There is a different way to live—a better way—for those of us seeking to be lovers of life. What does that mean? It means to love life—your life—without resistance. When we learn to live this way we spend most of our time in the present moment of possibilities.
These are extraordinary moments in our everyday lives if we recognize them. The idea is not to hold onto them, but to go from one to another. They happen all the time:
- The first thing when I wake in the morning—I notice something beautiful.
- When I say, “good morning” to Hannah I take extra time to look into her eyes.
- As I write my first email of the day I hold the intention to make a positive contribution.
- Asking the customer service agent on the phone, “How’s your day going?”
- Taking one minute to stop working, walking outside and listening to the wind.
- Taking four minutes to stop working so I can do the four-minute meditation.
- While working, doing so with passion and purpose.
- Taking a moment before I go to bed to look at the stars.
If I don’t recognize these moment they pass by as ordinary moments, lost moments, moments of angst, aches, or absence.
Life consists of three kinds of moments:
- Present moments in which I am fully awake and choosing how to live.
- Painful moments riddled with tension, second guessing myself, and wishing things were different.
- Passive moments in which I am distracted or tempted by trivialities.
I believe that we mostly live in passive moments. And passive moments, in and of themselves, are not bad. I imagine that they may exist as a way to provide a respite from the painful moments. After too many painful moments I need a respite. And the painful moments are common, even in the world of personal growth and psychotherapy, because so often we frame our issues in ways that create pain.
For example, we spend too much time talking about how other people hurt us or disappoint us or exclude us. And in many therapy sessions this perspective is encouraged as a form of self-expression, which then gets validated as the therapist responds with empathy and understanding.
But, when issues are framed in this manner—how he or she makes me feel—the result is disempowering and often painful.
When we Live Conscious, we don’t frame issues in this way. We take full responsibility for our feelings. Other people don’t hurt me or disappoint me or exclude me. They do whatever they do—usually somewhat unconsciously. And then I make meaning of what they do in such a way that I may hurt, disappoint or exclude myself.
When I do this the key is to recognize that I’m doing these things to myself. When I pain myself the solution is seldom to blame another person. Once in a while that’s appropriate, but mostly the solution is to be with and learn from my discomfort. My discomfort informs me and will guide me—if I listen—to living my life in such a way that I stop causing myself unnecessary pain. This may require me to renegotiate agreements with other people, or to learn to let go—either of the other person or maybe of past associations I’m projecting onto the other person. Whatever the solution, the process begins by learning to be present with my pain.
Our pain is mostly a result of two things:
- The ways we make meaning.
- Resisting the call to grace.
The ways we make meaning are largely unconscious. They are simply adopted based on what we see other people do—especially when we were young children. It is common for all of us to make meaning by framing things as being right or wrong, good or bad, and acting as if we have the right to tell other people about them. We think all of these are “normal.” We also make meaning by blaming other people for our feelings and our failings.
The question I find helpful is, “Does the way I’m making meaning create the life I want to live?” If so, I just keep going. If not, it is possible for me to learn a new way to make meaning. That’s what Live Conscious offers—a method for realizing and remembering that we each make up meaning moment to moment.
And as far as resisting the call to grace, this occurs as a result of being either lazy or tenacious. Lazy, in that I don’t do what I know I need to do, practice what I know will be helpful, or behave in intentional ways. Tenacious, in that I fiercely hold onto ideas about who I am as if I have a fixed and permanent identity. Have you ever said, “That’s just the way I am.”? When I say that I am resisting the call to grace. I am resisting the possibilities of the present moment, tenaciously holding onto ways I’ve been—even if they don’t serve me.
There is a better way—choosing the possibilities of the present moment.
We just came back from conducting our summer retreat, which we call a “lab.” We call it a lab—for the word laboratory—because it’s a place to experiment . . . try new behaviors . . . relate to people in new ways . . . and learn an astoundingly unique way to communicate. During the lab we live in a different world, one in which we make meaning according to a few consciously chosen principles. These principles include:
- Removing praise and blame
- Bringing ourselves into the present moment
- Taking responsibility for our own feelings
- Respecting that other people are different (not wrong)
- Eliminating telling other people about them
- Reminding ourselves that everything is temporary
The quality of our lives is the result of how we make meaning
I wish you could have been there with us, but I know that is not possible for everyone. So I’m writing this article for those who couldn’t be with us, as well as a reminder for those who were, as a way to encourage all of us to consider that the quality of our lives is the result of the way we make meaning. If we’re not happy, if we don’t like the way we relate with our partners and other people in the world—we can try on some new ways of making meaning and relinquish the firm convictions we have about who we are.
If you’ve been to one of our labs the key is to practice. If you haven’t been to one of our labs, I encourage you to start by reading my book, Get Weird, Make The Most of Your Life.
There is a different way to live—a better way—for those of us seeking to be lovers of life. Living in this other way allows us to connect with and express our gifts and our wisdom. Don’t wait, because to do so is a waste. The present moment of possibilities is here right now, it’s a matter of stepping up and being your full self.