As we go about our busy little lives, entrenched in our habits and routines and perhaps feeling not as happy and fulfilled as we want to be feeling, what small changes can we be making to start enriching, enhancing and improving our experience of this life? How can we move onward and outward if we are feeling stuck? How can we get living the life we’re imagining?
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”
~ Albert Einstein.
This brilliant quote credited to Albert Einstein is often used when commenting about foolish or unsuccessful behaviour in situations where we seem stuck in doing or thinking a certain way. Frustration abounds when the results we continue to get are not the results we are wanting. But then how can they be any different when we continue choosing the same behaviour, the same thinking, the same path?
Is it an existential thing? Do no other choices or options exist in The Universe? Perhaps it is a creative talent thing then, like painting or photography? Do we simply lack the creativity to create other choices or options? Or are we so stuck in the thinking and doing of our life as we know it (the way we have always done it) that we are out of practice in the imagining of other choices and options for ourselves? Sadly, it may even be something even more fundamentally critical to our happiness than remembering how to imagine – Could it be that we no longer expect different results for ourselves and the future?
How can a beef cattle stock camp help?
When I was camp cooking on beef cattle stations in the Gulf of Carpentaria, we’d move our camp during the Winter-long muster four or five times to limit the commute of the stockmen and women to and from the unworked paddocks and stock. On a property that is over a million hectares in size, this is a sensible thing to do.
Shortly after daybreak we would finish packing up the old camp, drive to an area central to the new, unworked paddocks and choose a suitable location; usually somewhere nice and flat and next to a creek or turkey’s nest (dam) for a ready supply of non-drinking water. One of the handier fellows would be left with me to do the heavy lifting and off everyone else would go to work the new paddocks and cattle.
You have seen the site of our new home before, it looks just like any patch of uncleared bush in Australia or anywhere else in the world for that matter; long grass with a small open area amongst shady trees. It was overwhelming every single time I saw the stockmen and women drive away and I was basically alone, in the middle of nowhere with the responsibility of laying out the camp, setting up a laundry (half a 44 gallon drum by the water pump), shower (wooden pallet surrounded by corrugated iron and/or tarpaulin), the kitchen (two tables, some animal resistant containers, generator powered chest freezer) and my own tent, all the while knowing dinner still had to be ready by 7pm that night.
The thing that always struck me about this change, this newness, this challenge was that it never ever took long for paths through the long grass to appear and eventually, for the entire camp area to be flattened and cleared of grass, stray timber or other forest litter that could cause you to trip or kick your toe on a midnight mission to pee. And our neurology works the same.
Setting our Neurological Pathways
Just as our journeys around our stock camp to the kitchen, vehicles, shower, laundry, water pump and sleeping areas were first beaten down and then became clearly marked paths through the tall grass, so it is for our neurons (specialised cells transmitting nerve impulses) as they journey around our bodies on the paths that are our nerves.
The more we think and do in the same way, the more beaten down and more clearly defined the pathways to and from the brain become. Which of course, makes these paths easier to travel, so much so that by practicing something over and over again, it becomes like second nature to us, unthinking, habitual – all because with practice, our neurological pathways have been set. Is ‘solidified’ too strong a word for you at this point?
And concrete is
As concrete doesn’t.
~ From Solidify by Sheryl Crow.
Is walking the well-beaten path all it’s cracked up to be?
I have started this paragraph several times, saying that solidifying our neural pathways in certain contexts could of course be helpful. You know? So that we didn’t have to face the challenges inherent with something new each and every time we washed the car or mowed the lawn or applied mascara. I do agree with my initial thought, but I disagree more.
While I do enjoy and want to continue to enjoy a degree of automation with my body, its thoughts and actions. I do definitely want to remain fluid, dynamic and flexible – even with the things for which I want automation. I never want to accept that “this is how it is” and especially never because “this is how it has always been”. Do you?
Just because I think it, doesn’t mean I believe it.
So I brush my teeth with my left hand a couple of days a week. I walk a different way home from the market each time I go. I change the side I part my hair on. I choose a different path to run in the morning. Sometimes I jump over the railings of the pier and sometimes I go under. All because I want to grow my neurology. I want to create and define all kinds of paths in the tall grass of my mind and body.
We only fear what we do not understand. And so to push out into our world, extend ourselves in all sorts of small ways every day, helps grow our neurology, helps us feel like we can create new choices and options for ourselves, that there are different results to be had – even if we do not have a clear picture of these results right now, wouldn’t it be so nice to be surprised by them when they turn up? How could we feel ‘stuck’ in this excited anticipation of limitless possibilities?