Thursday, June 19, 2014

Time to Kill: by Cazzie Olko

Hey friends, I wanted to post a paper written by my younger brother, Cazzie Olko this spring, right before graduating his senior year of high school.  He has always been thought of as my "baby" brother.  He was born when I was twelve years old.  He is and has been not such a baby anymore.  Not only is he much taller than me but I look up to him in so many ways.  The paper he wrote below brought tears to my eyes and has inspired me in so many ways to the importance of taking time each day to just breathe, and to be in the moment, and to focus on this moment only and not the past or the future.  All we have is right now.  Thank you brother for your wisdom, strength and courage.  I am grateful to have you in my life.  ** If you are new here, welcome! If you want to start at the beginning feel free : The Journey: The Beginning, if you don't thats cool too, no worries. Read if you like, close if you don't like! I love you all!

Time to Kill
written by Cazzie Olko
On the first night of the Environmental Stats trip to West Virginia we had the opportunity to do a solo in the woods. It wasn’t so much an opportunity but more of “your getting thrown into the woods at dusk with a journal, so sit and write.” On the bus ride up I was very hesitant.  I have a large imagination that gets frightened very easily, and I greatly dislike being alone. It was dusk when we left the parking lot and began to hike the trail. Mr. Johnson and Mr. O’Donnell dispersed us throughout the woods to sit by ourselves for an hour.  I sat down onto a bed of moss, but that was uncomfortable so I got up and moved to a new spot that gave me a tree to lean up against.  My first thoughts were filled with marshmallows and escape plans.  My second thoughts were about the crazy West Virginian moonshiners that were going to kidnap, maim, and leave me for the bears. Eventually I realized that this probably wasn’t going to happen, and I began to settle into the night.
As the daylight dwindled, the environment flooded my senses. The moss felt like a soft bed, the air smelled like an ancient wooded forest, and the quiet rustle of night animals quickly came alive. The woods contained a mystical air, and I suddenly became aware of the timelessness of the area. I stopped writing and began to think deeply about all aspects of my existence. Why am I living? What is my future?, How will I die?  All those deep, unanswerable questions. The solo turned from a dreaded experience into a cherished moment.
When I look back onto my senior year, there have been a couple of similar meditative interludes. This past February I had a gig in Richmond and ended up driving there all alone.  As I drove I began to enjoy this downtime for myself. I was able to listen to an entire Sly and Family Stone album and think about college, career, getting married, friends, and family. This drive led me to think about questions that I for so long had put off.  Another interlude was when I attempted to do my AP Euro homework on a beautiful Saturday. I started to become so fed-up and frustrated; the French revolution seemed so pointless and was holding me back from exploring something that really interested me. So I put it down, grabbed my guitar, and went out on my porch and played, “Just Another Day the Lord Has Sent Me” by Sam Cooke. It quickly morphed into a long -winded jam with the music and outside energy leading the way.  These three interludes brought me to the realization that if we make time for quiet meditation filled with openness, we would realize that it wasn’t wasted time but a time to delve deep into our personal being and help enrich ourselves.
Spending time by oneself is common throughout many different religions. In Judaism there are instances of the prophets like Moses going off to be alone in the presence of God.  The Buddha was awakened through meditation under a tree. Daoist hermits live to very old ages because of meditation and the search for the “way." These three religions, Judaism, Buddhism and Taoism are fundamentally different, but they all advocate the importance of meditative prayer. In the gospels Jesus was driven alone into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit for 40 days and nights and was tempted by the Devil. He took a retreat, a retreat away from his disciples, away from food, and away from any worldly connection. Jesus could have spent these days preaching the good news, but he knew he needed to face the Devil because it strengthened his teachings and finalized his mission on the earth. But obviously none of us are Jesus or Buddha so how exactly are we supposed to find time to meditate?
I know in my life I am very busy.  On one regular day I go to school, have some after-school activity, then have to go home and do my homework. In this schedule there is not a lot of time to try and be Jesus or Buddha. Over the last year, however, I found ways to integrate meditative time into my life. One way is a weekly yoga class that forced me to meditate because that’s what Yoga is. As the Bhagavad Gita says “abiding joy comes to those who still the mind.” Secondly, I found that sometimes it does me better to not overload on the homework night after night. Instead I use my time practicing an instrument, doing yoga, or just sitting in my woods watching the sun go down. Now I am not encouraging you to not do homework because obviously it is a crucial part of getting an education. I am more telling you to realize that it will do you more good, when getting overwhelmed with work, to put it away for awhile and refresh yourself spending time meditating. The work will get done eventually. The last piece of advice I have to offer is that there are a countless number of weekends and not everyone has to be spent going out with friends.  It gets tiring. This year, some Friday or Saturday nights, I would just chill out and have a night for myself. I found time to waste and grasped onto the opportunity and I deeply encourage everyone to do the same.
Now maybe you are seeing this sermon as a defense of senioritis, but I see it more as showing that wasted time can actually be time well spent. Yes, maybe I didn’t excel at homework this year, but I did manage to become more confident in myself. I took time to clear my mind of stress and figure out whom I am.  To the 8th graders entering high school: don’t enter high school already stressed about college and homework.  Instead think of high school as a way find out who you really are. To the seniors: College is going to be full of struggles and stress but don’t let that rule our lives. Instead take time for yourself to meditate in anyway that fits you. If that means hiking, running, sitting still, or working out, so be it. Just take these meditative interludes and cherish them. Let your mind be free of any worries. Delve deep into your being and ask the unanswerable questions, and I promise that you will come out refreshed and ready to live out the rest of your life.

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