I have spent a lot of time in life wanting something. Wanting what is next to come faster. Wanting something different than what is there. Wanting something I don’t have. A good part of my mental process was constructed to evaluate what is happening in order to determine whether it should in fact be happening and then creating a desire around what I would like to be happening instead. You can laugh—and it is funny. And I know it is a common problem. So you are likely laughing because you can relate.
I am learning to be patient, to be present, and to welcome what is. I am learning to refine myself rather than desiring that something be different outside myself. This shift in perspective has been really threatening to my ego, which has been fighting back by intensifying its antics. Mostly it throws me into my evaluating mind so that I feel in some way that I am doing something—when in reality, I am simply getting in the way. It also complicates matters by telling intricate stories about straightforward events.
It feels like parenting a toddler—somewhat tedious attentiveness, making sure that my ego does not pull things off the shelf, drink Drano, or run into the street. It requires the deep patience of the wise mother to lovingly stay on the task at hand and not descend into her own inner child, making a mess out of what is really a natural and beautiful developmental process. It requires the ability to return to center—to alignment—as quickly as possible after each event. It requires not taking myself too seriously or getting hooked on the idea that things should different, thereby getting lost within the cycle of wanting yet again, if at a loftier level.
Creating space for the deeper Self to come more fully into life is skill that develops over time through devotion and the healthiest types of discipline. How are you doing this in your life? How are you learning to love what is?
Life often requires that we do things in a less than ideal way along the journey to achieving our ideal. We simply do the best we can with what we have. It is challenging to balance the demands of the material world with our greater visions. It is difficult to work through our developmental stages when they are impacting some aspect of our life, especially when it is our work.
There are a number of ways people can get caught in this process, making the challenging even more difficult or at very least lengthy. One way is that we want things to be different than they are—we want more ease, flow, and joy—and we are frustrated with all the ways that we might not yet have accomplished this.
When we pit our ideal outcome against our current situation, we set up a dynamic that blocks forward movement. One might say, “I don’t want it to be this way anymore, and so I’m really trying to create a different way of being.” The tension created between the “I don’t want” and the trying to have something different holds the problem in place. It is more helpful in these moments to release the tension than it is to strive toward the ideal.
There is not one solution for this in general, or for you over time. The key is to think creatively about how to release your tension—that will free you up to move forward. For example, you might persist in an action because “I’ve got bills to pay and I need to get the job done.” If you have thoughts like this, you can explore their energetic impact on you. This increases your awareness, which helps to open the door to new opportunities. As a result of the awareness, you might have a moment, for whatever reason, where you experience some kind of breakthrough. Because of this breakthrough, you may suddenly be in the flow of things and show up to the task that you need to do. When you do this, you can feel that there’s a totally different energy moving inside of you. And then you can attune to that energy and how that energy moves in you and start to learn about it.
This is one example of how to move through a block and create more of the ideal instead of creating the type of tension that impedes the process. There are numerous other ways, but the point is that you approach things from a new angle and pay attention to what is working or not working in a way that allows you to gain understanding about the problem and align with new solutions.
By working in ways like this, you eliminate or decrease disruption and move into a state of more neutrality. The more you can base yourself in this neutrality, the more you can set yourself up for realizing your ideal sense of flow or whatever you desire to bring into your life.
Once you’re working mostly from neutrality and less in feeding the tension, you will naturally break through into forward momentum. Once there, you pay attention to the qualities of what that is, what brought that into being, how it feels, what the difference is to your orientation. You attune so that this experience becomes like a compass. And the more you practice this, the easier it is to simply switch into that mode. But trying to force the new way of being—trying to process it out or using your mind to override what is with what you want—usually does not work. It will, however, increase the tension between where you want to go and where you are. So, it is most often most helpful to look for creative ways to release these tensions so that you can function more and more in a state of neutrality that is more welcoming to your ideal. Then use your awareness to learn everything you can about this new way.
We all have flashes of inspiration. Sometimes they appear as quiet whispers in the night, as fleeting thoughts in the morning shower or as huge “a-ha!” moments. The question is: Are you giving enough attention to the clues that your inner voice is sending? How can you get more attuned to the inner directives? Here are three ways to get started.
1) Knowledge Is Power
Socrates said it best: “Know Thyself.” This includes understanding what makes you feel alive, what captures your imagination, and also what comes naturally to you. Knowing your strengths is a huge advantage. If you have a great sense of humor, creativity or an ability to communicate easily with people, then you can build on those qualities to create your best life. By focusing on enhancing your strengths rather than trying to make up for your weaknesses, you can move more quickly in your desired direction and have fun in the process. Ask a few friends what they see as your strengths, and do the same for them. You may be surprised!
2) Get Into The Flow
Have you ever been so caught up in an activity that the hours fly by in what seemed like minutes? This is called being in a flow state. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow can happen when you’re totally immersed in what you are doing and feeling both serene and connected. This buoyant state can happen many ways, including when deeply focusing on a sport, writing a paper or even playing music. Yoga and mindfulness are reported to increase flow, but it can occur anywhere your skill level is equal to your challenge and you get totally absorbed in the activity. When athletes say they were “in the zone,” they are talking about flow. When artists refer to the music, art or inspiration flowing through them, it is the same state. Think of times when you were engrossed in something: your attention was heightened and you felt that everything was aligned. What if you made the choice to make more time for that in your day to day?
For me, yoga is where I experience flow. Although I never set my sights on being a yoga teacher, I noticed (and happened to pay attention to) an ad in the paper about a yoga teacher-training course. After checking into it, I decided to go for it. The course was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever taken on – every class was like immersing myself in flow. What are some ways that you can incorporate more flow into your daily life?
3) Embody What You Believe In
Once you know your strengths and where you experience flow, you can consciously tweak your life to include more of that. By stepping into your authenticity, you automatically come into greater alignment and a peace that serves not only yourself but others, as well. Gandhi stated that “[h]appiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Don’t underestimate the importance of your own fulfillment and happiness; it ripples out farther than you may know. Rather than rocking the boat by being who you are, you actually give other people permission to do the same. Listen to the clues. By being on the lookout for directives, you will start to see them everywhere.
Steve Jobs has an interesting quote:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
If you can tap into your intuition and inner wisdom to direct your passions, you can use that in your own life, as well as to serve others. Then, you will easily embody what you believe, and your authentic happiness will shine the way for others, too.
What are you passionate about in your life?
Randy Taran is the founder of Project Happiness, a non-profit that empowers youth to create greater happiness in their lives and in the world. She is the co author, with Maria Lineger, of the Project Happiness Handbook. Programs which grew from the book, make the best of positive psychology, neuroscience and mindfulness accessible nationwide and in over 80 countries.