Presence isn’t a difficult or complex thing to achieve, and yet most of us live entirely symbolic lives. We’re not with the world, we just pass symbols about the world back and forth between us, or between ourselves and our ego. We say and do things like, think and talk about how terrible a news story is, and yet we don’t really stop to think about how terrible the news story really is for the individual human beings involved.
By treating things shallowly like that, we are only left with sympathy to offer, because we’ve skipped the process of presence that creates actual empathy. This isn’t to say we’re bad people, we’re simply unaware. Today, life is so busy—so filled with symbolic work—that we’ve lost touch with a deeper, richer reality. Our mind glances off things, or skims over them, but we don’t slow down to stop, except in the most extreme circumstances.
On the day this is being written, it is Thanksgiving in the US. The name is pretty self-explanatory. And yet every year on Canadian or American Thanksgiving, it’s easy to hear people passing around platitudes about being grateful.
The fact that they even are platitudes is a demonstration that they are other people’s analytical expressions of meaning, and not our own. We generally don’t even think about most things deeply enough to even come up with our own genuine expressions. If we had thought about the suffering others had done more completely, we would naturally be more grateful for our own common circumstances.
If we want to know how to live an unaware, emotionally-wrought life of tortuous ups and downs, then we should just wish each other Happy Thanksgiving, and talk about being grateful, and say their platitudes—and then mindlessly go right back to our usual awareness level, where we spend the entire day enacting our normal, unconscious, ungrateful personality.
No matter where we live, we should be wary of seeing ‘gratitude’ evolve into a symbolic word, when it really is a call to action. Instead of riding to work thinking about that person we’re mad at, or that thing we feel guilty over, or that thing we regret and or are worried about—we’re better to replace those with some easy meditation.
What in our lives are we each taking for granted? What fruit is laying around our lives, bruised and uneaten, simply because we never gave it its proper exalted place on the table, in our personal cornucopia of appreciation?
We must prevent ourselves from long bouts of self-centered rumination about ‘our lives’ and we should instead meditate from the perspective of a guest—a witness—to our own lives. In doing so, by taking life less personally, it’s easier to comprehend our place within a greater whole. From there it’s easier to appreciate who has brought what into our lives.
This is why it is important to pay more attention to our thoughts. We have to watch ourselves, and how we jostle symbols in egocentric self-conversations about how we want things. Because that’s just a demonstration of our dissatisfaction in how things are.
We need to see those conversations with ourselves as the mental noise that it is. We’re better to invest our energy into realizing where the riches in our life are really coming from. Because as any former cancer survivor can tell us, once we’ve faced the potential of death, it’s suddenly very easy to be grateful for a life we had previous complained about. So today, rather than finding reasons to complain, just find the many reasons to be grateful. It’s that easy.
If you would like to book time to learn more about reality from Scott, write me at email@example.com and we can make arrangements to talk.
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.