Happiness is a choice
With apologies to Joseph Campbell:
When you are in a place
Defined by fear or desire
Then you are self-exiled from your own immortality.
Entertain fear or ambition, and you have exiled yourself from your own immortality.
Is it possible to escape fear and desire?
If you were brought up in the west, you probably think my assertion is absurd. So I’ll break it down logically. The statement seems to have 3 logical parts.
- We do this to ourselves
- There is something called our own immortality
- Fear and ambition have the same effect
Our own immortality
Let’s define immortality simply. When you are exiled from your own immortality, you feel a sense of not belonging and being uncomfortable “in your own skin” and “in this world”. You feel restless, dissatisfied and disrespected. Of course, that does not mean there is anything called your own immortality, but that is enough for now. You would simply prefer not to feel restless, dissatisfied and disrespected!
We do this to ourselves
Yup, fear is real. Desire is quite fun when we don’t over do it. Ambition is cool. We can imagine relinquishing ambition, but relinquishing desire and fear? The big test is to prove to you that fear is a choice.
Fear and desire have the same effect.
I need to show you that they both have the same effect. Let’s see if I can!
#1 Fear and desire are both about what is not rather than what is
With fear, we fear not being in some way. We don’t fear being. We fear not being. Isn’t ambition exactly the same? We want to be what we are not? Desire is similar. We want what is not.
Fear, ambition and desire are essentially about nothing. They are about absence. We are focusing all our attention on what is not.
#2 We do this to ourselves
Why are we thinking about nothing? Why not think about who we are and what is?
#3 Can we think about who we are when we are frighten or driven?
Yes, we can. Indeed it is the only way to stop thinking about what we are not. Forsake fear, ambition and desire and we have time for ourselves. (TG for our small minds; we think of one thing at a time.)
It’s an odd idea, or so it seems to us in the west. But it is a long standing idea in east. We can call it mindfulness. Pay attention to what is here, now. Other religions call it giving up attachments.
In the secular world, we help ourselves move from agitation to calm thinking by making checklists and keeping gratitude diaries. Other people meditate. Take your pick! If you pray or balk at prayer, try a gratitude diary on for size.
Is being present selfish and irresponsible?
The curious thing about stopping and focusing on what is closely around us is that there is an immediate effect of connecting us more fully to the world.
Paulo Coelho suggests a simple exercise of stopping to listen. Close your eyes and listen for the furthest sound. You thought your fear and ambition came from paying attention to the world. Now you feel your horizon of attention recede a little and the world seems more alive, more interesting. There is more space for you. You come back from your self-imposed exile. You can breathe. Try it. It is amazing!
Yes, it seems as if our fear and restlessness came from shutting the world out, rather than letting it in. We are scared and dissatisfied because we are not paying attention. Or rather we were attending to what is not there rather than to what is. We drove ourselves into exile by worrying about what is not. Nuts.
Interestingly, you can call back the fear and ambition any time you want it. But why replace the exciting world around you with nothing?