Without a Worry

We suffer more in imagination than in reality…Most of the things that we’re anxious about, that we torture ourselves about, that we dread, that we catastrophize in our head—they never actually end up happening. Sure, bad stuff does happen in life, but our nightmares are usually worse than reality. Don’t suffer unnecessarily. Don’t borrow suffering from the future.” Ryan Holiday

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It’s been said that 95% of what we worry about never happens. We fret, procrastinate and hide rather than face whatever might come along. And when it finally comes to pass, we realize that it wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be. While I think it is a good idea to be prepared for the worst, we don’t have to live as if the worst has happened. How much of our time is wasted thinking about and living with the idea that things aren’t going to go my way? And there we have it, Ego putting in its two cents worth of advice: my way.

How many people live their lives in a constant dither of worrying about what is going to happen or what someone might say or think? Then the thing happens and if it does go badly then they fall into self pity and let that waste their time. And even if it goes well, they second guess and bemoan that it should have been better. How many times do we imagine a catastrophe, pre-live it in full colour detail? It happens. And then we relive it over and over for the next hours, days or weeks? Let me ask you: did you really have a bad day or was it just ten minutes that weren’t so great that you milked for pity for the next 23 hours and 50 minutes?

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As much as possible I try to live in the present, the gift of now. Ego doesn’t like me this way. When I am in the present, aware and observant of what is around me, not making comments, comparisons or judgements, there is no room for Ego. Anger and resentments keep me in the past. Worry and fear keep me in the future. And they are all Ego driven: not having gotten, not getting and might not get my way. When I am living in the present, there is no my way, there is only what is, the here and now.

I think that when I am doing service for others I am in the same frame of mind. I am not thinking about what is in it for me, but how I can assist the community. When I am doing something with love, I place no conditions or expectations. And when I am grateful, I lovingly share with others what I have been given. There is no Ego in this, only the deep seated sense of contentment and fulfillment. My way has been transformed into Our way.

Do I succeed in living my life this way everyday? No. I often spectacularly fall way short of what I had hoped for. I have learned though, that this isn’t failure because I have learned something along the way. Yes, things aren’t always going to go perfectly, but I don’t have to fret and fear so much before hand that I fulfill my own expectations. It really isn’t the end of the world until it’s the end of the world. I don’t have to make my life miserable and cause suffering to others as well. It’s all in my mind anyway: there’s nothing real here, only imagination. Suffering in life really is optional. Besides, I have survived everything that has happened to me so far in life. Chances are pretty good that I am going to survive whatever happens next, and I may get a good story out of the deal!

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Ryan Holiday is a modern follower of Stoic Philosophy. The Daily Stoic morning email from his website is one of three that I always read because it almost always has something that is relevant. Stoicism was never a religion, though it sounds like it could be a heresy that the Inquisition would have pursued, but an approach to living, like Taoism. Much of the writings of Greek and Roman stoics are filled with practical wisdom that we can use on a daily basis. Ryan has authored several books, Ego is the Enemy, The Obstacle is the Way along with The Daily Stoic. Check out the website if you haven’t yet done so.

Opening the Door to Change

When I was still in the throws of my addictions I only had a faint idea of what I was really doing to myself; the physical, emotional and mental harm I caused, not only to me, but those who cared about me. Part of that is because I spent most of my time seeking out and planning out the next ‘party’ and part of it was because of my ‘buddies’ at the time. I hung around folks who acted like me and thought like me. One of the first ‘suggestions’ I received in recovery was to step away from those people, places and things that were part of my life that I wished to leave behind; close that door and open a new one. Simple enough advice, but why did it take decades to realize it?

In order to change how I was living, I had to change how I was living.

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I replaced my barstool for a chair in a meeting room and changed what I thought about by listening to and reading recovery literature. I started to listen to others in recovery. I started to talk to others about what I was going through. I helped out with cleaning up after the meetings and did some socializing with the new people I was meeting. I got myself an excellent sponsor and I began to study the Twelve Steps of Recovery with him. Over the course of the next six months I changed a great deal. The change was gradual, almost imperceptible to me, but very obvious to those that I hadn’t frightened off in the previous years. I changed my perspective, what I was looking at, and everything changed.

G.I.G.O.: Garbage In: Garbage Out…..or…..GOOD IN: GOOD OUT!

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Every one of us is the direct result of what we put into our bodies, minds and spirit. Western society’s fixation of fast cheap food had pushed obesity to the extreme. You simply can’t have a healthy body if you continue to put unhealthy food into it. Same with the mind. If you want a healthy mind, be aware of what you are putting into it. What are you watching, reading, listening to? Who are your buddies? Where are you spending most of your time? As the saying goes; tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are!

It takes mindfulness, conscious action and a determination to build the life you want to have. I used to put the cart ahead of the horse. I thought that if I had x, y, and z then I would be happy. I have discovered that happiness is the result of living according to my values and principles. Happiness is the realization that I am living right. When I am happy, the x, y and z will come to me, or, more likely, I will discover that I while I may ‘want’ those things, I really don’t ‘need’ them.

Yes, I had to leave my old buddies behind when I came into recovery. I found new ones who honoured my recovery and who helped me along the way. I let the old buddies know where I was and what I was doing and left the door open for them to come through but made it clear that I had no intention of walking back through that door and onto my old barstool. And as long as I continue to pursue new ‘Good’ to put into my body, mind and soul, I know that I will continue to move forward in life.

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The ‘Tim’ of the past is gone.

One of the most profound lessons I had to learn in recovery was that I had to let go of the ‘Tim’ that I knew in order for a new person to emerge. This is a lesson that I repeat daily, asking my Higher Power to ‘relieve me of the bondage of self’: to free me from my ego’s enslavement. If I wish to continue to grow today I must shed the old skin of yesterday and I do that by being mindful and aware of the people, places and things I’m spending my time with. Only by this daily renewal do I continue to move forward in this incredible journey of discovery that is life.

The Lion, the Tiger and the Donkey

The donkey told the tiger, “The grass is blue.”

The tiger replied, “No, the grass is green .”

The discussion became heated, and the two decided to submit the issue to arbitration, so they approached the lion. As they approached the lion on his throne, the donkey started screaming: ′′Your Highness, isn’t it true that the grass is blue?”

The lion replied: “If you believe it is true, the grass is blue.”

The donkey rushed forward and continued: ′′The tiger disagrees with me, contradicts me and annoys me. Please punish him.”

The king then declared: ′′The tiger will be punished with 3 days of silence.”

The donkey jumped with joy and went on his way, content and repeating: ′′The grass is blue, the grass is blue…”

The tiger asked the lion, “Your Majesty, why have you punished me, after all, the grass is green?”

The lion replied, ′′You’ve known and seen the grass is green.”

The tiger asked, ′′So why do you punish me?”

The lion replied, “That has nothing to do with the question of whether the grass is blue or green. The punishment is because it is degrading for a brave, intelligent creature like you to waste time arguing with an ass, and on top of that, you came and bothered me with that question just to validate something you already knew was true!” The biggest waste of time is arguing with the fool and fanatic who doesn’t care about truth or reality, but only the victory of his beliefs and illusions. Never waste time on discussions that make no sense. There are people who, for all the evidence presented to them, do not have the ability to understand. Others who are blinded by ego, hatred and resentment, and the only thing that they want is to be right even if they aren’t.

When IGNORANCE SCREAMS, intelligence moves on.

Authorship Unknown

Daily, perhaps because of the glut of information available, we come across something that is, at least for us, blatantly false. The source of the information is often decidedly adamant that his or her version is true. I often wonder how the ‘Flat Earthers’ gained momentum, or the ‘New World Order,’ or any of the other conspiracy theories that have taken flight. I also wonder why people would place themselves in a position where they are diametrically opposed to what has been already been proven. But, as the lion responded, we can say that what you believe is true for you, is true.

H. Spencer (Nice chops!)

It is useless to argue with someone who has set their mind upon some issue or idea and refuses to look at the evidence that does not support their belief. The quote often attributed to Herbert Spencer says:

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation.

In other words, if I am of the belief that I already know what the answer is, not only do I not bother to investigate it further, I will rebuke and rebuff any attempts to contradict my belief. I will never know the truth because I am not interested in truth. I am interested in my belief and will defend it even when facing insurmountable evidence to the contrary.

If an argument is not going to be enriching for both parties, then it is time to move on.

So as the lion says, just let that go; there is no sense in trying to argue with someone who is not willing to see another point of view. What one believes is true is true for them, is true for them. Some people haven’t yet discovered that the answers to questions are less important that the questions themselves. Moreover, one must realize that arguing with such a person is a waste of time.

We have all run into folks who love to argue but when their only aim is to bring others over to their side and not to listen to any information that does not support that view it is not a debate, but rather, an espousal of one’s views. For many, opinions on religion, politics or other hot-button issues aren’t open to any other interpretation but the one that their holders carry. To those we can say: “I’m glad that you believe what you believe,” and leave it there. However, it does us no service to completely dismiss their point of view because that makes us guilty of the same arrogant offence. Perhaps their belief may lead us to ask a new question.

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I need open-mindedness to receive new information. I also need humility to accept that the information and the beliefs that I hold may not be correct. I do my best to seek the truth, to find answers to new questions that come to me. Some things that were true for me in my youth are no longer true today. New ideas in the realms of science, mathematics, and spirituality come to the fore often. I relish the chance to explore them for myself and find an answer that will work for today but not hold onto that answer so tightly that I refuse to see future evidence to the contrary. That will, as Spencer said, keep me in permanent ignorance.