Checking In

Back from the Blue Ridge Mountains and having completed a stressful four-day workshop and processed it, I’m enjoying my retirement, aiming to get in a groove.

My primary goal is to reduce the amount of time I spend on passive activities — like watching television and streaming movies — and spend more time on active activities, like reading books, socializing, and making YouTube videos.

For me, “relaxation” is not passive if I actively meditate while I relax — whether emptying my mind by focusing on my breath, or concentrating intently on one idea and considering it from multiple perspectives.

Months ago I withdrew from spectator sports. For weeks, I haven’t watched TV news. I don’t miss either.

So it seems I may be able to use my phone as a hotspot, get rid of cable, and save some money.

I’ve also managed to withdraw from coffee and black tea. I’ll still use those drugs in “emergencies,” but now that I face no deadlines, I can just nap when I get sleepy. I find being caffeine-free leaves me feeling more grounded, more clear-headed, less frazzled, more confident that what I’m thinking and feeling  is not drug-induced.

Basically, I just don’t like addictions, which divert me from my true self. This week I aim to withdraw from chocolate (except for once a week!), which has enough caffeine to serve as a stimulant.

I also hope to stop watching movies at night. The pull of the recliner, large screen, stereo speakers, and an emotional charge from a dramatic movie are compelling. So we shall see if I break that habit as well and only watch movies on weekends. If I worked nine to five, I might feel more of a need to “escape.” But being retired, I think not.

I believe that if I have the right attitude I can get into a routine that enables me to do what I really want to do. So I’m tracking how well I meet my Monday through Friday “bottom lines” — one hour for exercise and two hours each for writing, correspondence, reading books, reading news, and making movies. Weekends are for socializing, communing with Mother Nature, doing errands, and fun, like movies, massage, and music.

Opportunities for socializing will no doubt disrupt that schedule from time to time!

When I shared thoughts along those lines on Facebook, a few friends expressed concern that I might push myself too hard. But my life is precious and I want to use it fully to do all I can to relieve suffering, in the manner that calls me. Earlier in my life, I indulged fully in carnal pleasures and feel no guilt about it. But now I aim for more self-discipline and productivity.

If I enjoy my work and it does not harm me, then maybe I am not a workaholic. I’m just pursuing a different form of pleasure!

In the meantime, I’ll seek new platforms where I can share my writing. Michael Lerner recently accepted for the Tikkun magazine an essay I submitted to him, which is encouraging, but I’ve decided to submit it to Tikkun Daily instead. Many thanks to Dan for the suggestion and thanks to Dan, Mike, Sandi, and Mary for help with rewriting the essay.

My next goal is to sum up my current thinking concerning personal, social, and political change in a manner that is both as brief as possible and substantial. For more than ten years, I’ve been exploring “how the progressive movement might be more effective” by using a holistic strategy. I’ve participated in numerous workshops related  to that theme convened by others and initiated several myself. I’ve circulated SurveyMonkey questionnaires, interviewed my taxi passengers, posted many articles, and published a few booklets and two full-length books, Global Transformation: Strategy for Action (2007) and My Search for Deep Community (2014).

In the former, I argued for a “holistic strategy” that nurtures communities that integrate “self-improvement, community service, and political action.” In the latter, I wrote:

The “deep community” I’m looking for would help its members remove their masks, go down to the ground of their being, feel connected with all humanity and Life itself, tap their profound reservoir of compassion, truly love themselves as they love others, consciously help one another become more fully who they really are, do what they can to correct the root causes of needless suffering (including destructive national policies), and help turn our nation into a caring community dedicated to the common good.

Now I’d like to stand up in front of as large a crowd as possible, verbally make my case for what I believe, invite a panel of prominent people (who would help attract participants) to offer their feedback, and ask the audience to form small groups to formulate agreed-on written feedback. Lord knows I don’t have all the answers. But I may die soon, so I want to share my thinking as well and fully as I can before I do.

In the meantime, beginning with their July 23 Summer Picnic, I still look forward to getting more engaged with Thrive East Bay, which seems to be the kind of holistic community I’ve been seeking,.

Retirement suits me quite nicely.

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