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Why Bad Things Happen

An excerpt from Living in the Now
 
living in the nowIt would be more accurate to say “things happen” than “bad things happen.” There is a world of difference between those two statements. The first one is true, and the second one is a story told by the ego. Bad, after all, is a concept; it doesn’t exist. We can’t touch it, hear it, see it, or even sense it in any way. Bad is an idea that egos can generally agree on, but that doesn’t make that concept true or real. That is the problem with consensus reality: What is accepted as true often isn’t, but seeing things otherwise can be challenging.

There is hardly anything more pervasive in consensus reality than the concept of good/bad. It is the ego’s primary judgment—something is either good or bad, usually in relationship to me. That is how the ego sees the world. The fact that everyone else who is ego identified also sees the world this way doesn’t make it true. So when people ask why bad things happen, it’s a trick question. It presumes bad things are happening and, in truth, they aren’t—things are happening.

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The Illusory Reality

 
creation of realityBeliefs create an illusory reality, which becomes one’s reality. This illusory reality stands between you and actual reality. Like a pair of colored glasses, this illusory, mind-generated reality changes how reality looks: like clouds, it hides aspects of reality; like a magnifying glass, it magnifies the importance of some things while minimizing the importance of others; and like a fun-house mirror, this illusory reality deceives and makes reality seem scary. Beliefs cause you to perceive things that are not there and to not perceive things that are there. Moreover, beliefs cause you to see the world through a singular point of view, the view of “me.”
 
The me that you feel yourself to be is the sense of yourself that is created and upheld by your beliefs. You also have some images, or internal pictures, of yourself, but the sense of you is largely comprised of what you believe yourself to be—beliefs about yourself: “I am this and I am that; I am not this and I am not that. I am someone who likes this and not that.”
 
If you take away all of your beliefs about yourself, you are left with “I am,” a simple statement of existence, which is the only absolutely true statement you can make about yourself. If you examine your other beliefs about yourself, you discover that none of them is completely true or true all the time, and therefore none of them is true. Your beliefs about yourself only seem to be true and only seem to be true all the time.
 

Not Being Able to Commit

choosing loveThe ego doesn't want to commit to anything—a place, a relationship, a career—because it believes that something better may be possible, and it's willing to forgo what is present for the possibility of something better that isn't present. Essence, on the other hand, is committed to whatever is. It doesn't commit into the future because all that exists is the present, so it commits itself to that. This is the essential difference between the ego and Essence: The ego dreams of something better in the midst of whatever is, while Essence simply enjoys and commits attention and love to whatever is. In fact, committing attention to anything that is present results in enjoyment. This is why the ego enjoys so little—it commits attention to what isn't present and to what it doesn't have, and suffers over that, rather than committing attention to whatever is. It loves its fantasies, dreams, and desires more than it loves reality.

To love, we have to fall in love with reality, with what's true right now, not with what might be true in the future or with what we want to be true in the future. Love happens in the present moment (like everything, really). That's why the ego doesn't know about love—because love is the experience of being in the present moment, and as soon as the ego experiences the present moment, it runs from it. Commitment takes a willingness to fall in love with reality, with the real partner who is in front of you, rather than seek something else, either actually or through fantasy. What you commit to is what's here right now. Who knows what will be here next? All you ever really have is what's here right now, so it makes sense to commit to that, to give your full attention, your love, to that.

Those who have difficulty committing to a relationship often have difficulty committing to other things as well because they have an underlying belief, or misunderstanding, that what's here isn't good enough and what's somewhere else is better. This is the ego's basic assumption about life: Whatever is happening now isn't it. It is somewhere else, with it being ultimate happiness and contentment. The ego assumes it is elsewhere, because the ego perceives whatever is happening as not good enough, and it concludes that must mean there's something else that will be good enough. It imagines one day it will find peace and happiness because life will finally line up correctly. Those who can't commit are waiting for life to line up, fall into place, and they're quite sure that what they imagine life will look like then won't look like whatever life looks like now.

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Slowing Down

from stress to stillnessSlowing down is key to living a more heart-centered life, because shifting gears helps us shift our consciousness and become more present. In fact, it’s quite impossible to shift out of the ego without slowing down. We can’t be present and live as Presence and still rush around, glued to our cell phone while trying to do six other things at once. When you know Presence, you don’t even want to live like that, because you realize that you won’t stay present for long if you do.

The biggest stumbling block to slowing down is the perception that we won’t have enough time to do everything we need to do. But slowing down can actually leave us with more time, not less. Hurrying is counterproductive because it’s stressful. Stress creates emotions, and emotions are exhausting and take time to process or cope with. To deal with stress, we might stop at a bakery for a cupcake, call a friend to complain to, or go on a shopping spree. The ways we cope with stress take up time! Hurrying also makes us more prone to mistakes and accidents, and you know what those do to your plans. Besides, hurrying doesn’t feel good. So how is hurrying good?

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Letting Go of Stressful Thoughts and Feelings

from stress to stillnessOften all we have to do to move beyond a stressful thought or feeling is just let go of it as soon as we become aware of it. It’s much easier to let go of a thought, feeling, or desire as soon as you become aware of it than after you’ve fed it with your attention, since attention strengthens identification. Whatever we give our attention to gains power and becomes more difficult to let go of. With attention, a thought, desire, or feeling becomes more convincing, and more thoughts, desires, and feelings are added to it. Timing is key to the success of this strategy.
 
Letting go of a thought, desire, or feeling is not as difficult as some may think. We all know how to let go. We do it all the time. We have thousands of thoughts and many desires and feelings in a day that just pass by without contracting us. Because these thoughts pass by so easily, we don’t feel like we’re letting anything go. But we are. By not doing anything about them and allowing them to do what they naturally do—come and go—they naturally go, within seconds or minutes if we don’t get involved with them. All we have to do is let them come and let them go in their own time. If we don’t touch them, they let go of us.
 
Letting go is more a matter of not doing something than something that we do. The only thing we do is not give that thought another thought. Letting go is the natural result of not getting involved with a thought, desire, or feeling, of simply remaining an attentive witness to our experience. It is a matter of either not engaging in or disengaging our attention from stressful thoughts, desires, and feelings.

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