August is here. If you’re anything like me, your mind is skipping ahead to that second week of September, when things will change again and you’ll be balancing school, perhaps work, family, and life stuff, all at warp speed.
The unknown is a strange thing. Uncertainty makes me at once uneasy and exhilarated about what is to come. When I was travelling through Europe a few years ago, I remember the words of one fellow traveller very clearly: “Keep things awkward,” he said. “You learn so much when you make yourself uncomfortable.”
It took me a long time to figure that one out. I finally understood that it’s okay to be out of your depth, out of your element and rather lost. Not just when you travel, but in everyday things as well. In fact, it can be wonderful for you to throw yourself into something that is a bit foreign to you, where you’ll struggle over words or papers or thoughts or building relationships with the people and things around you. Talk to people you don’t know. Do things you don’t do. See things you wouldn’t normally see. Do it all!!!
So I did. For a while, keeping things awkward became a bit of a mantra for me in my personal and my student life. Everything is new when you decide to pursue graduate studies! Whole worlds and people open up before your eyes.
But I realized something – I couldn’t always dwell in the awkward and the new. That makes for a pretty tense and rather exhausting existence in general. Despite all the newness around me, I needed to find a way to ground myself in things that were familiar to me also.
So I read and searched for ways to balance the new and the familiar. And what came at me from various readings and conversations with others around me was an emphasis on present-moment awareness. It seems as though appreciating the present moment and living in it is the magical antidote to feeling uncertain and tense, and the magical recipe for grounding yourself. Who knew?
There are tons of ways to be in this world. I think we’re all kind of still learning how. I’m learning to deal with the uncertainties of my life by not settling in too much into where I am (so being ready for the unexpected), but also by trying to appreciate where I am and taking things for what they are.
I’ll leave you with the following quote from Eckhart Tolle, which I read last week, and which opened my eyes a bit:
The great arises out of small things that are honored and cared for. Everybody’s life really consists of small things. Greatness is a mental abstraction and a favorite fantasy of the ego. The paradox is that the foundation for greatness is honoring the small things of the present moment instead of pursuing the idea of greatness. The present moment is always small in the sense that it is always simple, but concealed within it lies the greatest power. Like the atom, it is one of the smallest things yet contains enormous power. Only when you align yourself with the present moment do you have access to that power. Or it may be more true to say that it then has access to you…Anxiety, stress, and negativity cut you off from that power.
Enjoy your week, U of T. Keep things awkward. Keep things in the present moment!