The illusion of Time

“We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infintesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future.

We have no present.

Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience.

We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is.

We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.”
Alan W. Watts

What is “REST” really all about and a new survey that will help define it

“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it.”  ― Ray Bradbury

Driving home after an evening spent at a group mindfulness meeting, I was listening to the radio and picked up a programme all about “Rest”. Rest you ask? It would appear that there is no clear definition of what rest is and how people define it is unique to each person.

What do I think rest is?  Being able to relax and not worry about other things? Is that it?

I think rest can be anything from stopping entirely to doing something, to do something completely different from you’ve been doing already. Rest is not just a physical thing, it is not just an absence of activity. For me it is taking time out for myself, giving myself space to re-centre and renew myself. Mindfulness helps, as does going for a walk or listening to a podcast or even reading a book. You might think these are activities, but to me they are restful.

The interview was with Dr Felicity Callard from Durham University. She is the Director of Hubbub, a group of people who come from disciplines as diverse as neuroscience, poetry and art. They are in residence at the Wellcome Collection in London, studying the topic of rest and what happens when we rest from relaxation to mind-wandering.  And it turns out that not quite being able to define it is nothing new. They discussed right the way back to medieval monks and the challenge they faced in terms of trying to stop their minds wandering off onto things they shouldn’t be thinking about.

The concept of rest in society sometimes carries connotations of idleness and a person who is idle is viewed very pejoratively by the rest of society. It is rare that being idle is seen as a good thing in western culture, certainly with the protestant work ethic. In fact, being seen as super busy is seen as macho and a positive.

They then posed the following question: “What does rest mean to you?”

They then followed up with the fact that as part of the Wellcome programme, they have set up an online survey that you can take for free.

What is the Rest Test about and what does it involve?

The Rest Test is designed to explore people’s attitudes and opinions towards rest and rest-related experiences. It is made up of two parts. When you have completed the test you’ll be given an instant summary of the results from the first part of survey, which will allow you to see how your responses compare to those who have taken the questionnaire so far.

To take the test, like I did, go to the following:

To listen the Radio 4 programme – All in the Mind – The Rest Test
I leave you with the following quote from my favorite philosopher, writer and speaker :

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

Alan W. Watts, The Culture of Counter-Culture: Edited Transcripts

Play and why it is so important to help Depression, Work and Relationships

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” Alan W. Watts

This is the second half of my article on the recent book I read: Play: How it shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul,written by Doctor Stuart Brown

There are two further parts of the book that touched me deeply, they concerned what is non-play and its link to depression and play and relationships. The first subject I’d like to share concerns “The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression. If you check out the definition of depression:

Definition: Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn’t worth living. More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply “snap out” of.

You begin to realise that play is as fundamental to happiness in life as almost anything else. Play, by its very nature is joyful, fun, generally shared with others and requires interest in the activity taking place. Almost the 180 degree opposite from depression.

Where does work come into this, you might ask? After all, as adults over a third of our adult lives are spent at work of some sort.

There is a connection between work and play. Both require one key element to be present to be successful. Creativity. According to Dr Brown “Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties….. When we play, dilemmas and challenges will naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out….and play at work is essential

Where companies are beginning to realise the power of play is that play is so closely connected to innovation. The speed of change and innovation in today’s business is astounding. Companies are constantly looking at new creative innovations and play is the key to innovation. As an experiment, try the following:

Try sitting in a room with a bunch of people – all silently trying to come up with a slogan for a household product. It can be any product you like. The task is to get people to sit, think, imagine and craft a slogan to sell the product. Most people will find this a complete slog, a drag, depressing even. However, get them to build a storyboard together, using cartoons, shapes, objects or even role-playing and the number of ideas, wacky slogans and group consensus on the best one will quickly emerge. And the task was made easier through play.

The final section of the book concerned relationships and play. Ok, smutty thoughts out of the way for a moment please. Without the various forms of social play, we as adults would find it very difficult to live together. As Dr Brown states… “…. play is the most important element in love” and I agree with him. Successful, long-term, mutually-agreeable, relationships are based on a number of factors:- trust, respect, interest in each other, genuine attachment, and I would say, a degree of fun and play.

In summary if you want to really understand the benefits of play; to you; to your children growing up; at work; in your social life; and in your relationships, or as the title says itself “invigorates the Soul”, then think about and encourage play in all aspects of your life.

I leave you with this thought.

“Laughter is the sound of the soul dancing. My soul probably looks like Fred Astaire.” Jarod Kintz

What does your soul look like today?

Alan Watts

Hi there,

Apologies, but I have been working on my own self development journey recently and completely forgot that somewhere, out there, there might be a person who reads my blog.

Anyway, after 2 days spent in London at a Regional meeting for the company I work for, I’ve returned home and caught up on both work and life e:mails. My Brother, Julian shared a post and I followed up on the video clip from Alan Watts.

What a powerful mind and so in touch with himself and also what are the key themes for today – even though he talked about them in the 1970’s…… My favorite quote is:

I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.