I had originally just written “why not?” in response to this question, but while I thought it was a brilliant description, I felt it might be a bit ambiguous to you, so I’ll use my most useful experience to illustrate why.
Firstly, can we all see that every question asked here is about the management of our existence? Without realizing it, most people are asking to get our ego from this struggle to that little oasis of peace.
Like a traveller on a trail people’s egos want to know how far the next rest stop is —how long will it take to get there, and what is the most effective and efficient route? We must let go of our attachments, our expectations and our destinations. If we don’t we’re all trapped in a cloud of thought. We’re entrapped by the mere concepts of efficiency and success. We forsake a lot to have those be our focus instead of on the subject of your question.
Due to my accident and the way I’ve grown up, I have spent much of my life quite confused by human beings. With precious few exceptions most people appear to pretty crazy to me, and I’ve been fully aware that many people thought the same of me, for the reverse reason.
I am aware that I look crazy when I sell a successful business at a young age to attempt a long-shot career in an unlikely industry that seems to have no connection to the rest of my life. To many it looks crazy that I take strange trips to unusual places and while I’m there I invest myself in seemingly meaningless activities like asking tribesmen around the world, “How many colours do you have in your rainbow?”
People can see me like a temperamental, oblivious child in that I am mesmerized by what often appears to be nothing, and that I don’t care much about servicing other people’s opinion of me. People particularly dislike that last part, but I faced death at five years old. That’s a lesson. I am here to experience the living of my life, ups and downs included. What others think while they watch me is their experience, not mine.
This way of being may have lead me to be an outsider in a world based on judgment, but most of the people who come to see me to feel better are people who are not enjoying life despite the fact that their external conditions are often much better than mine.
Fortunately, very often we only struggle because we are overly concerned with how others will judge us or about how we are judging ourselves. I just point out to them that they are better than they think.
What good is ego-based success if it’s wrapped in insecurity? If it comes to choosing between insecure, timid and anxious, versus temperamental, highly focused and childlike, many choose the latter and we’re all fine if you do too.
It’s just another way of being. We’re sorry when it’s unpleasant just like we’re sure you are too when you regret your actions. But the insecure group’s desire to be accepted can lead them into everything from drugs to sex to gangs. The second more difficult group may be more challenging at times, but they are also usually the one in eight that turns in sexual predators after learning about them.
We are better to live as actualized, invigorated, original individuals than have everyone be so uncertain of themselves that they are ashamed to be who they are, or to stick up for themselves when it’s warranted.
Even on terrible days we can stay conscious of a bigger picture. We can love even in the face of hate. That’s a kind of freedom. With these words I urge you to awaken to a more logical reality.
This isn’t an offer for a pleasant existence. This is everything. I can show you how to find your own rewards, but many won’t be wrapped in happiness. It’s why our egos have so much trouble finding them. There’s this thing we innocently misunderstand….
There is an answer. Our dreams of something better are founded in a universal truth that is so fundamental to us that even in the darkest, coldest and most judgmental bouts of ego, we can feel there is a way out. Even someone suicidal is just angry they can’t find it.
Pain we must accept. But how long we stay alone is up to us. How long we suffer is our choice.
Think of how amazing it is. The door is always open. We only need to walk through the entrance and our life is transformed. And we can be religious or scientific, everyone fits in.
This doesn’t solve our problems, but they change when we can find a way to ‘join with God,’ or ‘unite with the universe’ in a way that recognizes our many layers of existence, and that recognizes our larger role as only one of infinite currents that flow together to comprise the universe.
We can learn to realize in a meaningful way what any physicist knows –namely that we are made of stardust and the universe is within us. We can learn to feel the stardust from which we are made.
We are never outside of that scientific truth. Yet, if we and everything around us is all made of God-particles, then we are never separate or lost or lacking. We merely use our thinking to tell ourselves stories where our ego feels that way.
But today I am shaking you awake. Today you can stop becoming. Today you have the opportunity to realize that you are already one with everything.
I have lead a privileged life. I awoke to a nurse at five years old as she worriedly clasped the crucifix around her neck and, without knowing it, she set me free: “They said you was dead. Where was you?” That was when I was set on a course that took me away from the rest of you. Because that was a really good question too.
That was when I started to see thoughts as being thought be me, rather than me being those thoughts. It was a childlike view that rejoined me with everything. That is when I reconnected with the truth we all share. Because I knew that I could die, I lived. But because many are afraid of death, they cannot. It is time to stop clinging. It is time to stop holding on to cherished beliefs. It is time to be free.
None of us can cannot see another perspective and so we cannot comprehend other views, other judgments, other ways of shutting out the glory of existence with beliefs. That’s why I lived not knowing for 35 years that others were merely existing in a world of thought. How did that happen?
I remember so clearly in elementary school when a teacher presumed a fear of death in everyone. I liked her, but I remember being startled beyond belief. Was she insane? Why would she say something so ridiculous? A fear of death? Who would waste their glorious time being, to instead tell themselves a story about time, about ending, and about limits? It’s all so incredibly small. We are so much bigger than that.
No matter where or how we have been in our lifetime, we all have been home. I have never been lost and neither have you. There is no outside. There is no separateness. There is only being.
And I realized I lacked a form of experience. By not knowing that others lived so wholly within thought, I did not know the plodding responsibility of managing an existence. That is what too many lives are. The suffering-laden act of managing our existence.
Fortunately, many years ago now, someone did something that impacted my life far more than they could ever have known or likely ever intended. This action was done by a good but struggling person but it was dark and ugly and mean and cruel and it’s entire reason for being at that time was to bring about suffering. And it did.
That said, like a gift in the ugliest wrapping paper ever, it offered me the chance to experience the management of existence first hand. It taught me how to suffer more in the way that egos suffer. It was a temporary theft, and it literally stole my life. It replaced it with existence.
I was suddenly thinking about my life rather than on watching myself think through it. I had gone from being the security guard assigned to my ego, to actually joining it for periods of time.
Like a frog who does not leap from water that is slowly brought to a boil, I lost perspective and my life became a reshuffling of memory and conjecture, rather than a verb. And the responsibilities and the obligations and the requirements of existence temporarily blinded me to the absence of life. I got to experience the ‘treadmill!’
Without knowing it I was experiencing a course in a spiritual university —I was learning how to appreciate who I had been before my accident. And the juxtaposition of life to existence was what brought the former into such clear focus. It gave me stronger contrast.
I don’t want to pretend that I suffered like many of you have —so many lives on this Earth are so much harder than mine. Plus I never lost complete connection with the knowledge that came as a result of trying to answer that nurse’s question when I was five. But I came to know suffering well enough to be much better at showing other people how to escape it.
Life is not a set of events. Life is a flow of experience. Events are placed in time, and they are relative. So when I designed and built the beautiful home I live in, my dear brother questioned my choices. I had painted my walls green. He lovingly tried to talk me out of it.
“You should paint them white,” he said. “It’ll make it easier to sell.” Sell?! I was still awake then, so I knew he was bonkers-crazy. Sell? I hadn’t even moved in yet! Why was I going to make choices for some other person who would own my house in some distant time?
What my brother saw was my financial existence. He saw my house as a financial asset and that has a kind of reality that deserves our attention and respect. But that’s also an abstract thought. It’s worth planning for, but it should never replace our moment to moment awareness that, in day to day living, that financial reality is also our environment.
What good is more value if we sell if we didn’t make the most of living in the home there for all the time we’re there? We can do both. A sale takes a few days and has future ramification. But living in the home can last for 9000 days, and our enjoyment of that has even more of a ramification on our future.
On a day to day living in reality basis, my house isn’t a place with a value. It is and always will be a daily environment that contributes to and influences a flowing movement of my life experience.
It’s important that we see our lives as flows of experiences rather than lists of qualities. Experiences can travel through time and are universal.
Have you heard of the Shackleton whisky? Over 100 years ago Ernest Shackleton embarked on an adventure to reach the South Pole. And among his supplies he carried bottles of scotch.
Not just any scotch. This is the last scotch that was ever bottled before the world was impacted by atomic war. The water and grains in those bottles had never experienced the quiet rain of radioactivity that fell after each of more than 2000 nuclear tests and two offensive attacks.
It had been distilled by a connoisseur who regarded the flavour of good scotch with the reverence of a priest. To some egos such a person can seem crazy, but to someone clear-headed it’s easy to see that it’s an example of a person that has glimpsed the glory of life and they are swept up by their desire to share that experience.
Even as a distiller, they are true artists, and their canvass is our palate. What the bottle’s worth is a separate issue from the reality of drinking it. One is value, the other is experience.
Whether someone designs a car, or points a telescope at the sky, or if they build a computer, or constructs a math formula or a has a revelation about child care or about how to blend whiskey, true artists are always attempting to expose to others the remarkable, amazing truths that inform their actions.
True artists aren’t trying to impress us with their achievements. They don’t care what our egos think. They are attempting to share the glory of the universe with each of us. If they’re good they don’t want us to see them, they want us to see ourselves.
Real artists in any field want us to taste and smell and feel real life. And so long ago, just such an artful priest placed a liquid message in a bottle and he, with the unwitting help of Shackleton (and another modern connoisseur), sent it travelling through time to today.
The original distiller wasn’t interested in pre-nuclear water or labelling success. Like the composer of an instrumental song, he was merely attempting to join drinkers together in a place —a psychological or spiritual location. He was attempting to convey an experience.
Just as a song can be written by Mozart and played today, my friends and I were able to share in a taste experience with brave, adventurous men also shared with us, even though they were trapped on the ice in another century. Whether someone liked the whisky or not isn’t the point, but can you see the marvelling of time and space travel in this story?
We may have been separated by more than 10,000 miles and 100 years, but our experiences as contemporary people were in common with those of sailors of yesteryear. Our experiences were shared. We were experiencing the same flavours.
With tremendous thanks to the gentlemen I was with that night, I put that glass to my lips and I tasted that experience in a very focused and open way, and in doing so I woke up. I woke up to realize what being asleep was.
Thanks to the juxtaposition of my suffering thought-based existence, and the authenticity of the spirits in that bottle, I was awakened and reminded of what my life had been prior to me being tricked into existence.
In doing so I instantly knew that I now had the final piece of a puzzle that I was unaware was even being built. I could now see the whole picture. As well-intentioned as my efforts have been, they have been partially blinded by my lack of appreciation for the subtleties of existence vs. being alive.
Now that I know far better what it’s like to live like most of the people who come to me, I have even more useful answers to give. That was a mistake on my part, but fortunately a useful one. Remember: stay conscious of the fact that you are free.
An ego’s life is not good enough. It’s not deep enough, profound enough or worthwhile enough. I am grabbing you by the lapels and I am screaming at you to wake up. You wouldn’t believe how awesome this other version of you is.
Our lives are not some desert that’s populated by the odd flower or sunset or mountaintop. Our lives are a wonder each and every moment. But we cannot appreciate that if we are blinded by thoughts about managing our existence. Yes, things need to get done, but it’s time to wake up. It’s time to stop thinking. It is time to Be. It is time to taste life.
Stop thinking about defending yourself against disaster. Stop trying to stave off death. Live instead. Accept the suffering of life as the Shackleton adventurers did, and in doing so drink deeply from reality. Because far from being locked away by the responsibilities of your existence, we are all free to dive into the reality of appreciation. And I look forward to meeting you there.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.