I don’t know if you’ve all ever seen the show Parks and Recreation, but it’s probably one of my favourite shows on TV. It’s about the local government’s Parks and Recreation section of the small town of Pawnee in Indiana, done in the style of a mock documentary, ala The Office.
Ron Swanson is the parks department director, and is a very outspoken libertarian who believes the current government serves absolutely no purpose, and feels all government offices shouldn’t exist(in favour of small government). Despite being an extremely hard worker with incredible ethic, he does the least possible he can at his job, letting the others in his office do a majority of the work. On top of this, he’s a burly, mustachioed manly man who regularly consumes multiple steaks’ in a single sitting while drinking scotch and smoking cigars, ultimately displaying a no nonsense attitude, with little tolerance for ideas outside his normal realm of hunting, eating meat, and his deadpan observations(in the picture to the right, he’s eating a turkey leg wrapped in bacon, dubbed ‘The Swanson’). He’s become a runaway hit with fans of the show, and if you’ve ever seen it, you will immediately know why; he’s just goddamn funny.
So on Thursday night, the show came back on after a brief hiatus, and had one of my favourite plot points in the whole show. One of the characters, Chris Trager(played by Rob Lowe) asked Ron if he would join him on a visit to a local meditation center to “focus on his breathing and open his heart chakra,” which, if you may have guessed, sounded anything but exciting to Ron. He reluctantly agreed to go(the other character was HIS boss afterall), even after asking another co-worker if she had ever tried meditation with Chris, who also told him it was boring.
So, upon arriving at the meditation center, Chris takes a seat, while Ron chooses to stand, thinking the whole concept is a little stupid and goofy. The camera shows a final shot of Ron, staring off into space, before cutting away.
The show attends to other plot points, and eventually comes back to our meditating duo. Ron is looking a little skeptical if not rejuvenated, and confides in the camera man(remember the mockumentary style of the show),
All told we were in there about 6 hours, and no, I was not meditating. I just stood there, quietly breathing. There were no thoughts in my head whatsoever. My mind was blank. I don’t know what the hell these other crack pots are doing.
This is fantastic in itself, but there’s more; Chris asks Ron how he was able to reach such a mindful place, saying,
It takes a ton of work for me to get to that kind of a clear headspace no matter how hard I try.
To which Ron simply replies,
Don’t try so hard.
If you’ve ever read my blog, you will know how much I advocate this advice. Not only did Ron go in with almost no preconceived notions of it, he also didn’t get himself all fumbled and fooled by trying to do any specific task while he was there. He epitomized the Taoist principle ‘wu-wei-wu’ or actionless action.
If all that isn’t enough, guru Ron Swanson has some more lessons to be gleaned. When Chris later on learns he may be losing his job due to extenuating circumstances, he turns to Ron, the only person available to confide in at the moment. Ron tells him to look at the upside of losing his job(“You would no longer be a government parasite sucking the lifeblood from honest, hardworking people. Instead, you’d contribute to society, like a man.”) and says it’s time for Chris to practice HIS form of meditation, pulling out an expensive, fancy bottle of Whiskey.
I think we all have a great deal to learn from Ron Swanson(Well, if you don’t share his views on the Government, then maybe only 3 things):
He agrees to an activity he had no interest in.
We should strive to do things outside of our own comfort zone. Imagine if you were allowed the ability to ONLY do the things you wanted to do; as great as this may seem, it would be ultimately awful. If you were given this ability at 6, your life would be nothing but candy and toys and playing outside(actually, this doesn’t sound so bad…), all your life. If you were given this ability at 12, if would be more candy, video games, and water guns. If you had this ability at 16, your life might be nothing but being able to drive your own car, R-rated movies, and possibly cigarettes and alcohol.
But the important things in our lives often blindside us, and come in without any invitation, without any planning, and we just happen to understand how much we love them. Remember, a mistake is only what happens when we get a result other than what our preconceived notions of a good outcome should be. Chances are, if you have a significant other, or best friend, or even a parent(I know you all have one of those), you didn’t get it from planning, spending nights awake getting the perfect routine down to perform to conjure it. It happened by itself, with or without your help. This is what makes the world go round. Do not get stuck in your own small model of the world, and get outside your comfort zone.
He still gained something from it, and reacted without expectation as to what he was ‘supposed to do’ in the given situation.
Pour yourself into everything you do, no matter what it is, even if you might not be doing it right(but abstain at the risk of injury, bodily harm, or bad habits). What I like most about this is that Ron wasn’t stuck in the roles assigned, and didn’t feel the need to blindly adhere to something(even if it was just sitting). Too often our sense of tradition is molded into something only done for the sake of tradition, and we lose sight of WHY we were doing it in the first place(like meditation. No one HAS to sit to meditate).
He then shares his own method that he has found that he knows works to put him into a meditative mindset.
We all have something that gets us there. Whether it’s Asana Yoga, breathing meditation, reading books(spiritual or otherwise), playing music or just exercising, we all have something that breaks us through the barriers that keeps us from realizing who we really are. No matter what your method, you should embrace the process, and relish in the awareness it provides. No matter who you are, there IS a process. It may not be the best process, but it should be the process you use before you get to the process that uses you.
Well there you have it. Sometimes the most unlikely sources are pools of wisdom and ‘grist for the mill.’ If you’re looking hard enough, inspiration is everywhere.