I asked this question on WhatsApp the other day, and I got back a few interesting answers from friends. Most people said something along the lines of they would sacrifice time, or energy to get what they want. To be honest, the first thing that popped into my head when I asked the question was…myself.
…I know right. I’ll explain just now, but let’s talk about desire and sacrifice for a bit.
So, this whole year, I’ve generally been writing on the theme of how to get what you want. The idea has been to share the concepts and lessons I’ve picked up from reading too much and thinking too much, so you don’t have to.
When I think about ‘what you want’, I think about the general drive to be successful and to acquire things. We all want to grow and achieve and climb. It is hardwired into our nature as human beings. We are driven by dissatisfaction and desire. And there are great things to want that are part of the human experience – success, education, money, relationships, family, safety, stability, etc.
But should you always get what you want though?
Desire is a tricky thing. How many times have we desired a thing, eventually gotten it and then realized we wanted the wrong thing. We strive for it, get it and tragically realize that we were worse off. Sometimes not getting what you want is the better outcome. Sometimes for what you avoid in not getting it, sometimes for the person you become or the perspective you gain from not getting it.
It might seem the better strategy, to want things, and to focus on achieving them while being completely open to the universe bringing things of the highest good to you. Things that you may not be able to imagine right now.
What you want is a reflection of what you value, and what you value is a reflection of who you are and what you believe. And you are probably not that great, so you can’t want properly.
But let’s assume your desire is valid and noble. What are you willing to sacrifice what to get what you want? That is the question that tests the strength of your desire and willingness to do whatever it takes.
For every move upwards and onwards, two things usually happen in tandem. We must gain something – a new skill, a new perspective, a new connection, a deepening sense of mastery, whatever. We must also lose something to move up, something that is keeping us anchored to this level – a habit, a perspective, an emotional kneejerk reaction, an unresolved fear, trauma, a grudge, a fear, etc.
The gaining we sometimes find easy enough. It is the sacrifice that gets hard.
To move to the next level, and to get what you want, you have to cut away things that don’t serve you anymore. And that is the crux of sacrifice – giving up something you value, something you are attached to, to gain something of greater value or good.
Sacrifice is the release of attachment. There is the call to sacrifice when there is a need for a change in the status quo. And when this need arises, it is a sure sign that there is something, someone, a situation, a behaviour, a habit, a belief pattern, a mental model that does not serve you anymore. This thing that you are so attached to, this thing that may have brought you here, is also the reason you are stuck. It should not be there anymore. You must identify it and you must sacrifice it.
And it is painful. Sacrifice is violent, and bloody and fatal. Sacrifice means death.
But sacrifice is powerful. It is an explosive release of power, and as an archetypal idea, it is the idea of submitting something of great value to the highest ideal.
But sacrifice must be done with skill. A half-hearted sacrifice is no better than no sacrifice at all. That is why in the bible, Abel sacrificed correctly, and Cain didn’t.
If you will sacrifice, you must come correct. The higher the value of the thing you sacrifice, the more power you release.
And what greater thing to sacrifice than the self.
The self is our biggest source of agency and our biggest stumbling block. It is the self that holds desire and strives towards them. It is also the self that holds on to patterns and habits and behaviours that keep us trapped and stagnant.
And so, to sacrifice something of greatest value we must go within. You go looking for the chaos dragon, for the shadow, the sacrificial lamb. You do deep self-introspection to realise that if you want something, if you are to achieve it and hold it, you must give up something of yourself. You must let go of an attachment.
It could be as innocuous as hitting the snooze button or as life threatening as shooting up drugs. It could be a relationship or interaction that does add some value to you while crippling you in fundamental ways. Many times, it is precisely the thing we don’t want to address.
Brian Tracy in an article about life-long learning makes the following claim.
The weakest key skill sets the height of your results and the height of your income. You can be excellent in a variety of areas, but the one essential area where you are the weakest, determines how far and how fast you move upward and onward.
Your breakthrough, your potential for explosive growth is precisely in the place you have refused to look. It is the place you have allowed yourself to be the weakest. That is the place your sacrifice is. The thing we refuse to address is where the key to what we desire is hidden.
And so there we must go, we must descend into the depths. Sometimes to the very foundation of our thoughts and emotions. Sometimes the thing we must sacrifice is ourselves, the things we have built our identity on, the perception we hold of the world, the perception we hold of ourselves, the self-doubt, the fear, the comfort, the limiting beliefs, the grudge, the hate.
To get better, we must become better, and that means continual perpetual skilful self-sacrifice.
You are not who you think you are. Who you think you are is who you think you are.
A friend called me egotistical the other day. It’s not the first time I’ve been accused of having an ego. Usually, I just laugh and brush it off, even take it as a compliment. I don’t mind being a little cocky. The statement was laced with undertones so I knew she wasn’t simply referring to me as arrogant, she was poking at something deeper. I was defensive about it naturally, but I’ve been turning it over in my mind lately.
There is the idea of ego as arrogance or pride, the internal narrative of being superior to others. we all know some people like that (yours truly, lol..just half kidding). And yes, this element of pride always comes into play in some form when we talk about egos. But there is the deeper layer of the ego as the ‘false self’ according to Eastern and Verdic tradition. This false self is a bundle of expectations, anxieties, insecurities and neurosis. Your ego/self is so desperate to remain alive and validated it becomes a scared tyrant attacking every perceived threat or thing that contradicts it. You clam up, you wall off, you resist life, only accepting the things that make sense to your ego.
Lately I’ve been thinking…’Sometimes you don’t accept a thing into your life because you think you need or deserve other things because of who you think you are in your head, things that actually wouldn’t fulfil you when you get them but are really just accessories to complement your ego. You miss out on the things that would actually make you happy’.
Your true self is deeper than that. Once you strip away everything, the ideas of who you are, and the boxes that places you in, you get the opportunity to meet life as it truly is. To connect authentically with others, to be vulnerable, to hurt and forgive, to learn, to grow, to expand, to be truly and harmoniously human.
Abundance is not something we acquire, its something we tune into – Wayne Dwyer
If you want to birth any reality on the physical plane, you must first create it in your inner realm – the realm of spirit. Whatever exists in the physical world will always revert to its corresponding state in the spirit. If you want to be prosperous, you must first be prosperous within. This is the foundational concept.
The second is to realize that the universe is an abundant one. There is more than enough for everyone and still more being created every day. With this knowledge, you can shift your perspective from one of scarcity and zero sum games to one of abundance. Your wealth would not mean another person’s poverty, in fact the opposite, your wealth blesses all around you.
The third is to recognize the abundance already present in your reality. It might be quite difficult even when you are facing bills and lack, but shift your focus a little bit and you will see where you already have abundance. You have life and energy, air in your lungs. You have friends and comrades to help you. You have ideas. You live in a time of great potential, of many problems and challenges waiting to be solved. You have the next meal. You have the internet, the portal to all human knowledge. What you focus on expands…when you express gratitude for what you already have, its raises your vibration and attracts even more to you.
The fourth concept is to raise your energy. You cannot attract opportunities and prosperity if you are carrying around dead, depressed energy. Clean your surroundings, cook a good meal, take a long walk, meditate and focus on your desires, do some exercise, spend time with friends. Do what you can to lift your spirits and increase the joy in your life.
The fifth is to give. If you want to be truly prosperous, then you must become a conduit. Freely give of the value that you possess – your ideas, your skills. Do more than is required, bless the world with your true gifts and the world will give you the things you desire and more.
This is the path to prosperity.
Some days, all you have is the process…
If you want to achieve anything spectacular, it’s not going to happen in one furious instant of glory. It will take time and effort and death by a thousand cuts. You have to major in the day to day. You have to break down the big project, the big hairy audacious goal into its component parts and integrate those pieces into ur daily life. If you just focus on getting each day right, on eating the proverbial elephant one bite at a time, eventually the elephant will be done.
But you have to focus, and trust the process. Not just on the days when you are motivated and fired up, the days where everything goes your way. Even the days it seems like nothing is going right, when the challenges and pressure mounts up, or when people fall away because your thing is taking too long. All you need to do is focus on the process. One step after the other. On the good days, on the bad days, just keep ploughing through. One day, you will find yourself on the other side.
As you can see, this requires patience, and a clear long-term view. You have to be playing the long game here, and you have to be playing to win. It will help you stay focused, it will keep you from falling prey to distraction. The process helps to keep you accountable. It doesn’t matter what happened today, if that deal fell through, the client didn’t pay, your boss shouted at you, your girlfriend ignored you. Shit happens! The question is, did YOU do YOUR job, did you trust the process, did you handle that lil chunk of elephant meat for the day?
Especially if you feel like you are starting from the bottom, with the odds stacked against you; but you got big dreams and the stars in your eyes, then you better hunker down and get started on the process. Ignore all that noise around you, the naysayers, the social media, the petty shit and keep your mind and eyes dead focused on the prize. Write the piece, make the call, make the art, learn the skill, read the book, watch the documentary, take the chance, do your job for the day, rinse, repeat.
Openness is the big thing for me this year. I’ve been toying with it, trying to see what happens when I stay open as much as possible. It’s something I intuitively decided to focus on and expand in my experience and is an ongoing experiment. I wanted to write this to try to explain what I mean by openness and how it looks in action.
I choose openness because there are so many things I want, things I have no idea how to get. I choose openness because I realize that I’m very very very small…in the large-scale scheme of things. The entire river of life and existence flows with or without me (the consciousness that thinks I’m me in this body). There is a lot that I don’t know, and that I’m not even aware of. I choose openness because I believe that there is something much bigger than me with more knowledge and wisdom than I have and by being open I allow myself to hear and respond to the nudges and prompts from this thing/being.
The opposite of openness is being closed or…resistance. A lot of things happen in us, and to us. I notice in myself the tendency to cringe, to tense up and shut myself off from things I don’t like. For example, I’m chilling, lazing around or just mulling things over and I get a call, a client needs something done urgently. Usually my frame of mind is that of resistance, being slightly annoyed at the fact that I have to interrupt my laziness to focus my mind on working. With a mindset of openness however, I don’t fight it, I give in. I may still feel annoyed, but I let the feeling sit and then I move my mind towards the task at hand and try to dive into it as much as possible. Another example would be sitting or working with people I’m unfamiliar with. I would typically tense up and get a bit self conscious, try to do the ‘right’ things or impress. Being open, I focus on relaxing and just being, interacting as naturally as I would with people I was comfortable with, but remaining clear and focused on the present.
Openness as I’ve been experimenting with means not resisting life. It means feeling life. It feels like living turned up all the time, living in a heightened state. It can be exhausting really. But it’s a rich experience. I feel like I lived every texture of every day. My days feel fuller, more intense. When I’m happy, I’m really happy, out right euphoric. When I feel pain, I feel it deep.
The past four weeks, I steadily dropped into a depression. Out of nowhere, I went from being really happy and excited about the way things were going to feeling like someone switched off the lights in my soul. No stranger to being depressed (I think I’m a bit bipolar), I let it it sit…a week passed and it got deeper. Two weeks in, it was worse. I didn’t judge the depression; I didn’t judge myself for being sad. I just sat with it, lived with it, walked with it. To me, it was just a dark cloud, a condition that would eventually leave. But being open, I probed the feeling for direction and answers and it got me to think differently about a few things and make adjustments in my plans for the year.
Standing apart from the ego
“You are not who you think you are. Who you think you are is who you think you are”
Another vein of openness is being receptive to trying out new things, new ways of thinking and new ways of observing. It’s quite difficult, because you have to stay in a constant state of observing not just your thoughts but the frameworks that define your thoughts, the assumptions, the baselines, the logic behind it all.
I have a perception of myself, a mental image formed over the years based on my interpretation of things I have done, seen and experienced. This is commonly referred to as the ego. Who I am truly is not necessarily the same as this image, and I have had my own fair share of the dissonance that comes when life and my behavior does not match with this image.
Openness means that I stop identifying with this image so much as so I can constantly test out new ways of being. I have a mental image of me as a designer. Is that all I am? is that all I want to do? What else can I do and be? I didn’t think I was a very physical person. Could I actually build a fitness habit of running or exercising? Can I dive directly into the experience of things, maybe things I never considered could be a better fit than what I have now. It’s a fluid way to looking at identity and experimenting with it. Maybe I don’t have to be Oto, maybe I could be something else, or maybe my original definition of Oto as an id is too narrow, perhaps it could be expanded.
These are the ideas I’m playing with. Openness is not allowing the events or circumstances of life to overwhelm and deaden you, but to feel deeply, while remaining completely focused in the now, absorbing the knowledge and lessons that lay in plain sight and taking advantage of the opportunities in front of us.
A full month has rolled by, and we are left with 11 months of the year, a good time as any to look back and see if we have gotten off the starting blocks strong or if we are still stumbling over our shoelaces.
In my previous post, I spoke about my thoughts and general direction for the year ahead, and while since I have had a few ideas of what to write about next, the inspiration hasn’t felt quite right plus I’ve been busy putting my plans into motion.
Last night, and today however, I found my mind coming back to the idea of suffering. Something I wrote about here and here. And it comes as an extension on the ideas of presence and openness. As I take deliberate action towards each of my goals, I have decided to remain present, clear and connected…to my genius, to my desires, to my purpose…to life. Being open means not resisting, fearing and pushing back against things as they are, but accepting and dealing with them as they are, without judgment.
It is tough, because a big part of working towards growth and expansion is pain. It is hard to remain open, receptive, unflinching in the face of pain. It is tough allowing yourself to feel every bit and every texture of the emotions that go with living.
I have the repeated experience of synchronism in finding books directly linked to an idea I’m focused on at the time. I started reading ‘the Road less travelled’ by Scott Peck yesterday and the first line to jump out at me was “Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
Life is difficult…doing the right thing is difficult, working on your goals is difficult, and doing the work is difficult. You know what’s even worse…staring right at the things you have avoided so long because you didn’t want to feel the pain of dealing with it. Looking back at your actions and decisions and dealing with guilt and pain and disappointment. Looking at situations and deciding that they are simply unsatisfactory and change must be made, however painful. Looking at friends, and making the choice to go it alone because your values no longer align. Getting angry, arguing with people, apologizing, accepting criticism and conceding that perhaps, you have a lot to fix too.
Facing fear, feelings of inadequacy, pain…these are the things that MUST be done, to clear out the blockages in our lives and help us to make the true strides of growth that will help us make our widest dreams a reality. It is almost impossible to undertake this sort of self-work without a clear and compelling vision of what it is that you truly want, because the pain is merely a tunnel that leads you to a better place. The pain is the same as doing the work of breaking ground, smashing the rocks, pulling out the weeds and building a strong foundation for our dreams to stand on.
Facing reality is hard, speaking the truth is hard, and there is a lot of suffering involved. But if we will learn to live well, then we must learn to suffer well. We must accept the pain as a necessary part of the process, as inescapable, unavoidable and choose to walk right through the fire.