After Christmas, I tried to write a couple of articles to post here before the new year. One about the nature of reality, the other about death and transcendence and the meaning of life. And maybe it’s because I was sick at the time, or maybe it’s just that I don’t feel the same way about such deep things any more, but I had a lot of trouble finishing them.
Or maybe it’s just because the ideas that I had aren’t clear enough yet in my own mind to explain them to anyone else. It took me something like two months before I could write The Multiple Self, after I first got the idea behind it.
It’s a funny thing, though, how ideas can change you. Because the ideas that I was trying to write about, they kind of took away all my goals and ambitions, all my purpose and drive and determination about 2008.
In a good way.
I’ve spent most of my life trying to “win” something: to do so well at life that… I don’t know what, exactly. I started out thinking you had to live well to stay out of hell, then later thinking that I wanted to be remembered. I think on some level I also believed I had a Destiny to live up to. And I was striving and struggling to get there.
Yeah, I spent the last year writing monthly issues of Change Without Pain, Life Without Struggle, but not-struggling was more in the nature of an ideal or aspiration for me, than a reality. I had a lot of times in 2007 where I successfully stopped struggling, but they were of limited duration.
Because on some level, I still believed there was a point to all that struggle.
Now, I get it. The struggle and drama that I created around my personal self-improvement efforts were just that: drama.
Don’t get me wrong, though. It was necessary drama. I wouldn’t be where I am now, if I hadn’t gone through the struggle and the ideals and the aspirations and all that stuff. While you’re living in the drama of lack, unrealized dreams, and hopelessness, an understanding that it’s all vapor doesn’t actually help you get anywhere. The illusion of destiny and meaning helps you cut through the illusion of despair.
It doesn’t matter that they’re both illusions.
After all, roughly 95% of what we consider reality exists only in our minds. Those people laughing over there, are they talking about you? That guy who cut you off in traffic, is he an a-hole? Why are you so unlucky?
These kinds of questions obssess us, and they are all about crap our brains make up and obsess over. “Am I good enough?”, they incessantly ask. “Will I survive and reproduce?”
Our brains don’t care about our happiness. They’re not built for it. They don’t even care that much about reality, except as far it affects their obsessive, self-centered plans to survive and reproduce – or what would have helped them to do those things in a tribal community of hunter-gatherers about 100,000 years ago.
Once you start to really get this, really dig it deep in your bones, you start to see through a lot of nonsense… at least, other people’s nonsense. It’s a lot tougher to see your own; so much easier to be the teacher than the student. I’ve had to get my head smacked up a few times by reality this past year, in order to get the message about my own nonsense.
No big deal, though. None of it is. But since we’re wired for tribal drama, it’s naturally impossible for us to see the utter non-big-dealness of things at first glance. I find myself thinking back to the words of various Zen masters about how reality is really very ordinary and, well, they don’t use those exact words, but, “no big deal”.
In actual reality… unfiltered, undramatized reality… life is no big deal. It’s been going on a long time, probably will for some time to come. We live, we die. No big deal! To the extent that we think it’s a big deal, we are tripping on drama drugs, cranked out by the pharmacies in our heads and bodies.
And it would be only natural, when you first get this idea, to think that this is bad. That we should maybe all face “real” reality and stop the drama-drug tripping. You want to yell at people to wake up and smell the dreaming.
But that’s drama, too.
And before this really sunk in for me, before the specter of death showed me a couple of weeks ago how to really get over myself, I had a bunch of goals and plans for 2008. I was really pumped about them, too.
Now, not so much.
It’s not that they’re bad, or anything. I just see now that they won’t change what happens to me after I die.
Not that I ever consciously thought they would! But on some deep feeling level, everything about my life used to be so goddamn f***ing serious. Because it was all about changing the world before I die. About “being somebody”.
And now I’m free. Free! Do you hear me? Free!
And yet, when I think about the fact that I’ve finally acquired the personal characteristics I set out to gain – courage, persistence, and true freedom – I’m reminded of the Zen master who described “returning to his original home, empty-handed”, or the other one who spoke of “vast emptiness and nothing which may be called holy.”
Instead of finding victory and personal glory, I find grace, and maybe even a little humility.
So I don’t know yet what I’m going to do with my life, in 2008, let alone the years beyond. It’s quite likely that I’ll do another book or two this year, and of course the workshops, newsletters, CDs, and other things will continue. But I’m going to have to find my voice again, because I’m not that deadly-serious guy any more.
And I’m going to be doing other things, too. I don’t mean business, either. I’m talking pleasure. Sometime within the next two years, I’ll take off a month or two to travel the country again. And if my wife has her way, we’ll tour Europe, too. Maybe I’ll mix in business a little, do some talks or workshops in person, blog and maybe videoblog the trips. But that won’t be the why, just the how. (As in how I’ll afford it!)
There is so much I haven’t done, that I didn’t even know how to want before, let alone do.
The tricky part for the business side of things is this: it used to be that I could create drama around the ideas I discovered and the things I teach, because I was close enough to the drama to live it and convey it directly. Back then, I could say, “I was blind, and now I see.”
But now I see that I wasn’t blind: I just had my eyes closed.
And where’s the drama, if you can just open them any time you want to?
Maybe it’s in the new world that you see when you open them. The one where life is “no big deal”. Or maybe, it’s in the excitement of seeing the drama through new eyes: by understanding the pain of others, and helping them to see past it.
Perhaps it’s the same spirit of play that makes children enjoy “peekaboo!”, or why we watch TV and movies we know are not real. We like being scared, involved, challenged… and ultimately… victorious.
And as long as you’re trapped in your personal drama, all that stuff is real, at least to you, and perhaps to the people around you.
And while you’re still there, you want to win at that drama, or at least get ahead in it. The last thing you want, is for somebody to tell you “it’s not real.”
Because then, it seems like the other guys win .
And what I had to learn in ‘07, was that that’s okay.
I don’t need to win. They don’t need to lose.
And in fact, until you are okay with everybody being able to have the same thing as what you want – and not just mentally, abstractly, consciously okay, but really truly in your secret heart of hearts okay – you will not be able to get those things for yourself.
And your drama will remain…