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

Spin-Planning

1308 Relax and Succeed - Charting a course is worthwhile

We are not our plans for our future, we are the sum of what we do in the present moment. Our lives are not made of ideas, they are brought to life by the verb of living –through our daily action. Charting a course is worthwhile, but movement keeps an airplane aloft.

Many of us have worked long and hard in an attempt to awaken because we failed to note we had an attachment to certain changes within ourselves. We’re not looking for something pedestrian like, ‘you are already okay, just live your life and be increasingly aware while you do.’

That sounds too easy, and yet that very objective and state of mind can make even grocery shopping feel pretty awesome. But instead of something that ordinary, people are looking for lightening bolts and profound new genius. The elated feeling we get from optimistic pursuit is like that, but the source of the spark is created within us, not from without us.

Most people spend most of their lives wishing for, hoping for, or planning for a life they will never live simply because they are always planning it based on some wholesale change that will suddenly make the experience easier. We act as though our signal to ’go’ will be when we feel totally awesome.

In reality, in life it’s most important to ’go’ precisely when we are feeling down and out. Not out of duty or obligation or guilt –but because we are in active, conscious pursuit of the rewards of living. We can be legitimately excited about where we are going.

That’s why more optimistic people put the effort in; because they know the effort pays off in and of itself. By approaching it this way, even bad times have the feeling associated with chasing a valued goal. It’s a rewarding feeling, regardless of how it comes to our lives.

1308 Relax and Succeed - You are already okay

Planning is something that can be done in the present moment and it can be a wise investment of Now. But those sorts of plans have targets and goals and action that allow us to recognize we are in movement.

Unhealthy planning is little more than depressed rumination. We just keep talking about the great life we’ll have once we’re feeling better.

When we’re in the wrong state of mind it always seems too simplistic to tell people the truth: that we don’t change and feel better, but rather we feel better and then note the change after the fact. But that’s true because our health is a verb, not an idea. It even explains why so many people find new life after disasters or emergencies. Those events simply force us into motion.

There are many forms of unhealthy rumination, but some are tricky and disguise themselves as positive things like planning. But beware. The difference between real planning and hopeful planning is fairly obvious if we’re watching for it, and knowing one from the other can literally save a lifetime.

peace, s

Mood Orbs

The ego world is made up of physical objects and narratives about people, places and things, including concepts like time or obligation or fairness. The ego world looks like a physical place, with it’s focus on a clock and an expectation list. There are places and time, and people who love us should arrive at a place on time–for instance.

Alternatively, the real world is made of experiences that are generally either happy, sad, fearful or angry. These fundamental ways of being include every type of experience related to them, so happy also means loving, connected, laughing, even horny. And it’s opposite, sad, can range from bored to lonely, to depressed etc.

In the real world, rather than a place and a clock and a checklist for happiness, there is only a container, and some orbs of experience. Rather than a clock counting time, the container holds experiences. So “time” isn’t some numbers, that’s what an ego calls the act of us simply grabbing whatever experience we feel like choosing and putting it in our experience clocktainerSo how’s this all work practically? Let’s say we’re in a hot car and our ego is waiting for our spouse for a long time. Our ego will use that time to spin a narrative and hidden in that narrative will be orbs of experience. If the narrative is negative, so too will be the orbs. If we emotionally feel disappointed, or frustrated or disrespected, then we used our time to tell ourselves narrative stories where our ego-characters justify emotions like disappointment, frustration or disrespect.

Telling that story is what our spirit is doing rather than living. It’s enacting an ego by using self-talk to consult the clock and the memorized checklist, and to then blame our spouse for our ‘time being wasted.’ When they get back to the car we’re likely to argue about their disrespect towards us. So the thinking leads to a fight.

Of course it’s possible for physical meat-me to transcend all of that ego. Instead of filling time up with narratives I can do the opposite of resistant thinking and I can accept instead. This means we stop looking for what we expect–which is our spouse to come out of the house on time even though we know full well they never do. Instead we can anticipate a positive outcome of some sort, and then immediately look for our opportunities to fill our clocktainers of life with something pleasant.

This means each of us has heaven and hell within us. In hell we are trapped by thought patterns we’ve been taught to think in (we mimic one of our major caregivers), and that leaves us emotionally helpless, like a flag on the pole of our history, waving in the winds of other people’s choices. In heaven we have freedom. We are not stuck in the ground, and rather than blowing in the winds of other’s choices we can make my own choices about how to view things, and in doing so we can create the sort of stability that gets us through tough times.

That’s our choice in life. We can wait in a car for a time and we can experience the negative orbs of emotions that we find on our unmet checklist, or we can turn on the car stereo and we can experience the beautiful orbs of joy that are contained within the music. One is a story filled with sad and angry experiences to load into our clocktainer, and the other are songs we love that are filled with whichever experiences fill us with life.

Think of it: our ego can’t handle someone being a bit late, and yet our spirit can love even the saddest song. Do you see our invincibility if we live in spirit and not ego? Even sad things become treasured, whereas in ego even your spouse’s arrival isn’t good news.

Don’t live in ego with time and events and places and people and things. Live in spirit, where there is freedom and a fullness that makes even the worst parts of life very much worth living.

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.