Adventures In Self Discovery To Transform Your Life
This Is It
Want to change your life experience? Here is the only place you can do that. Now is the only time that is happening. The time to start your adventures is...
Believe it or not, your life is loaded with possibilities for change and for new experiences. Every moment opens to a new moment. To make it different you have to do something. Taking yourself on the adventures that follow will open some possibilities. You will be an explorer of possible futures.
You cannot be any place but here and now. This moment is the result of everything you’ve done in your life so far. This is the only time you and I are alive to think, to feel, to do something. This is where the action is. Your heart is beating. You can look around. Think. Move. This moment is the beginning of your future. Seems obvious, yet to act as if now is the core of our experience is a big change for most of us. We get caught up by the past or by the future, plans, fantasies and fears. None of these make changes.
Here is an adventure (4). Let's look at the resources you will use to make changes. Check if you have:
_ your attention
_ your body and brain
_ your feelings
_ your 'self'
_ your story
_ your knowledge
_ your people skills
_ your health
Each resource has great power to open and change your life. Let's start by looking backward.
Not The Past
The past is gone, a ghost. Your memories of past events are not accurately recalled. Memories are rebuilt out of what we have in our brains right now. We reconstruct them each time and adjust them to fit the needs of the moment. Memories only have the power over us that we give them right now as they come to our attention.
Suppose you blame someone or some event in the past for causing your present experience. You’ve made yourself the helpless victim of an event you can’t change. Think about it. Take yourself on an adventure (5)
Look for a negative memory that pops into your head. One that you play over and over. You had a real experience. It is over. The memory remains and can shape your thoughts and actions. Recycling a negative memory just keeps you from enjoying the present. What happened happened. Everything that happened just moved you forward to now. Turn your attention away. You can let it go. It’s time to move on to where you want to be.
Not The Future
The future is not here yet. The future is just a thought. It might be a possibility. It could be a fantasy that you can use to imagine what might happen and what you might do. I can’t predict the future. Most of what I expect never happens anyway. Better to switch our attention to what’s going now and enjoy as much of this moment as possible.
The past is history and the future exists only in our inner world. You can’t choose the past. You can detach you attention. You can’t choose the future. You can influence what happens. With just these two ideas you can create enormous space and opportunity in your life. Turn your attention away from thoughts of the past and future. Just be here and now doing whatever comes next. Easy to say, not so easy to do.
How Long Is Now?
Researchers say that most people experience now as being from 3 to 15 seconds. We seem to process experience in 3 second units. Not much time to think or act. Why waste it on thoughts of past or future? We are always becoming in this moment. Now is a state you allow. What we allow is more important than what we 'do'. Now is the time to turn to what you actually can change.
“When you think about physics and space and time, my favorite thing to think about lately is that we never, at any moment, actually exist. We are either remembering the past or anticipating the future, and to be in the now is where eternity is. Because it's always now. But we're always thinking in terms of the past – or the future. Sorry I got off track.”
Stoner Jesus Bible Study Group, Centennial, Colorado
Take A Look
The present is a process that is always changing, bringing new stuff to us, taking stuff away. Try this adventure (6)
• Stop reading for a moment.
• Take a look around your world.
• Something has changed since you last looked around.
Whatever you noticed was a difference in your experience. You used your attention and memory to figure out what it was. The result was a changed and enlarged experience. Now is always a turning point for you. If you are going to change your experience, you always have to start right now!
Let’s use an adventure (7)to see what we have to work with. Take a minute to look at what is actually always going on by making an inventory of your experience. Are you are experiencing:
• being aware
• paying attention
• body sensations
• sights and sounds of the outer world
• talking to yourself, other voices in your head
• inner images
• plans, rehearsals
• fantasies, expectations
• a sense of self (an 'I' watching over everything)
That’s a lot going on.
You are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, moving, talking, feeling, attending, thinking, labeling, sorting, imagining, fantasizing and storytelling all the time. All these processes are competing for attention. You are handling it with little effort while barely noticing.
Body Is Our Base
We start with a body in a world. Our senses, feelings, thoughts, imagination and reason are processes of our brain and body. Together they generate the vast meaningful universe of our experience.
Most of these body processes go on below conscious awareness. Your liver does not speak to you. You may experience a feeling. You do not experience the nerves, organs or chemistry that generate that feeling. These processes are beyond awareness. We may even imagine that our thoughts and feelings are 'out of body', in another realm. The words ‘mind’ and ‘body’ literally reinforce this.
Our language, logic and reason grow out of what we do. For example, up or down, right and left is relative to where we stand. Our understanding of what it takes to move a table or chair is the basis for our idea of causality. Even our ‘spirituality’ may come from our ability to transform experience and get transformed by it.
What works for me is to think of a person as brain in a body interacting with an environment. Being here and now in this body in this place is our base experience. We generate changes in this experience as we wake up, dress, eat, travel, work, make a phone call, visit with people, daydream, read, watch TV, sleep and dream. All the while, our attention is moving back and forth from the outer world to the world in our heads.
I’m experiencing my body and the world around me. I assume you are too. If not, please raise your hand. This is the world I woke up to this morning. I am also aware there is another world going on in my head. Memories, dreams, fantasies, guesses and plans are part of that inner world. They compete to draw my attention away from the outer world and into imagination. So I go back and forth. Talking to myself...eating toast. Does this fit your experience?
This adventure (8) is about noticing and changing our experience.
• Bring your attention to simply experiencing now.
• Focus on your breathing.
• Switch your focus to your body.
• Switch your focus to something around you, name it.
• Switch to a memory
• Add a fantasy to the memory. What if this happened instead?
• Be aware that there is a ‘you’ that is doing this.
When I do this, I get my whole world, inner and outer. I can switch my attention back and forth. I may catch a memory, play around with it in a fantasy. Or I can move my body and enjoy the taste of toast with apricot preserves. I imagine you can do this too.
There is a big difference between my outer and inner experience. When I am engaged in the thoughts, memories, fantasies and plans of my inner world, my experience of the outer world dims. Even when driving! My body is on automatic. My attention might be on some fantasy.
As you follow these words, be aware of how your focus drifts from the words to the world and back. From the words to your thoughts and back. When you are paying attention and engaged with the world around you, your experience opens up. You know the full richness of your body in the world. You can do something. Push some atoms around. Talk to a friend.
Full attention to the world and our body is always here for us. It is a wonderful adventure (9) to go on any time you want to take the trip.
If you are willing,
• Come to a complete stop!
• Close your eyes.
• Give your body a shake to loosen up.
• Check out whatever comes to attention inside you.
• Open your eyes and take a deep breath.
• Let your attention travel where it will.
Right now, I experience the finches on the feeder, a jet contrail in the blue sky, the hum of the refrigerator, and a watercolor of two cats on the wall. When I pay attention, a richer, more detailed experience unfolds. As long as I am comfortable and there are no impending crises, I can enjoy this moment’s pleasure for as long as I want. I can return to it for refreshment at will.
Your experience of the world happens within your body and brain. You become your own version of reality. No one else has your experience or can share or even imagine more than a tiny fraction of what you are. You exist. You belong. You are valuable. Your self-hood and identity will stay intact as long as you are alive.
You and I have a part to play in this universe, as individuals and in relation to other people, the animals, the plants, the sea, the air and the earth. I believe each of us is worthy exactly as we are. We don't have to be something else or prove anything. It is within our own power to get what we need to enjoy life. Every one of us is an experiment in living out a different reality.
Experiencing Is Changing
The universe changes. The world is all action and change. When we experience something, our brain changes. Repeat the experience (also called practicing) and our brain changes some more. It builds patterns. We can remember. We learn. When we make a mistake or find something new, our brain changes. Our brain changes to follow the action, to analyze it and to expect the next thing. Thought processes measure the difference between expectations and results. Then they make predictions and translate them into feelings. “No, not that!” “Hmm, that feels right. Let's do it.”
Our bodies, brains and the world are always changing. The moment is always bringing new stuff to you, taking stuff away. When you imagine that there is more, something you don’t have, you may feel incomplete. When you let go of that thought, you are complete as you are. When you drop your stories about what you don’t have, you have everything you can have right now. Look around you.
Is it possible that you have everything you need to live a satisfying life in what you are experiencing now? Could you increase your enjoyment by concentrating on what is around you right now? Those questions are definitely worth taking a few minutes to consider. Create an adventure of your own as you explore and answer them.
The key to living well is to welcome change. Let's move with it and deal with its uncertainties. Let’s accept the world as it is. Accept ourselves as we are. Then, let's change whatever will make an immediate difference in our experience. As in, change your thoughts, then your feelings, then your actions.
Believe In What Is Happening Now
Now is a merger of worldly, bodily and inner experience. From the simplest point of view, the experience of now is all you are. If your experience is unsatisfactory, you can change what you do, think or feel now. As long as you operate as if there is more than right now you are trapped in the expectation of more and different. Your attempts to prevent or influence future events will dilute your experience of now. You aren't living in the present if your horizon is a screen and your experience is shaped by what is on it. Remembering and imagining don’t make changes now. Action does.
Life is doing now over and over. How do you shape now to be the way you want it to be? For a start, you work with who you are and the world as it is now. Six seconds. That’s how long you have to set yourself up for a future that will arrive without notice. Your future is shaped by what you pay attention to in the next few seconds.
What can you do? We have limited abilities to influence or change present events. We can influence the thoughts and feelings we are having now to a considerable extent. We needn't support negative stories or dwell on our miseries. We can enjoy the moment in full. Look for a new insight, make a decision, take an action or decide against it. Now is your chance and your moment to move in a new direction.
NOW is always your moment of power!
This adventure (10) is to become clear about:
• What you are experiencing
Make a quick survey as you did in an exercise above.
• What you want to be experiencing
Imagine this experience happening in a way that you would like better.
• What you want to change
Think of something that will get you closer to what you would like to be experiencing.
• Do it.
Doing anything differently starts change. Then you can see what happens, adjust your thoughts and move again.
Do anything differently...starting now!
When a bummer memory comes up, you can wallow in it or you can let it go. Shift your attention. Rehearsing the past or future is a waste of time. There is nothing you can do about either. When you feel stuck or out of sorts, you can choose to change your experience by:
• finding a new idea,
• letting go of an old idea,
• seeing things from a different point of view, or
• learning a new trick.
Once you realize this, you can’t put the knowledge back. When a junk memory or improbable expectation comes up, go on the alert. Look for a realistic alternative. That’s the beginning of a good habit.
I suspect most of us already have everything we need to live a fully realized and satisfying life. The key to satisfaction is taking responsibility for who we are and what we do. But only for what we really can influence. We often don’t recognize this as a possibility. So we tend to stay in a rut, blaming something, someone, ourselves.
Change Your Reality
I hear people talk about the spiritual path and enlightenment as ways to transform their experience. It is only possible to experience anything, including enlightenment, in this moment. Say enlightenment is your goal. You have a guru. You are on the path, meditating, chanting, doing good works, possibly for years. Consider this wisdom from a great teacher of Advaita Vedanta.
“Realization is nothing to be gained anew....Realization consists of getting rid of the false idea that one is not realized.”
What is in the way? Make this an adventure. (11) From this point of view, there seem to be six obstacles between you and enlightenment. The goal, the path, the guru, stories, words and your self. If you believe Ramana Maharshi,
• You can let go of the goal. You are already there.
• You can also let go of the path.
• You can let go of the guru.
• You can stop practicing. You are already there and being it.
Accept that now is your current version of enlightenment. There are three things you can still let go of.
• You can let go of the stories you are telling yourself.
• You can let go of the words you put between yourself and direct experience by naming everything.
• You can let go of your observing self.
After you reach enlightenment, where are you? You are here and now. This is it. Allow bliss.
The key to living well is to welcome change and learn to deal with uncertainty. There is a real world out there that is not affected by our wishes. It unfolds according to its own causes and probabilities. The world is full of dangers and of opportunities. The world is also more random than we imagine. Our best choice is to accept the world as it is. Then we can accept ourselves and be who we are. This is the only time we are alive. Happiness is a product of our immediate experience.
You don't actually control much. You do have choice. When in doubt, you can:
• take a chance
• make a choice
• take an action
When you are ready to change your life, your workspace is what is in your awareness now. The adventures ahead focus on ideas you can use and actions you can take. They will produce predictable, tangible results. It helps to remember that these are adventures, ideas and experiments, not programs. You can experiment with them, change them and use whatever works for you.
The Secret Of Life
Being beats thinking, choosing, grasping, holding or thinking. Turn your attention away from negative toward your best available state. Allow rather than do. Let go of noticing, just be. Just slide into the moment. Allow and accept the nicer state of each instant without thinking. Simply be the nicer state. Your body becomes bliss-filled.
The secret of life is simple. That is why I have written so many words about it. Pause for a moment. Let go of the past, disregard the future. There is only now changing into now. You only have to deal with this moment. Give your full attention and resources to making the smartest move right now. Start your change. This is the only time you can be, feel, think or do anything.
This is it!
©2012-2015 Keith Gilchrist - not for distribution or reproduction
3,187 words 11 pages 1.22.17 adv 4-12 Beta1
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