I’ve had a few emails from readers of Application of Impossible Things, asking me if I have advice for “how to live our lives.”
This is, at first glance, an alarming question to me. Why are they asking me?! Everyone’s life is their own, and I sincerely believe that each individual knows or can know best how to live their own life.
My first knee jerk thoughts are of religions that are loaded with advice about how to live our lives. “Act this way; do this and never do that” – dogmas that too often are based on the politics of power and engender fear. I think too about all the self help books out there professing that they have a perfect ten step secret to a perfect life.
In my experience, those rules and steps are like a costume. You can put them on, but then all you’ve got is you in a costume, eventually feeling frightened and defensive from trying so hard to be “good.” If you mess up on one of them, will you go to hell? If you do something “bad” will bad things happen to you seven times? Fear is no way to live a life – I am pretty sure about that.
But that’s not to say that sometimes we don’t each need a little help, or that there’s not reason to give each other a little lift if possible, right? I’ve been helped along in my life by many people showing up at just the right time: something someone says, or a book someone gives me or an idea that I’d never thought of before.
In thinking about this question, then, I came to the conclusion that my book could hold some self help assistance, but I hope it requires the reader to think a little for themselves, to ponder, and to come to whatever help they’re looking for by means of re-imagining who they are, what it means to be conscious, and what reality might be. By changing the perspective from which we view ourselves and our actions or experiences, we shift and change. Maybe my book offers that to some of those who are looking for it.
I think that if we move toward the question “Who am I?” and look for the paths that allow us to experience the answer to that question, then the “way to live our lives” becomes a natural by-product. We don’t have to “try” to be “good” – we don’t have to put on a costume. We eventually come to realize we are fundamentally good, and we come to know how to be and how to live our lives – even when it might not conform to someone else’s ideas about what constitutes “good” or “perfect” or “holy” or any other measure of an idea or dogma outside ourselves.
Searching out others’ answers to my questions has been valuable in some instances, but even then, the internalization of their wisdom, the digestion of what they’ve told me, happens within myself. They don’t do it for me; I do for myself. When someone else answers my questions, then I have two questions: the original one, and “is this other person right?” Sometimes it helps to get someone else’s ideas, perspective, reading, insight … it lights up a bulb inside that might have been hard to see without their help. It can be invaluable. Even if I conclude that they were mistaken, that light might be triggered by something they told me. So it can be valuable, but it’s never the end of the story …
At some point it will always come down to looking within the self, choosing, sometimes making an effort to shift, making a personal decision and application of will – or of letting go. At least for me, at some point I know that I’ll have to stop asking others for ideas. I’ll have to pause and sit within my own silence, asking myself and waiting patiently for the answer.
I guess that might be my only advice. ?