Conversation (Continued)

Sometimes I think that all I’m doing with my life is trying to stay high all the time.

That’s interesting. I’m surprised to hear you say that.

Yeah?

Yeah.

Well, I don’t mean that I always turn to a substance in order to get high. I do do that but substances can provide a certain kind of high. There are lots of highs, you know? There’s the high you get from good sex or the high you get from going some place you’ve never been before. Sometimes when I’m jamming in the studio I’ll find a melody or a pattern that I like and I’ll play it over and over again. Then I’ll drift away from it, improvising. And then I’ll come back to that original pattern again and repeat it. . . I guess that’s how I compose a lot of my songs. I’ll find a pattern that I like and then I’ll just keep playing it over and over again. That’ll be the hook. Then, I’ll start improvising and the music for the verse and for the breakdown will take shape. Then, I’ll find my way back to the hook. Anyway, there’s a high that I feel when I find that initial pattern that I like. I like it so much that it gives me a kind of buzz. I’ll keep playing it really because I want the buzz to last.

That’s an interesting way of describing your process. So, what you’re saying (and correct me if I’m misunderstanding) is that you’ll find a groove that gives you a creative high. Once you feel that high you’ll keep playing that one part and its primarily to keep the high going.

Yeah. That sounds about right. I feel like I do that with a lot of things. I’ll find something that feels really really good. Then I’ll do it over and over again until it doesn’t give me the same feeling. Then, I’ll put it down and go looking for something else that . . . gets me high.

I see. I sense that you see something wrong with that.

Well . . .I don’t know. I don’t know how to feel about it. I feel conflicted. I’ll use an example from my past to express to you what I’m feeling. When I was a senior in high school, some friends of mine invited me to go on a religious retreat. I said yeah. I thought it was just an excuse to go into the mountains and drink. But when I got there it was a legitimate religious retreat. There were bible studies and a lot of group and individual exercises focused on examining your beliefs. The last night we were at the retreat the counselors brought us to the main hall. All the lights were off and there was this giant cross in the middle of the floor and it was outlined in candle light. We all sat in a circle around the cross. One of the counselors spoke and invited each of us to come up to the cross individually and ask God’s forgiveness for something that we had been blaming him for. I recognized that I had been mad at God because my mom had had to work two jobs. I went up and I said what I had to say and as I was saying it I felt this rush. It felt like something ran right through me. I had never felt anything like it and I started crying. There was some initial embarrassment at crying in front of a room full of people (some of whom I’d met only a few days prior) but once that embarrassment went away I felt a high. I felt amazing for the next week or so. At the time I connected the high with God and, specifically, with Christianity. I started going to Church and going to bible study a lot after that. When people asked me why I was doing those things I often would say that I had had a “moment of enlightenment” and that I had “found God”. But in hindsight I think I was going to those places because I wanted that rush I felt when I was speaking in front of that cross. I wanted to be moved to tears again. Sometimes I think that all I was was a dude that had gotten a taste of something that he liked and now he was hooked. More socially acceptable than a crack-head or an alcoholic but still just a dude trying to get high.

I think I understand. You see something wrong with wanting to get high.

Well, no. Its not that I think that there’s something wrong with getting high. Its just that for a long time I have thought of that experience as this momentous occasion in my life. I don’t subscribe to a religion anymore but I always saw that experience as the point in which my awareness expanded. It seems far less significant when I equate it with smoking a plant.

You reference “smoking a plant” as if it’s a meaningless or immoral activity.

I wouldn’t say that. Its just not as big as that experience at the retreat.

Something I feel that you are not seeing here is that experiences have no inherent meaning or value. An event is only as big or as small as you decide it is. If you believe your experience at the retreat to be “bigger” than smoking a joint that’s fine but you should know that the significance of one event versus the other is determined in your mind. . . Let me ask you this: why does the experience at the retreat seem bigger than smoking with your friends?

. . .well, I guess its because . . .hmm . . .

I feel that its important for you to understand why one event is more significant to you than the other. I think its so important that its worth taking some time to really understand the answer before you respond to my question.

. . . that’s fair. I’ll do that. . .but the central point I was getting at when we started talking was that I feel that I’m always looking for a high. And I know what you’re going to say: “Whats wrong with that?”. There’s nothing wrong with it. I just . . .I don’t want to miss out on the really substantial aspects of being alive because I’m always looking for a fix.

Did you ever think that the best thing you can possibly do with your life is to try to experience all the highs that you can?

You mean just keep chasing one high after another?

Yes.

What about doing something to make the world a better place? What about doing something to benefit other people? What about success in my music career? What about sharing deep interpersonal connections with other people? Shouldn’t I be focused on doing those things instead of getting high?

You don’t think you can get really great highs from doing each of those things?

. . .

I suggest that you stop thinking of “getting high” as something that happens when you drink, smoke, or digest something. Getting high simply means feeling good. And feeling good is how you know that you’re doing whats right for you. If doing something that feels good until it doesn’t feel good anymore and then looking for something else to make you feel good sounds crazy then life will always sound crazy to you. The truth is that there’s nothing crazy about that. If you clear your mind and really think about it there is nothing that could be more logical or sane.

. . .

Stop making it so complicated. If something feels good then do it. Do it until it doesn’t feel good and then stop doing it. Then look around you and you’ll see something else that will make you feel good. Then do that. Keep doing things this way until your heart stops beating. You’ll be amazed at how many of your concerns will disappear and how many of your questions will be answered if you do things this way.

 

Conversation (Continued)

Something I notice about my thinking is that I seem to be retracing the same series of thoughts every day.

How do you mean?

Well, I wake up and my mind immediately jumps to a certain topic or memory or something. And its usually one of three or four things. And its always one of those things. And then I spend most of the morning thinking about that until I am walking out the door. Then my mind goes to issues related to my job. I think about those things through most of the day while also thinking about my goals, why haven’t I achieved them yet, and what do I need to do speed up my progress. Then as the work day draws to a close my thoughts move to what I am going to do with the time between when I leave work to when I go to sleep. And that’s pretty much what my mind is focused on five out of seven days a week, every week.

I see.

It’s like my thoughts are just looping from the moment I awake up to the moment I go to sleep.

Interesting. I’m a little surprised to hear you say that. I would’ve thought meditation would break up that sense of ‘thinking on a loop’.

Well, you’re right. It does. Meditation gets me out of the loop . . .but only for the time that I’m meditating and for a few minutes after I’ve stopped. Then I’m back on the mental hamster wheel that I’m always on.

OK. I sense you see a problem with that.

Don’t you?

It depends on what you want. Some people would be fine with thinking about the same things every day as long as they are enjoying thinking about those things. Have you ever thought about what you should be thinking about throughout the course of a day?

No. I guess I haven’t.

Are you enjoying the way your thinking is from moment-to-moment and day-to-day?

. . .I like some things about it but there are other things I don’t like.

Like what?

OK. There’s the fact that I seem to spend a lot of time in analysis of the same issues. I feel like I analyze things and then continue analyzing them with no definite ending-point. It seems like I should analyze things up to a certain point and then stop.

Tell me one of the things you’re always analyzing.

How to get out of my own way. I feel like I have the ability to accomplish everything I want to accomplish. That feels good in one sense. But in another it’s frustrating at times. It means that if my life isn’t the way that I want it to be then it’s all my fault.

Do you understand why you think about it so much?

I think about it because I’m afraid I’m missing something. I guess I think of it almost like one of those pictures where there’s a hidden image but you have to stare at it for a while in order to see it. I guess I think if I spend enough time thinking about it I won’t end up missing anything.

My suggestion to you is to not think about it.

At all?

Yeah. The law of diminishing returns can be applied to thinking the same way that it can with a lot of other things. Thinking about something can reveal a great deal but at a certain point you’re not going to benefit from further analysis. Continuing to analyze further will just cause frustration and frustration can actually impede your ability to see something that you might have missed. A good approach is to analyze as long as you are continuing to discover new information. Once a period of time has passed where no new information has been revealed (and just before you start to feel frustrated) you should stop analyzing and walk away from whatever you were thinking about. Wait until you feel some distance from whatever you were thinking about. A good sign that you’re far enough removed from it is that you kind of forgot where you left off in your analysis. This is when you should go back to whatever you were thinking about and take a look again. If there is anything that has been missed this will be the point where you are most likely to discover it.

. . .that sounds like good advice. . .

Thanks. And you know what? It would be greatly beneficial to you to apply that advice to everything that you think about.

How do you mean?

I mean walk away from all those “looping” thoughts that you have throughout the course of the day. Put them all down.

All at once?

Yes. From my perspective, your concern about missing something is valid. I think you are missing some things. Some things that would benefit you to be aware of. Getting caught up in those things that you are always focused on is like staring at a lake and only being aware of what’s going on at the surface. You’re missing what might be happening just a few feet below.

I see.

It might be challenging at first to do but it will pay off. Step away from those looping thoughts and just be present. Stay on this moment and no other.

And then what?

Then what you’ve been missing will reveal itself to you.

Conversation (Continued)

I was watching this football game yesterday. A player for one team made a huge mistake. He then came back not long afterwards and made the exact same mistake. Its interesting the way mistakes affect different people. You can watch one person make a mistake and it seems to stay with them for a while. That mistake will affect the way they seem to do things from that point on. But other people can make a mistake and it seems like they forget about it instantly.

I am no mind-reader but I would think that it all has to do with the way a mistake is perceived by the person making the mistake. It seems that some people take a mistake and perceive it as a statement about who they are. The moment when the mistake is made is seen as a defining moment. When you personalize it that way then it will stay with you and affect everything you do. But if you see a mistake as a part of a process then it is not personalized. Its seen as a step that must be taken in the process of creating one’s self. . . Another point to keep in mind here is that mistakes are never negative occurrences unless they are perceived to be so by the person making the mistake.

I get you. If you see it for what it really is a mistake is really just the recognition of the incorrect way to do something-

-the incorrect way to do something if a specific outcome is desired.

Right! In truth a mistake is just as valuable as success. In order to know what to do you need to clarify what not to do.

Right. And I agree with you. It is interesting the way that a perceived mistake affects a person once the mistake has been made.

Yeah. It seems like making one mistake can quickly lead to making a whole series of mistakes. It was strange watching that football game. After than initial big mistake that player didn’t seem the same. He made several more mistakes throughout the course of the game. His confidence seem to deteriorate as the game went along.

The way you respond to events that take place is going to say a lot about how happy you are in your life. If an occurrence leads you to reassess your worth as a person (or a player in your football example) then you will find yourself feeling lost a great deal of the time.

Is there ever a time to reassess your worth or value?

What would make you any more or less valuable than you are now?

. . .I don’t know. . . I guess I always thought that if I did something wrong then somehow my value wasn’t as great. For example, if I lie to someone that would lessen my value.

Why?

Well, because a liar is not as valuable as someone who tells the truth.

So, telling one lie makes you a liar?

I guess that’s the way I have been thinking about it. So, yes, one lie makes you a liar.

Can you ever not be a liar after you have told that one lie?

Yes, but it would require you to be honest . . .for a long time after. . . I’m suddenly realizing that the way I’ve been thinking about this may not make sense.

There’s nothing wrong with figuring that out. It’s like we were saying about how we perceive mistakes. If saying out loud what you’ve been thinking about something helps you see an error in that thinking then it’s a positive step. So, tell me. What is it that doesn’t make sense about the way you’ve been thinking about the way lying affects your overall value?

Well, I guess the most glaring issue I see is that if you lie once and are then a liar who is to say how long you must go without lying in order to not be considered a liar anymore? Also, does that make sense to call someone a liar if they lie once? I mean, what if someone is completely honest for the first 60 years of their life and then tells a lie the day after their 60th birthday? Should they be considered a liar?

All fair questions. What do you think?

. . .I don’t know. There doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut answer to my questions.

Is it really important to label people as one thing or another? Does the world need to be broken down into liars and truth-tellers?

. . .

What if you found out that your mother lied to you yesterday? Would she be less valuable? And if she was less valuable to you does that means she should value herself any less?

. . .

Does the value that another person places on you ever really mean anything? In truth, isn’t the value one places on one’s self the only appraisal that matters?

I think that you want people who you value to value you.

But what if someone who you value does something that lessens their value in your eyes? Does decreasing their value then decrease yours as well?

No. It would just mean that their appraisal of me doesn’t mean as much.

But what if that person thought really highly of you? In fact, less take that hypothetical question and apply it to everyone in your life who seems to think highly of you. What if you found out tomorrow that everyone who thinks highly of you was a liar or a murderer or a thief? What would that revelation do to the value you place on yourself?

. . .I guess . . .being absolutely honest I would have to take a look at myself and who I’ve been. I would need to reassess the person I was choosing to be.

But why? Why does the way that someone else chooses to be have to mean anything about you?

. . I guess the truth is that part of the value I place on myself is greatly affected by what other people think about me. It feels weird saying that but it’s the truth. I like myself but I think a lot of that has to do with the belief that other people like me too.

Interesting, isn’t it? . . .Believe it or not, we have arrived back at the reason why that football player allowed that initial mistake to lead to more and more mistakes. His sense of self-worth is not his own. It matters to him what value others place on him. I know in some way there seems to be something very human about that. Something that’s easy to relate to. But the truth is that that is a hindrance to his being the player (and person) that he would truly like to be.

. . .

How valuable you are must be determined by you and you alone. If the power to determine your value is ever shared with someone else then you have created an unenviable situation where feeling valuable is dependent upon your ability to please another. Deciding that pleasing others is the way to be valuable is the initial mistake. Is that mistake a step towards the person you want to be? Or is it the first in a series of mistakes?

Conversation (Continued)

It’s interesting how yesterday and today look so much the same. In fact, I could say that they are almost exactly the same.

Looks can be deceiving.

Yeah, I’ve heard that before.

That may because of how true the statement is. Judging something by the way it looks can be very deceiving. Not just because of the way something looks but also because of how the perspective of the observer can affect how something is perceived.

I understand. It’s like how people say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

Right. And today can look very similar to yesterday if you’re looking at the two days with a certain perspective. If you want to know the truth, nothing about yesterday is the same as today. Everything that existed yesterday changed by the time yesterday became today.

I get what you’re saying. You’re talking about small incremental changes. Like how I have one more grey hair today than I did yesterday. Or that 0.001% of the cells that were in my body yesterday are not in my body today.

The way you said that sounded dismissive. It’s as if you don’t see any significance in “small incremental” changes.

Well . . .I mean, I wouldn’t say that. I see significance to small changes. In truth, big changes are just a collection of small ones, right?

That’s true.

So, of course small changes are important because there are no big changes without small ones.

You’re absolutely right. However, I still sense that you’re saying what you’re saying because it sounds good. You don’t truly place value in the changes that distinguish yesterday from today.

Well, why does that matter? I get it. Today is a little different from yesterday.

It matters because it’s clear that you are placing more value on big changes than on little ones. And when I say “big changes” really I mean change that is easily recognized by your senses. A change doesn’t have as much value to you if your eyes can’t see it from a mile away. It’s important to understand that the way you see those big changes says a lot about you.

About me?

Yes. For example, there are trees all around the building you work in, right?

Yeah . . .

Each of those trees is different today than it was yesterday. Each of them has lost a few leaves since you walked by them yesterday.

That’s probably true.

And at some point, each of those trees will have no leaves.

Right. That’s happening because Fall is coming.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

. . .not really.

The point I am trying to make is that there is tremendous value in the ability to be aware of small changes. For example, it is your awareness of small changes that will allow you to notice an unhealthy behavior and address it before it become a health issue. Take the person who smokes cigarettes. Now, to the observer who only perceives change when the changes are clearly perceived by one of the five senses a smoker may seem healthy until one day they are suddenly sick. But the truth is that that smoker’s health is in a constant state of change from the moment they start smoking on a regular basis. All sorts of “small incremental” changes are occurring every day within that smoker’s body. Awareness of those changes can allow the smoker to address those small changes (increased difficulty breathing, running out of breath quickly, etc.) before all those small changes add up to a big change (cancer, emphysema, etc.). Small changes are just as significant, if not more so, than more obvious ones. In fact, it’s fair to say that you haven’t been paying close attention if you don’t notice something changing until it’s so obvious that you can’t miss it.

. . .Look, I get what you’re saying. I do. But it kind of seems like you’re taking my comment about the days seeming the same and blowing it up into a life-and-death matter. I agree. Small changes can be very important. But sometimes a small change is just a fairly insignificant progression in one direction or another.

Let me ask you this: How do you feel about yesterday seeming so similar to today?

How do I feel about it? . . .I guess it’s kind of disappointing. If I had it my way today would be different. It would stand out among the days in my week. In fact, I’d like to get to Sunday and look back on my week and see each day as its own unique adventure.

OK. My point is that each day in your week does stand out among all the others. It’s just that you’re not seeing it because of your perspective. You’re judging each day in a way that only allows you to see what each is lacking. And because you see each day as lacking something they all seem the same. If your desire is to see each day as the same then go ahead and keep the perspective you have. But you have made it clear that you would like to see each day as different from the one that preceded it and the one that follows it. That will require a change in perspective. And my suggestion is to set about making that change by taking notice of the small differences that are all around you.

OK . . .but isn’t that just a mind-game I’m playing with myself. Is there actual meaningful change taking place or am I just tricking myself into believing that meaningful change has taken place?

If you want the truth, everything you perceive is going to start with what’s going on inside of your mind. What’s going on inside of your mind will form the foundation for your understanding of everything in your reality. If you want to see actively controlling your thoughts as a “mind-game” then that’s your choice. But your mind is always being controlled. If you do not wish to be the one controlling your thoughts then those thoughts will be heavily influenced by the environment you exist in. With that being the case, I would ask this question: If someone has to be controlling your thoughts don’t you want it to be you?

Conversation (Continued)

Things have been going really well lately.

That’s great! You must be happy about that.

Yeah. It’s not exactly the way I want it to be but I feel like everything is closer to what I want than it was before.

You realize that things may never be exactly the way that you want them to be, right? And if everything did become exactly as you wanted it you know that it wouldn’t stay that way, don’t you?

Well, who says that things can’t be the way that I want them to be?

I’m not saying that they can’t be that way. I’m just saying that that might not happen.

I feel confident that I can create my life to be exactly the way that I want it.

And I’m not disagreeing with that. But isn’t it possible that what you want might change in the process of creating your ideal life?

Yes, it is.

And isn’t it possible that something might happen that will affect your perception of life itself?

Yes, it is.

There you go. All I was saying is that you shouldn’t be so rigidly focused on the destination. Your focus should be on who you are being as you go about creating your life.

I can understand that. But it seems to me that not focusing on the destination could ultimately be the thing that prevents me from getting there. It seems to me that your focus must be on the goal. Otherwise, you never accomplish it.

Goals and happiness aren’t intrinsically connected. Reaching a goal does not automatically bring you happiness. The happiest people are not necessarily those who have set and accomplished the most goals. You have told me earlier in our dialogue that you “want to spend as many moments being as happy as (you) possibly can be”. You said that was your primary focus every day.

That’s correct.

Has that changed?

No.

Then make sure you’re clear on what you’re doing. Are you getting up every day trying to accomplish goals or are you getting up every day trying to maximize happiness. Doing one does not mean you are doing both.

. . .I see what you’re saying. I do.

You said you were happy because everything is going well lately. Are you really?

Yeah! . . I guess I feel like I should be happier but, yes, I am happy.

What do you mean by “you should be happier”?

. . .I’m still in a kind of pissy mood sometimes even though things are going so well. I just got a promotion and a nice raise. I’m not as worried about money. I went on a trip and I loved the whole experience. I’m healthy. My family is pretty healthy. I’m spending lots of time doing things I’m passionate about. I would say my life is about 80-85% of what I would envision as my ideal. I don’t know that I expected to be smiling all day long at this point. But I figured I’d be in a relatively good mood pretty much all the time.

Why are you in this “pissy” mood?

. . .I guess it’s that even though things are better than they were before (and they were good before so things have really just gone from good to really good) I haven’t let myself relax or enjoy it. I feel like I can’t relax or enjoy things too much until everything is the way I want it to be. I need to take that 80-85% and turn it into 100%. Once its 100% then I can enjoy what I’ve created.

Does that make sense to you?

I understand the logic behind it but I also see problems with thinking that way.

What’s one of the problems?

If I am putting off enjoying life until it’s exactly the way I want it there is a possibility I may never allow myself to enjoy it. It’s always possible that once I create my ideal life that I’ll feel different about it. Maybe it won’t seem “ideal” anymore. It makes me think about this parable I read once. It was about this person who was climbing a mountain. He was completely focused on getting to the top. It was all he focused on. He finally made it to the top. Once he got there he saw that there was another mountain off in the distance. And even beyond that mountain he could make out another one. In that moment he realized that there would always be a mountain somewhere that he hadn’t climbed.

I’ve heard that parable too. I think it’s a valuable one. So, how do you feel you can address the “pissy” mood you’re in sometimes?

I could probably spend a little more time just enjoying life. I can still be trying to make it exactly the way I want it. But making sure I enjoy it along the way should be a bigger priority.

Does that feel right to you?

Yeah. I mean, I can try it and if I’m still in a bad mood sometimes I can reassess, right?

That’s true. Reassessing is of the utmost importance. As you can now see, it’s easy to think you’re doing one thing and you’re actually doing another.

Conversation (Continued)

I’ve been thinking about this idea for the past couple of weeks: Nothing is holding me back; nothing is pushing me forward.

What does that mean to you?

Well, it means that where I am in my life, how happy I am, how close I am to where I want to be is a result of my choices. If I want to say that God created everything then I can say that. But God doesn’t seem to be directly affecting anything that’s happening in my life. When I look back at my past I see a number of outcomes. And with each outcome I see choices that led to those outcomes. There’s no mystery or magic there. Its just choices. And that’s really what karma is: it’s the natural outcome of choices.

So, are you saying that you don’t believe in God?

No, that’s not what I’m saying. First, I don’t really know what God is to me. For a while I’ve been thinking of God as everything that exists and the laws that seem to regulate how everything works. And then, to a certain degree, I’ve also thought of God as the intelligence that designed everything and how it works. But I don’t know if I still see God that way. . . The truth is that I don’t spend as much time as I used to trying to conceptualize God.

Why is that?

If I believe that God created everything and is everything then that’s fine. But thinking that doesn’t seem to have any effect on my life. My days are the way they are because of my choices and if I want them to be different there’s no one that’s going to make that happen (physical or metaphysical) but me. I don’t know that the God question really has that much significance until the moment you die. And even then it doesn’t become the most important question. The most important question will be, “Is there life away from the body”.

So you think that its possible for there to be an afterlife in the absence of a supreme being?

Yes. I mean, who says that there has to be someone driving everything? Maybe, somehow, its all just running on its own. And if you found out tomorrow that there was no God but there was life after death would you live your life any differently?

You’re asking me that?

I’m asking you that.

No, I suppose I wouldn’t do anything any differently.

There you go. I mean, I get up every day and I have lots of goals and motivations and desires and dreams I want to realize but the truth is that my overall goal is to maximize my happiness. I want to spend as many moments being as happy as I possibly can be. That’s what I am doing from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep.

I see. A lot of people might think that sounds selfish.

How so?

It sounds like you’re focused very heavily on your own happiness.

Well, I feel when you set your mind on maximizing happiness you eventually reach the conclusion that your happiness is tied to that of others. If you just focus on your own happiness you can end up being pretty happy but you’ll never be as happy as you will be if everyone around you is happy as well. And if you have contributed in some way to those people being happy then it will increase your own happiness even more.

So, life is about pleasure seeking?

Yeah. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that either. . .Y’know, a lot of the times it sure looks like all human beings have done with our higher intelligence is take something really simple and made it insanely complicated. Animals sleep, fuck, play, and eat. They have children too and they raise them and while they’re doing that they keep sleeping, fucking, playing, and eating. They satisfy the body’s needs and urges and then they spend the rest of their time relaxing and having fun. Maybe that’s all that life was supposed to be.

Maybe. . . Its interesting to think that it is that simple. If so, then you’re right. People took something pretty basic and made it really complicated.

Yeah. I guess one addition I’d like to make to the “Animal plan” is traveling. I want to travel. So, sleeping, fucking, playing, eating, and traveling.

Got it. Let me know how that works out for you.

Will do.

Conversation (Continued)

I’ve been thinking about what we talked about last time. Y’know, awareness and how a lot of fear-based thinking can distract you from seeing what’s real. The more I think about it the more I am aware of how distracted I am a lot of the time.

Its interesting, isn’t it? You don’t notice it until someone points it out to you. Then, all of a sudden, you see that it runs through almost everything you do every moment of every day.

Yeah. . .last night I started thinking about how important it is to see the truth about yourself and the world around you. And its also really important to see what’s not true. To really take notice of the ideas you have about reality that just aren’t true.

Like what?

Well, like my understanding of God. When I was younger my parents introduced me to the idea of God by telling me to say my prayers every night before bed. And so I’d get on my knees every night and press my palms together and talk to God. Back then, talking to him meant asking him to bless everyone I cared about and then running off a list of toys and video games I wanted. But I did it because I believed that there was a force that I couldn’t see or hear that could influence my life and that force was named God. That force could give me things and take things away. As I got older I explored different denominations, then different religions, and then looked inward for a sense of direction on how to live life. But through all that exploration I realize I‘ve never stopped believing that there are invisible forces that are influencing my life. And the truth is that that’s not true.

Yeah?

Yeah! There’s nothing pushing me forward or holding me back. There never has been. When something happens and I’m happy about it I can trace that occurrence back through a series of choices I’ve made. And, just the same, when something happens that I’m unhappy about its always happened because of my choices.

Interesting.

Yeah! There was a period last year where I was having a really hard time getting to sleep at night. A lot of nights I felt like there was something working against me. Like there was something that was trying to keep me from getting rest. But that’s bullshit. My insecurities and fears and my own self-doubt was what was keeping me up.

So, it sounds like what you’re saying is that you don’t believe in God.

No, that’s not what I’m saying. I believe that there is a higher intelligence. I believe that there are things happening all around and through me that I am not aware of and that I might never understand. But I don’t believe those things are assisting me nor preventing me from accomplishing anything. Who I am and where I am at this moment is the result of every choice I’ve ever made.

And how do you feel about that?

. . .well, I feel a few different things. First, there is the realization that every time I didn’t make the team, didn’t get the girl, or didn’t get the job it was because I hadn’t made the choices to put me in position to have those things. . . And that’s a little hard to be OK with. I kind of liked it better when I thought that some malicious force was trying to keep me down. . . However, another thing I feel is excitement. I’m excited to know that if I want to have or experience something its completely with in my power to do so. For instance, if I want to be a successful musician I just need to get a clear vision of what type of person becomes a successful musician. Then, every moment of every day I need to make choices that coincide with that vision.

It’s that simple, huh?

Are you being sarcastic or are you really asking me if it’s that simple?

A little of both. . .

Well, the simple part is creating the vision. The hard part will be living that vision consistently in every moment. . .but I’m good with that. It all come back to my choices. You told me once that I always know what to do I just don’t always do it. I just need to make the choice that I know I should make.

And is it really so simple to know what choice to make?

You told me that seeing the truth about myself and reality would expand my awareness, right?

I did.

Well, something tells me that with increased awareness choices stop being “choices”. I believe that with increased awareness you’ll find yourself having to make decisions less and less. It will become more and more clear what action you need to take. And what was once a choice to be made will now simply appear as another step on the road to where you want to be.

That sounds pretty smart.

I know. I’m a genius!

I wouldn’t go that far.

Conversation (Continued)

So much of what we experience starts inside of our minds. . .I was thinking about what you said to me once. You told me that the reason that I couldn’t control my thoughts was because I believed that I couldn’t control my thoughts. At first, I had trouble buying that. But its true. You were right. If you know that your thoughts are something that you have control of then you can manipulate them as you wish. And the same goes for emotions. You can choose to feel whatever you want to feel whenever you want to feel it. It’s like a chef who uses different spices to change the flavor and texture of a dish. Except, in this case, you’re choosing different emotions in order to experience something in a certain way.

Right. And in understanding that it brings you closer to the truth of the reality you live in.

“The truth of the reality” I live in . . .that sounds cool. Will you expand on that?

Sure. The reality you live in was never intended to be something that you struggled against, fought with, or had to tame. It was always intended to be something that you manipulated. But manipulating it involves understanding and understanding can only come about when you see things for what they truly are. A huge step as far as doing this is first recognizing what you are capable of. Many people never accomplish this. They never get past their hang-ups, insecurities, prejudices, etc.They never completely empty their minds of the fear-based thinking that they learn during their formative years and it ends up distracting them.

Distracting them?

Yes. You’ve seen it. You’ve experienced it. Fear is so pervasive in your thinking that you can’t go more than a few moments without a fear-based thought running through your mind. And because of that it’s rare to get more than a glimpse of the truth about yourself and the reality you live in. Often times that glimpse comes and goes so quickly that moments after its ended you are already questioning whether it actually took place at all. It’s interesting because if you could take those glimpses and just stretch them out so that they lasted a little bit longer you would see something that would change your whole perception of the universe you live in.

That’s interesting to hear you say that. I think about that sometimes: my level of awareness and what I’m seeing versus what I’m not seeing. I always wonder if I don’t see more simply because deep down inside I don’t want to. It goes back to that saying, ‘ignorance is bliss’. I wonder if it would make me happier to be aware of more or if it would make me feel isolated.

I think there’s a lot of people who feel that way. That’s one of the fears: that in changing yourself you’ll cut yourself off from others. And you know what? That will happen. When someone changes its impossible for their relationships with others not to change as well. But I assure you that just as you may grow away from some people you will most certainly grow towards others. And just as you will grow weary of certain activities so will you grow more passionate about others. These are the telltale signs that you are changing.

. . .you always talk about changing like it’s the best thing that can happen to you.

Its the only thing that can happen to you. Everything is constantly in the process of changing. What you are is never anything more than the space between what you were and what you will be.

Is change ever bad?

The only time that change will look bad to you is if you don’t see the truth of it. And if you’re not seeing the truth of something there’s only one question to ask.

What am I afraid of?

Right.