Thursday, September 17, 2015

Live In The Now

We waste so much of our lives on things that are not real. I’m not talking about things like fantasy or fiction. Those can be more real than you or I, if done well. I’m talking about worrying about things that haven’t happened, reacting to things that no one said, and expecting things that can’t be done. Things like that. Things that, as it turns out, make up a huge portion of the average life. What a waste!

Life is huge and full of wonder, but we miss so much of it, and so much of what we miss is our own fault. If we don’t take the time to live, no one else is going to do it for us. No one else can do it for us. That is another one of those “it’s your life” things. It’s your life, so you have to live it. Life cannot be lived by remote control. You have to get in and get your hands dirty.

Fortunately, there are a few tricks that can help you to do that more successfully. They are fairly simple but, like most simple tricks, they can be easy to overlook and difficult to master. That’s always the way, isn’t it? It’s simple, so we assume it won’t work, or we assume we’re already doing it, or we assume it just comes naturally … The hazards of relying on assumptions, but more on that shortly. Thing is, it’s simple to start, but it takes a lifetime to master, if you master it at all, which is not even remotely necessary. You will see an improvement the moment you truly start. As you get better, things will improve more. No mastery is required. Just keep going.

The first step in the process is to be where you are. I have the most trouble with this one. If I had a Yoda, he would be lecturing me on a regular basis. “All his life, he has looked away … to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.” It’s the curse of the writer’s mind. We are always looking at things as they might be and tend to forget to look at things as they are. It’s not a problem if you remember to do both, but remembering can be tricky.

You need to recognize things for what they are, where they are, and when they are. Acknowledge the present, and accept it as is. There is nothing wrong with planning ahead, but if you’re not anchoring your plan in what is, you’re not really planning. That’s called wishing, and wishing by itself is useless. There is also nothing wrong with remembering the past. That is how we learn, but living in the past is not learning from the past. You have to keep going forward or you can’t really learn and grow.

To be where you are, you have to see things as they are. Don’t make assumptions or projections. Those will never help you. Reality is what it is, regardless of your opinion, and it will keep being what it is, regardless of your belief. If you look at it head on, you can take steps necessary to meet it head on. If you look away, refusing to see or insisting that reality is something other than as is, life will pass you by, in the best case. It may actually run you over and leave you with nothing but wreckage and heartache.

It might be easier to address things as we want them to be, and it often makes us feel better, but it’s not helpful. We can’t learn and grow without acknowledging what we are learning and growing from. We can’t successfully change things without knowing what it is that we are changing. Things will change, regardless. Change is the one constant in life. If you know what is changing - not what you assume is changing, but what is changing - then you will be better equipped to productively guide that change.

Do you really know what you know, though? Most people don’t. We go through life being handed knowledge that we then file away into appropriately labeled boxes, and then pull it out again when called upon to do so. We rarely take the time to look at that knowledge and understand what makes it true, or how that truth interacts with other truths to create reality. Most of us are content to go through life with nothing more than the basics - fire is hot, water is wet, etc. - and, if that is enough for you, it’s your life. Live it your way. Just understand that there is so much more, and taking the time to understand how that more works makes so many other things easier to address.

You cannot write a set of rules to cover every contingency in the universe. Life is an infinite variety, so you would run out of paper before you ran out of rules. If you know why you believe a certain thing, though, you can more easily adapt that knowledge to new situations, as the need arises. If your reason why is because So-and-so said so then you’re going to run into problems when So-and-so isn’t around to provide new answers, but if you maintain a consistent internal framework and apply that framework with integrity then you can compare the new situation to that framework and see where it fits. The latter method is also faster, once you know how to do it, because you don’t have to wait around for someone else to provide the answer.

You may, however, be called upon to provide answers more often yourself. That is a side effect of giving the impression that you know what’s going on. People expect you to share. Obviously I enjoy sharing or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. When you do share, make certain that you are sharing in a useful manner. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If it is necessary to see the world as it is, how much more necessary is it to present the world as it is?

How you view the world is critical to your own life and well being, but how the people around you view the world certainly has an impact. If you are helping them to see the world as it is then you are improving your own life as well as theirs. If you are discouraging them from seeing the world as it is then you are hindering your own life as well as theirs. It seems pretty clear to me that only one of these options makes any sense at all.

Finally, once you have taken the time to know the world as it is, make sure that you are responding to the world as it is. All of the work you already did serves no purpose if you aren’t putting it into practice. Don’t treat a minor inconvenience as the end of the world. Don’t reward harmful behavior. Don’t take positive behavior for granted. We make the world what it is through our actions and interactions every moment of every day. Make sure that your part in that creation is pushing toward the world that you want to create.

Always remember, of course, that sometimes the best response is no response at all. You don’t have to answer everything, and some things just are not worth answering. Pick your battles, as they say. Is an answer necessary? Will an answer help? Will an answer do anything that you want done? If you can’t answer Yes to all of those then it is often best to not answer. Save your energy for when you can put it to better use. If you can’t make things better, at least don’t make them worse.

Live in the now. There is so much of it that you will never experience it all, but give it a shot. I think that’s what we’re here for, after all, to experience life. If not the answer, you’re not going to get any other answer without that one. The real world won’t always give you what you want, but it will usually give you options. If you’re paying attention, you can work those options toward what you want. That fake world most of us waste so much time on can’t do that. It’s options will always be as unreal as it is, leading to equally unreal results.

The real world can be a scary place but, if we work together, we can make it less scary. That too is real. A better world is within our reach, if we work for it, and if we start with what is. That is something to look forward to.

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