Life is stunningly simple. But you keep making it complicated by asking yourself questions about how to live it. Your challenge is in the question itself: it’s utter nonsense. There is no correct way to live life. You don’t have to figure out the right religion, you don’t have to be forgiven for anything, you don’t need to achieve anything, or be regarded in any way for your life to be successful. Success is existence itself. It’s an amazing opportunity. The question is, why are you wasting it by sitting fearfully still, asking yourself unanswerable questions?
Do you want to know the difference between Enlightenment and Ego? Life is like you’re in a big glass room that looks out onto other glass rooms. In the middle of every room is a big white cylindrical canvas, and a huge collection of brushes and paints to choose from. Enlightenment is when you delight yourself by the act of painting. Maybe you don’t even stick to the canvas. Maybe you paint the glass walls too. Maybe you paint “frames” on the glass to honour people in adjacent glass rooms. Or maybe you paint over top of them and block them out completely. It doesn’t really matter to the Enlightened person. What they’re painting isn’t what’s important—it’s that they’re painting.
An Ego on the other hand is always at the window, studying what paints other egos got, and studying the paintings they do with those colours. If other people are using green, or rectangles, then the Ego thinks it should too. If someone else paints over one of their shared walls, the Ego will think that has something to do with their side of the wall and it will pointlessly rub their side of the glass to remove it.
An Ego also tries to judge the paintings around them. An Ego tries to have a “better” painting, even though they have no way of ascertaining what “better” would mean. As it is, because the canvases are cylindrical, everyone gets a slightly different view of each other’s life-work, so there is no objective way to judge anyway. Despite those facts the Ego gets very little painting done while they’re in the room of life because they’re either too busy judging other people’s paintings, or they’re too busy worrying about other people’s judgments about their own painting.
Do you want to compare yourself to others by complaining about, or being victimized by the colours others got that you didn’t? Or do you want to take the amazing collection of colours you do have available and then paint with those? Do you want to die with a blank canvas because you were pressed up against the glass; worried, frustrated, angry and sad about the abilities you saw around you? Or do you want to paint?
Remember, there is no “show” at the end. There is no judging. No one will win. The people looking in the windows and judging are just other Egos. What they think in their rooms is meaningless. What counts is what you do in the space of your own consciousness. Because that is where you can turn your life into a work of art.
It really is that simple. Just paint.
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.