When someone asks me the question, “What’s new,” I repeatedly am unsure how to answer in a satisfactory way. This is because Michael and I are often up to the exact same thing. (Except that he has recently taken up jiujitsu and regularly comes home with new bruises on his body).
I prejudge myself by thinking that doing the exact same thing for an extended period of time is dull. Then I realize that most of life is spent in repetition. So I miss the point by consistently trying to do something new and exciting. I am left with the task of sufficiently extracting and then vocalizing the meaningful moments from my life to other people.
Some days truly are boring…nothing much occurs. And by “nothing occuring,” I am not referring to my outer environment. What I am referring to is a new way of seeing the world. Another description of a truly boring day is my failure to challenge the status quo of my own thinking.
And then there are other days, days that are truly remarkable. Their remarkability comes from a simple and small click. I see for a moment reality from an enlightened perspective. I am inspired to take a small action. I am empowered to live a more fulfilling day.
This fulfillment occurs not because any thing was added to my life. It happens because some former attitude was subtracted. In an instant, I no longer subscribe to a way of thinking that causes unhappiness, doubt or self-deprecation.
A Relatively Normal Way of Processing Life
With the advent of computer and travelling technology, we can access anything we want to know about anyone in an instant. We can watch any movie. We can fly anywhere in the world. We can eat as much and more than our bodies can physically handle. We have reached the limit of short term gratification.
Short term gratification breeds negativity. Those negative thoughts come up rampantly when I do something my internal compass disapproves of. When this happens, 99.99% of the time I start to beat myself up. The messages in my head may sound something like: “ This is the 400 millionth time you have done this,” or “If this is the 401 millionth time, you’re never going to stop,” or “You will be unhappy for the rest of your life if you don’t pull out of this ridiculous zombie inducing habit.”
Actually these thoughts don’t appear that loud in my head. Instead my mind-body has created a complex coping mechanism: I start to feel uncomfortable. My chest tightens. I become defensive. And I may inevitably look for something, anything to turn my attention away from what is happening inside. So begins and perpetuates all the tiny little addictions and destructive modes of interpreting reality.
A Way of Processing Life with a Little More Light
To be able to process life in an enlightened way does not occur through force. I cannot just wily nily tell myself to stop beating myself up. Saying this is like telling a heroin addict to just stop injecting.
To contemptuously tell myself “ just let it go” compounds the problem. This condescension contributes to the disharmonious choir of voices inside already saying “Okay, 402 millionth time. Get a grip… Oh you can’t?... And see you tomorrow right back here for the 403 millionth time.”
In the vocabulary of Yoga, it is a misnomer to talk about “awakening” as a sort of attainment. Awakening is the result of taking away. It only seems like an attainment because it occurs as a result of the arduous effort of refraining.
Perhaps the most fruitful aspect of growth occurs not when I do everything right, but in the moments I fail to measure up to my own standard and I still decide to stay with myself.
Staying with myself means that I bring awareness to what beating myself up feels like. I have to be brave enough to tune into the discomfort. I have to let my self-destructive thoughts have their time in the sun and simultaneously choose not to engage them.
It is revolutionary to have a thought and choose not to engage it; to have an itch and choose not to scratch it; to have a desire and choose not to fulfill it.
This is the beginning of Yoga. It is the start of attaining some proficiency over the mind instead of victimhood to it. To have an urge arise and consciously choose not to act on it is one of the greatest actions we as humans are capable of taking.