I received some very good questions from someone recently, and it seemed that it might be helpful to share the answers in a blog post. So here they are, with my answers below:
Q: I am now on my second time through your book Embracing the Now. I have a couple questions that hopefully you can help me with. How does soaking in the moment and having hopes, dreams, goals, etc. work together? I see that you are active and writing books, but how does that come about if you are observing life and just being?
Being present in the moment isn't just a matter of just being, soaking in the moment, and observing life. Being in the Now and living in the Now is not a passive experience but includes action. When we are present in the moment, we become aware of the urges, impulses, and inspirations to move, speak, and take action and we follow those impulses. These movements and actions come from Essence, our deepest self (not the ego) and move us forward in our life if we notice them and allow them to move us. So being present is not just a matter of being and observing life but also of moving in response to Life—to how we are called to move, act, and speak. Being present is a way of being and living that is quite different from following the egoic mind’s suggestions about what to do and how to be. Those suggestions and ideas are primarily conditioning and not necessarily true and wise, although following this conditioning is how most people live.
When we are present in the moment, we don't need the ego’s hopes, dreams, or goals to motivate or guide us because we are guided intuitively moment to moment by something much deeper than our egoic thoughts. Hopes, dreams, and goals are often our egoic mind’s idea of how we should live. However, some of our dreams and goals come from a deeper place—from Essence. We feel them deeply in our soul, and they move us to fulfill them. We feel them and we might then think about them, but these deeper goals arise from deep within us, not from our mind. They do not originate in the mind. These deeper dreams and goals are worth pursuing, and we are guided intuitively in pursuing them moment to moment.
Stressful thoughts and feelings happen, and they seem to be our stressful thoughts and feelings. As long as they feel like ours—as long as we’re identified with them and believing them—then our stressful thoughts and feelings take us for a ride. We can get off this ride and into a different relationship to our thoughts and feelings by recognizing that they are part of our humanness, part of the human condition, and not a reflection of who we really are.
Our thoughts and feelings don’t belong to us. We didn’t put them there or create them. It would be more accurate to say that they belong to all of humanity. Thoughts and feelings come with being alive. They are part of the human animal, part of the body-mind that we operate through. We are not the body-mind or our thoughts and feelings but that which animates the body-mind and uses it as a vehicle to experience this glorious world of form. Yet, we are programmed to experience our thoughts and feelings as ours.
Many of us have a strong inner critic, and we take its criticism to heart, no doubt because its source is our childhood and the criticism we received then. When we were a child, we took our parents’ words and perceptions as the truth, so when they criticized us, we believe them: “You’re so careless! Why don’t you listen? Your head is in the clouds. You’d better start paying attention or you’ll never make it in life.”
Surely when our parents said such things, they thought they were being helpful. But although their intentions may have been good, the result wasn’t. Now we carry their words and the way those words made us feel around with us, and whenever we make a mistake, the same shame and feelings of inadequacy come up as when we were young.
Mistakes are normal, kids are imperfect, adults are imperfect, but as children, we’re likely to have concluded that making mistakes means we’re bad, we won’t do well in life, and any number of other conclusions. It’s no wonder many of us are paralyzed by new situations and challenges: “What if I make a mistake? I’ll probably screw up as usual.” We may stop ourselves from going after what we want, trying and learning new things, developing our talents, growing, and having fun, all because we’re afraid of feelings those familiar feelings of failure from long ago. Parental criticism becomes self-criticism. We learned to do that perfectly!
There are a lot of things in life we don’t have a choice about—our gender, our parents, the environment we grew up in, our level of intelligence, our looks, our personality traits, and all of the rest of our conditioning, or programming. We are a soul that is in whatever package we are in. And yet, we often feel as if we are supposed to be different or as if we could be different, when we can’t be any different than we are. As humans, we invest much of our time and emotional energy in wishing we were different and in trying to be different than we are. However, the only thing that needs to be different for us to be happy is to accept the human package we were given and not take it personally if it isn’t what we would like it to be. It isn’t our fault that we appear as we appear or that we tend to respond the way we respond or that we suffer about whatever we suffer about. Somehow, deep inside, we feel that we shouldn’t be the way we are and we shouldn’t be flawed.
Everyone has this same sense of being flawed. Part of being human is feeling flawed, imperfect, less than. Those feelings seem to come with the package! The only way out of this dilemma of feeling like we should be different than we are is not becoming more perfect, according to our ideas of perfection, although it is certainly fine to improve ourselves and become better human beings. We can’t escape these feelings of imperfection by trying to become more perfect because there is no end to what we feel needs fixing, especially since we can’t escape aging and our ultimate demise.
There are facts and there are stories we tell about facts: Fact: He was late. Story: He was late because he doesn’t care. Facts create feelings only when you turn them into a story. Fact: I have x dollars in my bank account. Story: I have only x dollars in my bank account, and that should be different, and I’m scared I won’t have enough (in the future). Stories create feelings, and feelings drive actions and determine how we feel about life, ourselves, and others and where we put our energy. The ego is the aspect of ourselves that spins facts into stories, that holds particular beliefs, opinions, self-images, judgments, and desires. It is the programmed and conditioned aspect of ourselves. All stories, beliefs, and self-images belong to the ego and create the ego’s version of reality and the false self. Meanwhile, something else is here living, breathing, moving through life in a different way. It uses facts and the intellect, but it moves according to deeper drives and intentions that relate to the role we came here to play within the Whole.