Winner: Scott’s Favourite Questions of 2014 #2
I’m only 30 and I feel like my life is over. I’m already divorced and dating has been one ugly experience after another. My parents are getting older and need more of my help right when I need to get a second job to cover all of my debt. And I have no spiritual life to speak of other than quotes I share on facebook. My personal relationships are bad or non-existent, I have way more debt than equity, and I haven’t taken one step toward nirvana. Please tell me I’m not doomed. (I’m doomed I know it.)
Ha! That is such a common Western state of being. Does it make you feel better to know you’re in with a huge collection of society? Lots of people feel that way, and for good reason. The story you’re telling yourself about your life isn’t a good one—it’s not surprising that you find it painful to listen to. But you do understand that it’s just a story, right? Because I can offer a competing story and it will make just as much sense as yours:
From my perspective you have about 30 years of youth left. If you stay active you’ll be surprised at how active you can be at 60. So you have this fabulous luxury of time in which you can fit all sorts of >experience. Because your life isn’t made up of relationships or finances, your life is made of experiences. That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s how you know what happened in your life. It’s a collective sense provided by all of your sensory inputs. It is an experience.
So you don’t take your experience opportunities and squander them sitting still re-thinking about past experiences. The way you improve your life is to make better experience choices today than you did yesterday and that’s generally pretty easy because we have the advantage of the results of our previous choices. So with experience comes wisdom. Not age; experience.
But of course your experiences are shaped by your thoughts. So if you want to have quality experiences then you have to have quality thoughts. You can tell yourself a wanting story or you can tell yourself an abundance story. Want hurts. Appreciation feels good. It’s a nice system that’s been set up to encourage you to choose what’s best for you. So go for what’s good. Especially when it would be easy to think a painful, suffering story. That’s when it’s most important to remember that your life is made of your experiences and your experiences are shaped by your judgments. So make them wisely because you will feel them instantly.
Your life is not a waste. The way you are judging it is negative and harsh. And you are as spiritually close to salvation as anyone. Everyone is always only one thought away from enlightenment. So you are as close to the glory of God as anyone who’s been in church or mosque or temple for their entire life. Because if you can see how the universe works—if you can profoundly come to understand your role in describing your life to yourself—then you are free to use your imagination to create for yourself an interesting, entirely worthwhile collection of experiences to go live.
You don’t need external markers of success. You don’t need a relationship or a certain status or list of friends. You don’t need achievements or skills or experience. You only need conscious control over the very natural process of invoking your own thinking. If you can choose to focus on appreciation and not on want then your life will constantly feel rich and abundant and generosity will be your nature. Such is the way of wisdom. I look forward to seeing you alongside me along the way.
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.