Slowing down and living in the present

Open Road

Chris Guillebeau continues to teach me about life and about the meaning of pursuing happiness. It all started with this post from his blog:

That said, I like the measure proposed by G. Richard Shell in the book Springboard. He calls it units of momentary happiness:

"No matter how you define success, momentary happiness should have some role in it…. happiness has also been thought of as having a larger, almost spiritual quality that goes beyond both momentary feelings and reflective thought.

Philosophers have talked about this third kind of happiness in terms of the fulfillment that comes from exerting the right kind of effort on the right kind of task (for you) or experiencing a sense of deep connection to loved ones, nature, or the divine."

It made me think a lot about life and how I’ve chosen to live it… or rather how I’ve chosen not to. My relationships have always gone on autopilot in the wrong direction and I’ve never been able to stop the train wreck. I’m just learning to enjoy the moment, to derive what pleasure I can from a situation and be able to enjoy it for what it is and not for what I wish it was.

I've been at Google 7 weeks now and it's just starting to full sink in why this has been so good and such a great experience, both the good and the bad. It has taught me about leadership and in a strange way it has taught me to be in the moment, to be in what you're doing and to be open and be ready for whatever happens. I think things changed when I stopped seeing Google as the end result of my quest but another step on my life.

Sure I would love to stay and I would love to be converted to full time but I'm ok if it doesn't happen. This job has made my leadership skills, my coding and my writing so much stronger in the past few weeks than I ever dreamed possible. Wherever I land up after this job I'll be ok...

It’s Monday night, and it is late. My mind is occupied by tomorrow’s work, but my sister sits in front of me, and she is asking me to talk. In a deeper way, she’s asking me to be with her, and I cannot say no. So we talk, far into the darkest hours of this arbitrary Monday night. But this is our time.

Japanese tradition tells of ichi-go ichi-e, a concept fortified over centuries of practice that says we only have one meeting, at one time—our experiences with one another stand alone. Every encounter we have—a dinner, a shared bottle of wine, a late evening of conversation on an old red couch—will happen once, and then will never happen again. The circumstances surrounding an encounter, the people involved and their exact dispositions and history make each event unique. We may interact with the same people, within similar circumstances, but ichi-go ichi-e says that each interaction is an experience all unto itself, never to be re-created perfectly.

This has been a hard lesson. If every interaction is unique and will never repeat itself how does it change or more appropriately how do you change to face that new uniqueness challenge?

It's always easy to be in the moment yet it's a very important skill to cultivate. If you're talking to someone be in the conversation fully 100% or not at all. Likewise when you decide to be in a project be in it fully... do your best at all times and don't pussyfoot on it. It reminds of Derek Siever's Hell yeah or (fuck) no.

Ichi-go ichi-e reminds us to be mindful, but also to be present, so we may be moved by the natural combination of factors at play in any moment: people, food on the table, the weather outside. In traditional Japanese Noh theater, actors only rehearse a few times before a performance, so the authentic interactions of the performers, along with the natural combination of factors present at that moment, will move the performance. Even in theater, an art where scripted rehearsal is typically of the utmost importance, the Japanese remind us to relinquish control.

Ichi-go ichi-e holds both the purposefulness of preparation and the spontaneity of presence in perfect equilibrium. The culture I know and live within often celebrates polarity. We are stalwarts of the extremes, either holistically spontaneous or absolutely controlled. And it is the Japanese who remind us that spontaneity and intentionality are not mutually exclusive but become more necessary within the light of the other.

Japanese Tea Ceremony

I remember how people like Hazard sensei, Tanaka sensei and, more than anyone else, Dr. Hazard sensei and Lowe sensei always cultivated that quality of presence, of being there in the moment. How things moved from conversation and having fun to full on shiai.

Relinquishing control in my day-to-day existence does not involve a tea ceremony or improvisational acting, but the concept is relevant enough: I relinquish my internal script when I host friends in my home, relinquish my plans of going to bed early when an important conversation arises instead.

For me, ichi-go ichi-e looks strangely similar to working hard and also letting go. And it makes complete sense, as if that’s the way all hospitality should be—purposefulness mingled with whimsy.

It's a tricky balancing act but I think I've finally figured it out. It's an ongoing process and that's why it's so hard to nail.... and so the search for sunrise continues 🙂

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Images: Corey, Tomislav

Link: Kinfolk