It doesn’t matter the time of day; the view from Bright Angel point on the Grand Canyon’s north rim is breathtaking. From rust, to red, to pink and metallic green, the weathered rock presents history itself at the boundary of each color. Millions of years laid bare for the eye to see, for the mind to imagine, the timelessness of the earth. The insignificance and interconnectedness of a single person is instantly apparent.
I’ve had this same experience walking the streets of New York among the massive buildings and crowded streets. The insane energy of that place, always in motion, penetrates my psyche. In both places I am awake and connected. I hear everything clearly. My eyes are open and receiving. Most importantly, my mind is quiet.
That is what inspiration is. It is simultaneous connection from deep within our selves to the world that makes us awake and aware. When we are inspired, we are present and invested this moment, the only place we actually live. This connection shuts down the nearly non-stop self talk we engage in. It opens us up to messages from our environment and the thoughts of others. That is why inspiration is so important, because it gives us a way to get outside of our own boundaries, if only for an instant.
The world we live in is noisy. Everyday, each of us sees over 35,000 branded messages. Everything has a logo or a brand name or some ‘hook’ that we’re supposed to remember in a world full of them. Our entertainments are insistent. Our jobs are demanding with most of us mimicking machines as we chop our consciousness in small time slices in the vain hope of multitasking. Between our jobs and or lives we go, ear buds implanted, listing to music, or talk radio or talking on the phone. Realization may happen in this much hustle, inspiration never will.
Inspiration requires the receiver to make the first move. As many sources of input must be shutdown as possible. Once this is done, the mind must be quieted. It must be still. There is also a very tricky kind of focus required where you are not really thinking about anything. It is at that time you are open for everything. None of this is easy in a time and society that places emphasis on action and motion.
It seems to me there are three ways to get at this state: First is to be in a place that takes you outside yourself, obviously, Manhattan and the Grand Canyon can do this for me. The second is to retreat into your self through meditation. The third is to alter your mind.
Let’s deal with the last one first. A lot of people have done amazing things under the influence. Hemmingway had alcohol. Lewis Carroll and Kurt Cobain used opium. Mind altering substances can open doors. They nearly always exact a heavy price mentally and physically. Addiction and tolerance can slam those same doors of perception shut as well.
The first path discussed, getting outside your self by being in a special place, can also be difficult. Being in Manhattan, for example, isn’t always inspirational to me. When it’s a 100 degrees and 90 percent humidity on a sidewalk wall to wall with people, I’m not feeling all that moved. If I’m at Bright Angel point and I’m beset by a wave of loud talking fellow tourists it can wreck that scene for me. Being in a specific setting can easily affected by things you can’t control.
This leaves meditation, getting outside of your self by going into your self. If you’re patient, it can be an amazing resource. There are no drugs or travel required and you always have everything you need right with you.
There are many ways you can learn to meditate, but it will all boil down to what you are about to read. It isn’t any harder or easier than this, in fact, if you don’t think of it in terms of difficulty, you’ll be way ahead. The steps below are not progressive but are to be done as you think you can incorporate them.
Step 1: Set a timer for fifteen minutes. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and don’t move until the time is done. That is all you should do until you are comfortable doing it. Give yourself at least one day in between each attempt because this a lot harder to do than it sounds when you’re first starting.
Step 2: Focus on relaxing into the chair. Sense your body getting heavier and settling heavily into the chair so that it is supporting your whole weight. When you get good at this, you’ll actually go to sleep for very brief periods, awaking to feel very refreshed.
Step 3: Start quieting your mind. Imagine that your thoughts are represented by radios on a table before you. Imagine yourself turning those radios off, one by one, until they are silent. Replace your thought by focusing on a single sound, or, by not focusing on any sound but trying to hear all the sound at the same time. I know this sounds weird, but once you’ve done it, you will know exactly what I mean.
Once I focused on the sound of a jet flying over. I stayed focused on this sound for very long time, hearing it clearly through the sounds of the neighborhood until it merged with the sound of my own heartbeat. There aren’t words to describe how cool this experience was.
Step 4: I will predict several months will have passed until you get to this point, but if you get this far, you will own this skill. You now will have a visualization machine. The simplest way to use it is to write down the problem you want to solve or question you want answered on a pad of paper about a half hour before meditating. The frame that question or problem briefly in your mind and let it go just before you relax. Meditate. Upon coming back to the world, write down exactly what you think, even if it seems unrelated. Then resume your normal activities.
About two thirds of the time, you’ll have ideas that you’ll be able to use right then and there. This is not unlike what Thomas Edison used to do when he napped with a key in hand. When he relaxed, the key would clatter to the floor, waking him. He would sit up and write down what he was thinking. He used this method extensively to solve problems that were frustrating him or to come up with new ideas.
Only by standing outside the everyday can we find inspiration. If we are to seek it, we must create our own doorway out of the distractions of our lives. The peace we need is with us all the time. Bright Angel point is as close as the nearest comfortable chair.