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Lost In Trance-sylvania: Getting Unstuck When Mondays Suck

November 9, 2010

Today was Monday, a word that must have the same root as mundane. And one of these Mondays I’m going to step off of this crazy merry-go-round life I live, but that’s another story.

And this brings me to my point: I don’t like the mundanity (to coin a word) of living. So I keep trying to slow my butt down. Or at least my head, so I can see what’s going on in there when I’m feeling down or stuck or just blah. And usually it means I’m in some sort of trance. There are so many!

The 10 States of Trance-sylvania that suck the life out of my day:

1) The left-brain trance (thinking and analyzing too much).
2) The prose trance
3) Hunger
4) The “I Don’t Have Enough” trance
5) Worry, Woe and Fret
6) Work
7) Sleep: Too little or too much
8   Tension
9) Sobriety
10) Constant sound

These are some of the daily states of mind that keep me from a state of grace.

Mostly I find I get caught in a thought-tunnel of some sort. We all do, all day long. This can work well when we have tasks that need to get done efficiently. But we tend to get stuck in the doingness. I myself happen to live in the belly of this beast, a place called New York City, where some eight million human doings go about their daily business. Here, spending days on end in thought-tunnels often gets rewarded, and “I’m a workaholic” is something you’re supposed to say on a job interview. In this town we’re all in deep do-do.

Problem is, I’m getting older now (thank God) and something inside is pulling me in the other direction.

So what I’m attempting to cultivate are habits of coming to, or coming up for air, or waking up, several times a day. Refreshers. Ways of shifting gears and perspective for the sake of being more present, and for making things more fun.

What follows are some ways I’ve been experimenting with as antidotes to the 10 States of Trance-sylvania I mention above:

1) For that left-brain thought-trance, I stop and breathe, for just a moment. Breathing, as Ilana Rubenfeld once said, is a way of massaging yourself from the inside. This gets me out of my head and into my body. Like my therapist says, “If there’s no air, you’re not there”.

Anther antidote to being thought-caught is to shift to emotion. Instead of listening to what my head is thinking, I shift channels to what my body is feeling. (It can take time, and a lot of practice, to get used to checking in with your body. It only took me about 10 years to get very tuned in to what’s going on in there. It was worth it.)

2) For the prose trance (or the word trance) I try poetry, or better, aural poetry, better known as music.

3) For hunger I eat. This can mean aggressively biting into a sandwich and gulping it down, or focusing on its texture and taste, which can alleviate a different kind of deprivation.

4) “I Don’t Have Enough”: I walk through Manhattan, or a hood like Park Slope, looking around, and sometimes catch myself in this one. It can be subtle and insidious, often manifesting as an urge to go shopping, or earn more money, or as just feeling somehow vaguely less-than. The antidote for me is obvious: gratitude for what I’ve got.

5) Worry, woe and fret: See gratitude; as in I’m too blessed to be stressed.

6) (and 7) Work trance: With this one, I can choose to downshift to either leisure, play, or rest, the latter of which can include playing with sleep. For example, when I’m just a bit sleep deprived, I notice that what gets somewhat weakened is the left-brained thinking capacity in my head. The volume gets turned down a notch, which can result in me being more spontaneous. If I get further sleep deprived, however, then I feel like I’m dragging my body around. On the other hand, too much sleep and the thought-machine can work overtime all day long.

8   Body tension can of course get relieved once, and only once, I realize it’s there. Then I can consciously choose to relax those muscles. (Ah, there we go!) This can work best with taking a breath. If I combine this (relaxing and breathing) with stopping all thought – if only for a moment – and I get a brief but real vacation from the mundane. And then I also find that my surroundings suddenly pop into awareness – I hadn’t noticed that sky; that little girl; the sound of those kids across the street.

Here’s another thing that helps me: I notice when I’m brushing my teeth, I’m usually absorbed in remembering last night’s dream; or thoughts about the day to come, or about something I said to someone yesterday. But when I’m brushing my teeth and am actually busy brushing, without thought, it’s a whole different experience, and a lot more fun. (Fun? Brushing teeth? Strangely, yeah.)

9) Sobriety is yet another trance we get caught in, as if that’s the only way to be. There are, at last count, only 310 ways to cure this impoverished state. I however, being a responsible adult, these days limit myself to a mere 58.

10) Sometimes, the cure to a nasty trance can be simple silence. Not always easy to find here in the city. But as I get older I get more sensitive to noise, including my own.

So I suggest if you ever find yourself stuck in the muddle of the day, start playing with one of these de-trancers ‘till something inside you says “Ahh!”

Like now: I just got up from my computer to go get some frozen grapes and seltzer, and while out there I realized I hadn’t mentioned that I’ve been writing this post in a slightly altered musically-induced state (Pandora rules!). Little things like this every day help keep me from becoming calcified.

So now I’m curious: What do you do to shake yourself awake in the middle of your day?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Richard W. permalink
    November 9, 2010 9:19 pm

    When I catch myself dwelling on the past or future I take a few breaths and ask myself the WIN question, “What’s important now?” This immediately focuses me on the task at hand.

    If that doesn’t work, I have a cookie.

    • Charley Wininger permalink*
      November 11, 2010 6:55 am

      Getting fat these days?

  2. November 9, 2010 10:46 pm

    Frozen grapes?

  3. Dave Abramowitz permalink
    November 10, 2010 4:08 pm

    Mr. Wininger, I’m glad you’ve figured out a whole bag of tricks to help you remain more conscious, aware, but it seems to me you’ve contracted a bad case of new age-itis. It’s become a kind of religion and it ‘s quite an epidemic to endlessly ‘work on oneself.” Of course, that’s good for the therapy business. That’s not to take away anything from sincere therapists like yourself. Here’s a few more to add to your list. Turn it all over to God Who is more intimate to you than the figure is to the ground. Let God. Then. there’s not even any minimal effort not to effort. Then, it’s not a question of “willing,” at all. Bring God into your steps one to ten. Breathe God in. For all your analysis and psychoanalysis. What is simple as just seeing the sunrise and, in truth, I’ve found it better when I’m not stoned because, then, I’m really there. Yes, there are peope who even make God, God, a form of trance, but I ain’t talkin’ ’bout dat. Your techniques are savvy, workable, and, more or less, rewarding, but’ God. I intuit, never intended it to be a problem we’d have to cleverly solve. To largely forget God in your mind-calculating, to me seems a case of, lah-dee-dah, everyone just going on their merry “New Age” way. You may not like it, or may suspect me of another kind of mind-conditioning, or brainwashing. Agnostics or atheists might heartily agree, but I know you do believe in a God that’s real. The only question is how far away or how close God is. I more than suspect God is closer to us than we know, and it’s not mostly about us, so what does that tell you. Not that I’m any paragon of God-consciousness, but I’m here to Zen-zap you as you can me when you perceive me less than what I could be. We’re here to help each other wake up to the glory of a larger reality within the context of The Only Creator, where, to foremost love our Creator, give The Creator’s love back, and, in so doing, wake up inside that love multiplied so manifold. I would serve you and all your friends as, from time to time, a constant reminder, please factor God into your equation, a God that would be as intimate as our honesty and innocence and courage allows and then the effortless ease of a larger reality is let in. That’s my prayer to myself, as well. It’s God Who writes the final sermon. It’s God Who writes the definitive gospel, and never fear to call on God, for God has a wilder sense of humor and is infinitely more tender and gentle, and more passionate for truth and in truth than we can even imagine . . . Brother Dave

    • Charley Wininger permalink*
      November 13, 2010 6:05 am

      Brother Dave, I need to first say that you make some good and worthy points. “The only question is how far away or close God is” is quite interesting. (I suppose you really mean, the only question is how far away or close do we keep Him.) “Figure God into the equation”is a worthy challenge for us all for sure.

      But since we’re here, as you point out, to “zen-zap” each other when we perceive the other to be less than what we can be: Let me suggest that you might be more effective in getting your point across in a way that actually persuades people if you would preach less and share more: What’s been your experience? Give an example. What are you struggling with along your path?

      And about the “epidemic of endlessly working on yourself” I’m sure you don’t want to fall into the opposite trap: Spiritual Bypassing. Many who profess a transcendent relationship with the Divine (and this includes New Agers as well as religious Jews and Christians) bypass, ignore, deny, repress, or minimize their own issues and problems. As in, I worship the Lord so I don’t have to deal with my fear of real intimacy with the people around me, for example.

  4. Dave Abramowitz permalink
    November 14, 2010 7:12 pm

    . You’re right. I’d just woken up and read your Tuesday sharing, as I always look forward to it, knowing you’ll surprise us again in some way and started writing. Then, I sent it and at the bottom of the message, where I looked to see “your message has been sent,” it said, “Your comments are awaiting moderation.” and I thought to myself, “Oh, shit. Maybe, God is telling me something again, telling me I’m too much again, too much for others and too much for myself, and, no sooner than I reread it than I realized, yes, I DO sound like a smart-ass, know-it-all, preachy asshole. It’s kind of crazy how one can be so convinced one is profound and then the next moment, even two hours later, think, what kind of ego-shit did I write. So, I’d hoped you didn’t post my comments. For all my talk of waking from trances to the easy reality of God-knowing clarity, it was largely me in another kind of trance. So. your blog did serve to wake me.
    Let me share with you an experience I had about a year and a half ago. I worked as a security guard staring at elevator doors for half a year, and then for a couple of months I sat in a little, harshly overlit booth in a Chinatown apartment complex and I had a list of techniques and mental games I could play all night or on sometimes twelve hour shifts to, more or less, keep my sanity. My techniques served me, perhaps, as yours do you, and it helped enormously to. make the hours pass, and sometimes I even made myself a little high from my clever techniques. However, I started to include the thought of God, breathe the reality of God, welcome God in while I was gone, enjoying my sensory awareness or Zen-centeredness exercises, and a whole other dimension and energy came in. a whole different quality, and the difference was so tangible.
    When for several misguided years I followed a guru, Mr. Rajneesh, aka Osho, and did his techniques for greater awareness, and he had many, many dozens of them, God or any “welcome or honoring of God, while so doing was always excluded, God never honored, or included, so, although one could achieve a calm, a sense of inner peace, to some extent, a clarity, to some extent, one only had a vague sense of mystic oneness. So, we only could get so high. No one ever finally got enlightened that I ever met, though quite a few, I saw, thought they did. We grew up when zen was all the rage and appealed to a lot of disaffected, hungry for a largely, pure, existential truth. What a shock it has been to me to wake up and realize gurus of any kind, and zen without God-knowing, or any form of shamanism or pantheism was a “ship adrift, never finding a harbor, often needing or craving high states, was what, in the end, proved superficial, shallow, Indeed, Zen, or the religion of Zen, is like becoming connoiseurs of the aesthetics and beauty that light can make without recognizing or even seeing the sun, One can come into the immediacy of God-knowing and the joy of easily God-relating, in ways that are as easy as breathing the light we see and look with. You can zen-zap me any time, because I’m often going in and out of relative trances like you. Thank you for so politely and delicately calling me sometimes a lying, self-delusional asshole, but don’t deny or brush off the messenger just because the messenger has, as you nicely aver, his issues. The immediacy of God and its vital importance to our lives is something to get passionate and joyously excited about. God is as far away or as close as we let God be with us, and I’m here to declare to a largely sophisticated, aloof and a mostly distancing and skeptical world that it’s as easy as we have the grace and courage to let it be . . . I would have you have my best. David

  5. Rich permalink
    November 17, 2010 11:39 pm

    I’m catching up on stuff and just read “Lost in Trance-sylvania”, which I enjoyed. But the sentence which struck me the most was:

    “I don’t like the mundanity of living.” For a series on joy, perhaps that attitude should be explored and questioned more! I’m no expert on enjoying mundanity, but for years I’ve thoroughly enjoyed brushing my teeth. It’s fun! Also…

    I try to save doing dishes for when I need a break from thinking/working, and a result I often enjoy doing them a lot.

    Every time I’m in a long line at Fairway’s (which is usually) and someone near me complains about the lines, I’m grateful – because it gets me out of my complaining mode. So I’m in a line; it’s a wonderful opportunity to do nothing.

    I enjoy shmoozing with checkout clerks (and waiters and store clerks, etc.); it’s a great way to have fun and humanize what can be a soulless interaction.

    It’s not an accident that when Buddhist monks spend years developing their practice, their days are divided between study, meditation and chores. With the wrong attitude, chores ground us up, but with the right attitude, chores can ground us.

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