Devices of Judgment

1359 Relax and Succeed - Thoughts are a good servant but a bad master

Our world was shaped by thoughts. Those thoughts get codified into social codes or guides or laws or through things like school grades, or peer pressure built around the concepts of popularity or acceptability.

Some of these devices are tangible things like step counters or gym weights or weigh scales. The pressure we feel in life is us trying to fit our natural shape into the predetermined forms these tools or ideas create.

The outcomes are somewhat predictable. Every code gets applied to every person equally, even though some people may never be athletic no matter how hard they try, and others may struggle academically in ways that do not reduce their value as a human being at all. But all of us will be judged by many people –most notable ourselves– for not being many things, as though we were supposed to have been them all.

The only way to escape is to be so far removed from those ‘tests’ that we get a free sympathy pass from society because we have one huge natural judgement running against us, like childhood cancer or deformities or severe mental challenges.

Some are seen to be so obviously struggling with what is obviously a heavier load that it’s a more definitive signal that knocks us out of our personal thinking. That jolt to our awareness ignites our compassion by so strongly exposing our good fortune.

That is a beautiful thing to do for others, and that is why people in those situations should be seen more like spiritual teachers in society. They elicit an essentially universal reaction that does expose our natural tendency as humans, which is decency, while also making us grateful, which is spiritually healthy. They’re monks in wheelchairs and in canes.

Where we can benefit from increased awareness is to realize that while some people have their suffering jammed into a generally narrower set of experiences, (like those of a severe autistic, or someone who is born without any limbs), others are also suffering badly, but with more general things like their weight, or their income, or the acceptability of their personality.

Because those feel like the problems of more common, so-called ‘normal’ people, we often don’t realize that those issues and people would also benefit from our awareness and decency. Smaller issues –even presumed– can pile up to the point where they can cripple our lives.

1359 Relax and Succeed - This scale does not

If we count steps or weigh ourselves for our health, it’s not to hit some numerical target. The point is to feel good and have a doctor feel that the weight –whatever it is– is in a range that respects our unique bodies. A healthy heart should be about getting more time with loved ones, not meeting the doctor’s target. We must love ourselves, not try to be someone for others.

Too many times something like a calorie app or a weigh scale are not simply weighing things in the physical world. Instead, they are drawing some abstract chalk outline onto the world and then asking us to fill it. It’s crazy. We weren’t supposed to become what an app said because the person who wrote it never met us. Nor the person who built the weight scale, and just because a hairstyle is popular does not mean it looks or feels good on us.

We suffer when others have generalized the individual us. And when we do that to ourselves as well, all we’re doing is using an abstract cultural whip to beat ourselves. It’s the opposite of spiritual awareness.

Can we really imagine someone going to the Buddha, or Moses or Jesus or Mohammad and having them tell the person their soul will find nirvana when they lose some weight? Or get a better haircut? Or a job that’s more respectable? Would Jesus tell us that we can give up now, because we were born gay, or in the wrong country, so nothing we could ever do could make us worthwhile?

It’s hard to imagine the Buddha saying, “Sara, you will find enlightenment but you must get your Thursday Tinder date to like you or your life will be an unhappy disappointment.”

Deep down you already know this is true. The people that love us don’t need us to be any particular way. Not a shape, or age, and they love the person that lived our experiences, even if they don’t always like some aspects of the personality that grew out of those experiences. They love the soul at our center –the being living all of that life. We should all love that person too.

What others think are merely individual experiences they are having inside their own heads. Those judgments don’t impact us at all if we don’t start thinking them in our heads.

If we saw a loved one beating themselves up terribly over their weight it would be heartbreaking because we would all know they are so much more than that dumb number. And that impulse is beautiful and natural. But enlightenment really comes when we learn to direct that compassion toward ourselves. Because only then will we free ourselves from the suffering we generate when we use our devices of judgment.

peace. s

The Advantages of Being Average

1332 Relax and Succeed - It may contain competitions within it

Have you seen the Alan Rickman film A Little Chaos? It’s about a peasant woman learning that she is freer than her King. Things can be imperfect. The sun can strike her skin, she can choose her own friends, she can relax. She can even fall in love.

Imagine being a King of yore. You couldn’t marry who you wanted to, you needed to marry for power. You can’t even wear what you like. You’re forced to always dress up in stockings, wear tons of ruffles and heavy buttons even when it’s hot. And who wants to wear scratchy wigs made of wire and hair from dead people and animals?

Tension and fear are the price for fashion in the King’s courts and so it is today. That white powder on the noble faces was lead-based, and it often killed them at far too young an age –all for appearances and a desire to somehow separate themselves from the peasants who worked in the sun.

If we look around us we can see today’s examples of the same dangerous desire to be special.

There’s the girl that gets third degree burns by leaving her tooth-whitening chemicals on for too long; the YouTube mountain biker that breaks their neck trying to get that great piece of footage; or during the running of the bulls in Spain, there was even a runner that favoured getting good footage of himself being gored over prioritizing his escape.

Seen another way, there are parents that end up with suicidal kids by pushing for strictly straight A’s. There are workers who destroy their families trying to get promotions that take them even further from their families. There are people who bankrupt themselves trying to keep up with the Jones’s.

These are all examples of us wanting. They all operate on the premise that we do not yet have enough value and must earn it in some way. It’s true that we can expand our value, but we should not live feeling as though our lives are a burden to the universe. Everyone is born worthwhile. Our value comes through the living of our lives.

If we’re motivated to stand out, then we can trust that. But we should not chastise ourselves for not wanting ‘bigger’ or ‘better’ lives for that is, in other words, a way of saying that we are content, satisfied and without want. According to many spiritual leaders, that’s the ultimate definition of ‘rich.’

Being the top dog has a price. No one should feel strange about being in the middle of the pack. It may not make us a household name, but it can offer us the wisest path to less ego, and more accessible fun. And the fact that it is the average is a demonstration that most people agree with our general choice.

peace. s

The Performance

1044-relax-and-succeed-half-of-life-is-lost-in-charming-othersMost people believe it all their lives. We think people are being figurative when they tell us that reality happens in our imagination. But we’re not, and until we face that absolute fact (that ties us all together), we will suffer because we will spend all of our time trying to satisfy a bunch of other people’s opinions when that’s impossible because they all see us in their own way.

Instead, our belief is that our reality is formed by society, and the events and practices of our lives. This means we can’t be happy at work because it’s called work and we reserve our happiness for the word play, or leisure, or vacation.

We can even be like that to the point where we can even dislike other people for the fact that they love their job. Or maybe it’s not our work; maybe we believe we can only be happy if we’re with one particular person because the definition of we have of ourselves is as half of a partnership. This of course means that any time we are single we deem ourselves as having failed.

1044-relax-and-succeed-anxiety-is-the-worst-use-of-imaginationOften, we’ll subconsciously let our society tell us what’s good and what’s bad and we live up to it without question. A lot of the time that makes society work better. But sometimes it makes individuals unhealthy.

For the vast majority of us, any unknown food is also an unwanted one. Pregnancy has to be an awful, painful experience you need drugs for. Or if someone in your family is afraid of heights they can teach you to be too. But does it really seem likely that heights themselves are dangerous? Of course not, people stand at the edge of substantial heights all the time.

Could we find people who like unpopular things? Could we find people who love their job? Can we find women who valued pregnancy and went through it without drugs? Due to simply no other choice, that would be more than half the women on Earth, so we can definitely find them. And as noted, there’s no shortage of people walking in places featuring extremely high heights.

Maybe we believe these people are working with more than we are. Maybe we really just aren’t that good. Maybe they are, maybe not. But more importantly, it’s unfortunate that that terrible idea of ourselves is all too believable to many of us.

Our life is not our actions, it is an emotional experience. We list it as things that made us happy and things that made us sad, when really it’s things we allowed ourselves to think gratefully about, versus things that we wished were different. We don’t really need to gain the difference between our ideals and ourselves, we need to lose the desire to do so.

1044-relax-and-succeed-you-were-born-an-originalWe all perform so much of our lives to please others it’s ridiculous. Every life has challenges and it is experience that helps us each find where our line is between things we should accept versus things we should put our energy into changing. But it should be us deciding that.

If we want to change ourselves every time someone else wants us to act this or that way then we’re not even living our own lives, we’re just reading off of a bunch of other people’s unique scripts.

We are better to be ourselves. The people who will respond most positively to it are our people and we don’t need anything to earn their love and support other than to be the people we already are at that time.

That simple focus is much more relaxing than second-guessing ourselves into insanity. If we don’t do that, it leaves us tons of extra energy that we can use to become even better versions of ourselves.

We need to stop wanting life to be different. We need to appreciate how it is. Because the appreciation happens inside our head, meaning the act of appreciation is always within our control. And if you’ve got that, you’ve got happiness no matter where we are.

peace. s