Post contributed by @paperleaftea (both Twitter and Instagram). She has done our logo as well as background art. Here she talks about some thoughts on time and how it is a gift.
The passing of time is a strange gift. The infrastructure of our bodies slowly starts dissolving away, the skin ever so slightly creeps down every year, reluctant to stay pinned and lifted, the façade gradually melting as the clocks in Dali’s famous work; ‘The Persistence of Memory’. And yet when I cast a glance into the past I see something utterly jarring and paradoxical; in the prime of youth what looked back at me from the mirror was a girl firmly convinced of her utter insignificance and complete repulsiveness, despairing in a whirlpool of immense lack in every aspect.
The puzzle of life is that everything is being observed by us through a thick cloudy lens of distorted perceptions. Perceptions that have been shaped over the years to, as we tell ourselves, protect us and increase our efficiency at living. Every time we are thrown off by life, our lens of perception adjusts itself, or distorts, to create a ‘mark’ that we believe will protect us from future pain. In fact, much of the layers that we acquire constantly take us further and further away from experiencing life freely, as is. It seems impossible to separate ‘who I am’ from ‘who I think I am’. But the passing of time has brought with it this singular gift of ‘Detached Observation’. As the years have crept on, perhaps my exterior is no longer as shiny as it once was, it seems less relevant every day because I don’t focus on years, past and future, but on gently bringing myself into life by observing my present, moment by moment.
I regard the improvement in my state of mind as a gift of time because in part it seems impossible to trace it back meticulously to some magic formula or lone ritual that completely changed me. Plenty has been written about the various techniques and lifestyle changes one can employ to free ourselves, but I believe time is perhaps an often unnoticed component of the picture. One could look at mindfulness as a way to free ourselves from all concepts of linear time. As time has passed it has slowly eroded its own concept, its own relevance and importance, it has allowed me the possibility to consider an existence outside of time. An existence that experiences the ‘here and now’ not as a ‘fragment’ of some unattainable ‘whole’, but is whole in itself, every instant.
With time has come the insight that even at my most lonesome I share the feeling of being alone with countless others, and therefore am not alone; in a sense the world is connected in experiencing the same delusion of disconnection. We are all sitting in the same boat and virtually experiencing a reality where we are surrounded by vast expanses of wild nothingness. With time there has been an acceptance of all the discomforts that simply are a part of life. At moments when I am able to practice this detached observance, I am even grateful for the enhanced understanding and empathy that has only been possible through experiencing, accepting and letting be, the painful parts of life.
There are times when I find myself flailing, once again staring down the same black holes of pessimism and angst, confused over why I am at what feels like a place I thought I had already traversed and left behind. Though these ‘glitches’ are rarer and much shorter-lived now, sometimes the intensity can still be enough to knock me down. I have found that a reliable support group of friends and peers, can be the most valuable resource at such a time. A single friend willing to simply listen, or offer some words of comfort, can bring one back to life even when we think there is no way out. I am incredibly lucky to be able to learn, a little bit more every day, not only how to improve the lived experience for myself but also, in turn, be there for others in a more meaningful way.
On occasion when I am losing myself to the pain of the past or uncertainty of the future I try to find a way to slowly and deliberately start observing little things in my surroundings, particularly the conditions or objects that I am grateful for. I may be sitting at my desk and acknowledge that it is pretty fantastic that I have a desk of my own where many of my favorite brushes and tools are within reach. I consciously look at and address the smallest of things and how they are improving my life; the food on my plate, the clothes on my body, my body itself and all the myriad ways it makes life possible. I may notice that some of the best people in my life are within reach thanks to the extraordinary technology that is the product of our modern era. The fact that I have the time, peace and quiet available to compose thoughts, whatever their nature, is in itself a blessing. In this way usually I am not only returned to life but also able to feel a heightened sense of comfort, peace and belonging owed to a simple exercise in gratitude. I can count hundreds of things around me that I feel positively glad for, so life really can’t be that bad, right?
This practice of recognizing my surroundings to become attentive to the now moment, has gone a long way in managing stress and anxiety for me. It has also helped in making me available to others and lessen the sense of abject disconnection and loneliness that invariably often accompanies periods of unhappiness. Above all, I have found again and again that, no matter how sure one may be of the utter uselessness of everything, opening ourselves even just a crack, a mere sliver, however little; to friends, to activities, or simply to ideas, can help shift us away from our prevailing perspective and usher some tranquility within. Even with an extreme lack of belief that life can improve, and a lack of desire to engage in changes that could challenge that belief, it is possible to move away from both, traversing through time.