Living inmeans finding balance, clarity and a sense of purpose and direction. Some hints!
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1. Now is all there is
If I had to condense down all of the client issues I dealt with in my 32-year-long counselling career, I would say it comes down to this: living in the past or the future is deadly.
It is easy to latch on to some tragedy from the past or pine for some glimmer of hope in the future, and thereby to waste one’s life. Yet, the pull to look inside is strong.
Inside? Of course. No matter how much you believe your version of your past story, no matter how you imagine your future will be, it’s all a fantasy.
Nothing you think happened,
happened the way you think.
And nothing you imagine,
is going to work out
as you imagine.
The key to these seven ideas about living in this endless moment is how they relate to the seventh one.
The Middle Way is the Buddha’s discovery. he found it in his body as he sought enlightenment. He discovered that it lies between
- austerity (starving and abusing himself) and
- excess (a life of luxurious, conspicuous consumption.)
The Middle Way is not a replacement for the other two, but rather an acceptance of all of it, by choosing the equanimity of the Middle.
It is so that we will endlessly reflect upon our imagined past and imagined future. It is non-helpful to try to stop, and also non-helpful to give yourself grief for doing it.
Alternative: Embrace the Here and Now
Remind yourself that past and future is illusion. Neither direction is helpful, and mostly keeps us stuck in what is not working. Hold your stories lightly, without judgement, and bring yourself back to this moment.
Ask: What can I do right now that will strengthen and broaden my experience of myself?
2. Life isn’t fair
Shift (and shit…) happens. If you think life is supposed to be fair, you are in for a rocky ride.
Life is, and all kinds of stuff happens. Birth, living, death — and much of it out of our control.
I can guarantee you will experience the death of others, including people you love. You will experience betrayal, often by people you love. You will be abandoned, often by people you love.
You will be unjustly blamed, judged, punished. And then, you will die.
I know. You think you “should” be special, and that stuff like this “shouldn’t” happen — and especially to you. After all, what did you do to deserve this? (I heard that exact line, often, from clients…)
Many people waste their lives trying to get others to treat them ‘right.’ Somehow,
a) it never happens, and
b) they meet, again and again,
people who do not treat them right.
Maybe they are looking for the wrong thing.
Alternative: Life Just IS
What’s going on out there is, for the most part, out of our control. Declaring, “It’s not fair that the world isn’t fair!” doesn’t make the world fair. You’re here to be you, discover you, and to live out your path of purpose. Part of that walk is to deal efficiently, elegantly, and firmly with whatever the world throws at you.
Ask: What can I do right now to let go of my judgements and do what I need to do, for me?
3. No one is coming
This line was on a framed sign on my supervisor’s wall.
Another ridiculous belief is that rescue is coming — either in the form of a celestial cowboy coming to end the world and take you off to live in the clouds, or in the earthly version of rescue from the man or woman who will ‘complete you.’
Hollywood loves rescue fantasies.
The good guy saves the damsel in distress,
and vanquishes the baddies.
Nice. Not valid, but prevalent.
In this endless moment… “No one is coming.” No one is going to make it all better for you. No one is going to cover the puddles of your life with their cloak.
Many of you will have been wasting your life trying to be ‘nice to others’ so they’ll be nice to you. Same idea. Sacrifice your life for another, and they’ll do the same for you. Ever notice that it doesn’t work, you’re miserable, feeling put upon, and no one has come to rescue you?
Back to # 2 – life isn’t fair. It’s not a zero sum game. Waiting for rescue or giving your life away in hopes that someone will do the same for you is a mook’s game.
Alternative: Rescue Yourself, from Yourself
Make rescuing yourself your top priority. The only person who can end the games you are stuck in is you. Let go of waiting, wasting your life, doing your life as others demand. Be yourself.
Ask: Is how I am acting and viewing my life, right now, helping or hindering my understanding and my performance? Who (or what) am I waiting for?
Then: let it go and move on.
4. Be grateful
Most gratitude is conditional. As in, I’ll be grateful to you after you’ve done something for me. You go first.
My mother-in-law has a needlepoint in her bathroom.
It’s of a bear looking into the mirror.
“You go first.”
My nature is to be somewhat morose (god, I love that word…) and I notice that all I have to do is look at Darbella and I’m suffused in gratitude. Because we accept each other as we are, not attempting to fix each other, but simply being with each other, gratitude is what is left when the drama goes.
It’s easy to be grateful for stuff we judge to be good. Harder, much harder, to simply be grateful for (as Zorba says) the whole catastrophe. How can you be grateful for death, tragedy, sadness, betrayal?
Well, it’s one of those Middle Way answers. If you bitch, moan and complain about it all, what changes?
Gratitude is not condoning the evil that happens. Rather, I am grateful for having survived yet another lesson. In a sense, I am grateful for having (so far) survived and learned.
Easy? NO! Essential? YES!
Alternative: Adopt an “attitude of gratitude”(Robert Schuller.)
You are who you are because of the life you have lived. If you want something different, do something different. But let go of harbouring anger and resentment. Not because whatever happened wasn’t difficult, but because whatever happened was what happened, and is thus ‘the stuff you’re made of.’
Ask: what in my life (body, mind, spirit, history) am I refusing to accept and ‘bless?’ How is this helping me?
5. Give it away
I like this attitude —as a way of being of service. This Endless Moment is a life-choice that benefits both “self” and others. It’s Karmic, in the best sense of that idea — what goes around comes around.
Your job is to give yourself away!
We all need to make a living. But most people tend to wait and wait to find the perfect moment to be themselves. They withhold their passion, their talents, their gifts, waiting to be “appreciated.” Or, they get into the “I’m not doing this if I don’t get paid” mentality.
Remember the Middle Way. This not a paean to ‘free.’ It’s a suggestion, like all of these, to make yourself — your skills, knowledge, gifts — available to those around you.
My mom, lovely woman that she was, was
- a good cook, and
- a lay minister.
I mention those two things together because,
- when asked for a recipe, she’d agree, then leave out ingredients, so the person making the recipe would end up with something ‘not quite as good.’
- in all her years in the ministry, she only she wrote 10 sermons, which she trotted out when asked to preach. People would ask her for a copy, and she’d refuse.
Now, here’s the punch-line. After she died, we cleaned out her ‘stuff.’ None of her ‘special’ recipes were written down. And she had a little lock box in her closet. In it were her 10 sermons, which we threw out, not knowing what else to do with them. Thus, nothing survived her.
Alternative: Your mission is to put yourself out there
Do this so that some gift of yours remains after you die. If someone asks for help, an opinion, whatever, give freely.
DO NOT give (advice, opinions, etc.) if others do not ask, (that’s just rude.)
Ask: What am I doing, right now, to make a difference, as I share my gifts?
6. Be passionate
Passion is all about being engaged. Immersed. Overcome. To do so, you have to let down your guardedness, and tear into life and living, with verve and pleasure.
Many, many choose to disengage based on fearing, “What will people think?” They are strongly pulled to passionate, full living, and back off because of the pressure to conform.
Now, of course, there is a price to pay for being passionate, and it is exactly the consequences of living passionately that lead so many to repress themselves.
Alternative: Throw Yourself into Life
What is it, exactly that you are waiting for? You only get one time through, and to sit on your hands while dressing in gray sackcloth is not what you or the world needs. Without waiting for permission, be yourself, and throw caution to the wind. Put yourself out there, with full understanding of the consequences.
Ask: What do I bring to the table that is uniquely mine, that is my gift to the world? How can I passionately engage with life, with others and with myself?
7. Live the Middle Way of This Endless Moment
Of course, this is all about living the Middle Way. This path is about recognizing the fallacy of black and white, rules based living and thinking. Most lives stall on the “What is the right way to live?” question. They stall because all that ever happens is an internal rehashing of the same old thoughts, dreams, fears.
Alternative: Just Do It!
Walk. Do. Act. Be. Learn. Inspire. Create. Be passionate. Be alive. Be juicy. All without attachment to results, opinions, pressure to conform.
Ask: What is my next step, and how can I walk it with passion, verve, and purpose?