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

Accepting Yourself

1354 Relax and Succeed - We can't show others

Much like the ‘hide your light’ quote from Marianne Williamson is often attributed to Nelson Mandela, this poem is also often mis-attributed to Charlie Chaplin. In fact it has a strange and convoluted history that makes noting its authors complex.

It started as a portion of a book titled When I Loved Myself Enough by Kim and Alison McMillen, but it was later translated into Portuguese, and then the Portuguese version was re-translated back into English by someone or combination of people. That change included the usual shifts that go with translation plus some actual re-writing.

In the end, it’s a collective offering, and a student of mine said a wise thing when she sent it with the note that she felt it was my class presented as a poem. If what I do when I work with people is to teach them to swim, then this poem is like reading about swimming.

 

As I began to love myself
I found that anguish and emotional suffering
are only warning signs that I was living
against my own truth.
Today, I know, this is Authenticity.

As I began to love myself
I understood how much it can offend somebody
if I try to force my desires on this person,
even though I knew the time was not right
and the person was not ready for it,
and even though this person was me.
Today I call this Respect.

As I began to love myself
I stopped craving for a different life,
and I could see that everything
that surrounded me
was inviting me to grow.
Today I call this Maturity.

As I began to love myself
I understood that at any circumstance,
I am in the right place at the right time,
and everything happens at the exactly right moment.
So I could be calm.
Today I call this Self-Confidence.

As I began to love myself
I quit stealing my own time,
and I stopped designing huge projects
for the future.
Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness,
things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way
and in my own rhythm.
Today I call this Simplicity.

As I began to love myself
I freed myself of anything
that is no good for my health –
food, people, things, situations,
and everything that drew me down
and away from myself.
At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism.
Today I know it is Love of Oneself.

As I began to love myself
I quit trying to always be right,
and ever since
I was wrong less of the time.
Today I discovered that is Modesty.

As I began to love myself
I refused to go on living in the past
and worrying about the future.
Now, I only live for the moment,
where everything is happening.
Today I live each day,
day by day,
and I call it Fulfillment.

As I began to love myself
I recognized
that my mind can disturb me
and it can make me sick.
But as I connected it to my heart,
my mind became a valuable ally.
Today I call this connection Wisdom of the Heart.

We no longer need to fear arguments,
confrontations or any kind of problems
with ourselves or others.
Even stars collide,
and out of their crashing, new worlds are born.
Today I know: This is Life!

I haven’t read the book, but it based on this small excerpt, even if the original was altered, it looks like it may be a worthwhile book for kids. Even for adults, sticking it up on a bathroom mirror for daily perusal might not be a bad idea, because even a poem this good can only help us if we stay conscious of what it says.

peace, s

The Kid in the Basement

1342 Relax and Succeed - We make more sense than we think we do

I had been doing classes for many years before I got a call from a parent hoping to dislodge one of their children from their home. Now I get them regularly. (It’s okay, the kids end up doing fine.)

These were never unloving calls. Far from kicking the kid out in anger or disappointment, the parent was concerned that they had somehow failed to help the child discover an inspiring life.

On top of that the parents were very naturally starting to feel resentful about being taken advantage of by another adult, and they did not want that feeling to grow with a child they loved.

That really is loving on the part of the parent because the issue is not really their fault. It’s actually no one’s ‘fault,’ it’s just a step in some people’s journey.

No one eats for us, no one sleeps for us, no one spiritually awakens for us, and we are the only ones that can find our calling. Our problem is that we often mistake a ‘dream job’ for ‘a calling.’ The former is about superficial success with largely no effort, but the latter is about how we can mysteriously work our butts off on things that matter to us. (Check out the video of the Japanese toymaker here for an example.)

In truth, ‘our calling’ will evolve throughout life, and even when we believe we are ‘off target,’ the perspective of age exposes that even our mistakes end up being key parts of our journey through life. We make more sense than we think we do.

Even those that feel they know what they want to do and are highly motivated are rarely actually picking a career –although that is more likely in the professions. More often we are only possibly choosing a field of work, because as we learn about any job we will tend to find things out about it that we like and don’t like, and that is likely to change the course of what we do.

Too many people want to start off inspired when it works the other way around –we find inspiration by doing. For that reason, in the end it may be that viewing any job unrealistically is really a blessing. They need to look shiny and exciting for us to pursue them, because they will all be hard in some way –hence the pay. But work is interestingly a spiritual aspect of our lives in a roundabout modern way.

1342 Relax and Succeed - Even bad choices inevitably move us forward

Work is good for us for one simple reason: it’s the verb of us contributing to those around us. In hunter-gatherer times, we shared the food we picked or caught. Today we all have jobs and there’s a big system, but it’s really the same thing, just scaled to almost 8 billion people. Not contributing to that can eat someone up from the inside because it’s unnatural for us.

This represents the most dangerous downside for the person lodged in the figurative basement: the longer they stay there they more they will begin to ruminate on why they are not creating value within their life. And rumination is ego and that soon will turn ugly.

Creating is natural, so denying our drive to contribute places pressure on us to create an excuse. And that excuse –framed as self-talk with our ego– is either that society isn’t worth it, or we aren’t. Neither idea is healthy to dwell on.

Every ‘basement dweller’ I’ve worked with was a person with folded wings. They weren’t broken, sick, incapable or fearful. They were simply so interior –so wrapped up in their own thoughts– that they couldn’t see the world. And if we can’t see the world, we can’t find our way in. Our thoughts can prevent us from spotting our inspiration.

Whether it’s our families, our jobs, or in nature, when we’re clear-headed the world  appears to us like an amazing party, filled with people we are fascinated in. Our problem shouldn’t be finding excitement within us, it should be trying to decide which spectacular thing to pursue.

Kids don’t get jobs and leave basements because they are guilted out, or angered out. Those things eventually lead to being kicked out and that’s a hard route for all parties involved. But people will happily leave their parent’s basements when they see themselves more clearly. Rumination keeps us trapped. Inspiration spreads our wings.

No one eats for us, no one sleeps for us, no one spiritually awakens for us, and we are the only ones that can find our calling.

Once people see themselves and the world without their habitual cloud of thought, they dislike the idea that they would waste their precious, limited time on Earth being static. Wasting their creativity and enthusiasm simply seems wrong to them in a profound way. And as any mature person knows, it doesn’t really matter where any person starts, it’s the starting itself that is the life skill.

I once worked with a secret musician who was living uninspired. By feeling better about herself, she felt more self respect and ended up getting a starter job on a car lot. And despite learning a lot and liking the people, the downsides of that job highly motivated her to work harder on her music.

She still has a straight job that she likes better than the car lot, but music would never would have become a part of her income if she hadn’t first recognized its value by comparing it to something worse. And music is where she met her fiance.

Therein lies the weird beneficial paradox of health. Over time and in looking back, we come to learn that even when we believe we’ve made bad choices, they inevitably take us forward.

peace, s