I’ve lead an extremely fortunate life. Because of the accident I had when I was young I had the chance to learn that life in and of itself has tremendous value. And because that brain injury caused kids to relentlessly tease me in grade one, I gave up caring what other people thought of me very early on. I noticed that their opinions weren’t influenced much by my actions, so it was exposed as being largely pointless to try to change someone else’s mind.
That meant that I wasn’t spending much time contemplating the views others had of me, I was more interested in the world. After my accident, my experience in the hospital taught me that all any human being truly wanted was more contentment and joy, and less pain and suffering. Because of that lesson, I didn’t spend my life pursuing anything but happiness.
Because I wasn’t motivated to try to do things to change others views of me all that often (I certainly did sometimes), I primarily focused on the interests that generated happiness the most easily. My friends would tell you I’m perpetually fascinated. I can tell you weird facts about all kinds of strange things. I’m not into this or that. I’m into everything.
Unbeknowst to me, it was a very healthy thing to focus on things outside myself rather than wondering what others were thinking about me. It’s why I enjoyed my own life so much. There wasn’t much critical self-talk based on other people’s views of me. I was mostly in intake mode, absorbing the world around me.
When I did go through the most challenging experiences of my life, I eventually noticed that during those times I did do a lot of thinking about me. I focused on how to make me better, which I didn’t immediately realize was another way of saying that the way I currently am is somehow wrong. The fact is, no one is wrong about how they are. We are all simply moving through life.
We often have to deal with things before we learn how, so it makes perfect sense that we’ll make lots of choices that lead to all kinds of unpleasant consequences. We’ll even make some with huge and catastrophic effects. That’s a normal life. But when I was in those lower states of consciousness I spent a lot of time thinking about how to avoid consequences for me. There were prices I didn’t want to pay. In short, I started to notice that I always felt worst when I was doing a lot of thinking about I, and I felt better when I was invested in caring for others.
Noticing that, I immediately began becoming super conscious of other people’s needs rather than my own. If I was walking down the street and I was going to cross at a crosswalk, if there was only a few cars coming, rather than impede their progress for a few minutes and cause all of that energy to be wasted stopping and starting the car, I would just act like I wasn’t going to cross so they would just drive by, and then without pressing the button for the light, I would just dart across the crosswalk. Likewise, when I shovel my neighbours walks, I always think about the relief they’ll feel when they realize they don’t have to do it. And because we live what we think, I end up experiencing the same wonderful feelings they will. And that makes the shovelling seem easy, not hard.
The simple fact is, as Baba Ram Das says, “The game is not about becoming somebody; it’s about becoming nobody.” So if you’re busy thinking about others needs, then you aren’t bringing an ego-you into existence with thoughts about it. To the contrary, sharing love expands the love, and so authentic experiences end up being overwhelmingly enriching and beautiful. People will sense that you are truly invested in them and they will open up to you. That feeling of connection is the most beautiful feeling the universe provides. Don’t just leave it unrealized. Plug yourself in through genuine acts of love.
There is no You if you don’t think one into existence. As much as possible, focus on things and people outside of yourself and you will avoid having weak, critical, or otherwise negative thoughts about yourself. If you do that then any work you do will feel wonderful. If you don’t believe me, check out the amazing video below about a man who learned that the more he gives, the more joy he feels.
Check out this CNN Heroes Video:
Go be loving. And do that for your own sake. All you surrender is suffering. But you gain is love.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.