Be Where You Are

  1. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it!
  2. Find Your Calling
  3. Be Where You Are
  4. Change Happens Faster if You Lie to Yourself
  5. The Finger That Points…
  6. Take no credit. Cast no blame. Seek to empower others. Enjoy life.
  7. Always Tell the Truth, as You Know It
  8. One Thing at a Time
  9. Take Nothing for Granted
  10. Wait Patiently
  11. Seek solutions, without placing blame
  12. There are no Rules

Synopsis: Be Where You Are — The wise person does not know the destination. The wise person does know where he or she is now.

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Be Where You Are — Life is a Paradox, filled with irony

There’s a bit of irony in the ideas contained above.

Forever, Buddhists have declared that the journey is not the destination–one formulation:

The finger that points to the moon is not the moon.

The major irony is that all of us know the “destination” of our walk through life — for all of us, the destination is death.

My favourite story for describing this walk (and this 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,” and the punch line is clearly about acting instead of thinking about acting.

So, let’s look at the two sentences above, and see what we shall see.

Back in the early 80’s, I was a member 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, an 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.”

Since then, I’ve met a few other artists who also have plans, one being Susan Seitz. She’s gone from plan-less to a maven of the art world. (Like that description, Susie?) She’s endlessly creative in building her vocation, or calling (see last week’s article, Find Your Calling.)

But the paradox or irony of planning is important to examine.

The paradox of planning is the one John Lennon noted back in 1980, and expressed as he sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Despite his whole life having come full circle–he was happily married and joyous at being a dad–“real” life happened in the form of Mark David Chapman.

I’m not trying to be morbid here, despite the death reference. The problem is with “destination thinking,” (as well as “embarkation point obsessions.”)

The problem with either approach is that your eyes are exclusively focussed on the past or the future.

I saw this especially graphically as clients wrestled with making choices. Many were so fearful of the future that they wanted an iron-clad guarantee before they would move an inch.

The second problem with a past and/or future view is that choice-ful living becomes impossible.

We make choice-ful living impossible by blaming: our upbringing, nature, genetics and “all the people out to get me.”

AND, if I am looking ahead at an imagined destination, or am rooted in place, fearfully waiting for just the right time and opportunity to act, I can also imagine that no one can “blame me” for where I am.

Focussing on endless stories about life consequences gets me off of the hook for ever having to act and for ever having to be responsible.

How to Be Where You Are

There is a real shortage of folk who have a clue about 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.”

People will say,

  • Someday I’ll have a good relationship,” or
  • I hadn’t noticed how stiff and locked up and sore I am until you mentioned it,” or
  • I’m not choosing until I know I’m making the right choice.”

On the other hand, the people that put in the effort to stay present seem to be… well… alert. Clear. Living in the moment.

For example, in order to 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 
if I am present with my partner

(Let me note clearly that by “present” I mean “actively in the moment,” not simply in the same room.)

I can’t have a good relationship by 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 my memory of how I catalogued the experience, not the experience itself.

We all 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 you immediately say, “This is how I see things.” And you partner does the same.

Now, often, what happens is, you discover that there are two different descriptions of something that happened right in front of the two of you.

And this is immediately after the event.

Wait an hour and your differing stories widen, as you mull things over and give the story a twist or two. And your 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.

My task 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 do so 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.

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press