a very busy time. Why?
Perhaps it is the uncertainty of our world that produces the need to fill hours with ‘doing’ – anything to avoid dealing with perceived reality. I sometimes wonder if our society generally has a fear of death, hence there is a need to fill time with anything and everything. Perhaps those activities make people feel as though they are really living.
Is this ‘run, run, run’ attitude the reason extreme sports have become so popular? Do they make – temporarily – the participant feel alive? I don’t deny those activities have an appeal. I just joined a gym and my goal this summer is to go ziplining. It is a mild version of extreme sports and one I know I could do.
What I love most about those quiet moments is that I start to become aware of what I call ‘real life.’ I observe the small events in the world around me. In a previous column, I wrote about my experience watching the whole metamorphosis of a black swallowtail butterfly. If I had been busy during this miracle of life, I would never have noticed its beauty.
I used to believe my observant nature was because I am a visual artist. I like being ultra-aware of the world around me and that requires stopping the internal noise and really observing.
Fear of dying equates to fear of living in my mind. And living is not necessarily being busy.We might join groups, visit friends, but are we really present? Do we really listen? Usually people are already thinking of their next activity or meeting. We sit at our computers, line up hundreds of friends on social media, but it is all terribly superficial and I have noticed the information sent in e-mails often just gets skimmed over and misinterpreted.
While I am here, I want to appreciate all the small but precious aspects of this world; the amazing personalities of my pets, other people’s pets, the crows, pigeons, and other birds that flock to my feeders. There are incredible differences in markings and even pigeons have different personalities.
We’re only here for a relatively short amount of time – enjoy this life and remember that sitting still is a wonderful way to really live. n
Lorna Foreman is a self-described 50-plus writer, author and artist who lives in Cornwall.