‘Self Analysis’ and ‘Self Improvement’ is a mug’s game. Let me say this. Don’t do it. Unless you need to, or really want to. Just don’t do it.
But by the same token, if you’re anything like me and have an inkling that there is more to life, a stirring inside of you that wants to know more, that deep down knows there is more. A part of you that doesn’t feel quite content, an emptiness that persists no matter what you try, or buy, or fuck, no matter where you go, who you meet, or what you experience. If you’re like that, like me, then you have no option. Welcome to the game. Welcome to hell.
If you have that sensation, I know that sensation. It starts out as a gentle gnawing, and so you try, and buy, and travel, and fuck some more, but the gnawing persists. Slowly it grows into something less gentle, more aggravating, like a persistent ache that never really goes away, even when you stop noticing it for a short period. Maybe you throw yourself into a new project, or a new relationship, or set a new goal and throw everything you have into that instead.
Achievement. If I just achieve that thing I want then this gnawing, this aching, this discomfort will go away and I’ll be content then. Then I’ll be happy.
Now, I realise that a lot of people go through their lives not feeling this way. They are blissfully happy with their lot. They have enough and they feel enough, and life is contented goodness. This piece, and to be honest, probably this entire blog, is not for them. A part of me envies that contented state such people so easily slip into. For me, life has been a tale of working to achieve stuff that would hopefully make me happy. Except nothing I ever tried, or bought, or fucked really made me happy. Not in the long run. It only ever provided temporary respite. And then I was back looking around for something else to try, buy or fuck, to scratch that itch that always reappeared.
Self analysis. Gawd!
So much of self improvement work appears to be goal-orientated. Develop these new skills, achieve this inner state, or realise this ambition and you will be improved, a winner, time to feel happy and content. Utter tosh. That’s just the same old bullshit approach as buying a new pair of shoes or finding someone cute to get naked with.
I realised something today, whilst out for a walk with someone cute who I’d like to get naked with. As we walked and talked I found myself talking about where I’d like to get to with my new ‘career’ as a meditation guide and trauma healer. Later we talked, albeit briefly, about my 9-5 job. You know, the one I spend the majority of my waking hours on, the one that actually pays the bills. I looked to swiftly move the conversation away from that topic, fearing I’d bore her to tears, but she seemed genuinely interested. I realised that in the process of pushing so much energy into the development of what I hope to be my future career, I have been pulling myself out of enjoying the present moments spent on the job that pays the bills. Yes it may not be my ‘passion project’, but it’s a good job, with variety, and autonomy, and excellent people to work with, a supportive culture, free TimTams, and a healthy pay packet each month.
In my drive for spiritual growth, for enlightenment, I have been neglecting the very thing that I preach. When I engage fully in the present moment it doesn’t really matter what I’m doing. I could be sitting in meditation, running through a park, writing an email, guiding someone through releasing their childhood traumas, engaging in a Zoom call or aggressively hitting a tennis ball back and forth with an opponent. All of these activities are divinely enjoyable when I am present in them. It’s only when I get pulled into the past or the future that my happiness, my contentment with life suffers.
I don’t need to achieve anything to be happy. In the same way I can’t find peace in trying, buying or fucking, I don’t need to be a spiritual sage, a visionary or to heal the world. I don’t need to achieve the final stage of enlightenment. I don’t need to do anything except be present. Being present frees me from the doubt, from the unfulfilled desires, from the pain, distraction, rumination and judgement. Being present is enlightenment.
Being present is being like the dog off the leash running wild with the other unleashed dogs. In fact it’s not like being a dog at all. It’s a wolf. Running wild with the wolves. Who wouldn’t want to live life like that?
This is the most wonderful delusion of them all. It is the most attainable of goals, and yet for so many it seems so completely out of reach. All you have to do to be present is to give up. To surrender. To forgive the past and be grateful for the present. I know this, and yet how easy it is to slip back into that age old delusion that goals, any goals, must be achieved. That I must save others from their suffering. That I must find a good woman to lay with. Even when the new goals seem somewhat morally superior, it’s still the same old crock of shit.
The game is rigged. The only way I win is by refusing to buy into the notion that I must win in order to win. I’m not saying don’t play, but don’t play their game. Just play your game. This is life. Spend the first half building something. Spend the second half ripping it back down.
How utterly refreshing. Game over.