Lately I have been focusing a lot more on gratitude. It has been a big buzz word floating around my psyche for a very long time now, I just haven’t been able to get to grips with it. It is easy to list out things to be grateful for and understand it intellectually. What isn’t so easy is to understand it emotionally. To really feel grateful.
In the midst of a stressful work life back in 2013 I was introduced to Spirituality by my then coach Tony Selimi. It was a real eye opening experience for me because Tony helped me to see possibilities that included a rich and abundant life. I was smitten. The Secret, What The Bleep, I was hooked and there seemed like no going back.
Up until this point in my life I was convinced that everything in the physical world was a lie. No one would have been able to sell me on adulthood and for good reason. It looked bloody hard. All that responsibility. All that energy drain. Who on earth would want to experience that on a full time basis? I wanted to pursue my hedonistic tendencies and the idea of metaphysics all of a sudden made me think that I could have that again.
It turned out that I haven’t been seeking that after all. What would be those hedonistic elements of life that I feel I have been missing out on? Travel? Flashy stuff? Fun and Partying? To be more active and have overall more enjoyment out of life? To be honest, I really don’t know. I can do all of those things now. In fact, on some occasions I do. And they don’t give me the joy that I thought they would.
Today I had a shift in perspective. Whilst out for a family meal I asked my nephew if he was looking forward to going back to school tomorrow. I was instantly struck with this feeling of dread that I used to experience the day before going back to school at the end of half term holidays. The same dread I used to get on a Sunday evening before going back to work the next day.
It all of a sudden dawned on me where this dread came from. Effort and hardship. Or maybe not believing in my ability to achieve certain things in my school or work life and so I feared going in. Having had a whale of a time on school holidays or having had a great boozy weekend, the idea of going back to school or work, respectively, made me feel incredibly low. What goes up must come down, right?
What if all this fun stuff is just a distraction to numb the overwhelming pain of not living a life we truly desire. And I am not talking about fantasy here. I am not convinced anyone just wants to go live on a beach and do nothing for the rest of their lives. In my opinion, that is running away from hardship. I am talking about doing something that is purposeful and that gives our lives meaning.
And distraction is something I am focusing on right now. (That sentence makes sense in my head!). I have been glued to watching YouTube videos of Noam Chomsky and have purchased his book Manufacturing Consent whereby he talks about how the media is owned by corporations and conglomerates that can spread propaganda to the mass consciousness at ease. I am very early stage Chomsky so that is my modest understanding for the time being.
Other more extreme conspiracy theorists would say that TV shows and sports, for example, are designed to distract you from what those with power are up to. That is not something that I want to delve into at this point, although I do appreciate some kind of heads up. For me, I am not bothered about the so called ‘brain-washing’, if that is what is really going on. I am bothered about my time and also my need to watch sports or TV.
Usually it is because of fatigue or stress that makes me feel that I just need to chill out. And I cannot help but think that it is because I am not being grateful for how I have been spending my time. I have been one of those people, just like many others that believed in the notion that life is supposed to be easy and that we should have things handed on a plate to us. Therefore when I am all of a sudden thrown into a life of perceived struggle, I am instantly perplexed and begin to fight my way to figuring out how to make it easy.
Here’s the scenario; I am led to believe that life should be easy, which I think is a New Age wisdom, yet I am finding it so very hard. Therefore I have gone wrong somewhere. What is it that I don’t know? And why is it that I am having to deal with this battle between my ears while everyone else around me is getting on with their lives? Another thing that makes me feel low and it is a vicious circle that keeps on going round and round.
Having been introduced to the work of shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown, I noticed that she says that we are hardwired for struggle. I couldn’t accept it so I just ignored it and carried on. In the last few days I have stumbled upon Jordan Peterson’s work. A clinical Psychologist and Professor. He also says something very much the same. I realised that now two notable people have said the same thing that maybe I have been fed a yarn.
Then I start to question my motives and ask myself if I really want an easy life? No I don’t. Not at all. I take pride in my ability to work hard and I feel such a satisfaction when I can reward myself accordingly. Be it some new clothes or a nice holiday. What I didn’t realise was that I thought that I was doing it purely for those things. I am not at all. They are merely some bonuses that come along the way. What I am really doing it for is the opportunity for growth and the only way to grow is to overcome challenges. I realised today that I can really embrace that struggle. Expecting it can help me become more prepared, efficient and effective. Not to mention more energetic.
In my research of gratitude, the idea of grounding keeps coming up as one thing in particular to really master. It makes sense to me as I can certainly remember what it was like to feel that I had things in order in other parts of my life. However, since I opened up that can of worms a few years back it really has been chaos. It made me feel so disconnected from this world as I found myself going through some kind of existential crisis. I think I may be starting to see how I might be able to bring things in order bit by bit.
I thought of an analogy that helps me to simplify what my brain has been doing for a few years now. I have been on a quest to figure out this thing we call life. Let us assume that a deck of cards in a pack represents life. If I were to take that deck of cards and throw them up in the air, they would land all over the place. This is what I feel I have done. Now I aim to create neat piles of cards from the mess and decided to stack four piles based on their suit. Each of these piles represents a principle.
It occurred to me that I have been searching for some core principles that lead to a fulfilling, meaningful and wholehearted life. Principles that aren’t grounded in conjecture and bias. Principles that do yield genuine results. I am happy to accept that one principle is that life is a struggle. And why wouldn’t it be? Anything other than that is shirking responsibility in my opinion.
This u-turn in my psyche highlighted something very powerful and gave me a new thought process in how I accumulate information. Having been in a tough part of life and being introduced to Spirituality, I was offered hope. This was very much needed. The difference now is that I feel a bit more confident to really question things further and think critically.
I am not turning my back on Spirituality as such. I am merely seeing which parts of it feel right to apply at what times. There is still much more to this field that I want to explore and having now developed a greater ability to think critically I can remain open minded whilst ensuring that what I am learning may or may not be useful given the context at the time.
A lot of this also comes down to the courage that I have developed in admitting my own ignorance. I blindly accepted anything that I would learn about the metaphysical and Spiritual teachings because it seemed to oppose conventional wisdom and given my disdain for all things conformity it really resonated with me. This also kept me further and further away from gratitude in the process.
Being able to zoom out a little more and appreciate objective reasoning is what has given me the confidence to admit my ignorance. It is really helping me to challenge those beliefs that have had an iron grip on my consciousness. I may very well be looking for principles for how life is. What I am actually doing is first figuring out what it is not.