Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist, writer and lecturer said, "We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
It sounds good in theory, but what does it mean? Is it yet another affirmation we tape to our bathroom mirrors to make us feel good after something bad has happened? There are many of them. I should know, I read several when I went through my own unique tragedies. "I am worthy." "I believe in ME." "I DARE to be the best I can be." "I am beautiful."
Truthfully, if I had my time over again, if I went through divorce or any other great loss or disaster, I would write on my mirror in red lipstick, "BE PRESENT, EVERY SINGLE SECOND," since in honesty, it's the only thing that actually works. That or I would skywrite certain lyrics to a particular U2 song: "It's a beautiful day/ Don't let it get away."
Affirmations, however, can only take us so far. Eckhart Tolle reminds us that affirmations are simply affirmations on sticky notes until we internalize them; and then we don't need to paste them to the bathroom mirror. When we truly believe something we internalize it so we don't need to chant it, repeat it, share it any longer. For example, we don't say we will start to trust somebody since trust and fear can't co-exist. Once we have trust in ourselves we don't fear trusting others. Simply put, we just trust. Would we write on the mirror, "Tomorrow, I will trust Joe, or John or Karen"?
Yes, sadly, people let us down, but we sometimes set ourselves up for that. I have a friend, Rick, and no matter how many times we have the same discussion we always end up arguing intellectually about the subject of expectations. He says he will always have some for another individual he will share his life with. I tell him then he will always be disappointed. Rick and I laugh but we have never reached a resolution. We simply agree to disagree on the matter.
Some of the powerful spiritual religions teach us it's in the nature of things to let us down since that means we had set expectations that they could never fulfill. This does not happen if you stay with what is or if we live in the present. Again, as Eckhart Tolle intimates, we are disappointed often in life because we have a story-based sense of self to begin with which would mean we have a story-based sense of others, also. Simply put, we don't understand ourselves deeply. Little wonder we feel or sense disappointment with others and things. Everything is based on expectations we have placed upon people and situations. Tolle advises us to step out of this, to use the nearest exit.
And speaking of exits, a friend of mine once told me how her twelve-year-relationship with her husband (they had two children) fell apart overnight and since she was traveling overseas she had no choice but to go to a foreign Indian doctor to be prescribed anti-depressants. She was devastated, depressed, anxiety ridden. She explained how upset she was for her children, how angry she was, how hurt by the cheating and betrayal. The doctor after listening took a deep breath, smiled, and then responded in an Indian accent, "OH how wonderful this is! How great. I am so happy for you." My friend was confused. "I don't understand," she told him. Again, he told her, "Marvelous, marvelous, marvelous. You lucky thing, you. He do you big gigantic favor. Now you can have life you really want with person who truly deserves you. Now you can be happy. How wonderful." At the time 'wonderful' wasn't what my girlfriend was thinking. Yet, now when she tells me this story she laughs. We both laugh. It was not what she wanted to hear but it was the perfect response.
Thinking too much is the enemy. Being present is the antidote with ourselves and with our kids. The beauty of presence is it arises with such intensity that thought doesn't come into play anymore. Why do we cling to something or someone that doesn't help us any longer? What is so comforting about this? What security does it provide? Apparently, we are connected to all our pains through thought. In reality, we have a limited consciousness and a limited sense of self. The reality is that our old structures and selves and belief systems are very dense and there is a refusal on our parts to let go of the old structures and ways. Tolle teaches us that humans beings need to experience some disaster so that our old structures can break open. That's the grace of disaster. Perhaps my friend's Indian doctor, when he told her how wonderful and marvelous her tragedy was, already understood the beauty of disasters.
We have, at times, a limited point-of-view. In reality disasters and other personal tragedies break open heavy-set, firmly rooted mind structures than actually free us. Once disaster enters, our shells are cracked open. We need disasters and pushes to get out of the identification with our mind. Tolle tells us there's a beautiful translation from Jesus that states, "Take no thought for the morrow for the morrow will take thought of the things of itself." In other words, "Don't be anxious about tomorrow." The better approach would be to to just live in the now, firmly rooted in the present.
Perhaps deeper intelligence arises when we don't think. I'm not saying we shouldn't grieve or miss people or think about what has happened to us. But I am saying we shouldn't over obsess about people or things. We shouldn't view them through an object consciousness lens turning them into possessions, or objects.
Truth is we simply need to live in the present. It's a beautiful day, as Bono sang. Don't let it get away.
P.S. This is dedicated to you Jessica Jones, mother extraordinaire to David, Jack, and Liam and a great friend who continues to enlighten me . Happy Belated Birthday.