You want to know the absolute truth? Sometimes, I think to myself, maybe this is all a load of shite. All of this positive thinking, energy, vibration, all you have to do is believe in yourself and visualise and all of your dreams will come true. If it really was that simple – why are we not all doing it? Why are we not all living lives of abundance and happiness all of the time? The truth is, of course, it is not all that simple. In life – nothing is. There are so many different things you would have to consider to even ask for the right things, that you could spend all of your time visualising and asking, and none of your time actually doing anything at all. Or you can ask for all of the things you want, and when they turn up, they have all of these extras or bits missing that mean there were not what you were really looking for, but you can’t totally say that it didn’t work, because when you think about it, you did get what you asked for – it is just not how you imagined it. Or, you might have a life of abundance and wealth, but not be aware enough to realise it. Certainly in comparison to many people in the world, a great deal of us are living incredibly abundant, luxurious lifestyles.
The other problem is: other people. They never do what you want them to do, they continually do things you don’t expect, they hurt you, they leave you, they demand things from you, they insult you, ridicule you, talk about you behind your back, question your integrity, your talent, your intelligence. In the end, you realise that can’t trust any of them to do what you would do or to make your life feel worthwhile. So where does that leave you? Why bother with all of these practices, why bother learning, meditating, reading, listening, trying to understand the anomaly that is life? Is it simply that when you are doing these things, you don’t have to listen to other people’s bullshit? Is it because you don’t have to think about the countless mundane tasks that you have to do every day just to get from getting out of bed in the morning to getting back into it in a warm safe environment, fed, watered and exercised enough to sleep?
I went to a meditation course at Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre at the beginning of the month, and I asked a question – not because I didn’t feel the benefits of meditation, but because I couldn’t form an idea in my head of why it makes me feel better doing it. I asked how the teacher would describe the purpose of meditation. Of course, she answered that if I was doing it for a purpose, then I was not meditating. I answered that I understood that, but then if there is no purpose, why do it? She answered that it was simply to calm your mind, and to feel at peace. To feel something other than frazzled. I can relate to that. I am aware that I mostly meditate to simply stop for a few minutes to rest my body and my mind.
So all of this striving, this goal writing, and vision board making – how do you keep hold of that purpose when it seems like things are going nowhere? What if you have no goals or visions? There is a part of me that thinks perhaps I would be much more at peace if I simply gave them all up. I truly considered how it might be to experience life as a Buddhist monk. You wouldn’t have any concerns – no bills, no mortgage, no job with its demands and stresses, you wouldn’t have responsibilities, or traffic jams, or image issues. You would simply go about your daily routine with no purpose at all, except to meditate and chant and talk. I can’t tell you how tempting that is. Yet still, I find that I would not be willing to give up my life for that type of peace. I can imagine leaving my ordinary life and becoming a Buddhist. But I find that I don’t want to.
All of this stuff that I have been doing – the gratitude diary, journal writing, self-development, talking about and writing down what it is I like and don’t like about my life, what it is I really want – has made me realise that I do love the life I have. Not the thought of another life, not the life I will have in 10 years time, not a time in the past when I was happy, not life in general, as separate to me, but this life. As me, not as someone thinner, or taller, or prettier, or smarter, or with more drive, or more charming, but me. In Bridget Jones, like many women I imagine, I love the line when Mark Darcy says to Bridget, “I like you, just as you are.” Finally, I feel like that about myself, but not in an over-confident, arrogant, egotistical way. I don’t think I am especially good, I am not happy all of the time, I suffer from anxiety, and feelings of depression, despondency, shame, guilt, and self-consciousness. Things go wrong, I act in ways I shouldn’t, I don’t always do the right thing, I let things annoy me, I get irritable, I make mistakes, I get stressed, but still I would not give up being me or swap me for someone else. And that is only something I have begun to feel after learning about energy, vibration and meditation. The only thing that is real, the teacher said to us, is sensory experiences (feeling pain, hearing a noise, seeing something, breathing, physically moving), as soon as you start thinking about any of those things, it is a concept in your brain, and you can’t argue that it is real. Your brain is translating those sensory experiences into thoughts, and you have feelings about those thoughts.
So, I am trying to practice enjoying the things I am doing, and that really goes hand in hand with making sure I do the things I enjoy. That involves a great deal of exploration, trial and error, and learning to be aware of how I feel right now. The only way to know that is to stop, look at your thoughts and feelings without judgement, and consider how to act accordingly. So, I write, I meditate, I talk about life, I sing to myself, I dance in the kitchen when I am emptying the dishwasher, I sit in the garden and listen to the birds, I walk, I give myself little tasks so that I can achieve them – for no other reason than it feels good while I am doing it. I don’t live in blissful happiness having once learned the secret about how to live life. My life is messy right now, a lot of things are changing, I don’t feel the kind of stability I like to have, I have a lot of decisions to make, but still, I choose to go ahead with it all anyway because I like it: this life.