Universal Rules: Take Nothing for Granted.
In keeping with the underlying "Zen-ness" of much of the list we are working through, this expression has a plethora of meanings. As I'm sitting here and contemplating what I'll write, I'm thinking I'll tackle two of them, but this might change by the end. So, don't take for granted that there will only be two...
One usage of this expression regards our relationships, and is a reference to how often we do, in fact, take them for granted. I was pleasantly "fooled" by a client I just started with. He's deeply into a midlife crisis. He mentioned a guy he'd met a few years earlier, and told me how much fun they'd had singing together. The guy was a doctor, the head of one of our local hospitals, and into a ton of stuff. He then received one of the infamous, "you have six weeks to live" diagnoses we all know of. Then, he died.
My client sighed, and paused. In the pause, I made a "predictable prediction." I expected him to say, "I just wish I'd spent more time with him, gotten to know him better, sung more songs with him." Instead, he shook his head and said, "What an example. There was a guy who lived his life to the fullest - who made a difference - and I've come to realize that that's what is missing in my life."
The younger we are, the more we assume that we are invulnerable and that life will go on forever. We assume that there will always be time, later, to speak our truth to those around us - to resolve differences, to say "I love you," to spend quality time with our partners, to get over ourselves and actually "live life."
As we get older, we get multiple wake-up calls, as things change and things end. Kids grow up and leave home, jobs end, bodies slow down and start aching. And still, many people refuse to see the obvious - that there is no "forever." There is just the now, the moment, and the promise of, but no guarantee of, the next moment.
Many live their lives on hold, blaming others for their misery and stuckness, missing the fact that while they sit there in their little pile of self-induced pity, their lives and running through their fingers like grains of sand. Each moment they spend in distress, blaming and sadness is a moment they will never get back. Because they take the future for granted, and think they have forever, they are curiously unmotivated to deal with their own lives in the only time frame they can - in the here and now.
There is no guarantee that there will be a "tomorrow" to say what needs to be said, to get the degree you want, to start living life as your passion dictates. There is just today. Stop taking tomorrow for granted!
The other "taking for granted" is our belief system. You know from past Into the Centre's that I think that the only test for a belief is the "utility" test - does it get the results it proposes to get?
Example: I declare that I want to have a deep and meaningful relationship with my partner, and then I choose to act toward her by blaming, accusing and distancing myself from her. Given this scenario, there are only two possible interpretations:
- my behaviours do not match my stated objective, (and therefore, since my objective is "true" to me, I must change my behaviours,) or
- I actually want to create distance between myself and my partner, in which case I need to be honest and stop pretending I'm working on the relationship.
The "faulty third" assumption, that I really do want to deepen my relationship, and that my partner is stopping me from doing so, so I therefore am justified in torturing her, is the "taking for granted" posture. I'm excusing myself from taking responsibility for my life and waiting for someone else to do it for me.
This is just one example of "taking it for granted" that something I believe is actually "true." In a sense, I want to take nothing for granted, including what I believe to be true. My job is to be present with myself and in my "paying attention-ness" see how things are going. From this place of observation, I can keep what works and quickly let go of what does not.
In the end, taking nothing for granted is a posture of not clinging, either to the infinity of my life or the "truth" of my beliefs. At the end of the day, I am best served holding only to the moment - to acting "now," to putting off nothing, to declaring precious little to be "true." To live with clarity, honesty and integrity is to cling to nothing.
Which, parenthetically, leads to a third interpretation. The one thing you could choose to take for granted is "nothing." No-thing is real, and no-thing goes on forever. That is one thing you can take to the bank.