I spent some time listening to audio books by Stuart Wilde back in the 1990s. I didn’t find as much woo in his brand of New Age thinking as is present in many of his contemporaries. There is one tape I still pop into my old cassette deck now and then, Life Was Never Meant To Be A Struggle. In it, Wilde differentiates between effort and struggle. He says, “Our physical condition as humans involves effort, but struggle is effort laced with emotion and desperation.” Over the years, that one sentence has lifted me up, many times.
Consider the fact that we are conditioned to strive towards goals. Competition has been programmed into our outlooks on life. We are told that acceptance of what is, is a recipe for failure and defeat. Maybe you’re a woman, a member of an ethnic minority, LGBT, or differently abled. You understand the underlying social message of insufficiency. You are told to behave as someone you are not, because some people feel the need to be offended about you and your kind.
A college friend told me that most folks really don’t give a hoot about him or me. They’re all wrapped up in themselves and worry about what others think about them. He said “put downs” and judgemental pronouncements tell more about the teller than the target. That realization made me understand that it was OK to come out of the closet.
I had fretted and worried myself sick over living a life of secrecy and watching over my shoulder. The social message of unacceptability and insufficiency had made a home in my psyche. The next day, I came out of the closet to that friend. It was the first time I’d shared my deepest secret with anyone. Immediately, there was a profound sense of relief. I noticed that my gut wasn’t tied in knots and my muscles weren’t tight anymore. I felt like I’d been released from bondage and prison. Days later, people told me that I looked happy and carefree.
It was the early 1970s, so I didn’t have any social support for my new found honesty. My family strongly disapproved. I was adrift in unknown waters among very few fellow travelers. But I knew that my honesty was the most liberating and empowering aspect of my health and well-being. With or without the help of my family, I knew that I no longer had to transform myself into somebody I was not. Years later, I understood that while I needed to put forth effort, there was no need for me to put up a struggle.
The moment we accept the “what is” of a situation, there is no more struggle. Non-acceptance and struggle with “what is” is an indication of distraction. Like all distractions, struggle causes unhappiness in life. But once you face and understand the struggle, an instant transformation unfolds. A feeling of underlying peacefulness and joy is revealed. If you’ve ever witnessed somebody coming to terms with themselves or coming out of the closet, you know they just can’t shut up about their discovery. She or he has seen a very bright light at the end of their tunnel.
This is also true whenever we encounter some major problem at work or in life. We puzzle over it. There’s no way around the situation. It’s now or never, but it looks like the answer will be never. The problem closes in on us like we’re trapped in an underground cave. But then, somebody points us in a different direction, or we stumble upon an insight. Suddenly there is a solution to the dilemma, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. As we work our way out of the predicament, we notice a joy in the doing. We want to share our excitement and discovery with other people. We feel free. We want to celebrate.
Even if there is no immediate resolution or end of the problem or frustration at hand. We can see that through further effort, a realistic attitude, and vision we won’t be much longer, in over our heads. Liberation from our worries becomes a reality.
Wisdom teachers, throughout history, have advised us to observe and accept “what is”. This seemingly simple admonition is often ignored and sometimes shunned. But when we do take the time to simply observe “what is”, in the absence of our personal opinions, judgements, bias, condemnation, resistance, or even approval, we no longer see a mere abstraction.
When we limit ourselves to lives that are confined to the limitations imposed by the expectations of other people, we’re not being honest. If we’re not being honest, how can we be deeply joyful and at liberty? If we try to work out life’s problems within the limited concepts of society, how can we think outside the box? When we made up our minds to live strictly within the confines of intellect and social norms, we decided to eliminate the entirety of the field of existence. We cleverly decided to live our lives in a traditional, ancient fragment of life. We became insulated from the totality of life.
On the surface, it seems that this was the easiest and most realistic way to live ones life. We looked at life the way we were instructed to look at life. We didn’t simply observe.
I can’t pass along a recipe or system for living a life that has been given to me. Nor have I come up with anything new that might be thought of as wisdom. If I could do so, I’d only be passing along another box for you to climb into.
Life is too ambiguous for boxes. All I know is that we’re not who we think we are. You are not who you used to be. You’re not who you think you will be at some point in the future. I can only say that you are only who you consider yourself as you are now, at this very moment.
If we stop and just rest in this state of mind, we have arrived at that light at the end of the tunnel.
The Blue Jay of Happiness says, if you try to live according to the opinions of other people, you will live inside the tunnel of a secondhand life.