Self evolution is a constant never-ending process. Some people lose hope when they first realize they’re never going to get “there”, because “there” doesn’t exist. Well, it does exist, but not in the way you think it does. “There” ends up actually being “here”, space and time collapse, and the present is all there is.
Often times we can be drawn into comparing ourself today to how we were in the past. We look at our weight on the scale in our bathroom and compare the size of jeans we are wearing today to the size we wore when we were younger. Looking back at measurements like this can instill a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction or a sense of frustration and despair.
The ego is obsessed with comparison. This winter had much more snow than last winter. I’m six pounds heavier than I was last year. I’m making more money than I did last year. My spouse and I don’t make love as much as we did when we first met. I can’t hold poses in my yoga class as well as some of the other students. They have been practicing for longer than I have. He went to Yale and I went to a state college. We have to keep up with the Jones.
The list of comparisons is limitless and ultimately pointless due to the lack of happiness it creates. Don’t try to compare new you to old you, and don’t settle in to the new you for long–because as soon as you get used to the new you then you’ll evolve again!
Comparing the car you drive to the car your neighbor drives is the same thing as comparing who you are today to who you were when you were younger. You are the same as you ever were, and you are the same as your neighbor.
Are the doubts and fears present in you when you were a child not still present today though your physical body has changed? Are not the fears your neighbor has about money, job and security your fears as well?
They are, you see, because everything is everything. Oh, perhaps your neighbor displays his fear of financial uncertainty by creating savings accounts and a diversified portfolio while you display yours through bargain and coupon shopping at the grocery store and waiting for items to go “on sale”. At the root of these different behaviors lies the same uncertainty. It’s the uniqueness of the 7 billion humans on the planet that have allowed for it to be manifested in so many ways on so many levels.
My dad once once told me that change is the only constant in this universe. In other words, change is constant and continual. And constancy therefor must also equal change. In mathematics if X = 2, then 2 must also equal X. In other words everything is everything else. It’s all connected. Comparison therefor becomes a source of unhappiness as the universe is in a constant state of fluctuation, contracting and expanding, light fading to dark, winter fading to summer.
So perhaps you’re at the point in your life cycle where you’ve looked around you (or in the mirror) and realized that whether you accept it or not you are changing and the world around you is changing. Being a human other than the Buddha—in other words you haven’t attained enlightenment, yet—your mind automatically labels the changes it observes as “good” or “bad”.
“I’m making more money than I was last year. This is good.”
“The amount of my salary increase is not enough to match inflation. This is bad.”
As stated previously we could list an infinite amount of comparisons here but we can stick with these two for now as they will provide some insight into the basic ego ladling of “good” and “bad”.
Is making more money good? Aren’t your same financial concerns still present albeit manifested differently if you make more money? Don’t you get taxed more and then don’t you complain about that? When you make more money don’t you also spend more money? Doesn’t having more money potentially lead to apathy, greed, laziness or superiority complexes? Are all of these things that go along with having more money really “good”?
Is making less money than inflation demands really a “bad” thing? Have you ever known someone who lost their job and it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to them? Have you ever known someone who lost their job and it ended up being the worst thing that ever happened to them? This is a perfect example of what we’re talking about.
The actual event (lost job) creates two different scenarios, one “good” and one “bad” in the eyes and mind of those affected. Perhaps the person who lost their job and it “ruined” their life had some lessons to learn about the situation they ended up in. Perhaps they were blowing all of their money and not saving enough and planning for the future. So the “universe” or “God” or whatever powers we believe are “outside of us” (they’re really not outside of us but more on that later) decided that the best way to teach this person to put a higher value on money was take it from them. When things become scarce we view them as being more valuable.
And perhaps, if the universe works the way we think it does, this person might have even played a direct or indirect role in losing that job in the first place. Even if they didn’t play a direct or indirect role that we can think of as in the case of a corporate buy-out or mass layoff situation, the person still played a decisive role in how they allowed that one event to affect them moving forward.
You see, regardless of what you encounter in this life cycle, you are the one who ultimately decides everything. You have so much power you don’t even know you have. You are a giant tied to the ground by the thinnest of strings, which you knotted up yourself, and “forgot” how to untie. Once this realization sinks in and you accept it then you are free to break those ties and realize your happiness potential.
With your thoughts and then ultimately your actions you and you alone are the determining factor of everything which happens to you.
I had a religious patient who used to see me who was in her later years and she would often remark on the many questions she had for St. Peter when she met him at the pearly gates. I imagine the conversation start out something like this for most of us:
You: “Why did God let me get laid off from my job?”
St. Peter: “You picked that job.”
You: “Well I had a family to support!”
St. Peter: “You decided to have a family.”
You: “Well we didn’t mean to, Jimmy was an oops baby!”
St. Peter: “You decided to have sex while your wife was ovulating.”
You: “Well we had been drinking at that party and my wife…”
St. Peter: “You decided to drink and then have sex while your wife was ovulating.”
You: “Well everyone else at the party was drinking and I wanted to fit in!”
St. Peter: “You decided to give a shit about what other people think.”
I’m pretty sure if there’s a heaven then profanity has it’s place there right next to the sunshine, rainbows and beautiful sparkling unicorns.
All jokes aside you can easily see that this conversation leads straight back to you and all of the decisions you made that got you to where you’re at.
As the conversation progresses; your anger, hostility, resentment, fear, blame, shame, grief and all other emotions will fade slowly start to fade away. This conversation has the ability to last quite a long time, and there is plenty of room for all of this emotional baggage to be left behind at the terminal should you chose to allow that.
Eventually your questions will progress into a more productive inquisition. Throughout your line of questioning you will come to realize that you were the source of everything that happened to you, and you’ll start asking different questions. The conversation will go something like this:
You: “Why wasn’t I able to forgive myself for divorcing Mary? She really fell apart after that and I always thought it was my fault.”
St. Peter: “You realize some of the things you said to her when you were going through the divorce could have been said in a more constructive way, but you were intent on destruction at that point. You refused to take responsibility for the role that you played in your separation and turned to blame instead. You knew forgiving her was the most beneficial thing for both of you and you withheld that forgiveness. As the years went on and her health declined you withheld that same forgiveness from yourself.”
You: “So I really created everything?”
St. Peter: “Even more than you realize. You created the architects to build wonders for you, artists to paint chapel ceilings, warriors to fight countless battles, poets to write songs, fathers to give life, mothers to bring it into the world…”
You: “Wait, I did all of that?”
St. Peter: “And much more.”
So you’re starting to get it, now. You’re realizing that you have to be the intentional force behind your creative progression. Life is about progression and there is no other reason to assume this human form and agree to play the game of life according to the rules of this physical universe.
Evolve or die. Move or stay put. They’re both useful, and even occur simultaneously in different forms. Even in a static, non-moving yoga pose you are still breathing. The lungs move and the heart beats while the limbs remain still.
The secret to your happiness is in resisting neither the movement (evolution) nor the non-movement (stuckness). You must be content in both. If life is moving you towards evolution and you are digging your heels in and scratching at the floor to stay put because you perceive this movement as “bad”—and if there is nothing you can do about the movement itself—then all you can do is change how you perceive that movement.
You got married because everyone else was and now a few years later with a spouse and children you long for your bachelor days. You come to resent the money you work so hard to attain going towards clothing and school fees. Your resentment blinds you to the evolution of self that parenthood and matrimony have to offer you. Your spouse and children become a burden.
How much happiness is this resentment and “burden mentality” creating for you? Do you start to blame others after a while? Do you remember your conversation with St. Peter? Who are you really blaming? You, of course. It’s all your fault, both the “good” and the “bad”.
In order to continue on your evolution you must learn to identify with open eyes, heart and mind that around you which is a source of unhappiness. You may find many things that you disagree with. Job, spouse, boss, money, politics, war, murder, religion; remember that the list of things in this universe that could be a source of unhappiness for you (if you allow it) is infinite.
Once you have looked around and identified these things that you believe are the cause of your unhappiness you have two options:
1. You can attempt to change that thing you have identified as a source of unhappiness or:
2. You can change your mind about how you choose to allow that source to affect you.
Religion itself isn’t “good” or “bad” any more than your boss, your spouse, the current state of the economy or anything else on the list.
“There is no good or bad; your thoughts make it so.”
You are the source of everything which happens to you. Every event, action and thought of you and those around you comes from you. You are creating your own universe right now. You are placing your own barriers on your happiness, your own obstacles to overcome.
We all do this. Some undermine their own happiness out of guilt. They don’t believe they are worthy of being happy and accepting love and so subconsciously drive happiness and love away with their thoughts and actions.
Others do this out of fear, anxiety, grief, depression, resentment, anger, hostility or even boredom.
At some point in these eternal interrogation with St. Peter any higher-brained animal will start to ask some of the most real and fundamental questions of all. You will ask the one question that answers every other question that came before.
“Why am I here?”
And the answer, beautiful in its simplicity, is filled with so much truth that science will never be asked to prove it with multi-million dollar testing equipment or double-blind placebo studies.
The answer, of course, is Love.
In Part 2 of this article we will discuss how you begin to move into a state Acceptance, Forgiveness and Love. For now simply have an awareness of your happiness and unhappiness. Don’t attach anything to either, thoughts or otherwise. It is enough for now simply to have awareness without labels or attachments.
It is my sincere hope that this article has created the awareness of a shift that is occurring within you. If you allow this shift to manifest, then much more happiness than you are currently experiencing in your life will likely result. Your resistance to what is will slowly fade while your acceptance grows.
The fact that you are still reading this means the time is now for your evolution.
The time is now.
What other time could there be?
-Dr. Michael E. McGovern
February 4, 2014