I settled into the easy chair with a steaming cup of joe and looked out the window into the dark, early morning. I wasn’t formally meditating, only naturally letting go. I have found out that my mind works best before I subject it to the mass media’s propaganda of the day.
I used to awaken to the music and information blaring from a clock radio. Oftentimes, I’d remain in bed, listening to the news, weather, commentary, and what passes for humor before I dragged my body out of bed. I have searched in vain for a station that had only music in the morning, but gave up and settled for public radio because it was the least obnoxious option.
One day, a couple of years ago, I had the idea to move the clock radio to the living room so I could use it to listen to summertime severe storm warnings. I then placed an alarm equipped docking station, sans iPod, on a shelf away from the bed. Now, when I want to awaken at a prescribed time, the gentle beeper of the docking station sounds. To shut it off, I have to climb out of bed.
The day begins in near total darkness and silence, unless Mother Nature decides to send us a thunderstorm. I gather myself together, and prepare the coffee to usher in my wakefulness. A 20-minute meditation is a much more satisfying way to start the day instead of the distraction of a chattering radio. Each day seems much more upbeat and productive ever since I eliminated the clock radio from the bedroom.
The change was made because I decided to follow through on a random idea that had popped into my consciousness.
This morning, I wondered where that idea came from, because ideas don’t just pop into our heads from some alien source. Usually, the mind is prepared by exposure to outside influences. The mental environment is synthesized and filtered material, gleaned and winnowed from experiences and outside data. Our ideas come from the way we decide to use our minds.
When I was a broadcaster, I sincerely believed that I needed to be immersed in the subculture of radio. There are various subcultures. Perhaps you live in the subculture of factory workers or the subculture of police officers or what have you. Each subculture includes a certain lifestyle, an accepted way of thinking, and a certain manner of behavior. A hospital nurse patterns life differently than does a corporate executive.
Generally speaking, the ideas we synthesize are rooted in different grounds. We all have differing points of view. So, when I was downsized from my radio job, it took a considerable amount of time to disengage from the subculture of radio. Perhaps I will never be able to fully put it aside. I still have a media mindset and there are a few tasks, that I used to perform on the job, that were very enjoyable and rewarding. However, the subculture of commercial radio broadcasting is now just a personal historical relic.
These days, my ideas spring from a different, more free mental environment. In other words, my thoughts are no longer prioritized by the radio subculture. Because my thoughts have greater range, my ideas incorporate a wider spectrum. It has been easier to also lessen my attachment to other subcultural programing, like that found in political and sectarian belief systems. My life is beginning to take on a more honest, clear nature.
When a person lets go of preconceived notions about the world around herself, there is freedom to explore the physical and mental environments. When someone sits still to closely observe the flow of thoughts, he is free to mindfully select and cultivate a thought into an idea. In doing so, a person can more objectively analyze the idea and its harmfulness or helpfulness to oneself and to society.
When we get into the habit of meditation and contemplation at regular times, we also become more observant during the remainder of the day. As an idea pops into the head, we can jot it down to develop later. I have notepads and pencils (not pens) in various places around the house. I have paper and pencil at my bedside, because some compelling ideas occur just before I drift off to sleep or after I awaken. There’s also a pad and pencil in the bathroom, because good ideas frequently come up at bathtime. I use pencils because pens run dry when I need them most.
Ideas can be terrible or wonderful concepts. If we know their habitat and how to capture them, life can become more rewarding. If we pay close attention to who and what are influencing our thoughts and opinions we can learn to analyze their motives and tactics. Are we simply parroting someone else’s opinions and ideology? What is the most fertile ground for our own, original ideas?
I regularly take the time to “gather my thoughts” and tear them apart to look at their strengths and weaknesses. Will a certain idea be worth sharing? Should it go into the recycle bin?
March is International Ideas Month. We have several days to capture, formulate, and think about the many ideas that have hatched in the minds of people in the past and present. This is also an opportunity to analyze our own ideas, not to justify them. It’s a perfect time to examine our own subcultures and find out how we get stuck in the mud of easy opinions.
The Blue Jay of Happiness draws inspiration from this John F. Kennedy quotation: “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”