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.
Being self-reliant is critical. To make yourself less dependent on others and so-called experts, you need to expand your repertoire of skills. And you need to feel more confident in your own judgment. Understand: we tend to overestimate other people’s abilities—after all, they are trying hard to make it look as if they knew what they were doing—and we tend to underestimate our own. You must compensate for this by trusting yourself more and others less. (The 33 Strategies of War – Robert Greene)
We are lazy fucks. We are always looking for the quick fix, the shortcut, the fast buck, the magic diet, the secret to success the latest gurus and experts to lead the way into the promise land of success, happiness and fulfillment. We are perpetually looking to be led and shown the way, and a lot of people make money off this. There are a lot of magazines and blogs and people just waiting to give you advice and show you how to do things.
And that is good…truth be told, I’ve learnt an immeasurable amount by reading the writings of others, by listening to people and soaking up from my environment.
I learnt something important this year, or perhaps a better way to put it is that I grew a little wiser this year…just a little bit. I saw that almost everyone is selling some sort of dream. No one really knows what they are doing, we’re all really just trying shit until something pops off. Hustling away, trying desperately to make it in a world where success is just as dependent on random luck as it is on hard work and persistence and all that. Nothing is assured; all you can do is increase the odds.
At some point, someone comes around in your life who looks like they have all the answers. They have the secret weapon, formula to get you to where you want to be…and perhaps they really do. And you follow them, soak up their every word and follow their direction judiciously. Over time, the luster fades and you begin to see the cracks, the fallibilities, imperfections and you realize perhaps they don’t know it all…
If you want to build success on a solid foundation, you have to shift your mentality from being so dependent on other people for direction and start doing the hard work of thinking for yourself. Cut the umbilical cord, no one is going to hold your hand and lead you through life. Instead of relying on second hand knowledge of the battlefield, run out to the frontlines and get a feel for it yourself.
Great mentors are invaluable; they have been around longer and have experience, learn from them, grow and when the time comes, move on. Coaches are awesome; the best are dedicated to understanding you and helping you tap into your peak performance. Relationships are great too; they offer a wonderful and enriching support system. In all of these situations however, never lose grip of the wheel. It is one thing to be connected to your core and relax into the tao of life. It’s another to be swept and tossed by the desires and intentions of others.
No one can be more you than you, you must trust yourself, and train yourself, be willing to bet on yourself and push yourself to grow and be as strong as you possibly can. Know what’s most important to you. Do not make people your crutches. Your deliverance, your lucky break, your income is not limited to just one person.
As selfish and self centered as this all sounds, the point is not isolation, but becoming more capable, dependable, strong in mind and spirit and ultimately more useful to the world around you.
Consciousness is the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined as: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control of the mind. (Wikipedia)
I first became aware of the concept of consciousness in 2007, reading some of Steve Pavlina’s stuff. It was only around 2010, I began to understand what it meant. From the books I read and the things I had going on, I came to know concepts like mindfulness, meditation, awareness, etc.
I spent a few years steeped in angst, that background feeling of dissatisfaction, anger, irritation…knowing something was wrong, but not knowing what. I strove to fix it, I tried everything I knew, prayer, talking to people and things only seemed to escalate more until I got so frustrated one day, I switched off the lights and sat in a dark room for an hour, just being with my thoughts, diving in. And to this day, the most useful tool for figuring out problems, direction and dissipating angst has been the practice of mindfulness.
It was such a powerful experience it felt like I woke up. It’s the best way to describe it…waking up. Suddenly being aware of things I had never given thought to before. Asking questions and receiving answers from that still small place within. Over the years, I’ve learnt to trust myself, actually think for myself, and trust the life that has been given to me.
I think consciousness is a main tool of life, on a more abstract scale. A way to success, to a fuller and more productive life and consequently a happier one is the increase of consciousness. Being more organized is a form of increased consciousness. Being able to actually observe your own habits and patterns is a form of increased consciousness. Being a better student is a form of increased consciousness…you are more aware of your coursework, the deadlines, the topics…the actual content. Being a better entrepreneur involves being more aware of your business, of the market place, of the various factors.
It is easy to stay asleep, living in a dream world, glossing over facts and reality, being tossed by emotion and people and things. But as you awaken and grow in conscious awareness, you will see things more like they are; you will develop a sense of anchoring within and you will begin to tap into your true power.
Tapas: In the yogic tradition, this principle of using intense effort to burn through life’s distractions is called Tapas. It’s another Sanskrit world, roughly defined as “heat”, or “essential energy.” The concept is that through a disciplined approach to work and self-sacrifice, Tapas will burn away the negativity that separates us from God. By working our hardest and happily enduring the hardships of life, we are able to create a sense of peace and clarity in ourselves. [Do You – Russell Simmons]
I don’t know if success should be a goal…or happiness for that matter. I don’t know if anyone should go out into the world and have those things as the actual tick off points on their to-do list. I think the more you overtly search for those things, the less likely it would be that you find them. In my experience, things like success and happiness are more a side effect than an actual destination. You focus on doing your best in every moment and without being aware of it, you drift into happiness, you drift into success.
I was reading “Do You’ by Russell Simmons the other week and I came across an old idea that really resonated with me, the idea of Tapas, the idea of Hard Work as a spiritual practice.
I enjoy working hard. I relish the idea of being able to completely absorb myself in the process of creating something remarkable, something worthwhile. The feeling of being engaged in something you enjoy doing and being challenged by it is an amazing one. For the sheer pleasure of the experience, working hard is awesome. We all know the idea of hard work as the path to ‘success’, but the idea of the work itself being a form of worship, a form of spiritual practice elevates the entire experience. To the point where one can focus completely on the sensation of doing the work, releasing all care for the outcome and just engaging excellently in it.
And this works best when the work you do is connected to your purpose, your dharma. When you engage in the hard work of pressing through your purpose, developing your gifts and giving them to the world, you are engaging in tapas, you are getting closer to God.
Even if you are not satisfied with the work that you do right now, or you want a better job, position, whatever. The simple act of giving your very best at your work is sufficient to burn away the pettiness and the junk that clouds our spirits and holds us back from our full potential.
There is so much that lies outside our control from day to day, if we can focus on our efforts, and relish the process, realizing that the results belong to God, we would have happiness, we would have success.
Anyone familiar with the ideas of law of attraction knows that to manifest your desire you must have complete faith/belief that it is already yours and will appear. To create the physical reality you want, you must first shift into and embody the ‘vibe’ of that reality. If you want to be a millionaire for instance, you must shift into the mindset, emotional state and patterns of a millionaire. Once you successfully do this, the physical manifestation of wealth only becomes a matter of time.
But what if you don’t have enough faith/belief?
Then have faith for more faith.
This means that you don’t beat yourself up for not having complete assurance that your desire will manifest. You don’t worry about if your little niggling doubts are holding you back or blocking you. You accept that you are not quite there yet in terms of complete faith, but you have faith that very soon, you will grow into the position of full faith, full immersion in the vibration of the thing that you seek.
All you need is mustard seed faith, just a tiny bit of faith, feed it to itself, watch it grow and soon…you’ll be moving mountains.