Don’t despair about ’em all

It’s pretty easy to understand why people might feel down about the world at the moment.

The truck attack in Nice.

The shootings in Dallas and Orlando.

The constant reports of attacks and explosions from the middle east.

The political turmoil in the UK following Brexit and its messy aftermath.

The prospect of more Boris Johnson.

The prospect of Donald Trump.

The prospect of both of them. At the same time.

ISIS continuing to behead its own people for menial infractions.

Plus all of the tragedies and struggles we hear less about – or don’t hear about at all.

And we wonder why people are excited to play Pokemon.

Chin up, everyone.

Searching for what’s right in front of us

horizon_by_netlancer2006

We spend a lot of time with our eyes on the horizon, searching for something to fill the hole. Something to make us happy.

And there is a good reason we do this. We yearn for purpose and passion which we hope will bring the sense of fulfilment. We can feel it tugging at us – whispering to come and find it.

It keeps us moving, but it also pulls our attention and care away from what we’re doing now.

It feels like we’re doing what we’re doing now, only until we find our purpose. Until we find our passion.

But this is an expensive waiting game. What if we treated what we’re doing now as if it was our purpose and passion?

We might not have dreamed of being where we are (making coffee, selling trainers, cranking out widgets), but what happens when we treat what we’re doing with the dedication and commitment that we would give to our passion? What would happen if we gave our all now instead of saving back for sometime in the future?

What happens is that we start a fire. A small one, to be sure, but a fire nonetheless.

As soon as we direct our eyes and heart to the here and now, we find nuance and detail we hadn’t seen before. We’re more aware of subtle tensions and possibilities which are right in front of us. And we’re more likely to use that awareness to take action.

We don’t find purpose and passion by scanning the horizon. They’re not laying on the ground “out there”, waiting for us to stumble across them and put them in our pocket. Purpose and passion are forged inside of us. They are made by giving our focused attention to what’s in front of us, by concentrating on what we are doing and caring about the outcome.

We mistakenly think that if we just concentrate on what we’re doing that we’ll get stuck, that we’ll stay still. But we only get stuck when we stop giving a shit. When we phone it in and give less than our all.

The first step to moving toward a passion is to focus on what you’re doing. To love what you’re doing. To find the detail in what you’re doing.

If you can give the here and now some care and attention, purpose and passion will take care of themselves.

The chains of expectation

Chains_by_Chapendra

Expectations are a limiting force.

I expect the sun to rise in the morning.

I expect to still have a job when I get to work.

I expect others to drive on the correct side of the road.

But we also harbour expectations about circumstances, events and people about which there is much less certainty.

I expect that I’ll feel like X tomorrow.

I expect that she’ll feel like Y if I say this.

I expect that this will turn our well/poorly/insert-judgement-of-choice-here.

But these expectations limit our curiosity, our ability to experience what’s here & now and our capacity to respond skilfully to our experience.

They limit our curiosity because expectation says “it will be like this”.

They limit our experience of the here & now because we’re constantly flicking back and forth between our expectations for comparison instead paying full attention to what is actually happening.

They limit our ability to respond skilfully, because the gap we perceive between our expectations and reality biases our future behaviour.

Expectations are simple, static, stakes in the ground which can never compare favourably with a fluid and complex reality.

If we want more harmony with reality, more understanding and acceptance of what’s actually going on and more skilful responses to it all, then we have to loosen our grip on our expectations.

We can stop filtering our experience and fuelling our resistance to the way things actually are. We can reignite our curiosity. We can stop expecting everything to be a certain way.

Why we need to constantly train (and sweep)

guard_sweeping_by_thepismire

There are many reasons to read Ryan Holiday’s “The Ego is the Enemy”, but here is my favourite. It’s a quote from his friend Daniele Bolelli which I thought was both prescient and insightful.

“He explained that training was like sweeping the floor. Just because we’ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep.”

We often do things once and think “well, that’s done – Glad I never have to do that again.” But the truth is, we back-slide, we got back to old habits, we forget our lessons and need to relearn them.

We need to sweep.

We need to train.

The magic of right now

Now_by_Zaprittsky

Our experience of life, only exists in a very narrow slice of time.

All that exists is now. Right now.

We have no access to the past, and the future is a cheque we can’t cash.

And given that we only live now, you’d think that we would pay greater attention to what’s going on here.

But we don’t.

We abstract ourselves from our experience of now. Without even noticing, we let life happen “to us”, while we’re caught up reliving the past or plotting for the future.

There is so much that we miss, because we’re living in the parts of our life which don’t exist. We miss the little signs – in our bodies, in our environment, in our interactions with other people. These signs all tell us about what is actually happening, but we don’t see them because we’re distracted by what has happened, or what might happen.

Put your phone down. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and listen to what’s actually happening. Experience a few moments of the present.

The past will wait for you, and the future will or won’t come anyway.

I promise.