|it’s been a long, crooked road. it’s been a long crooked life!
life, as it turns out, is not a straight line.
it zig-zags from here to there and from there to here … races up only to plunge back down and, often, as my young students like to point out, it feels like an endless stream of right hand turns.
still, we seek the highway – the most direct route – the fast lane to happiness – believing that happiness is a destination we can easily plug into our GPS.
though the obstacles that we’re navigating through appear on the outside, they’re actually a reflection of the internal traffic of our egoic mind – the drama that accompanies us along the way as passengers in the HOV lane — stowaways in the stories of our thoughts and emotions that, without attention, transform into the sinkholes, potholes and assholes that keep getting in our way.
sinkholes and victims
sometimes you’re just driving down the road and life happens – BAM! the surface collapses, you fall into a depression and you become a victim.
sinkholes keep us trapped in denial, isolation, control, shame, and unfounded guilt. and, as a result, victims feel hopeless and helpless. they believe that they’re unable to do anything right – that they are in their essence wrong – and this becomes their story. sinkholes just prove this story right.
victims believe that they have little or no power or control over their own lives and wait to be rescued. they’re unaware that their absolute power lies in the ability to recognize that their power to choose their story is something that no sinkhole can take away!
often, victims are so lost that they miss the signs that indicate danger! sinkhole ahead!
potholes and heroes
when snow and rain seep through stress cracks on the surface, they undermine the foundation of the road and create the ideal condition for potholes.
potholes are the foe which heroes seem to naturally clear. whether dodging bullets in a dark metropolis or running into a raging fire, the qualities of a hero give them the confidence and depth of field to respond swiftly, accurately and with bravery.
heroes don’t allow the weather of emotion – doubt and fear – to seep through the cracks in the road. instead, they use courage as a sealant that allows for a smooth ride and unlimited access to their superpowers – patience, awareness and caring for others.
heroes don’t drive too close to any emotion and can see potholes coming a mile away.
assholes and villains
assholes are obnoxious, arrogant and painfully oblivious. they cut us off, drive 45 in a 65, ride in the passing lane, and freely flip the bird to anyone and everyone without regard.
depraved and powerful, these villains often have a power over us. they seem to possess an acuity and mindset that screams f–k you! i’m the center of the universe!
the thing about assholes … they awaken the asshole in ourselves!
they show us exactly where we’re stuck. they do something or say something that automatically hooks us into a familiar way of reacting. when we’re triggered, it gives us a chance to see our patterns and work with them honestly and with compassion.
without their provocation, we remain ignorant of our painful habits and cannot train in transforming them into the path of awakening.
i’m an asshole, you’re an asshole – we’re all assholes!
so, happiness is not a destination!
happiness is an illusion of the mind that needs a hero to attain.
this story, of what or who it takes to get there, is false. like fake news, this falsehood distracts us from the truth that is right in front of us:
happiness is not an experience that lies outside of ourselves – it’s a state that exists within us right now – a.k.a. infinite joy!
the ego wants us to believe that it will help us reach happiness – that it lies beyond this moment and that there is something that we must do or be or have in order to attain it.
when i loose 10 pounds … when i get the right partner … when i land my dream job.
the ego distracts us in the dialogue and drama of getting there. but, once we’re in the dope drama, we’re trapped in a never ending three way that hijacks our attention, diverts us from our senses and habituates us in a negativity bias that siphons in everything and everyone.
so, what can we do when we’re stuck in the drama?
we can wake up! we can feel the road, we can hear the engine, we can glance to the left and we can glance to the right, and then we can shift and change lanes!
there’s a method to navigating life: it’s a mix of learning and practicing and discovering and suffering. that’s right … we must travel through suffering in order to shift to awakening.
first, we stop and recognize that we are in the drama.
the first shift is from result to process – that means letting go of happiness as a destination and paying attention to the experience of the journey.
we need to name the emotion – i’m angry! i’m afraid! i’m jealous!
emotions wake us up. when we sense them in the body, they have much to tell us. but if we ignore them or are preoccupied in the discursive mind, they’ll be forced to take up as parts in the drama.
then, we breathe and bring space.
we shift the focus of our attention from the story of the feeling to the sensation in the body: we feel the pedal under our foot and the roar of the engine rise through the throttle; we trust that no matter how it feels, we can bare it. and, with this knowledge, we’re able to shift from external blame and shame to internal accountability and compassion.
breathe real slow – let it in and let it out.
a few mindful breaths shifts our parasympathetic nervous system and restores us to the driver’s seat of executive function. from here, we begin to see the patterns of our emotions.
we get curious about what the emotions are trying to say – i’m disrespected! life’s not fair! you’re not better than me!
as viktor frankl pointed, our freedom lies in our ability to respond – i am not this emotion! it’s a skill that liberates us from the story and the suffering that imprisons us.
and then we can make connections.
every human has the need to be seen, to be loved – respected and connected. problem is, these needs are based on individual perceptions and perceptions are not always accurate. they’re very personal.
when we downshift between emotions, we begin to see connections to our needs, and we can begin to take ownership of our emotions and our choices and let go of the need to judge and control the needs and experience of others.
we see our personal story playing out in front of us – i’m not enough! i’m not worthy! life is hard! when we shift attention to the self as the method, then nothing is personal and as the conflict of emotion clears, so does the road ahead.
so, my brothers and my sisters, while navigating this vast highway of life, be aware of the map, the territory and the method that will help you respond to all experience with skill, agility and courage.
take note of the sinkholes, avoid the potholes and be grateful to all the assholes out there that wake you up to to the internal work that demands your attention – the work that reminds you …
ah! thats right! happiness has been here all along!