I used to be a hard worker. I thought that all my accomplishments were made of blood, sweat and tears. That stressing out and not resting until I was completely exhausted was a necessary part of the process. That that was basically what got me the good results. Yet there were times where I didn’t study as much as I thought I should, and I still got good results. And although the thought occurred to me that maybe I really didn’t feel like studying more because it wasn’t necessary, I never trusted that part of me. I thought I was lazy – and lucky, if I got good grades despite my „laziness“!
I think differently now: I believe that everything I have ever succeeded at was not thanks to hard work. I think I succeeded despite it. Of course I can’t know how things would have turned out if I’d done things differently. But when I look back at all the things I have done because I thought I had to, it turns out they were not that important. And the things that were important happened even when I did things that could have jeopardized them. More on this in my post On Control. I do know that it was doing too many things for the wrong reasons, the main one being that misguided work ethic, according to which work equals hardship. Eh, it was not just work, I was under the illusion that basically everything worth having requires sacrifice. Except when you believe it, it’s not an illusion. It’s your reality.
Fortunately, even going down the „wrong“ path eventually gets you on the right track. Like Eckhart Tolle says: Suffering is necessary until you realize it’s not. Up until a year ago I thought that as long as I was suffering all was well (I always thought that if I was unhappy, I wasn’t done adjusting to whatever it was that made me unhappy …).
I have always had a voice in the back of my head that wouldn’t shut up when things were at its worst. That voice kept saying that this cannot be the way life is supposed to be. I want to be happy, that voice insisted, and I cannot accept a life where there is no way for me to be happy. For the most part, I managed to negotiate with that voice, reminding it that I was happy, just not in some parts of my life. But that, of course, was normal. Last year everything just kind of crashed and it felt like there was nothing left. That was when there was no bargaining anymore with that voice. First health, then work, then marriage. Once you allow yourself to see that basically all areas of your life have been ruled by the belief in sacrifice and hardship, you can’t help but admit that the only lesson is this: you cannot go on this way. That is when the suffering finally becomes unnecessary.
Don’t get me wrong: there have always been moments of happiness in my life. I am not ungrateful. That is what made it possible to negotiate with that voice in the back of my head in the first place. The ability to make lemonade can be a bitch, though. Because in reality there is more than one choice. Life may be handing you lemons, and maybe you enjoy lemonade. But the thing is: you could also pass on the lemons altogether, trusting that life will offer you something else.
I’m not going to lie: there are a lot of days when my head is having a difficult time trusting that I will be fine if I follow my gut instinct on what I want and what not. (I am having one of those days right now.) But I’ve done it enough times now to know it’s worth it. I never have to wait long for the proof that it is the right thing to do. Same goes for the opposite: whenever I catch myself making a decision based on the fear that I have no other options, I can almost physically feel how this is only setting me back on the path that I have just left. And I am not interested in going in circles.
For the most part of my life I have been hasty in my actions. I always thought that if I don’t do things right away, that means I will never do them. Or – another classic – if I don’t do them, no one will.
Last year I was finally able to see that that sort of reflex-like compulsion has nothing to do with acting on your gut instinct, let alone going with the flow. The real gut instinct kind of impulses don’t even give you time to consider – you just find yourself doing what needs to be done, and your actions come easily, there is no fear, you’re so engaged in the task that the mind doesn’t have time to fret over what will happen if you don’t do this or that.
First there was a situation at work, a meeting, where I felt that there was a huge gap between the content of what was being said and the truth of the situation addressed. Really, an elephant fit snugly into that gap. The „If I don’t say how I really see things, then I am responsible if this continues“-reflex was beginning to kick in. At the same time, I suddenly knew with absolute certainty that if I did speak my truth, the only thing that changed would be that I exposed myself to people who were not interested at all in changing the situation.
I said nothing, and for a while I felt like I was going to pass out or have a heart attack. Then that feeling passed, and suddenly I was completely at peace. With everything. Myself, my work place, the world. Literally everything. For the rest of the day, I could see everyone and everything for who and what they really were, and I had nothing but love for all of it. The shyness and awkwardness I normally felt when entering an office full of people was gone, I could joke around with anyone, and everything I said came straight from my heart, sans detours via the mind.
I didn’t understand it at the time but this is how I interpret the situation today: If I had said what I thought I had to say that day, it would not have been me living my truth. It would have been me looking to others to confirm what I myself wasn’t able to face. Which they could not have done. So when I realized that speaking up wouldn’t have gotten me the reassurance I wanted, that was the moment I had to do the job myself: acknowledge my truth.
The second situation was also work-related. A colleague said something that I suppose was well-meant advice but it pushed a button, and I felt „I need to blog about this because everything about what she said is just so backwards, and I cannot let that fly! If I don’t make a stand and say how wrong this is, then it’s my fault that people thinking like that rule this world!“ Thanks to the no internet at home situation, I was yet again stopped from acting on my compulsion.
When I turned to my friend and healer La for advice, she suggested that I write it all down just to get it out of my system. She also recommended that I don’t publish anything as long as I am emotionally involved. That, my friends, is some of the best advice I have ever got, and I can not stress its value enough. I found that writing alone was medicine for my bruised ego. There was nothing that sharing my rage could have improved on. Through writing I reached the core of what was really my issue here. Again, it was a truth that I had not been able to accept myself, and therefore I wanted to direct my anger at someone whom I wanted to assert it for me. Which she didn’t do.
This situation taught me that it’s not always a good idea to share everything on your mind instantly. There is greater benefit in working through the rough stuff in a protected environment, alone or with someone you trust one hundred percent.
The most important part about truth is that we ourselves understand and acknowledge it. Only then can we live it. And truth wants to be lived more than it wants to be spoken. That might sound a little strange coming from someone who spends so much time on finding the right words to express her truth. For a while I did in fact struggle with the point of my writing when I understood that words really aren’t that important. Then I realized that for me writing is a big part of living my truth. Regardless of whether or not that means anything to anyone. When my writing comes from my awareness that I do it mostly for me, not to convince anyone of anything, I can do it with ease. Those who „get me“ do so no matter what. Those who don’t will always have an opportunity to find wrong both in my words and my actions.
Eckhart Tolle writes about that phenomenon in The Power Of Now: that words/language can be used as signs pointing to the truth but that they themselves never are the truth, never can be. If that is the case, there is no need to burden my head with the struggle to find the perfect words. Instead I may trust that when I write from the heart and keep the editing to a minimum, I am producing the best kind of signs. You know, not the ones that point you to my truth but the ones that point you to your own.
I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now again. It was much needed but it also sent me off right onto an emotional roller coaster. I think it’s the ego feeling threatened and trying to trick you into feeding it. And it’s also the ego that’s telling you „No, no, this time you’ll be fine. No need to worry about any drama because you’re self-aware now.“ Well, guilty as charged – I walked right into that one.
Although there is tons of wisdom in The Power of Now, and much quote-worthy material, there was one paragraph that spoke to me especially when reading it this past weekend. Its content was this:
When there’s an inner conflict between your thoughts and your feelings, it’s your thoughts that are the (relative) lie, and your feelings that are true – also relatively speaking. True in the sense that they are the body’s reaction to a situation, telling you how you really feel about something at a given moment.
Naturally, I read that paragraph after I let myself get into that major argument with my fiancé. It was as if I’d followed the instructions for How To Be Unaware And Completely Identified With The Ego to the letter.
Afterwards I could backtrace the detonation of the emotional firecracker to this: we were having a conversation, and Peter questioned something that we in my mind already had agreed on. That happens. A lot. Unfortunately, the next thing also happens. Everytime Peter is having second thoughts about something that is already set in stone in my mind. What does happen is, that I freak out, and if I’m being completely honest, the feeling that surfaces is this:
This man is ruining my life with his constant doubt. All he sees is obstacles, and if I let him say no to everything, it will literally be ball and chain when (if?!) we do get married. I’ll be the prisoner of his fears, not his partner. I can’t allow him to do that to me!
But the whole thing would just be too easy if I allowed that feeling to exist, right? So what do I do? Right. I let my mind speak its, well, mind. And that line of thinking goes something like this:
You know that that is not true. That is only your view of Peter, which is tainted by your own fears. Your lack of faith in the fact that no one else can control your fate but yourself. It’s stupid to believe that he could have that kind of power. Feeling this way is unfair to him.
And you know what? My mind is 100% right. That’s where this whole thing gets messy though. For what am I supposed to do with that? I choose, as I more often than not do, to agree with my logic (since it is true), which effectively means that I forbid myself to feel the way I do. The outcome this Sunday was me standing in the kitchen, alternating between yelling at Peter and crying into the waffle batter. Because, you know, it was Sunday and I like fancy breakfast on the weekend, so the part of me that had decided to not feel what I was feeling decided it was a good idea just to go ahead and do that waffle breakfast.
But (as I would read later): when your own thoughts and feelings are in conflict with each other, the thought is the lie, and the feeling is the truth. So, no matter how logical my thinking was, no matter how right and „above“ the childishness of my fear it was – my feeling did not care.
When things where at their worst then and there, I suddenly saw myself in the situation, and saw that it was exactly the kind of drama I didn’t want anymore, and that I even had thought I wasn’t capable anymore because, you know, I knew. I thought „How the hell do I get out of this?“ I got two answers. My ego said this:
You have to win this thing. The only way to end this is to make Peter acknowledge that you are right. Then, and only then are you done with this. You cannot back down now that you’ve gone this far.
That is pretty much me in a nutshell in any kind of argument or even discussion or debate. That’s one of the reasons I don’t enjoy arguments or discussions or debates. I find it exhausting to feel like I have to be right, yet I inevitably get this feeling when I’m in a discussion/debate/argument. It’s like you tell yourself, „ok I’m playing this game but I can only let myself play it if I remember the whole time that it’s a game“. Of course, once you start you want to win, and then you’re already in the game.
I have fallen for this trap many times. I have seen the destructive outcome. Every time. There is no „win“ because that is not really what this is about. Because it’s not me against Peter (or him against me). Sure, you can destroy someone with hurtful words. But that doesn’t mean you win. Maybe it was having consciously thought about this, having observed myself, having read about it, maybe it was something completely different. Whatever it was, something opened me to the truth this time, when I was standing there, crying, and wanting to get out of this, and feeling my ego’s craving to win this argument at any cost. The truth was – is – this:
There is a way out. It is there at any moment for you. You can leave this situation by acknowldging that that is what it is: your situation. This is not you. There is nothing that says you cannot admit to Peter, and more importantly: to yourself, that you’ve just now realized that. You don’t need to follow through on this argument. And you’re right, it could last forever. Because it’s not about what Peter said or did. It’s about you feeling threatened by something he said, and resenting that feeling. And that won’t go away, it wouldn’t even if you did make Peter admit everything was his fault.
So I did that. The relief of exiting the drama came instantly, and that to me is the beauty and the truth of The Power of Now: no matter where we are in life, how deep we’ve gone into the narrative that our ego/ our intellect has fabricated to persuade us to do their bidding – it is never too late or too complicated to leave. There is no repercussion for admitting that we’ve made mistakes, even huge ones. We are allowed to and capable of freeing ourselves if we want to.
Later, I asked Peter what he thought I should have done. How I should handle a situation like this (and trust me, there will be more), so that things don’t go so wrong from the get go. His suggestion:
Say how you feel. Honestly.
He was right. As soon as we realize that we’ve gotten lost in the story, identified with a thought or a feeling, we are shining a light on them, seeing them and exposing them for what they are. And we realize that they are not us. By admitting to ourselves how we do feel, and maybe even confiding in someone we trust, we are accepting the truth of what is at that moment. It is the only alternative, if we don’t want to fight a battle we can’t win: us against ourselves. It is love.
I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of life lately. Probably because the The Path Into The Light seminar is coming up soon. While a part of me says, „You’ll find out there, so why even bother now“, another part knows that I am already on my way, have been for a while, and that the seminar won’t be THE answer to everything (we already know it’s 42 anyway, right 😉 ). So I do wonder, not just about the meaning of life in general, but obviously about the meaning of my life.
Here’s some random notes on what I’ve come up with so far:
1. The meaning of life in general is to be happy. Not all the time, obviously, but I do believe that deep down inside, that’s what we’re all striving for – happiness. That part seems fairly banal. The trick, I guess, is the next step. Believing that it is possible to be happy. That seems to be the part where things go wrong when they do.
2. I have been denying myself a lot of happiness because I can be very judgmental. (See my Yoga Girl book review.) I am trying to change that by promising myself to allow myself to like the things I do. That means becoming aware of the inner censor, the voice that tells you why the things you feel are wrong. Do you have a voice like that? For me working on this inner censor means becoming aware of the fact that there is a conflict – that I like one thing but also have feelings of guilt about liking it. Usually, my feelings of guilt come from some set of beliefs that aren’t originally my own but that I’ve adopted/inherited from others. And 100% of the times I like something I also feel guilty about, I have good reason for liking it.
3. An good example of how my inner censor is holding me back is that I am the kind of person who really enjoys a lot of different things, and I can be interested in many things, and yes: I can be good at most of the things I set my mind to. I don’t just have one thing I am passionate about and devote all my (spare) time to, nor is there one thing that I naturally excel at, so that it would be obvious that this is my calling. But somewhere along the road I got the idea that that is how things work: you get to be good at one thing, and you get to really like one thing. You have to decide, let everything else go, and focus on this one thing. I could get really worked up over how I seemed to be all over the place, not being able to make up my mind and dedicate myself to one thing. Until the other day it never even occurred to me that I am allowed to enjoy AS MANY THINGS AS I DO – writing, baking, photography, sewing, dancing, gardening, meditating, cooking, yoga, knitting, embroidery, film-making, … If the point is to master a craft, then I will obviously not be able to do that the same way a person could who puts all their time and effort into one craft. But if the point is to do things that make me happy, then why not simply be happy – and be grateful that I have the gift of having many things in my life that make me happy?! It seems so obvious now, but as long as my mind was limited by this belief set that you can only have one passion, one talent, I never even looked at it that way.
Getting down to business with this inner censor seems to be key to this whole happiness thing. And those of you who are into mindfulness and/or spiritual teachings are probably familiar with this concept – that we are not our thoughts and feelings but really the observers of them but that we are often unaware, and act as if we were identical with our thoughts, feelings, etc. For those of you who aren’t already into this „stuff“, I can highly recommend Eckhart Tolle (and I think I’ve done that before here on the blog). I find it makes life a lot easier = happier.
So for now I’m working on (gosh, that sounds hard but it’s work AND it’s not hard – another contradiction in terms according to my inner censor/know-it-all) just doing what I love as much as possible – whatever that may be. I will share as much of it here as I can.
Have a great Sunday, everyone!