Thursday, February 16, 2012

Being Right Exactly Here, In This Spot, Right Now

In this life we want everything right now. It's not entirely our fault; it's the animal part of our brains, the id part that sees what it wants and goes for it. We want to be happy right now. We want to be better right now. We want a new job, a new car, a boyfriend, to feel better about ourselves, it all has to be now. I really struggled with that concept when I was a teenager; this idea that you have to already be what you are, you can never be in progress or in transition. Society wants you to wake up one day and just Already Be It. Not just society; we all wish for that. We all wish that we could just be better, but we are unwilling to begin the slow, agonizing process of being "better", whatever better means for you in this instance.

The problem is that that instinct is not really about "right now". I want to lose that weight right now because if I lose it now, then tomorrow, I will be happy because I will be thin. I want that new car right now because if I have a cool new car, my coworkers will respect me and I'll get a promotion and then in the future I'll be more popular. I want to stop missing my ex girlfriend right now, because I feel really crappy and people aren't supposed to feel crappy. The problem with those thoughts is that those thoughts are about a future you can't really foresee or control. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't have dreams to lose weight or buy a car or what have you, it's just that the effects of those things are abstract. You'll be happy, you'll be loved, you will feel like getting out of bed again. Those are all the goal, sure, but there are so many ways to get there, some of which you can't even envision right now.

The proof of that concept is this: have you ever dated somebody from your friend group and then thought to yourself, 'if somebody had told me six months ago I'd be dating Bettina, I would have laughed right in their face'. That's because your relationship with Bettina and your relationship with yourself shifted in a way that you could have never predicted happening, because it was so far outside your realm of experience, but now here you are, no more or less yourself, here and now. Which is were you always are, you are always here, but sometimes your thoughts project you outwards as if you're also in the future. You're not. You're just here. But I don't want to get too new-agey on you. That's somebody else's job.

I don't know about self-help. Some things work for some people, and they don't work for others, and your only option is to pick your way through things to find out what takes hold for you. For myself, I try and force myself to be present wherever I go, especially when I am going through a tough time in my life. When I say force myself, I mean really, I have to force myself. It doesn't always work. Sometimes I can't stop worrying about tomorrow, and those are the moments when I am at my unhappiest. I didn't want to write this post in terms of "here are some self-help books that you can maybe read once, think are a really good idea, but then never learn anything from". Part of me really believes that self-help, like the diet industry, is one huge Goliath of people that think they know best, preying on the insecurities of others in order to separate them from their money.

 I'm not into it. The images of the three books I have placed here are books I stand by and believe in, because the three of them are basically talking about the same thing in different ways. They're all talking about right now. I highly recommend "Be Here Now", it's been one of my staff recs before and now everyone is going to think I'm some crazy new age hippie. The book was written in the 60's after Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert) was done going through his acid-trip phase and changed his life by finding a guru and beginning the journey to enlightenment. The book has all the trappings of those elements; the writing is very groovy, and there are illustrations. I find it such a relief that the book is so flawed; the polished attitude of these self-helpers makes me deeply uncomfortable, and I don't like being told what to do by people that aren't paying me. Ram Dass isn't trying to change anyone's minds, he's simply stating some facts he finds to be true. You don't have to feel bad about yourself to read this book; that's important to me, as it is a cornerstone in the self-help pantheon.

I don't know how one betters oneself, frankly, but I do know that it doesn't happen overnight, and for some of us, may never be a muscle that is constantly flexed. I think, for myself and perhaps, for you, too, having negative thoughts about ourselves or about what we're doing in our lives is a knee-jerk reaction, and it takes work and practice to turn that kind of thinking into a fuel. The practice part is the most important; your mind, like your body, has a contact memory that you might not be aware of. The more dark thoughts you have, the more that will be generated. The more you encourage yourself to grow and explore, the easier that instinct will get. Once you get really good at it, perhaps you can start to believe that it is enough to just be.You don't have to do anything else. You just show up; and here you are.

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