“Reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot.” – Alan Watts
We don’t truly have possessions in this world. We acquire things throughout our life, all of which degrades or gets passed down from generation to generation, but we don’t really have possessions. When we die, we cannot take any of them with us, especially our money. We can try to control as many things as we want in life, but the only thing we truly own and the only thing we can truly control is our perspective.
Perspective is what drives humanity. Perspectives create relationships and cause war. Most importantly, perspective can improve or weaken our relationship with ourselves. Perspective is the single most important thing that empowers you because the way you adapt to life largely depends on your perspective.
Most of the things we want in life are desired because our perspective tells us we should have these things, all of which are based entirely from the ego. We want to win an argument because our ego wants to feel better than the other person or it is afraid to look stupid, and we fail to honestly re-examine our perspective of the conflict. If we lose our job, car, or home our ego feels the loss of something it was attached to. We begin to feel inadequate and embarrassed because we have fallen below the accepted perspective of what an accomplished member of society is. The ego and its attachments once again stop us from re-examining our perspective.
For example, some of us grow up being told from a very young age that we should be doctors when we grow up because that is one of the guaranteed ways to become successful. We therefore invest a lot of time and energy into this pursuit and our world is destroyed if we fall short and don’t get into medical school. The ego feels like it is not good enough or worthy. Not good enough for who? Mom and Dad? Society? Who told you that you had to be a doctor? Did you ever explore and consider what it is that you truly want to do with your life? Did you want to be a doctor because you love it or did you want to be a doctor because it makes a lot of money? Were you attracted to the prestige that comes with being a doctor because your strict parents planted that idea in you when you were really young? Has your perspective been constructed by the competition of trying to get into the top Ivey League schools and now a rejection letter is the straw that broke the camel’s back?
When something bad happens to us we feel like we are the victim because the Ego has lost or wasn’t able to acquire something it was attached to.
Most of our problems are trivial. I say most because I don’t want to write off every challenge the human condition faces as something that a simple shift in perspective could fix. There are people out there suffering from terrible diseases, injuries, and conditions that I can’t even imagine. Even in the worst circumstances in life, if you are on the path, it is an opportunity for you to re-evaluate your priorities of what really matters to you. Aside from people who are facing the harsher aspects of reality, those who are caught up in trivial circumstances require less to bounce back on their feet with a change in perspective. We live in a day and age where first world problems run rampant and a large portion of society has become fixated on a false sense of identity.
When something bad happens you should ask yourself:
Are you alive? – Yes
Are you now wiser from this experience than you were before? – Yes
Does this wisdom add any value to your strengths moving forward? – Yes
What will other people think of your failure, will their opinion of you change, will it truly help you on your journey?
Maybe it is time to let go of fair weather friends in your life. Maybe this will be a time for you to see how much your circle of influence cares about you. Nobody owes you anything, but you shouldn’t waste your time with people who abandon you when you no longer fit their perspective of an ideal friend.
In contrast, maybe it was something you did out of ignorance and your former friends made a good call to not associate with you anymore. Maybe it’s time for you to re-evaluate your behavior and why it may be repulsive to your friends and family.
Your ability to let go of trivial attachments determines your ability to roll with the punches and keep fighting the good fight. Life can beat you down at times and your perspective of being a victim or a victor of the challenge has a profound impact on your self worth. Even when you fail at something in life, you are perceiving it as failure because you are attached to the success of that outcome. If you didn’t get into your dream college or land your dream job, or if a business deal fell through or relationship didn’t work (or you otherwise dropped the ball on something important, etc.), it is you who is processing this event as a bad experience. Reality is indifferent; it just happens, and human beings are the only ones who judge whether a situation is good or bad.
If you are in foreclosure (or power of sale for all my Canadians) should you just shrug your shoulders and say, “Oh well, such is life?” No, that’s not what I’m saying. I am not implying that you should cease all attempts to preserve what is important to you and your family. Rather you should not be attached to the results of the outcome if things go south. You should not be attached to what other people will think about you if you lose your house. You should not focus on fear and loss and allow that to navigate the trajectory of your future.
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Maybe you had to downgrade to a small apartment; be thankful for what you have and realize that you have lost nothing and gained more in wisdom. Still strive to recover and get back on your feet but always evaluate your perspective. You might become financially successful one day and after the experience of losing your home, you might realize that you don’t want to have a house that large anymore. At this point you may feel perfectly fine living in your apartment, or you will move into a new home but not one that was as big as the one you lost before. When you lose things, the stuff that really matters will be more present in your life.
We forget that bad experiences can also be blessings. Wise people grow from the most unfortunate circumstances. Sometimes these situations show you that you are not meant to be doing this and you should move on to what you are destined to do. It could mean that it’s not the right time, or it could be that you are doing what you are passionate about and destined for but you needed that bad experience to show you your errors.
Many people would think that this type of wishful thinking is baloney. Why would anyone want to live life if they lose everything? The question is, why would we want to live life caged by our attachments?
After everything is taken away, the only thing you have left is you — your awareness of being alive. It is only then that you can live in the present moment and be grateful for your existence. To many people across the world, this is not enough, however it is a fundamental realization of wisdom in order have everything. The most insignificant things suddenly become not so insignificant. If you ever hit rock bottom, I would suggest that you get away from the chaos, get away from the city for a moment, and spend sometime in the wilderness by yourself. Just you, your thoughts, and nature. Nature should remind you of the unsullied rawness of existing — free of manmade constructs, be they social or physically engineered; everything that is there is pure from the impurity of man’s Ego.
“You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.” – Alan Watts
It may or may not sink in but for some of you who are on the path you will soon realize that most of your problems are trivial because you are attached to perspectives that get in the way of knowing your true self. You exist and are a part of the totality of this world. The things you have lost are pale in comparison to the fundamental core of who you are. There is a strength and resilience in knowing this. It is this wisdom and strength that will propel you to move forward and solve one smaller problem at a time until you don’t have the bigger problem anymore.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan Watts
You feel like shit because you think that because you don’t have enough of XYZ that you are not worthy of being an ideal human being. You think because you have too much of ABC, you are not worthy. You are fearful of falling behind in the pack that you have become fixated on running a tireless race to catch up to. Some of us who are even more ambitious want not only to simply keep up, but we want to get ahead and join the upper echelon of the pack.
We often don’t allow ourselves to see the wisdom in our failures. Instead we fixate on what the ego didn’t acquire, which makes us feel like we are not important enough. If you accept that you are always important no matter what, you will have the will power to pull yourself out of the mud.
“You are a divine being. You matter, you count. You come from realms of unimaginable power and light, and you will return to those realms.” – Terence McKenna
You either rebuild or you reinvent, keep moving, don’t stay stagnant, flow with the Tao, take action! Just understand that at the end of the day, you are attached to the outcome of whatever happened or didn’t happen to you because your mind is attached to things that you think make you worthy when truly, you always were.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” Lao Tzu
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