I believe it was Rev Leroy Allison that said “We spend too much time living in the ‘what if’ and need to learn to live in the ‘what is.’ Accepting our present reality seems to be hard for us as an adult. Our emotional state usually arises from the internal protesting towards it.
In fact we get so wrapped up in this internal battle, we lose months of our time, years even, between moments when we ponder our life a bit more and resolve to make changes. Most people don’t take regular time to relax and still the mind a little, there’s just too much ‘to do’.
This week I have been contemplating the topic more than usual, my little grey tabby didn’t survive her kidney disease and so we begrudgingly said farewell. In a detached way, I wondered whether this experience of death would be different from previous experiences I've had given all my pontificating about living in the moment.
I cried, even though I believe we are all connected, in life and in life after life, but I can no longer reach out and stroke her fur, I can no longer hear her chirpy little meow talk that greeted me every time we were near. Nothing I think or feel can change the fact that she's not physically here. However, what I think can change my experience of it.
Only last week I wrote about leaning into the curve balls, living in the present, and so life decided to throw me another.
When close ones die, it gets us thinking about the life we are living. Those who face dying tell us they wish they had listened less to others and lived a life more aligned with their own desires.
How many times each day do you waste time rebelling against ‘what is’ in your mind? The toilet seat that has been left up, the person next to you on the train with garlic breath, the kids squabbling with each other, the friend that never calls, the boss expecting you to just go along with some silly protocol, the fact that you even have to go to work at all?
One of the reasons we love children and animals so much is they seem to revel in the present moment far more than we, they still see magic all around them. We, however, chew things over in our minds and create magnificent stories within seconds. Generally we tell ourselves fabulous tales of how others have done things deliberately to us, and so we feel the persecution and sink further into our misery.
We also experience others doing this to themselves, friends or loved ones unload, which just adds to the bad vibes. So what can we do about all these thoughts and feelings we experience that are just slowing us down, creating a fog around ‘what is’?
Change what you can, accept what you can’t.
It comes down to neutralizing the effects. In the moment, if you feel especially upset, it’s better to remove yourself and get moving, burn some of that negative energy off, walk off some steam. Once you’re there, or if you’ve started at a less extreme state of emotion, start to generalise your thoughts, replay the story from another perspective, one that doesn’t put you at the centre of the drama.
Most importantly, be yourself. I reflected this week how animals have their own personalities, even their own baggage. My older cat has always been wary, if approached from her peripheral vision she’ll turn and swipe, if challenged by another cat she’ll valiantly stand her ground.
In contrast, that little grey tabby was a resounding example of simple presence and love. Not once did she fight, bite or swipe. Nothing ever fazed her; she just ignored any challenge and carried right on with her affectionate ways. What an amazing gift in my life, and beautiful memory.
Taking regular time for yourself to get absorbed in activities that help you tune out to the ‘stuff’ and tune into who you are is a necessity, it’s certainly not an indulgence.
As I watch my children grow up, I’m acutely aware of all the expectations that get put upon them, ‘rules’ that they are supposed to follow. When I think of the layers and layers of these that get added over the years, it’s no wonder we get stuck in a bit of a fog about who we really are.
Accepting this, start to delayer. Spend more time in ‘what is’, you will soon notice more of what you are feeling towards things, ideas, or people. Use this as a guide to getting to know the real you. Accept what comes up, you may not be the person you think you are.
There is only now, this moment, this body, this life, this experience. Accepting the moment doesn’t mean you accept a future made up of the same moments – use now to guide you to what you do want, then action it. Even if that action is only becoming aware of what you don’t want.
Once you look at your life through different lenses you can't undo it, awareness is created. Inspiration follows, you start to notice more of who you really are, what you really want, act on your inspiration.
The fact you’re reading this article shows you already have some level of awareness that something is out of whack in your life. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy to strip away all those layers you’ve gathered over the years, you won’t suddenly wake up tomorrow with a childlike innocence about the world. But as you work on it, piece by piece, peace returns, exuberance returns, and – most importantly - you return.
Living ‘what is’, choosing this moment, aware of who you truly are and what you truly want, is a life worth living.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/40883175@N06/14331575962">Highline Elation</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
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