If the number one dream killer is “doing what works,” then the number one life-killer is preparing to live.
Think about it. We spend endless amounts of time in preparation for some future event.
We’re constantly trying to improve to have a better life. But the better life never comes. Why? Because there’s always more improving to do. We mask endless improvement-seeking as a venture of growth. But all it really is is fake growth in a shrewd disguise. It’s not real growth. Real growth is alive, not contrived.
There are examples in every area of life:
- Constantly seeking to improve your relationship (trying to seek the perfect relationship that will solve all your problems).
- Chasing more and more money that you believe will someday give you freedom (preparing for a day when you can finally relax at ease and know you’re taken care of).
- Searching for the right fitness program and training in a way that’s always preparing you for a new level (you’re training a lot, but rarely are you ever really just moving or doing the thing you trained for).
- Trying to gain knowledge and information through books and degrees without applying them (hoarding ideas without using them is a shame, and another trap of endless preparation).
Let me share an example with you from my own experience this past week while on vacation in B.C.
For a long time now I’ve been working – a lot, like A LOT a lot. I’ve emailed, conference call’d and coached my brain into submissive mush. I was caught in the dogma of ‘working for the weekend’ or in my instance, working for the holiday. It is easy to fall into a routine and totally neglect all other areas of life. I would work 12+ hour days all so I could have some extra time and flexibility while on vacation or on Sundays – my only day off.
I spent a lot of time trying to prepare for time off.
What a waste! I was essentially putting life on hold until I felt caught up enough to click off. I didn’t realize I was living this way until we went to BC.
Thich Nhat Hanh sums up our problem in this quote from his book, Peace is Every Step:
We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. —Thich Nhat Hanh
So, why is it that we spend so much time in preparation for living, and such little time just being, flowing and getting ourselves caught up in adventures?
This question has riddled my brain for the last year or so and until now the answer eluded me.
Here’s what I think the problem is:
We’re terrible at discerning our desires that come from our always-on-a-quest-to-survive-and-protect ego and those that come from our true, liberated self.
- The ego believes in a world of separation and limited resources. Therefore all actions and desires are to improve to become better than others, to get yourself ahead and leave others behind, and to compete for limited resources. Our ego tells us that the (seemingly) competing desires of acceptance and growth can’t coexist. Acceptance is dangerous. It equates to complacency.
- But our liberated self knows that we are all connected, and that we are the source of all that we desire. There is no need to compete because there is always enough to go around. Our deeper self sees acceptance as reveling in the beauty of what has unfolded, and the desire for more and more unfolding as an exciting adventure. There’s no need to choose one or the other.
The question, then, isn’t should you grow and fulfill desires, but where are those desires rooted in in the first place.
Are your impulses rooted in your small, separate self that is always trying to one-up everyone else?
Or are your desires founded in a deep knowing that you can create whatever you want and that you are that which you seek?
I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately. It’s a great way to filter whether you’re doing what you are really pulled to, or if you’re just following the template.
Becoming self aware has allowed to me feel more comfortable slowing down and enjoying day to day splendor. If you work non stop for a measly week off every now and again you are wasting a lot of life. Seeing the Monkey Husband totally enthralled while driving the exotic sports cars has reminded me of the importance of connectivity and excitement. I have made it my goal to do one super exciting non-work related thing per day for the entire month of July. So far I feel less stressed and with this new work / life balance I am far more productive than my previous slave driver self.
With love from the Trench Kitchen,