My empty bucket

A blog by Adam Morris

Urban legend of the Eskimos

snowflake

There is an old urban legend that Eskimos have an extrordinarily large vocabulary for types of snow. Apparently the myth is usually blown out of proportion, but in its essence there is some truth: The more important a particular subject is to us, the richer our vocabulary will become to describe it.

For example, my flatmate, Viktor Bijelovic is a classical pianist. With my delicate ears, I can distinguish “soft” and “loud”, and can describe music as “yup, sounds good” and “uhhhh…”. (Okay, so I am exaggerating.) Viktor, on the other is able to critique the music he plays and listens to on a much finer level.

It is not just that he has a richer vocabulary, but he has significantly more experience observing music and paying attention to it. From his experiences he has learned to notice differences that I simply have not yet learned exist. By paying more attention to what we are experiencing in the present moment, we open ourselves up to understanding our reality at a deeper level.

Illusionary world

Did you know that your eye is constantly processing what you see? What you think you see has already changed from what light has actually reached your eye. Here is an image I was sent in an e-mail a long time ago that demonstrates this:

  • If your eyes follow the movement of the rotating pink dot, you will only see one color, pink.
  • If you stare at the black + in the center, the moving dot turns to green.
  • Now, concentrate on the black + in the center of the picture. After a short period of time, all the pink dots will slowly disappear, and you will only see a green dot rotating.

pink dot

It’s amazing how our brain works. There really is no green dot, and the pink ones really don’t disappear. This should be proof enough that we don’t always see what we think we see.

Learning to see

contour

Much of learning to draw is about learning to see. One of the first things I learned when I started to draw with pencil were contour drawings. In a contour drawing, you take a large pad of paper, put your pencil down on the paper, and trace a complex object without looking at the paper. You trace the object with your eyes, and refrain from looking at your drawing until you are done. The purpose is not to create good art, but to train yourself to look at the fine details of what you are drawing, instead of the drawing itself.

It is important to remember that what we think we see is colored by our beliefs about how the world is. More often than not we are seeing from our memories of how we have experienced the world, not how the world is right now.

Joy of being

sun

The joy of being arises in this present moment when you realize that everything you are experiencing is perfect. Nothing needs to change – the joy is in appreciation of what is. It doesn’t mean you don’t act, rather when you do act it is more of a dance with what is, rather than craving to get somewhere or something new. This dance is your true self. How do you know if you are acting from your true self? Eckhart Tolle explains:

The main trap to avoid is to confuse content and essence. The ancient dictum “know thyself” points towards essence, your true identity. Your name, nationality, religion, your opinions, political views, material possessions, likes and dislikes, desires, fears, ambitions, as well as your view of yourself as a success or failure, good or bad – in fact your entire personal history and your thought processes… all that is content. All content is subject to the law of impermanence (as the Buddha already discovered 2600 years ago), and if you try to discover who you are within the dimension of content, you will encounter frustration again and again. Or, as the Buddha put it, you will suffer. You suffer because you derive your sense of identity exclusively from the content of your life. Another word for content is form. That is what the ego is: identification with form. When you stop identifying with form, the ego is no longer in control. So, first realize who you are not (form) and what’s left is who you are. But then there is nothing left, you might say, but this is not so. What’s left is not form, but essence, which we could also call inner space. The space out of which all forms come and into which they disappear. The ancient Chinese philosophers called it the Tao. It is beyond time. It is the eternal, the primordial I am.

Joy of growing

books

The joy of growing comes out of the thrill and satisfaction of evolving into something greater. If this is a natural joy, then why do we resist change?

Living within our comfort zone is easy. The world around us stays congruent with our beliefs, and we know how to act throughout the day. The only problem is that we are constantly changing. Somewhere I read that every seven years all the cells in our body are different. My body is completely different from the one I had 7 years ago… imagine that! Constant change opens the possibility to grow in new directions.

Joy of creating

art brush

You are a creature that likes to create. One trip to the mall, and the obsession in our society is crystal clear.

But you create much more than just objects. You create your belief systems and how you think of the world around you. Together with your neighbors, you create cultures and communities, which leads into creating concepts like governments, money, and other really abstract ideas. Then someone builds a university to hand down these abstract ideas and ways of thinking. You can even create a life lie.

So doesn’t all this creating make us more miserable? No. I believe that when we are creative, we are open to the possibilities of the universe, thus letting go of worries and attempts to protect ourselves. The worrying sets in once we have stopped creating… out of fear of what we will lose. You can’t lose anything when you’re being creative – that’s the magic of it. As Ben Zander states in his book, The Art of Possibility:

A universe of possibility creates a generative and giving state that produces new life, creates new ideas and contributions where the emotions of joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion and compassion are abundant. We can use language to create categories of meaning that open up new worlds to explore.

Joy of giving

gift

Everything we do is ultimately selfish – we always act in our own best perceived interest. This sounds bad, but hey, it’s true, isn’t it? And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Eckhart Tolle refers to assisting others as “enlightened selfishness” – when we help others in return for the good feelings that arise.

There is a certain power behind giving, volunteering, helping and mentoring. In the world we live in, we are surrounded by messages that we need to consume to be happy. We are constantly living in lack, trying to get the next best thing. When we give, we are turn this around – to have something to give implies abundance and completeness. It breaks the silly consumer-craving cycle the advertising world perpetuates around us.

I used to volunteer profusely in college – in addition to making me feel good and stroking my ego, it also put things in perspective. It made my problems seem insignificant, and it helped me to let go of a lot of the problems I was holding on to.

Pillars of joy

joy

Prof. Srikumar Rao describes happiness as the joy you feel when you’re watching a sunset. He says, there is nothing you need to change with sunset, and nothing you need to do to obtain the happiness from it. The happiness arises within you in admiration of the moment. This is the joy of being.

Recently, I was journaling and it occurred to me that there are three other pillars where joy naturally arises:

  • the joy of giving
  • the joy of creating
  • the joy of growing

I think these sources of joy are what lead to happy and meaningful lives.

Turbulent thinking

art

When I think of creativity, brainstorming pops out as a natural easy activity. All you need to do is:

  • defer judgment while generating ideas
  • generate as many ideas as possible
  • record ideas as they occur
  • elaborate or improve upon these ideas

In other words, splatter as many off-the-wall ideas as possible up onto a white board without thinking twice about them. To further amplify your success, you can apply the SCAMPER technique:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Magnify & modify
  • Put to other uses
  • Eliminate
  • Rearrange & reverse

And when it’s all said and done, you can create a nice pretty bubble chart for everyone to see.

It almost sounds complicated.

Twisted networks

my brain

I always thought the neural networks in my brain were a bit messed up… nothing seems to connect properly. Apparently this is a good thing when it comes to creativity. One of the best ways to improve your creativity is to increase the random associations in your brain. Finally, the entangled mess in my head is worth something!

You too can be messed up like me with just ten steps for boosting your creativity.

I like the last step:

Exercise your brain. Brains, like bodies, need exercise to keep fit. If you don’t exercise your brain, it will get flabby and useless. Exercise your brain by reading a lot (see above), talking to clever people and disagreeing with people – arguing can be a terrific way to give your brain cells a workout. But note, arguing about politics or film directors is good for you; bickering over who should clean the dishes is not.

Although I guess that means I’m stuck doing the dishes.