Before we begin to see clearly, our relation to both people and events around us remains inevitably unbalanced and uncomfortable. It is always unbalanced and uncomfortable, no matter how we try to deny it and tell ourselves the contrary. We just pretend that it is not so. But it is so clearly true:
Our discomfort has gotten so bad that epidemic portions of the (especially Western) population must now medicate themselves to reduce this very anxiety and unease. Some medicate themselves further to combat the illnesses like hypertension, heart disease, cancer and more that these feelings of unease have brought into their lives. Is it a coincidence that the word disease is made up of ‘dis-ease’? Our dis-ease is why we go to such extremes to try and understand how to relate to one another, and figure out how to prepare for oncoming events. We read books, we go to seminars, take quizzes in magazines, consult the clergy as well as financial advisors – all to gain some insight. Insight that we already have.
What about the ‘happy’ people? We all know at least one person who seems to have things going their way. Maybe even that person is you. But even in what seems to be the best of relationships or situations, if you look carefully beneath the façade of happiness there remains a fear of eventual loss (either by death, dissolution of the relationship, or loss of possessions), as well as a feeling of possessiveness (this is my wife, this is my boyfriend, this is my car), and probably a feeling of mutual support by association as well. The happily-ever-after home and finances are inevitably stained by the “what will I do if I lose them?” blues. We smile on the outside, and nod amiably to our friends, but on the inside we are obsessed by the horror that we may somehow eventually lose it all. And then what do we do?
While presented by popular culture as
the ultimate goal for most people, it may surprise you to know that this
‘ultimate goal’ is a recipe for unprecedented pain and upheaval, as it contains
the toxic ingredients of fear, possessiveness, and dependency. Don’t
believe it? Then answer this question: What happens to your happiness when
that person or possession is gone? That’s right – your happiness leaves with it.
You crash. Then your dependence and the illusion becomes painfully clear - at
least for the few moments before we dust ourselves off and head right back into
the fire once again, determined (and encouraged by society) to regain our
“Get back onto the horse that threw you” is society’s expectation and the lesson you are supposed to learn. Sometimes perhaps that is appropriate, but other times perhaps your lesson is to learn that walking may be just as good as riding, all things considered. Society has yet to learn that one, because it doesn’t look like ‘progress’ – and society is all about progress. But it may indeed be the progress of your lifetime.
This ultimate goal that everyone seems to chase remains coupled for eternity to this underlying fear that we’d rather not look at. But it lies lurking, just beneath the surface of your supposed happiness. You can feel it in the pit of your stomach in the moment or two when you fear that something has gone amiss with your object of affection. This fear is not unfounded – it is grounded in truth. And it is your friend. It is trying to steer you into a path that is true happiness, enjoys the same things, but isn’t dependent upon anything external.
This fear has been summoned by you for a purpose: To move you in a different direction. After all, if you were supremely comfortable, why would you seek a different position? It is our uncomfortableness that literally spurs us into action. In the modern world, the actions we are spurred into are usually fruitless and ineffective, so problems continue to mount and we continue searching for solutions.
Those who seek answers offered by their culture (rather than listening to the voice of Truth) find themselves exhausted by these constant and ineffective efforts. Western culture seems especially prey to this line of thought. We have been taught that happiness and fulfillment can lie in a new house, or car, or firm body, or boyfriend, or Botox, or HDTV, or sports, or religion, even. This is the reason everyone is suddenly on some sort of prescriptive mood elevator or anxiety reducer or sleeping aid: The artificial and superficial ‘answers’ that culture and conditioning offer you provide no real peace.
From the first day we are born, we have been conditioned to conform to an artificial pattern, so it is no wonder we find it difficult to reach within us for the true answer. It is never suggested to us – at least not in a way that we have been able to hear.
But I am suggesting that to you right now, and I hope you can hear me, because it is the only answer.
Before I personally reached inside for the solution, I accepted what society and culture taught as correct and ‘what should be’. As a result of following what society suggested, there was friction in my relations and events – probably similar to what you have experienced or are experiencing right now. It was painful, especially in relation to my spouse, who was not behaving anywhere close to the way that society told me he “should be”.
But events are never random – they are summoned (remember that), and this relation brought me so much dissatisfaction that I was motivated to change. And I did. My ‘Before” poems are examples of how I thought at the time, when I was still a beggar who had his hand out waiting for someone to ‘fill it’ and hand me a solution from the outside, rather than seeking the answer from within.
Once I reached within, I changed from the metaphorical brick wall that he had become accustomed to railing against, to a metaphorical serene ocean, ebbing and flowing to my natural and correct rhythm within.
He could rail and flail against the ocean all he liked, but he came up empty handed every time. A serene ocean is receptive, but cannot be controlled or grasped, while a brick wall is unreceptive, and is frail as a result. It can be cracked. Bricks can be removed. It can even be totally destroyed. But not an ocean.
When I reached within to find the correct solution and changed as a result of my internal inquiry, something happened that I did not expect. Something I had been trying to unsuccessfully achieve happened all by itself: He changed.
In retrospect, it was natural – no one relates in the same way for long to both a brick wall and an ocean. As a brick wall, I tried hard to keep him from constantly leaning on me, chipping at me, throwing things at me, scratching notes into me, etc. Try any of those activities on an ocean, and well, it’s just not the same.
But I didn’t change him. I didn’t have to change him. I only had to change me, and for the better. After a period of time, he had to adapt to my change as well, all on his own. Had to. Trying to lean on the ocean wasn’t working out as well as he hoped.
But the most important thing to remember is that you will not find solutions to your frictions at marriage councilors, or in the legal system, or through self-help gurus, or by being bigger or more clever than your perceived opponent. These are all temporary solutions at best that, in the end, leave you in a worse predicament than before.
Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, you’ve had the answer the whole time, but you were so certain that the answer was going to come from somewhere else, looking to yourself for an answer was the last thing you’d try. You’re still looking somewhere else right now, by reading this essay, but you’re in luck: I have no maps to offer you. They’re useless. I point you to look within yourself instead.
You know, most people will just keep doing what they’re doing until they have no choice and must do it differently. Wise is the person who sees it coming, and reaches within willingly, before it is the only move left, because then when they are blinded by their ‘loss’, they may not make a good choice. They won’t be able to see as clearly.
So what will the solution to your problem be? I can’t tell you. No one can, really. It is as unique as you are. Solutions are rarely the same for two people. Well, the solution may be the same, but the execution of the solution will vary because, quite simply, you vary. So how it happens will depend on you and where you’re at at the time, and what you are capable of.
You must have the courage to look within. Stop listening to all the voices on the outside. Listen to the voices within. Go against artificial cultural conditioning and boundaries. Be still. Be quiet. Be willing. And reach inside.
The path for everyone is different, yet somehow still the same. The progression of my poems demonstrate how changing is possible for anyone – there are no exceptions to this, and if you’re using that line as an excuse, it is indeed just a lame excuse. It’s wonderful to realize that no matter how old, or young, or frightened, or set in your ways – everyone – EVERYONE- can change if they want to. Do you want to?
Before I changed, I kept demanding that he changed to fit what I thought (and culture had taught me) ‘should’ be. I wanted him to ‘stop that’ – stop leaning on my brick wall, stop chipping at it. I wanted him to quit – or in other words – change. But when it eventually became clear he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, I sought a different answer. And the answer was lying within me all the time.
Ever try to chip an ocean? Lean on it? It doesn’t work. When I became the ocean, his behavior changed, also. When I looked within me for the answer, what ‘should be’ or ‘shouldn’t be’ in our relation was no longer governed by popular opinion or theory. It came from within. It only makes sense as we are constantly evolving, and so does what works or doesn’t work in how we relate to each other.
One more note – Try to have a relation, not a possessive and prescribed relationship. Ships can sink. But your relation to something is unsinkable. It’s a part of you, and it will grow and adapt and repair. It is alive. Choose relation rather than the doomed to sink (or be abandoned) relationship.
Ships must have captains, must worry about provisions, need maps and directions, and sometimes even suffer mutinies or cause its inhabitants to walk the plank.
Relations are unharmed by a storm, while ships often sink if there is anything other than smooth sailing.
Choose living, growing, adapting relations. Forget the ship. And look within yourself and yourself alone for the answer to the dissatisfaction and friction you have around you. The answer is there, and there alone. I promise you. Just look.