I am going to close this series of 101 New Pairs of Glasses with a parable, a thought and an offer to receive the compilation ebook of the series for free.
So here we go with Pair 101, and a wonderful story told by Ramana Maharshi:
Ten foolish men forded an stream.
On reaching the other shore they wanted to make sure that all of them had in fact safely crossed the stream. So one of the ten began to count, but while counting left himself out.
"I see only nine; sure enough we have lost one! Who can it be?"
"Did you count correctly?" asked another and proceeding to do the counting himself. But he too counted only nine.
One after the other, each of the ten counted only nine, missing himself.
"We are only nine," they agreed, "but who is the missing one?" Every effort they made to discover the missing one failed and so they agreed, surely he had drowned. "Whoever be he who has drowned," said the most sentimental of the foolish ones, "we have lost him." And in so saying, burst into tears.
The rest followed suit.
Seeing them weeping on the river bank, a sympathetic wayfarer inquired for the cause. They related what had happened and said that even after counting several times they could find no more than nine.
Seeing all the ten before him, the wayfarer guessed what had happened.
Devising a way to make them know for themselves what had happened he placed them in a line and said, "I shall strike each of you so that you may be sure of being included in the count and included only once, upon which you shall count sequentially 'one,' then 'two,' then 'three' and so on. The tenth missing man will then be found."
Hearing this, they rejoiced and accepted the method suggested by the wayfarer.
While the kind wayfarer gave a blow to each of the men, he then counted himself aloud. "Ten," said the last man as he got his blow in turn.
Bewildered, they looked at one another. "We ARE ten," they said with one voice and thanked the wayfarer for having removed their grief."
That is the parable. And so it is for us.
We are unhappy and we begin to look for change. We look for a better and improved self. We look for an authentic self. We look and look and look.
I can identify with this story having spent many years now looking for some version of myself I hoped would be an improvement on the old model. More successful, wealthier, happier. I saw self-development as something that went forwards, onwards and -- if I was lucky /read enough / worked hard enough -- steadily upwards. Culminating in what? A better me? An awakened me? The New Me.
There isn't a program out there to help that isn't promising some form of a new you. What I've come to see is that the only reason I'm unhappy with the current me is that I've forgotten who I am.
I'll let Ramana Maharshi close this series of 101 Pairs of Glasses. He just says it so well:
"You yourself impose limitations on your true nature of Infinite Being and then weep that you are but a finite creature...
I say know that you are really the infinite, pure Being, the Self Absolute. You are always that Self and nothing but that Self. Therefore, you can never be really ignorant of the Self.
True Knowledge does not create a new Being for you; it only removes your 'ignorant ignorance.' Bliss is not added to your nature; it is merely revealed as your true and natural state."
There is no journey to knowing yourself. There is only looking in the wrong place or the right one.
My love and appreciation to all of you who have followed this series.
The series is being put into an ebook that will be available for free, very soon! If you want a copy, let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
As humans we all want to be happy. The 'spiritual' journey is often that special search for happiness and wellbeing that we undertake when all the other searches have failed.
But if you are seated in the last resort spiritual life raft, what do you do if that journey is just as bumpy as all the rest?
Here you are working hard at improving yourself, doing the best you know and then... you wake up down in the dumps, you yell at your kid, one way or another the halo slips off and with it goes your equilibrium. And your faith.
A client recently sheepishly admitted to me he was going through a very dark time and was wondering how it's possible to know so much, be striving every day to put this knowledge to work, be immersed spiritual teachings and guidance, books, audios, inspirational messages and workshops and still have a bad day. Several actually. Well, OK, a couple of months.
He ended up thinking: if this spiritual stuff is all about living from a persistent and reliable state of wellbeing and contentment, how come I'm doing such a bad job of it?
Who wouldn't draw a similar conclusion? And yet what's happening when we ask 'what's wrong with me?' is not just that we are looking in the wrong place for an answer, we are looking from the wrong place.
Like my client, every one of us who is trying very hard to be better and do better, eventually find themselves in the middle of a down day.
And everything looks bad from there.
In fact it is from the middle of the poo pile that the answer is always going to be the same: get me the heck out of here. That's they only thing you could conclude from the center of your own bad feelings.
So give yourself a break.
If I'm depressed and feeling low, that is when I have the least amount of access to my way out. I am looking at my problem from inside the problem. From the middle of my poor thinking, of course it is going to look like my spiritual understanding is of no use to me. I could conclude all kinds of things about me as a person, a mother, or a friend.
However, when I am looking at any problem from the larger picture of my life, the bigger truth is that it is not that imperative that this moment be different. The moment just is. There is nothing permanent about now.
It is as if I'm measuring the each moment as I go and asking, like a kid from the backseat, "Are we THERE yet?!"
I've already set it up as a 'someday' proposition. I'm measuring my progress to destination based on whether I am problem free, always happy, never disappointed, never angry and so on.
What my client and I reflected on together is that perhaps peace of mind is not so much that we always feel peaceful (as somewhere to get to) but rather that when we are not peaceful it's actually OK. The only thing about it worth seeing really is that it's just not the best place from which to see my problem or my solution clearly.
So we thought it might be true that...
Peacefulness includes 'not peaceful'. Sometimes.
Peacefulness isn't a good measure of how far we are along our way on the journey to bliss. Peacefulness is the measure of the extent to which we understand how human functioning operates in the big picture.
How it really operates is that we all came here already knowing how to love, how to feel joy, and having an intelligence to use in life. Nothing can ever take that away. No bad moment or bad feeling, no matter how bad, can ever change that.
I personally don't feel peaceful and in my well-being in every single moment - and my single biggest spiritual learning so far is: this is fine.
We do a lot of striving in order to feel good 24/7, when in fact feeling good might just include feeling fine about not always feeling good.
It's a common thing in self-help and in therapy today to offer a variety of ways to be better - which actually boil down to not 'being' better so much as just 'doing' better. "Chose!" "Decide!" "Manifest!" "Line Up!" are all about doing better.
If you pick up a book to help you out with your desire to change, it might tell you that you 'are' a certain way. For example, maybe you'll be labeled a victim, a reactor... as opposed to a leader, an owner. You are encouraged to choose the better of the two and chose quickly. Don't 'be' this way any more!
Yet, how can you not be what you've just identified yourself as being? This behavioral change is going to take a lot of managing and you are going to need to keep a close eye on your daily picks, managing what you think and how you act, watching what you do in order to measure how you are doing.
In my time working with people, coaching people in wellbeing and peace of mind and training coaches to work with others, I've become exclusively interested in another kind of change. A change that is easy, natural, positive and sustainable -- precisely because it does not take effort to sustain.
That doesn't seem possible for some things does it? You, me, we've all had experiences of trying to change and failing. People around us have too. So I'm going to suggest that it's not that changing behaviors isn't useful; it's just the hard way.
What I've learned, especially through my work with the Three Principles, is that our behaviors follow our emotions and our emotions are the direct product of our thinking.
So whenever we are doing anything; we are only ever as good (behaviorally-speaking) the quality of our own thinking in any given moment.
In this paradigm, victim-hood is a outcome and not a personality type. It is the outcome of a decision that is based on the quality of my thinking at any given time...
For example, if you call me and I answer, "Hello?" and the first words out of your mouth are "What the hell is wrong with you! Why do you do this to me everytime?!!!"
I might react in a number of ways.
Indignant, angry, and reactive all spring to mind! After all, I'm being victimized here. I've done nothing. Except answer my phone. Right?
Well, this DID happen to me and I really learned something. I heard the words and the anger and I was surprised and curious to see that my reaction was ... connection. "Oh my," I thought, "he must be having a really bad day today."
Now, I'm no saint. I'm perfectly capable of all the reactions under the sun. Ask anyone. So why did I see this differently? Had I been practicing thinking new and better thoughts? (I hadn't, just so you know.) Was I having a particularly good day? Was I meditating at the time and deeply serene? Was I really, really, trying to behave like a better person?
None of the above. I just heard differently. I heard a human being speaking to me and it was obvious: He was in pain.
This is no behavioral change.
It is a change in behavior brought about by a new level of 'beingness' in me. At that moment.
This feeling of connection did not come from my advanced training in 'listening and reflecting back'. It did not come from my positive affirmations.
It was a simple moment when, literally without thinking, I was simply part of the dance. I was witnessing the ups and downs of all humans when we are caught up in our thinking and it was fine.
I understood we are only doing as well as we can, given the quality of our thinking in the moment. That is a place of deep, natural connection.
And I realize this is our most natural state. Not a learned one.
So all relationships improve, not when we choose to behave better, but when we focus more on our own deeper understanding of the nature of life for ourselves.