Life is amazing. Sometimes it’s beautiful, and gentle and sometimes it’s cruel, and terrifying. Sometimes it’s happy and sometimes it’s sad.
And everything we say about life we say as if it’s happening to us or for us or against us.
When things are going well, we say that “life is a beautiful.” And when things aren’t going well, we say that “life is a bi*ch.”
But in reality, life is life isn’t it – full of loving and living and loosing and winning and beginning and ending.
And if we’re “lucky,” I suppose that we’ll experience more winning than loosing but I’m not certain luck has anything to do with it.
Life is a series of moments, of snap shots in time viewed as if it were a movie by our consciousness. And because we’re conscious, we’re busy observing and making judgements:
- This is beautiful
- That is ugly
- This is good
- That is bad
- I love this
- I don’t love that
- I am happy
- I am sad
Everyday we make these judgements about our selves and others which are, absolutely natural, from evolutionary perspective. When we were cave men we had to make these judgments because our lives often depended upon our ability to make smart distinctions about our environment.
- This animal is dangerous
- That animal is safe
- This plant is food
- That plant is poison
Risk vs Reward
Cro-Magnon man/woman was solely concerned with keeping his tribe safe, fed, warm, and growing. He didn’t have time for frivolous things. Survival was 99% of his motivation.
For him, everyday was an exercise in judgment. Luckily, we live in a much safer world; although, many might still disagree. And so our days aren’t generally filled with the same demands on our primitive faculties of judgement.
So, why do we still judge?
And when we do make judgements, why do we hold so tightly to them?
I’ve written extensively on Ego and yes, Ego is why we hold so tightly to our judgements because they form the foundations of our psyches.
People who know me know that I love A, B, and C and don’t love X, Y, and Z. That I am A,B, & C and not X, Y, & Z.
They also know that when I (or anyone else, for that matter) change something about myself, if they are sufficiently close to me, they might experience a little jolt to their own psyche. Why? Because in a way, their own psyche is informed by my own as much as mine is informed by theirs. When something about me changes so must they make adjustments to the themselves.
And depending on the magnitude and nature of those changes, our egos will rise up in defense of all that it believes is true:
I can’t believe that you…
I refuse to accept that you…
And that’s because during our waking hours we stay identified with the mind i.e. the judge.
The mind thinks and judges and discerns and limits and calculates and manipulates variables. It concentrates.
But, and here’s the kicker, we are not our mind. We are the one who observes the mind.
Our minds are brilliant in their problem solving capabilities. We experience stimulus X, judge it, consider the variables and make a plan. And we proudly exclaim, “I have solved this problem!”
Or conversely, we experience stimulus Y, judge it, consider the variables and flail wildly because we can’t solve the problem.
In either case, we have attached ourselves to the stimulus and by doing so, we become one with it. It becomes us. And this is the root of suffering.
But was there truly a problem to solve? No, it was simply an event which occurred. It wasn’t a “problem” until we decided it was one. That is, until we decided to resist its existence by refusing to accept it for what it was. That does not mean we shouldn’t handle business. But we must first accept the “event” exactly as it is before we can address it.
Imagine you are in a beautiful meadow. There are flowers all around, birds chirping and animals playing. You’re having a wonderful day being present in the meadow when, all the sudden, a cloud passes in front of the sun. The meadow darkens, the animals quiet and you look up at the cloud.
“I wonder if it will storm. I should probably leave, I hope I don’t get struck by lightning. What if it floods? What if a tornado comes down. Yeah, I definitely should leave.
And before you know it, you’ve packed up your beautiful day and have fled the scene. Meanwhile, that little cloud passes across the sun and goes on its way, the light re-emerges, the birds start chirping and the animals resume their play. But you aren’t around to see because you became the cloud and because you became the cloud it was all you could see. You couldn’t even see how beautifully the sun played against the silver edge of the cloud because all you could see WAS the cloud.
This is what our judgements about life do to us. We become them and in becoming them they are all we can see.
So, what am I supposed to do if I shouldn’t make judgements about the people, places and things I experience? If it’s natural for me to do it, why is it wrong?
The truth is, it isn’t wrong and yes, it is natural. However, there is another way forward that is just as natural it just may not come as naturally.
Consider the meadow again: all birds, flowers, and animals. It’s beautiful and then a little cloud passes in front of the sun.
“I wonder if it will storm.”
Then let it go.
That’s it. You allow yourself to feel what accompanies the thought and then you let go of it. You don’t make it a problem. You don’t forget it but you don’t attach to it either. You simply allow the thought to enter, you experience the thought and then you let it go. Don’t become the cloud.
This same “letting go” is taught when we experience anger. We’re taught to let the anger go. We clench our fists, grit our teeth and then we let the anger go. Because if we dwell on it, we become it and then what invariably happens is that we lash out – say things we didn’t mean and do things we shouldn’t have done. Why then shouldn’t we apply the same method all our feelings and thoughts?
We certainly can and we should especially when we’re confronted with things we have zero control over.
But what about the good thoughts and feelings?
Well, similarly to not becoming the cloud, we don’t want to become the beautiful day in the meadow either. You experience it, relish its beauty and let it go.
But it’s good to attach to beautiful things, right?
No, though it’s very comforting to do so. But what happens when you’ve attached yourself to that beautiful day and the next few days aren’t as beautiful? Maybe they’re even downright dreadful? Well, you start to miss that beautiful day. You re-live it. Then you pine for it because no day will be as beautiful as that day and therein lies the suffering. Conversely, what if the next few days are also gorgeous but all you can remember is that one beautiful day in the meadow? Now, you’ll have missed out on all those other beautiful days.
“It is never things in and of themselves that cause us pain, it’s our relationship to them.” That’s the Greek stoic philosopher, Epictetus, at his best.
When those emotions start to emerge, as Michael Singer, author of “The Untethered Soul,” advises:
Stop, smile, feel it and let it go.
In this way, we can get out of the habit of “dealing with life” because there isn’t anything we really have to deal with. All we have to do is flow with it, witness it, refrain from judging it and let it go.
Life is amazing. Sometimes WE are beautiful, and gentle and sometimes WE are cruel, and terrifying. Sometimes WE are happy and sometimes WE sad. But it’s all our choice.