Winner: 2014’s Blog of the Year #6
As we join the rest of the world in traversing the landscape of life, we must remember that our value judgments are ours alone. After all, if you’re going uphill going one way, then everyone travelling the opposite way is going downhill. So can we really then say that going uphill is bad? It’s all relative.
Yes, life will have some very steep and long sections. But these are only made steeper and longer by unproductive thinking. Because in the end, there is no way out but through. No one makes it across the stream of life without stepping in some water. So the question isn’t, how do I avoid all the water?—the question is, do I step in it or do I wallow in it?
Lives go in stages. Sometimes they are easy, sometimes they are challenging. But since all lives share this quality, why rail against the universe when it’s your turn for challenge? Why not just quietly go about your business? Sure, have the occasional frustrated moment. Even cry if it feels good. But don’t battle with your mind against the surface of your life. It’s a crazy notion—to reject The Universe.
I’m aware of a man who leads a very peaceful and enjoyable life and this is remarkable in many ways. Like a mountain climber, he has managed to turn even the steepest slopes into either enjoyment, or into acts that he uses to consciously build his strength.
Ten years ago he was robbed by a family member who was secretly addicted to drugs. They used the love in the relationship to manipulate the money free and when he later cut that supply of money off, the reaction—among other things—was the intentional and very cruel destruction of the man’s entire public identity. The nature of the cruelty lost him his friends, his business was destroyed, and he was pushed into abject poverty. People who failed to find out that what they heard was untrue even threatened to physically attack the man. Today his life is a tiny portion of what it once was, and yet at the heart of it he is happier than he has ever been. How is this so?
If you were to ask him what the worst part of the experience was—the loss of his loved ones, the threats, the resulting poverty, or the sacrifice of a life he loved for one of nothing but hard work—he would tell you the worst part was that someone he loved suffered the pain of addiction. That might seem overly gracious, or maybe even weak or deluded. But then you’re missing the point. It isn’t what you think of that decision that matters. He lives his thoughts about it. And loving, compassionate thoughts feel good to anyone who thinks them.
So could this guy be miserable? It would be easy. Every day he experiences numerous reminders of the untold numbers of sacrifices that he could point to, and all of them lead back to that single source. But if he did that he would be thinking about himself. And then he would be surrendering The Present Moment to instead create alternate pasts, presents or futures in his imagination. And even he will do that for a few minutes here or there. But he stops. Why? Because it’s painful and what is the advantage in it? In the end he must still traverse his life without those loved ones, without those customers, and without that money. Again: why add to that the weight of thinking about it all the time? All that is going to do is generate a bunch of very unpleasant emotions to experience.
It is important to remember that I began by describing the man as having a peaceful and enjoyable life. Many people you walk past are battling cancer, or losing their home, or have a child in trouble that they cannot figure out how to help. There are many invisible ways to carry weight in our society. We cannot see how much someone has slept or eaten when we meet them. We don’t know if they were cold all night, or if they had to deal with personal tragedy even moments before we began dealing with them. So be as patient and as compassionate as possible. And see if you can make someone else’s path through life easier. Because if you’re focused on someone else’s life being improved, you’ll actually improve your own. Because if you’re thinking about them, then you won’t be thinking some suffering ego-you into existence.
There is no such thing as fair. There is no such thing as right. As Shakespeare said, “Nothing is good or bad, only thinking makes it so.” Okay, so thinking can make it bad. But thinking can also make it good. So do like the peaceful man. Do not use your Moments to conjure ugly events in the past or the future. Focus on caring for others in the Now. Because whether it is love, compassion or wealth, if you have enough to give then surely you have more than enough for yourself. And even in the toughest of times, that is something to feel good about.
peace and love s
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.