What is it that keeps us from finding the joy in our activities? There are many symptoms I could point to, but really what it comes down to is that we are lost in a story. One story is that of “why I am doing this in the first place”, and another story is “what I expect to get out of it when I’m done.” We humans have a unique way of covering up those basic elements with all kinds of content: love, loss, lust, anger, greed, fear, hope… But underneath that content, the structure remains unchanged.
The issue isn’t that we shouldn’t look to past or future: it’s simply a matter of having skipped over the only critical element of the structure that has any reality. It’s that element where we tap into a pure creative energy that can carry us through any issues that may surface. It’s that element where we embody an adaptability to mold ourselves to whatever it is that is needed in the situation to bring about the best results for all concerned. That critical element is this moment. That critical element is now.
“Now” is the only point in our lives that has any true reality, and yet we go about our plans and intentions without any notice of it whatsoever. It is the veritable platform on which our entire existence unfolds, and yet all our experiences are projections of an imagined future through the filter of a distorted past.
What do I mean when I say “distorted past”? A distorted past results from experiences in a former now that limited how we see our self in this life. It is the identification with this limited perception of yourself that distorts and limits your choices now.
For example, if a child “learns” that their scope of influence is very limited at home because they are not taken seriously and feel like they are not heard or seen, this creates an impression of themselves as a limited being. A couple ways that may play out: some may overcompensate for that and exert extra influence over other children, others may embrace it and feel they just don’t have much to offer anyone. Flash forward twenty years: you are likely to find the same person behaving in much the same way. They are behaving now in a way that supports and reinforces the experience they had as a child of themselves as a limited being, and so how can their actions now be anything but limited? They are unaware of the truth of themselves now because they are identified with a story of what was true in their past. But was that past moment really real? Were there other ways that the same situation could have played out differently?
That’s the real question. Although it’s true that children do have a limited scope of influence at home, it is not necessarily true that they needed to internalize that as an aspect of who they are as a being. A child’s influence can be limited, and they can still understand that it’s not personal but is instead just a point of fact that will surely grow and change over time. It is also possible that a child can recognize that the parent’s attempts at controlling them is just an aspect of the parent’s own perception of themselves as limited beings trying to exert control over the only thing they really feel they can: their child. Maybe such a level of awareness in a child is not quite so common, but it is certainly possible.
So when an adult with a limited perception of themselves contemplates undertaking a project, they view the possible outcomes through this filter of a limited “self”. Based on that, they decide whether or not to even enter into the project by what they imagine, through this limited filter, are the possible outcomes. If they decide to go forward, they are focused on achieving the outcome they saw as achievable, and get anxious or frustrated when the unexpected happens or if the project doesn’t work out as they planned.
In short, there is no joy in what they are doing because they are so focused on what it is they want or expect to come of their efforts. Even in success, any joy they find is short lived because now they are still faced with looking to the future through the lens of a limited self, and how can they see anything but a limited future?
Is it even possible to drop this limited perspective of ourselves? I mean, we are actually limited beings, aren’t we? Sure, if that’s the reality you want to create for yourself. And I’m not necessarily saying that you aren’t limited in some way or another, but I think what my point is is that perhaps you are far less limited than maybe you thought you were. You don’t have to let go of the past, I’m only recommending that you stop identifying with it.
Open yourself up to what is true for you now and you may be surprised at the myriad of possibilities that avail themselves to you. In doing that, you also avail yourself to the absolute joy in the only place it can ever truly be found. But that absolute potential is only available for a limited time. In order to take advantage of this special offer, you must act now! :)
There is joy in absolutely everything you do in your day, and if you’re not “in-joy-in” what you are doing, then you are destined to experience only brief moments of limited joy in your life.
Everything you come across in your day can be a source of absolute joy, and all it takes is for you to open yourself up to the possibility and investigate it for yourself. How? By “doing” for the sake of doing and not for the sake of what is being done. If you lose yourself in the moment of what this one crucial moment is offering you, you will come to feel as if you are seeing it for the first time, regardless of how many times you have done it in the past. Essentially, every moment is a new moment, with new possibilities, but you can only tap into them if you are open to finding them.
Typically, when I would set out to do something, I would have a goal in mind that I wanted to achieve. Then I would set out trying to find the best way to get there, and sometimes that would be as far as I would get. Negative self-talk would often creep in and tell me all the reasons I’ll never be able to do it, or that someone else can do it better, and so I’d be dead in the water before I even tried to swim. But on those occasions where I did persevere, and maybe even make it all the way to the finish line, I’d look around with some sense of satisfaction, but it would never last. I expected that result to bring me joy, and when I got there, any joy I did find was short lived and I was off looking for something else to bring me joy.
Maybe in the process of meeting that goal I was energized and driven, maybe I got frustrated or lost momentum, but regardless I was not enjoying the process. How do I know that? Because I was looking towards the time when I would be done for that moment to bring me joy, and it just can’t. All I did the whole time I was working towards that goal was practice looking to a future moment to bring me joy, and so that’s what I got better at: looking to a future moment to bring me joy instead of finding the joy that is all around me in this moment.
The only place you can ever find joy is right here, right now, in whatever it is you are doing. It’s in the process of “doing” where you find joy, not in the end result. And when you are enjoying what you are doing, the results will take care of themselves. The outcome can be nothing short of quality, because each moment that went into that result was one of quality. And when you are done, it’s almost like you just let go completely of the results and just set right out again to find something else to do. You have experienced the truth that the joy of doing is also the joy of being right here, right now, regardless of whatever it is that is contained within this moment.
But don’t take my word for it. Look around. See where you’re at with fresh eyes. Upon discovering just one or two things that you hadn’t noticed, you’ll start to feel an aliveness tingling inside you: that’s joy. Even if all you are doing is breathing, just notice that breath, and you will find joy. (I like to feel my hands breathing. It’s a sensation that I discovered one day a few months ago and I have yet to meet someone who knows what I’m talking about.)
And when you find yourself in that feeling of joy, you realize that all the boredom and frustration and angst that were filling up your thoughts are no where to be found. Become like an explorer, seeking out joy in everything you do: you may be surprised at all the unlikely places you find it, as well as all the insights and inspirations that arise in its discovery.
So in yesterday’s post, “Unknown Love“, I asked you to investigate, and feel without naming, what it is that you are most afraid of. How’d you do? Did you find it? What did it feel like? It’s that feeling, reinforced by the stories your mind continues to tell you about it, that limits your being in this life. It’s that feeling that is masking the love that you seek.
But it’s more than just masking the love. The real joke is…it is that love! That dense, sick feeling that makes you want to cry or flee or fight or die: that is love. That is the absolute passion of life. You call it fear and it becomes scary. You make up stories about how bad it is and so you turn away from it. It colors every choice you make so you can avoid it. And yet…and yet, what you will find is that what you have been running from all this time…is Love.
You run because when you open up to the experience of it, there is no need to make up stories about it anymore. The past dissolves, along with the limited story of you. All that’s left is who you are in this moment, and what you find out is that you are that love.
And the need to forgive is replaced with a compulsive compassion and gratitude. And the knot dissolves, and life floods in to fill the space. Awareness expands, and everything you thought you knew to be real is revealed as just an illusion: a story you’ve just been carrying about all the things you thought you knew.
And then you use that feeling that you used to call fear as a compass to guide you on your rightful path. It’s your cue to awaken and notice where you’re at and what lessons have surfaced for you to learn, and what signposts are around to guide your way.
I know: it sounds absolutely ridiculous. So let’s test that idea. Now recall a time when you felt absolutely in love with someone: What did that feel like? Really linger in that thought for a moment.
Was there a dense tightness? Did it make you want to spill over with tears of bliss and relief to have found it at last? Did it make you want to just drop everything and run to them? Did it make you want to just rip through all the obstacles that stood in the way? Did it make you want to just die because you felt too small to contain such an enormous feeling?
Those experiences of feeling love (cry, flee, fight, die) were all just appetizers, mere tastings of that absolute love that is waiting for you to find it inextricably woven throughout what it is you fear the most. And when you can experience that love, you know it was always there, and that it will always be there. You know yourself as that love, and you are liberated and empowered to really live your life instead of just survive it.
So the answer to the question “what is it you are most afraid of?”…is love. Fear is love in disguise. It is the last place you would ever think to look for it. It is a bigger and scarier than any love you’ve ever known, because in it, you let go of the story of you and all that remains is who you are now. And who you are now is limitless.
So in yesterday’s post, “Love, Love, Love…”, I wrote about a pure, unconditional love that’s always present, but at the same time I pointed out that you must not love yourself if you find yourself wanting others to treat you differently. So how can both be true? What is it that is masking that liberating, absolute Love?
It’s going to sound absolutely ridiculous, and you’re not going to believe me. It is absolutely essential for you to experience the truth of it yourself. You already know exactly what it is; you’ve just been calling it by another name. It’s the name you know it by that makes you want to turn away from it. Let me ask you this…and take your time and really investigate the single, most precise, most honest answer you can…
What is it that you are most afraid of?
In all that you do today, open yourself up wide to that question. Allow it to penetrate deep. Feel the absolute truth of the answer. You will know when you find it, because instead of it being a thought in your head, it will be emanating from somewhere in your body. When you find it, notice what it feels like. Where in your body is it stored? Perhaps it’s a tightness, a constriction, in your shoulders or chest or throat. Mine is in my gut: a knot right below my rib cage. Maybe it makes you feel queezy or like you want to cry or flee or fight or die?
Don’t give it a name, don’t tell a story about why it’s there, just feel it there. Whatever it is, wherever it is, open yourself up to the experience of feeling it.
I will ask again, and then let’s meet back here tomorrow:
What is it you are most afraid of?
(Refer to post “Unknown Love Revealed” for conclusion of this post)
I had an insight centered on the “experience” of love versus the “feeling” of love that I wanted to share, because so much of what I see in this life is infused with, as well as complicated by, this sticky topic.
The saying goes, “you must love yourself before you can love another.” I thought I understood what that meant. I believed I did love myself, and yet as I look back now I see countless moments where I had overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I just couldn’t see it because in this illusion that I loved myself, I was confronted and bombarded by situations that caused suffering and angst, and so I spent all my energy trying to trouble shoot those situations. “What’s wrong with me? Why does this have to be so hard? How can I change? Why can’t they change? Why can’t they just love me the way I am? I think I’ve made a huge mistake, but I don’t know how to fix it…”
If this feels very personal, like I’m telling a story about you, that’s because I am. It’s my story too. It’s just one of the many stories that we each carry inside of us. We all want the same thing: for others to love us and trust us and accept us just as we are, unconditionally. But wait…there’s something just behind those words…can you feel it? Look at them again, only this time, feel the words, savoring each one, instead of just reading them.
The paradox: if you loved them and trusted them and accepted them just the way they are, unconditionally, you wouldn’t need them to treat you any differently than they do. I know that stirs up a lot of defensive feelings, but please just try to bear with me for a few more minutes. Not needing someone to treat you any differently is dramatically different than putting up with mistreatment. It actually empowers you to effectively address those issues of mistreatment. But that paradox is just the surface: let’s go a little deeper.
The bigger “a-ha” (hopefully): If I loved myself and trusted myself and accepted myself just the way I am, unconditionally, I wouldn’t have gotten myself in the situation where I am perceiving mistreatment in the first place. I would have recognized the seeds of mistreatment much earlier and dealt with them then instead of letting things slide, because somewhere inside I didn’t feel worthy of better treatment, until it reached the point of: “Okay, enough is enough. I may not deserve much, but I deserve better than this.”
And all because you thought you loved yourself. Now, are you going to flog yourself with that personal failing too? It’s not necessary, I assure you. Does it mean you deserve the treatment you get? Absolutely not. But until you know better, that’s just what you’re going to get more of.
There’s so much more in there that I would enjoy expanding on, but I feel it’s important to explore the other side of the equation: the “experience” of love.
There is a part of you that is love, pure and untouched by all your many “flaws”. Yes, I said it: flaws. It’s those perceived flaws (“perceived” being the operative word) that create the situation where you put up with any mistreatment in the first place. “I know I’m not perfect, so I guess I’ll let that one slide for the greater good.” When you can experience that pure love, you are freed from having to lower your standards, and you no longer look to any situation to provide you with a sense of self worth.
Those “flaws” are nothing more than limiting thoughts that you’ve carried with you from the past, the big ones go all the way back to childhood. They have colored every choice you’ve made, and have set you up so you put yourself in situations that support the illusive truth about those illusive flaws. They are nothing more than thoughts in your head, and they have no bearing or relevance to what is true for you Now unless you continue to identify with them.
Once you have had a direct experience of that pure love, you even love your flaws. They’re like quirky little pests that try to keep poking their head in where they don’t belong, but because you love yourself, you recognize them and have the awareness to make the conscious choice not to feed them.
All of a sudden, you are free to love everyone just as they are, with all their flaws, because you know now that the only reason they keep trying to mess with you is because they just haven’t experienced the love within themselves. You have compassion for them, and your interactions with them shift and become more productive and effective. You make the changes that need to be made, but you do it with love instead of with resistance. You love yourself, and you inspire the love in others.
And because I love myself now, I don’t need myself to be any different than I am. And because I don’t need myself to be any different, I also don’t need others to be different than they are. I am free to love them just as they are because I am not afraid that they are going to mistreat me or steal my energy. I have enough energy for myself and for them, so I am not threatened if they don’t agree with me. It creates a space where we can meet and talk openly and compassionately. Trust me, I am different than I was, I just no longer need myself to be different than I am, and the changes that had to be made to support a truly fulfilling life just happened organically.
And what’s more important than telling others the truth about my experience of love is living that truth. And by living this truth, I set the example for others that it can be done: that they can let go of the fear that another is mistreating them and be okay. Better than okay.
Thank you for spending the time reading this post. I hope it was helpful somehow. Be sure to email me if there’s any questions or comments.
In peace, compassion, and absolute love,
Care Mycue :)
“Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time.”
– The Beatles, All You Need Is Love