Imagine our life as a line of dashes: – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -. There’s no right or wrong place for this line to go, although some of us may choose various directions for various periods of our lives.
Even for those of who are big on establishing a plan or direction —everyone will have to change direction multiple times during our lives. This is a normal process that happens as we age, and our experiences collect and cross-pollinate, and our perspectives expand. Plus the world will treat us as different people just by age alone.
The gaps between the dashes that form the lines of our life are so infinitesimally small that we cannot ever hope to sense them. To steal some terms from quantum mechanics —they represent the point where the wave of our potential future dashes becomes the dash-particle that we experience as our present reality.
It may be small, but that moment is where our salvation can be found. That is the moment where we determine our future.
In each gap we choose our next thought-experience. If we think a dreadful thought the next dash is a dreadful experience. And if we think a happy thought the next dash is a happy experience.
The reason people struggle is that they’re focused on where their line is going relative to other people’s lines. But that has nothing to do with where we find happiness. The lines don’t go to happiness, the dashes that form the lines are made of happiness.
Those who are living in-the-moment aren’t drawing some long line toward a good life. They are merely picking the best dash that’s currently available in the moment they are in. All long lines are made by billions of little dashes.
Let’s imagine the universe is a sheet of paper and that our lives are the lines we draw on that paper with our dashes.
Because we’re limited in our thinking and we don’t have a God-like perspective, we cannot imagine the universe in all of its entirety. So it’s like we’re looking at the sheet through a toilet paper roll.
We can only see a bit of it at once, so to us we don’t really move relative to the paper, we move relative to ourselves. We’re just up or down and right or left. Our ‘rights’ and ‘lefts’ and ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ represent our notions of right and wrong and good and bad. But the paper is infinite as it’s fine with us going anywhere.
All of the words and ideas we use to describe our lives really only exist so that our dashed line can communicate with other dashed lines about our experience of moving around the sheet of paper that is the universe. But all of the time we are still having only our experience. Collectively our experiences form the entire sheet.
Our egos use our words to define who is to the right of us, or above us, which means our egos always live relative to others. Even though the paper itself has no up or down or right or left, we impose our ego’s orientation on it. But that only applies to us or people like us.
Having done that, we dash-humans then talk to other dash-humans about our life position relative to theirs. That conversation between dashed lines is what we call one ego talking to another ego.
What egos do is talk about where their line is, where other people’s lines are, and where we judge/think ours –and or their– lines should be. We should have gotten that promotion and we should be higher on the page. That woman is to the left of me so I can’t listen to her. Etc.
This conversation of course is just drawing more dotted lines. The point in life isn’t to try to make the ‘right’ choices to shift our line ‘up’ on the paper. And our job is not to focus on other’s lines. We need our focus on the present moment.
Our life is formed by the moment to moment choices that create the line we call our lives. ‘A good line’ is really a line with a lot of learning and joy and appreciation dashes. Otherwise it can ‘go’ almost anywhere.
In the end we can draw a line that stays right up near what we believe is the top of the paper –relative to other lines. But doing that won’t actually create a better life than the person who pays much more careful attention to only one choice: the choice involving the very next dash.
Doing that is called ‘living in the moment’ and it is the most assured way of creating a beautiful life. Because where the line goes is not important at all because in the end we will eventually box ourselves in and we’ll run out of paper. At that point we ‘die’ and are re-born onto a fresh, blank page.
Since this all just ends anyway, and we know that for sure, we can stop worrying about where our line is relative to everyone else’s. Instead, we can just focus on the next dash. If we focus on making the thought-choice that will lead to that dash being a rewarding experience, then that will ultimately lead to the very best life possible.
It benefits us all to become more conscious of our thought choices. It will be worth it for all of us to spend less time thinking about our line, and more time focused only on the very next dash.
If our current dashes don’t feel good, then we must always remember that at each new dash, we get another chance to change the direction of our thinking. That’s the whole value in feelings.
Feelings are a fantastic GPS system for our thoughts. They let us know right away which direction we’re headed. If that if it’s not the direction we truly want, we can use that emotional feedback to make the appropriate changes to the course of our thinking.
It’s really much easier than most people imagine. We just have to have the patience to watch our thinking over a long enough time. At that point it gets slow enough that it allows us to intervene and make the best possible choice for our next dash forward.
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.