I’ve studied the teachings of many spiritually-minded men and women. Some are considered gurus, some coaches, some messiahs, and some teachers. I’ve found that most all of their teachings contain real wisdom and value, and have many common threads. The importance of presence, or “being in the here and now” is one of those threads. It’s also the second most important teaching in my opinion. The first being that all is one - there is no separation.
Power in now.
There’s a simple yet powerful quote attributed to Baron Baptiste that says, “You are either now here, or nowhere.” Our goal in life should be to firmly exist in the space between those words. That space makes all the difference. Presence is so important because there is no power in life anywhere other than right here, right now. The past no longer exists. You can remember it, but you’re powerless to change it. The future does not yet exist, and you’re powerless to bring it into existence. All you have; all any of us has is the now. All any of us have the power to immediately influence is the now.
“A man who lives everywhere lives nowhere.” - Marcus Valerius Martial
When teaching presence, its importance and how to apply it in our life, many teachers discourage ‘what if’ questions. They urge followers not to dwell in the past, and for good reason. Giving our attention, emotion, energy and power away to something that no longer exists and can’t be changed is wasteful at best, and harmful at worst - typically the latter.
However, recently, I found it important to indulge in a variation of that question. I had a ‘what if’ question that lead me down a rabbit hole of many others I felt important to consider. The original question was, “What if, in our lives, we started asking ‘what if’ questions more often?” The second ‘what if’ question I encountered in the rabbit hole was, “What if we stopped judging?” What if we stopped labeling one another, circumstances and situations as good or bad; right or wrong?
Note* What’s written below is applicable to your person, and your person only. It does not give you reason or justification for projecting it on to other persons in any way.
All too often we consider our circumstances in light of socially constructed paradigms concerning what’s right and what’s wrong; good and bad. Those paradigms are almost always influenced by our families, religions and other types of communities we have had shared experiences with. The culmination of these we call societal norms. What if what society thinks doesn't serve us best?
“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there.” - Rumi (Sufi Poet)
The beauty of, and power in ‘personal growth’ is, it’s personal. It’s unique to you. It’s unadulterated. It’s an area of life you should be really selfish about. Allow yourself every opportunity to become every bit of who you’d like to be. Within that, is deciding for yourself what’s “good or bad, right or wrong” for you.
Elimination of terms.
What I once considered right and wrong, good and bad has changed significantly in my life’s journey. Mainly, because I no longer think in those terms. Ideas of good and bad, right and wrong are again, socially constructed ideas predicated on many variables, beliefs and experiences I no longer hold or share. I’ve lived, experienced, learned and grown. My ideas and beliefs have shifted and changed. Unless you’re hunkered down somewhere, stopped learning and stopped experiencing anything and anyone new, change in perspective, ideas and beliefs happen. It’s inevitable. They’re fickle like that.
What if we’re better off eliminating words like right, wrong, good and bad entirely?
There is one law that’s constant, and true for us all. The law of decision and consequence. There is a consequence for every decision we make. This may not immediately sit well with everyone, but it’s music to my ears.
You see, I’ve not screwed up too terribly in life (relatively speaking), but I have made a fair share of mistakes. Those mistakes have lead to rather unintended and unwanted consequences. However, what’s awesome about the law of decision and consequence is this: if at any point you find yourself uncomfortable with the consequences of the decisions you’ve made, you can simply choose differently. There’s some real freedom in that. It doesn’t mean you have the power to remove the consequences of those decisions you’ve already made, but it gives you all the power in the universe to experience much different consequences through much better decisions in the future.
I’ve chosen to live this way. I choose to think in terms of decision and consequence. No longer do I consider what others think is good or right. I don’t consider what others think is wrong or bad. I consider who I want to be, and what I want my life to look like. Then, I ask myself, “what decisions will take me closer to that?”
So, back to ‘what if’ questions. Practice presence; what is, is what is. Don’t ask ‘what if’ in terms of your past. However, do allow ‘what if’ to shape your future. What if you decided to be exactly who you’d like to be? What if you started right here, and now?
I’m going to start addressing more ‘what if’ questions in following blogs that I’ve found beneficial to consider in my life. I don’t expect anything to be profoundly life changing in nature for anyone reading. My aim is that through the questions I ask and the thoughts I express you experience little reminders of lessons learned, values held and things to consider for your personal growth. And please, feel free to share your thoughts.
Enjoy yourself today.