I think it’s fair to say that most of us have either turned toward or dove deeper into some form(s) of spirituality with the intention of attaining greater peace of mind, more joy, or better health. Those of us that perhaps now call ourselves, ‘Self-Aware’ or even just inquisitive, have often sought a deeper understanding of ourselves, others, and of the world. And we seem to be different from others in that we have done this a bit more actively than most; meaning, we’ve questioned even the paradigms that tell us not to question them and have unturned every stone looking for answers. But many of us are still on the search, and most of us are still unhealthy.
When I was really young, I used to believe that God created us and then forgot to give us the instruction manual. I had an image of something like you get with an IKEA coffee table that told us how to live well: Put that part (or heart) over there and it’ll connect with that other part (or heart) over here; use this size nut to fasten(ate) and use these tools to put it all together; and then use this cleaner to make it all look shiny (enlightened). We’ll read the manual and all be healthy, happy, whole, and successful in every way. Yet after years of being on a spiritual path - with or without the IKEA style manual - we should have an awesome level of health and constant joy, right?
Not Quite There?
The fascination with self-improvement is like a dog chasing its own tail; he’ll go round and round in circles until he tires, and you know what? I’m tired, too. I want all the things I’ve been working for, and I want them now. And I’m guessing, so do many of you.
Perhaps you’ve spent much of the last two decades or so learning all you could, taking workshop after workshop, and having countless conversations about chakras, energy, and what the best diet is. Perhaps you - like myself and almost everyone else I know - still have a stack of books just wanting to be read; even more books about ever more ways to balance your energy, lose weight, and achieve financial freedom, and more. How many of us have begun many of these same books only to leave them gathering dust on or near a shelf with various forms of bookmarks scattered throughout them?
Ironically, I think that getting tired of this is part of the plan. I think it’s the second half of the instruction manual, the few pages with the French, Japanese, and German translations that you never look at. But one look at those pages can provide as much information as the pages in English—if we know how to read them well.
The IKEA manual is often written with the majority of it in diagram formats, making it difficult to misconstrue, but real life, no matter how many books we read, is open to interpretation. So maybe the answers aren’t in books. And maybe, just maybe, there are no definitive answers at all.
Let’s face it, you’re gonna die. Others you know and love dearly may die before you do, leaving you grieving or even angry. Up until this moment at least, it’s been unavoidable: Our time here is temporary. Yet we spend much of our time looking for security in a world that inherently is insecure. We spend hours upon hours and years upon years looking for answers with hopes they’ll work, but even the best of those leave us wanting more because ultimately, externally directed searches and the answers they provide are mostly WMDs - Weapons of Mass Distraction. They’re temporary mind satisfiers that most often do not work in the long term. What a waste of energy, no?
What if we spent more time embracing the present moment, and connecting in the stillness to the higher parts of each of us that is - or is at least connected to - God/ Source/ Buddha/ Jesus (call it/him/her what you will) whenever possible? Yes, you’ve heard this before, but have you really applied it? In our current paradigm of short attention span theatre, we can’t even focus long enough to remember that within the stillness is the peace and maybe even the wisdom we seek, much less to actually spend time being there.
Listen to the Silence
In my line of work, I listen as much as talk or write, and when someone is sharing his or her health or life concern with me, it’s always best if I listen intuitively to their inner God / Source / Buddha / Jesus to determine what the best response is. If I think I have all the answers I’m heading for trouble; so I listen, and I’ve heard a few tips we can all relate to and actually do to alleviate the suffering and even the constant striving for more, bigger, better, and faster.
- I recognize I am but a small cog in the wheel of life. Not only all of life but in my own life; I believe this section, or lifetime, is but a small part of the many. And I haven’t mastered it yet, so why do I think I’m going to do it now? I do my best and acknowledge that my best can be different from day to day. And it’s okay;
- I recognize that my only opponent is my own ego; not my parents, society, politicians, religion, or terrorists. And the ego is really, really smart. It knows all of my weaknesses, and exactly how to distract me best so that I forget about spending time in stillness. It perceives stillness as the death of itself, yet I only seek to integrate, not destroy. It really can’t be destroyed anyway, so why bother trying to do so?
- I recognize that my joy is connected with the joy of others. I feel best when I’m not focused on myself; whether I’m washing my girlfriend’s car or being in service to my clients. It is sharing our unique gifts that bring us true joy - not a temporary alleviation of suffering - I mean true joy, which cannot be attained while solely looking to serve the self.
These are just a few of the many things I’ve heard while in the stillness (and echoed elsewhere). There are, of course, many more. Each bit of awareness reminds me that all the ‘work’ most of us have done has still left us with illness (or the constant fear-based striving to be well), fear of financial collapse, or heartbreak, or other perceived potential calamities. And I propose that those are in a way, the answers we seek. We learn by doing; by being immersed in the moment and seeing what works and what doesn’t, and eventually, after all the striving and fighting both with ourselves and with others, learning to embrace everything, even the journey that can be filled with pain and suffering as well as joy and bliss. When we relax, the body becomes supple, and flexible, and the fight is finally over. And then maybe we can actually catch our own tails instead of merely chasing them. Though at that point, I’m not sure I’ll really want to.