The Bus Driver

Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! (If you have not read The Fault in Our Stars or The Magicians they are both quoted, although heavily out of context)

Today I finished rereading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green phenomenal author and nerd activist (I don’t know if that’s what I should really call him that but I’m calling him an activist) who has this amazing knack for bringing nerdy people together and then inspiring them to do great things.  The book ends on a sad note which makes you want to cry both tears of sadness and tears of relief.  One of the ending lines is “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you.” – pg. 313.  Immediately I was transported back to one of the defining lines of The Magicians by Lev Grossman where the main character, Quentin, is talking to his girlfriend Alice.  “[Quentin:] ‘You can’t just decide to be happy.’ [Alice] ‘No, you can’t.  But you can sure as hell decide to be miserable.'”  – pg. 325  What do these things have to do with the bus driver? I’ll get to that, just bear with me a bit. Continue reading

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The Miracle of Mindfulness and Conventions

This post is a journey of thought, talking about happiness in everyday life in relation to happiness at conventions – TeslaCon in particular as it was this weekend.  Today I want to talk to you about my own happiness, my own life, and how we can use conventions as a way to understand happiness in everyday life.

Over the weekend I was at TeslaCon – talking with people, socializing, having a great time all around – and after such an fantastic weekend I was worried that ConDepression would set in.  However, when yesterday came I worked from approximately 8:30 in the morning to 8:30 at night, with sporadic breaks in between, and found myself just as happy as when I was at TeslaCon despite being alienated from the great people that were there. Some might just say that I was still riding the wave of happiness from the convention but I think it’s something different.

I have this morning off, and when I woke up I was surrounded by all these memories from TeslaCon.  I’m always worried about ConDepression because it hurts my work performance and my motivation for the day (and can often spiral into motivation for the week).  In line with a new event I’ve added to my daily routine (reading for an hour every morning) I picked up The Miracle of Mindfulness to reread and bring my mind away from the fact that TeslaCon is over and I miss it dearly. I read for about an hour, this book which I haven’t picked up since high school, and realized something.  The happiness that I achieved yesterday was the same happiness that I achieved at TeslaCon.

In the Miracle of Mindfulness, Mindfulness is all about keeping one’s mind focused and in the present.  Rather than focusing on what will happen after we finish a task, what will come of the future, we must keep our mind focused on what we are doing and think of it as a great thing.  The example used by Thich Nhat Hanh in his book is washing dishes.  We should focus on washing dishes when we wash dishes, not the cup of tea which awaits us when we are done.

Now, how does this have anything to do with TeslaCon?  At conventions we are focused on the present.  We are entirely engaged and engrossed in the present.  We are no longer thinking about the e-mails which may be flooding our inbox or the deadlines our bosses have given us.  We are only thinking about the present moments which we are experiencing.  This is arguably a way to happiness – it has been heralded in the East for a very long time in many of their religious ideologies and Western studies are beginning to emerge which show the same.  The happiness that I achieved yesterday, despite the fact that my favorite convention of the year is over, was because I was focused on the present and focused on my daily tasks in the same way that I was focused on panels, events, people, and the immersion experiences at TeslaCon.

TeslaCon offers us a place, a time, a history, and people in which we can engross ourselves wholly and entirely.  We embrace the moment and we forget about the past and future by living in the present.

So this is one reason that Conventions are so great.  We become entirely consumed by the moment, by the present.  Rather than worrying about our social relationships, our work relationships, the things we have to do, the things we ought to do, and the normal everyday worries which plague our minds, we are consumed only by the joy presented to us by living within the moment.

Some may think this is all bull honky, and if you do then you are welcome to think that way.  But I urge you to think about your experience at conventions (if you have had one) and remember the worst time you had at the convention.  It was probably that moment in which you stopped thinking about the convention, stopped living in the moment, and allowed your mind to stray back to worrying about work, worrying about relationships, and worrying about the future or how past mistakes were going to hurt your future.

We should apply these living in the moment experiences that we all have at conventions to our everyday lives.  Rather than consuming our thoughts with the worries of past mistakes or possible failures of the future, we should be working hard and focusing on the present as we do when we are engaged at conventions.  We should bring Mindfulness into our lives, focusing on what we are doing now to create the future we want, rather than worrying about what might go wrong or turn that future on its head.

Your Resident (Not Really) Anthropologist

One thing to be noted – I am not saying that we should abandon all thoughts of our future or all thoughts of our past.  What we should do is make thinking of our future a task, something which we can focus on.  We should set time aside to think about our future, rather than allowing those thoughts to randomly set up shop in our mind.  As for thoughts about our past – we should be focusing on the moment and the only thoughts of our past should be when they apply to the present (this includes when we are dedicating time to thinking about our future).  We shouldn’t dwell on the past and, as Tim Sanders says, poor experiences and failures should be learning experiences where we shed the experience but keep the lesson.