Success is slowly being redefined by those who are either choosing to or being forced to slow down and do less.
Burnout, depression, anxiety, stress, debt, divorce, abuse, addiction and suicide are so prevalent in our world and we can no longer ignore their presence in our lives, especially in the west. It’s being discussed openly by psychologists, scientists, philosophers, and well, everyday people curious enough to wonder what the actual fuck is happening. As our opportunity, money, health systems, material possessions and understanding of life itself increase, our neurosis and mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing still seem to suffer. Why?
Truly I think we are simply in a time of polarity which is allowing us to see both ends of the spectrum, allowing us to see where we are out of balance and giving us the opportunity to meet in the middle, not as a compromise, but where we belong, in our centre.
We have those slowing to the point of stopping as they realise what they were doing (rush, grind, grow, strive, gather, collect, overpower) was not working and in fact only expanded their dissatisfaction deep down. And then we have those speeding up, some on the spiritual path where ego is posing as a person on a journey to inner freedom and some pursuing the external, consuming the material, dosing each moment on the stimulation of our 21st century and we stand on either side of the line both believing the other is a little crazy. This point of separation is normal in growth. As a culture, we are a macro being collectively learning about the different sides of our selves. On a micro level, we as individuals land somewhere amongst the extremes.
Eventually, we will conclude as a whole that all we need is less but that doesn’t necessarily mean less “things”. There is nothing wrong about material pursuits or external goals. Nothing at all. Life is here to enjoy as well as evolve. It’s when we mistake the external as a successful supplement for internal connection. We need to stop striving to do “nothing”, thinking that will take us to a higher path, but also need to pull ourselves up on our mission to achieve it all thinking it will fulfil us, including enlightenment. We will end up at some point in the middle, aware, flowing intuitively moving from our centre. Awake, responding to the moment, moving with presence and mindfulness.
“WHEN YOU ARE WISELY AMBITIOUS, YOU DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO SUCCEED, WHILST NOT BEING ATTACHED TO THE OUTCOME. SO THAT IF YOU FAIL, YOU WILL BE MAXIMALLY RESILIENT, ABLE TO GET UP, DUST YOURSELF OFF, AND GET BACK INTO THE FRAY. THAT, TO USE A LOADED TERM, IS WHAT I CALL ENLIGHTENED SELF-INTEREST.”
I read over the words of Sam Harris as I prep for next week’s Gold Coast RISE workshop (happening on May 29th – if you have kiddies aged 6 weeks – school age, check RISE to register) and think of everything I will be teaching the parents about emotional resilience and intelligence. This stuff isn’t just powerful for them, it’s for all human beings. Since we are all lovers of pleasure and resistors of pain, we can only ever really hope to become truly content when we see this weakness of ours as something simply coming along for the ride of our life, and not letting it run our every action.
We truly have two options in each moment; react or respond. When we are mindless, we react. When we are mindful, we respond.
Our reactions are triggered by our emotions and our emotions are driven by our beliefs. If we want to become responsive, i.e we live from our centre, we are able to wake up each morning and align our actions with the life we want. We have the capacity, energy, self control, discipline, inspiration, self confidence to show up as the greatest versions of ourselves, not because we got all those things we thought we needed in order to be enough, or the world loved us for who we are, or we got that pay rise.
In a nutshell, mindfulness is the ability to recognise what is happening in your mind right now—anger, jealousy, sadness, the pain of a stubbed toe, whatever—without getting carried away by it. According to the Buddha, we have three habitual responses to everything we experience. We want it, reject it, or we zone out. Cookies: I want. Mosquitoes: I reject. The safety instructions the flight attendants read aloud on an aeroplane: I zone out. Mindfulness is a fourth option, a way to view the contents of our mind with judgement removed.
Imagine a moment in your life where you want to reject something, but instead, you don’t, and you lean in with curiosity, investigate it, sit with it, allow it to teach you, and as a result, you grow. Because when we grow, we feel fulfilment – something we shut down to when we give in to that desire to avoid pain.And imagining further, what would happen if you resisted the urge to move towards pleasure alone, and had the self control to not reach for the phone, but let that unsettled irritation for a hit of dopamine rise up within you, and then simply fall away.
Not only do we grow stronger in our self-control in these moments, we move past the short term hits that leave us feeling empty, and move towards the deeper and more meaningful connections in life, filling it up with something that remains, instead of something that dissipates and leaves us hungry for more. To resist the push and pull of pleasure and pain, tune out or grab for, avoid and reject, we deepen our fulfilment with life itself.
Our connection to something much deeper inside ourselves is not only forging better parents, friends and partners, it’s shaping the culture we exist in, one moment, one uncomfortable surrender at a time to learn to be and sink deeply into each magical moment of life itself. If you’re a Gold Coast parent, I hope to see you at the RISE event next Wednesday, and please forward this to anyone you know who might like to be there!