Universal Rules: The wise person does not know the destination. The wise person does know where he or she is now.
There's a bit of irony in the ideas contained above. Forever, Buddhists have declared that the journey is not the destination. We'll talk more about that in a couple of weeks. The major irony is that all of us actually do know the "destination" of our walk through life - and that destination is death. Perhaps the best story describing this walk (and the ultimate destination) is contained in the "Train Station" chapter of Ben Wong and Jock McKeen's The NEW Manual for Life. The story captures the essence of this week's "rule," where the punch line is clearly about acting as opposed to thinking about acting.
So, let's look at the two sentences above, and see what we shall see. I remember back to the early 80's and being a part of an Artist's Group. We exhibited our "stuff" throughout Southern Ontario. One of the guys in the group was friends with Peter Etril Snyder, a quasi-famous Ontario painter of (or at least he's well-known for) Mennonite scenes. "Uncle Pete" would attend some of our group meetings, and would repeatedly ask, "What's your plan?"
Uncle Pete had dreamed up his plan in University, and was living it. He thought each of us should also have an "art production plan" that would direct what we painted, how we painted, and would also dictate in advance how much money we would make. I'd indicate I was mostly painting for satisfaction, and he'd look at me funny (not the first to do so, and certainly not the last…).
Which is not to say that I think that planning is stupid or anything. We have a retirement plan of sorts, at least as far as money goes. It's not much of a plan as to where we are going to live for how long, because that's a more complex question. The problem with planning is the one John Lennon discovered back in 1980, and expressed as he sang, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." While his whole life had come full circle and he was happily married and joyous at being a dad, life happened in the form of Mark David Chapman.
I'm not trying to be morbid here, despite the death references. I'm trying to indicate the problem with "destination thinking," (as well as "embarkation point thinking".) The problem with either approach is that your eyes are too exclusively focussed on the past or the future.
I see this especially graphically as clients wrestle with making choices. Many people are so fearful of the future that they want an iron-clad guarantee before they will move an inch. (OK Dar, 2.2 cm.)
The second problem with a past and/or future view is that choices become impossible. We make them impossible by blaming upbringing, nature, genetics and "all the people out to get me." In other words, if I am looking ahead at a destination, or firmly rooted in place waiting for just the right time and opportunity to act, no one can "blame me" for where I am. In short, looking at the destination gets me off of the hook for ever having to act and for ever having to be responsible.
On the other hand, there is a real shortage of folk who have a clue as to where they are now. Most people seem to treat "here and now" as if it is irrelevant, uninteresting and "about putting in time until I get to the good stuff."
Often, I'll hear things like, "Someday I'll have a good relationship," or "I hadn't noticed how stiff and locked up and sore I am until you did Bodywork," or "I just hope that I'm not making the wrong choice." On the other hand, the few people that actually get this are veritable fonts of wisdom when it comes to where they are and how they are doing. In the moment.
So, for example, before I can have a good relationship, I have to have a real sense of what I am doing, right now, to both make it stronger and screw it up. And, of course,
I can only have a good relationship
in the presence of my partner.
I can't have it thinking about it or describing it (read bitching about it) to others.
Strangely enough, the only information that is valuable, the only thing I actually can report on truthfully and thoroughly, is how I am right now. If I wait an hour and then try to describe it, I'm going to be describing the memory of how I catalogued the experience, not the experience itself.
We know this to be so. Think about a disagreement you had with someone you care about - a disagreement in real time, as opposed to "going off and thinking about it." By real time, I mean that something happens and I immediately say, "This is how I see things," and my partner does the same. Now, often, what happens there are two different descriptions of something that happened right in front of the two of us. And this is immediately after the event.
Wait an hour and the stories widen, as we mull things over in our heads and give the story a twist or two. And our partner is doing the same. The argument rapidly deteriorates into "who is right" as opposed to a fruitful discussion on "who I am and how I feel in this moment."
The best I can ever hope for is to be aware of what I am doing in this moment, be honest enough to describe it, and to recognize that, far from "true", what I think I see is simply my spin on life as I walk along.
In other words, my goal is to bring myself into congruence with the present moment, and do my damndest to stay there. Not, as I just said, from a place of "truth" that I want others to accept, but rather from a place of knowing that "this is me, standing here, having this experience and interpreting it to myself." Tricky.
And yet, living in this moment and the next is the only place I can live. Going into the past or into the future is an imagining process that has absolutely nothing to do with "reality" as I am presently experiencing it. All I know is what I see and hear and feel in the present moment. Even though I may know that every time, in the past, I had reaction "a" to a similar set of circumstances, that's just habit, not a requirement. I don't have to repeat what doesn't work. And I will be less likely to if I stay focused on the present moment.
This week, have a look at where you live. If you don't know where you are, right now, in your life, with others, with yourself, stop and have a good look. If you're stuck planning, and nothing is happening, maybe loosen your grip on the planning. Right now is a good place to live. In fact, it's the only place.