The Chrysalis of Becoming

1362 Relax and Succeed - You've changed

Some of our circumstances in life occur suddenly and quite visibly. Others are those that we slowly slip into, without really realizing it. Then one day some unexpected thing jolts us out of our torpor and we suddenly wonder why we’re dating this person, or working at this job, or still in this city.

The sudden sense of urgency is a signal that our mind has woken up to a new reality. What is often challenging for us is that our new reality involves us realizing how much of our own life doesn’t even appear to suit us. This is a sign that we have discovered something about who we are.

The feelings that can go with these internal awakenings are often things like a repulsion for ourselves. We question our intelligence as to how we managed to even get to where we are. There is often a period of recrimination where we feel badly about the choices and regret the ‘mistakes’ we’ve made.

Following that shock, during our unfolding reaction, we tend to push things and others away. That’s a helpful reaction because we need the space, but eventually we realize that if we’re throwing away our new life, we now need a new life to live. And that can feel much scarier than pushing away a life we don’t like.

This is often a period where we tend to blame the life we had rather than realizing that it too was and is a worthwhile part of our journey, although we may not be able to recognize that value at this time.

Despite our judgment of our life experiences, our false results –our divorces, bad career choices, illnesses– are all just as much a part of our existence as the good times. The events themselves are neutral. They can feel terrible, but they can also be made into more positive things at different times in our lives.

A divorce is a chance at a better relationship and more happiness. Leaving a bad job can make us both a better employee and provide increased self-respect. And illnesses teach patience, grace and gratitude better than any other thing. It might feel at times like losing, but it’s still a form of winning in the long run.

1362 Relax and Succeed - Should the butterfly regret or be grateful for

As we begin to wake up we must remember our context. We are dissatisfied. Suddenly realizing that our situation is worse than we thought can lead us to start looking for all that is wrong. And any time in life we’re doing that we’ll be able to find as many things as we look for, and if we keep looking we’ll keep finding more. That can make things look much worse than they really are.

The real question for us often is, are things entirely bad the way they are, or does our awakening and our scrutiny only make it appear so? We can want to move, or change jobs or end a relationship, but we can’t assume that our dissatisfaction is rooted in the outside world. It is more likely within us, which is why sorting that out is wise before taking action in our external lives.

Reality happens within us. Sometimes that does prompt legitimate external changes, but we don’t need those to find peace. Nelson Mandela found it in a brutal prison. Yet he carried it with him into a Presidency. This is a liberating idea. It means no matter what, we are okay.

When we first wake up a bit, the reason that we see a strong appeal in new cities, new jobs and new relationships is that all of those things naturally deliver many reasons to not think our habitual thoughts. The problem is, over the long term they will not change how we see the world. Mandela’s soul wasn’t saved by the Presidency, it was saved by himself while he was still in jail.

Wherever we go, there we are. New situations will soon turn into the old situations if we do not first ensure that we have a good grip on our responsibilities within reality. The external world around us is shockingly flexible, we prove this by loving someone or something one day and then hating it later. It’s less the thing that changed and more that we have. There’s a real power in that if we use it wisely.

Dissatisfaction is a good basis from which to take action in our lives. That is a feeling worth paying attention to. But experiencing that feeling that is not, in and of itself, a failure on anyone’s part. It is only a signal, notifying us of the start of a necessary part of any journey through life.

Like it is for the butterfly, with greater perspective we often will come to see that our greatest gains were actually being made when we have felt we were struggling the most.

peace. s

What’s the Difference Between a Justification and an Excuse?

The words are so similar that it’s obvious they will be interchanged. Even native English speakers aren’t certain of the difference if you press them, other than the fact that a lot of them know that lame more often modifies one, while good often qualifies the other. After all, who’d rather offer a lame excuse when they can offer a good justification?

To start with, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of the time most people do not intend to do harm. If they do it’s usually because they feel they’re trying to regain ground they feel they have already lost, so they see it more as justified revenge. But even a retaliation is really a new attack, so it’s really just another aggressive form of blaming someone for over-blaming you. In essence then, harm is another form of blame.

Since blame is an offensive act, the only logical reaction is a defensive one, so we shouldn’t be surprised that justifications and excuses are both defensive terms. The difference is, the justifier believes their reasoning to be valid, whereas in an excuse we generally believe that someone is trying to avoid their actual responsibilities. But if that’s the case, who decides which it is?

Remember from paragraph two; people don’t see themselves as starting problems. They see blame as them making things right. If someone won’t accept our blame then we feel things cannot be made right, and this just intensifies the blame. But what do we mean by made right?

The fact is, most people give justifications but hear excuses, so what your explanation is called is often dependant on who’s naming it. That’s why it’s called being held responsible. It’s not like anyone feels you would stay still for it if you were going to experience blame. Even your dog hides when it feels it’s done something wrong.

This means the sender sends blame, the blamed offer their justifications, and then the blamer either accepts the justification or they rename the justification an excuse. But even if you don’t want to accept an excuse, that doesn’t mean that the person who did it doesn’t feel justified. This leaves us with one act with two definitions, which is yet another clear demonstration that the world is clearly made up of individual perspectives, not one central truth.

In the end there are neither justifications or excuses, there are only the opinions or judgments of those ascribing them. Which begs the question, why do you feel it necessary to offer so many justifications to the opinions you hear? You know when you feel good about what you’ve done and when you feel bad. That should be your divining rod, not people’s random, ever-changing opinions.

Forget making excuses for your life. Forget justifying it. See these words for what they really are: explanations that people will either accept or not accept. How honest you’re being will have little to do with whether they believe you or not, so if the person has power over you through your attachment to either love or money, then accept the fact that until you get out of that situation you may need to live as though you share their opinion when you don’t. But even that is a weighted choice. In most cases you can leave.

People will make judgments about your life all the time. You job isn’t to make them stop or to justify your actions. Your only spiritual responsibility is to do your best to stay on a path where you feel good inside about your reasons, even if they were only good reasons when you made the decision. After the moment it was made in, even your own view of it is just another opinion. And you don’t want to live in that kind of self-talk because trust me, you are far too great a being, living in far too fantastic a universe, for any opinion to ever be able to encapsulate all the wonder that you truly are.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.