What does this mean anyway? I believe it means that regardless of any outside circumstances we are able to maintain an internal state that is happy, joyous and free. Action is the great dissipator of fear. When we live in a state of action; doing the next thing in front of us, then I believe we are less likely to be in a fearful state. If we are not in shape, but go to the gym, then we are more likely to focus on our progress and less likely to dwell in our unhappiness about our shape. If we are financially stretched and make every effort to live within our means, then we are less likely to dwell in financial insecurity.
So why do so many of us struggle with taking action? What prevents us from taking actions that will move us forward? What is going on? Why do we make those same decisions and choices that lead us into more fear? What possesses some of us to follow the path of insanity into the gates of emotional hell?
Scientists, psychologists and philosophers are just a few who have attempted to answer this most fundamental question. They all seem to agree on some key points:
We like to do what feels good in the moment.
We like to put off hard work until it’s absolutely necessary.
We are afraid of change.
We are afraid of the unknown.
We fall into an unconscious state.
We forget the pain in exchange for the fantasy of pleasure.
We develop ineffective habits.
‘Neuro-pathways’ in the brain create chemical responses that we autonomically follow without thought.
Addiction to substances, people, things, emotions and even thoughts are often the end result of this way of being.
An even more abbreviated list would be that we act from fear; or the desire to meet our base needs, over the desire to meet our higher needs.
The pursuit of base needs leads to shelter, food and procreation. If that is enough then why are so many of us unhappy? Is it not attention to our higher needs that really creates a joyous state?
What if we shift our focus to one of gratitude that our base needs are met. What if we drop our expectations that we “should” have anything more than these base needs met? Would we then be joyous? What if anything past those base needs we perceived as a gift? What would happen to our state?
How do we shift from where we are to this high ideal? Here are some basic suggestions: Note it’s ok to make fun of yourself as you practice these new patterns! If they seem foreign and silly at first then laugh while you do it!
1. Practice Mindful Eating
Instead of numbly cramming food in our mouths; Stop? Notice each thing. Think about the life cycle instead. This banana was fed by the soil and watered by the rain. This all happened without my involvement. It was created from an energetic life force and process that I do not understand. It provides life giving nutrients to me, my children, and humanity at large. What an awesome process. Let me taste the banana, enjoy the banana and be thankful for the banana.
2. Practice Gratitude
Every day when I wake up, the addictive chatter in my brain about my life, my problems and my dreams begins to kick into gear. As soon as I awake, I start to recount things I am thankful for. Many mornings I don’t want to do this, but I do it anyway. Some mornings are rough and my brain may say thank you for this house “that I can’t afford” and this food “that has made me fat” and this job “that I hate” This sort of negativity reveals my internal condition. Instead of judging those thoughts as wrong, I attempt to laugh at them. Some mornings the negativity is not there. I often feel a deep sense of thanks for my life. This daily practice keeps my mind open to being thankful for what I have instead of feeling bitter over what I’ve lost or feel I didn’t get but ‘should’ have.
3. Practice acts of kindness
This can be so small. When I drop something on the floor I pick it up. If I’ve eaten out I tidy the table. If I have extra clothes I donate them. I call someone that I can’t get anything from and can’t do anything for me just to lend my support. I take a phone call from someone in need even when I don’t feel like it. I offer a ride. I listen. I do more than my fair share just because. All these acts of kindness are not for the other person; or for them to notice and thank me. They are for me. They get me outside of my thinking mind that is constantly focused on me, my plans, my regrets, my hopes, my wants… Me Me Me Me Me.
4. Take Action
This for me is the most important and for many of us the hardest. I don’t like my physical fitness so instead of wishing for a better shape; I go for a walk. Then do it again. Then do it again and again. One man I know parked his car as far as possible wherever he went. He did this for 1 year and lost 100 pounds. At first this is all he did. He started to slowly have more energy and cut out all soda. Then he parked the car, didn’t have soda and gave up sugar. He just took one effective action which lead to another and another and another until his life had radically changed.
What if we don’t feel like it or we are paralyzed with fear? Then do one small thing we are not too paralyzed to do. What happens when we keep talking about the life we want? Keep that conversation alive. Is it possible dreams die when our hope of ever having them realized dies? Is it possible we lose hope when we don’t get the results we think we should? Do we try a little and then want bigger results and when we don’t get them we give up? At the core are we simply lazy when it comes to fulfilling our own higher needs?
What can I do right now to move my mind and my body forward? What can I do right now to focus on my higher needs? What tiny action am I willing to take to create or re-create the life I want for myself?