The Lesson in Envy

1358 Relax and Succeed - The most outrageous act is still

Envy. We can use that. It just goes to show that –if viewed in a productive way– anything in life can be helpful.

In life it does us little good to forget about the value of the tribe we all need around us, but at the same time we must be somewhat selfish about wanting a full and interesting life for ourselves. We just can’t expect that life to exist without prices being involved.

That choice to take a productive (read: healthily selfish) perspective is the key. And a healthy balance must be perpetually sought. This is why psycho-spiritual work is an ongoing practice and not simply an achievement.

We can start by remembering that everyone’s genetics and life experiences leads them to be a unique human being with all kinds of different skills or abilities or lacks thereof. But because there are only so many kinds of feelings we can have through our life  experiences, human beings end up falling into broad groups that people have tried to approximate by creating things like the enneagram, or the Myers–Briggs test.

We’re all largely aware of all of these categories just be living life, but just knowing those doesn’t make us healthy. But we can learn a great deal by paying enough daily, very present attention as to how the category we are in shapes the decisions we make and the subsequent challenges we face.

For example, in school, the subdued, innocuous ‘average’ students are saved from from both the pressure of top grades and the sort of popularity than can make a bad hair day legendary. At the same time, without a strong and obvious natural drive in any particular direction, they can often live more desperately and with less focus. This leaves them often envying other’s dreams, hard work or talent.

The average kids will still have actual talents, but if they’re not as cool or as good as those of the most excellent kids, then the average kids are less likely to have the bold confidence to still feel their skills are meaningful. If someone asks them to play their guitar, they’ll say they “…don’t really play.”

Meanwhile, the excellent or popular kids are envious of the average kids who must only bear average expectations, which are often much more generalized. Get along, work hard, do your best. Those things are all wonderfully non-specific, where as “be at the top of the class,” or “make the team,” instantly becomes an intense competition with however many classmates got told the very same thing.

Within each group there are meek and often uncertain and apologetic personalities, as well as those that naturally possess a bold sort of confidence that doesn’t cripple itself with too much over-thinking. But because of that same confident quality, they are also the ones most likely to overstep.

Regardless of whether it’s an overstep or not, if a bold person’s actions feel just justified to those watching, more timid kids will admire and envy it when they see someone stick up for themselves. They will rarely meaningfully note the price that other person will pay for that confidence.

1358 Relax and Succeed - The Velveteen Rabbit

Envy goes every direction. As the bold kids know, the nail that stands out gets pounded down. The grass only looks greener on the various sides of the fence. Everyone pays a price.

This means the bold kids often wish they were simple followers who can either live in the bliss of ignorance or simply not care. Otherwise their fate is to be in conflict a lot more than they’d like. At the same time those iconoclastic kids can often resent those who fail to stand up for important causes, and envy can lead them to sometimes mistreat really happy, positive people who genuinely seem to love life.

We can presume that being happy and loving life is the peaceful zenith of this heap of personalities but it’s not. Even too much chocolate cake starts to get unhealthy after a while.

The problem with being seen as positive is that people start to rely on us to be their source of positivity and they can unwittingly get weirdly demanding about it. Then, when it’s the happy life-loving people that are down, others are often left in uncomfortable territory, uncertain of what to do. This can leave the happy person worse off in crisis than those we perceive as less resilient.

There are countless more examples featuring any type we can think of, but can we see how this flows around? How everyone has their own weight to carry? What we as egos all share is that we want what we don’t have because we all notice the gains others make with those qualities. We don’t look for people making gains with personalities like ours. Everyone thinks they have the wrong personality.

How we get healthy is by feeling fine as we are. From there the natural compulsions that are ours to experience make themselves known and our lives unfold accordingly. The other us is just a narrative, which is why no matter what kind of problem I’m working on with someone, I’m always focusing on showing them how to put their thinking into the proper context.

If we give up all of our thinking about what ‘bike we’d rather have,’ we can just start riding the us that we are. We can go all still go wonderful places on our bicycles of personality. We can use them to sight-see, or to stay in shape, or for joy with others, or even to race it, risk it, or even to make money with it. Each bike has its own paths to ride.

No one should be ashamed of their personality. We all benefit when anyone realizes and activates more of who they are. So rather than wish we had a different bicycle, we should quietly get on board and ride our bike to somewhere meaningful to us –because that is the freedom of self-respect and we all deserve to feel that.

peace. s

What We Do With Our Lives

1357 Relax and Succeed - Right now I'm stuck somewhere between

The meme above conveys a popular agony. People feel their lives are unsettled when past events have lead them to undesirable present events which make the prediction of future events difficult or foreboding. In a state of ego, it’s possible to spend our entire lives spinning in place, doing little more than that very speculation.

The problem with using our consciousness in that way is that people mistake their speculative thoughts for them actually having a ‘bad life.’ Life not going as we planned much of the time is no basis to judge a life by, we share the world with nearly 8 billion other people who also influence our days.

We are boats, not the ocean. If our hope is to choose destinations and then assume the winds will carry us there is to take a fairly self-centered approach to the ‘weather.’ The winds carry many sailboats so we can’t all have favourable winds all of the time. The storm that rips our sails also creates work for sail-makers.

The question is, when the winds of fortune are not blowing for us, are we better to invest our time in growing in some way, or in making our vessel even stronger, or on simply resting? Or are we going to spend it below deck, with no real view, just charts, and then talk to ourselves or whoever else will listen just so we can complain or lament the winds that did or are not blowing?

Everyone has to really stop and think about that quote above. We’ve all done that. We’ve all been there, wishing it was different. Okay, the present may be painful, but it’s not a life-fail. Those ruminations and speculations are simply what we’re doing and what we get is a painful feeling while we are doing them.

The answer to the meme isn’t to offer the person and entirely new and impossibly perfect life without struggle, it’s to answer the question honestly. “You are actually sitting, while you type out regrets about the past and future when you could otherwise be doing other living, that felt other ways, but rumination and speculation are what you chose.”

1357 Relax and Succeed - Failure is an option

The pain is not in the events themselves, it is our assessment of them. Sometimes our unwanted events are other people’s most desired events. The world is the way it is. It is filled with bounty and beauty but no one needs anyone’s help appreciating that. Our tests and the beauty of our own spiritual strength emerge from the other times, where our story takes an ugly turn.

These are the very real times when we are genuinely unloved by those we love, or we don’t get the jobs we needed but were truly qualified for, or when we don’t get picked by the team and our dream dies, or when the way we are or what we do makes really makes friendships difficult.

Even if all of that goes well, we can still end up pursuing an entirely admirable course in life only to realize it does not lead where we had wanted to go and it’s too late to double back. These are all painfully routine feelings, even for those living ‘the good life.’ But the fact that they are ‘routine’ is a clue to where our peace can be found.

These are all realities that no spiritual practice can entirely dispel. To desire their removal is understandable prior to greater understanding, but once we do understand we appreciate that the problem was not what we desired, those genuinely are great things. Our problem is that we desire, because spiritual practice is about dispelling desire.

If they are unhealthy, what do we trade for dispelling our desires and the ruminations they inspire? We get the very real and present drama of living. In a novel or film we can enjoy a dramatic journey filled with conflict or emotional danger because we have no desire to ‘perfect’ the protagonist’s story. We’re reading it for the drama —for the ending to be unexpected.

It is possible to do the same thing with our own life. We can see our lives less as something to perfect and instead something to marvel at. And the marvelling happens naturally, just as soon as we turn off all of the speculating. That leaves space for the rest of the universe to find some room in our consciousness. And that is when we can actually feel peacefully at One with the world as it is.

peace. s

A Fear of Embarrassment Limits Our Lives

1303 Relax and Succeed - A Fear of Embarrassment

Most of the times where we find ourselves held back from following our nature, what holds us back is our habit of re-thinking thoughts relating to judgments made about us by others. These can be very debilitating.

It is true that sometimes judgments by others can have serious repercussions in our lives. But it is also true that most times, all that would happen is that we would possibly get in some form of trouble or even more likely, just be embarrassed.

But what does being embarrassed even mean in a world where we are guaranteed to ‘make mistakes?’ That’s like saying we’re not allowed to be human. Embarrassment might help us steer ourselves to better cooperative behaviour, but who can take a demand for zero mistakes seriously? Embarrassment doesn’t denote a failure, it is simply a step on the path to who we will be.

If past criticisms or our mental replaying of those criticisms leads us to feel embarrassed then it’s critical for us to remember that those thoughts are our responsibility –they are not forced on us by the situation. We must take responsibility for choosing to think those thoughts over all of the other potential thoughts we could just as easily have focused on. Those debilitating beliefs about ourselves are what create our resistance to life.

Let’s all spend the the next few days trying to source our own resistance in our daily situations. Well often find we’re really only afraid of being embarrassed, yet we also make mistakes at things we’re good at. So why are we okay with those mistakes but not the others?

1303 Relax and Succeed - Birds aircraft and human beingsIt’s worthwhile to ask ourselves; why is doing this or that thing quite difficult for us when that same thing isn’t difficult for others? And why are some things that others find very hard, so incredibly effortless for us?

It’s good to notice those differences and ask those questions, because we’ll come to see that all people are more alike than they might otherwise seem. We are less notable than embarrassment often makes us feel. Everyone screws up.

Each idea in our heads will have a source that will have shaped what that idea means to us personally. It’s why we like certain kinds of movies but not others, and why other people disagree about our views of them. They simply have a different set of thoughts about the things in the movie. This is what it is to be an individual.

Regardless of the sources of our individuality, judgments about our Selves that limit us must be seen for what they are: nothing more than thoughts. Self consciousness and embarrassment are states of thinking that can be changed.

Unfamiliar situations can rightfully make us feel uncomfortable, but our thoughts have no actual power to stop us from taking action in our lives despite the internal blabbing of our egos.

We can’t let our thoughts stop us from realizing all that we are. Because that person is far too expansive and powerful for a definition in mere words.

Let’s all enjoy our day.

peace, s