As our lives are slowly returning to normal since the lockdown in March, many of us still feel like a boxer who took a hook punch, an uppercut that we didn’t see coming. Sadly, for many, it was a knock-out blow; but for the rest of us, although we may still be a bit shocked and disorientated, we are starting to re-engage with life again. We are back in the ring, so to speak, but we also now have a golden opportunity to go about life differently, by changing our view on life and reconsidering how we participate in life.
How we perceive life is crucial. If we have an irrational fear that life is out to get us, we become paranoid. This paranoia program runs deeply in our psyche. It tells us that we are merely vulnerable specks in a vast accidental universe, and that we are inherently bad and up to no good. It constantly warns us that we should be on the look-out, that we should fear life, because life is tough. We are led to believe that it is a dog-eat-dog world, a winner-takes-it-all world, an unfair world, driven by the survival of the fittest. Briefly put, life sucks. That is the conclusion of the paranoid, the sceptic, and the pessimist: Life sucks. Besides the fact that they often use those words, one can also tell who they are because they tend to blame everyone, to feel sorry for themselves, to complain about how unfair life is, and to find it hard to trust anyone. Thankfully, there is another option. We can install the how-to-be-fully-present-and-come-alive-program.
Contrary to the ‘life sucks’ program, which is based on victimhood, this program is based on the belief that life is on our side, that we have whatever it takes to deal with whatever comes our way, and that everyone is out to help us, whether they know it or not. We go from being a victim to being a life-dreamer. For that to happen, we need to wake up and become present, and to show up as the lead character in our movie. Only then can we dream into being the kind of life we would like to live. If we don’t do that, and if we don’t take responsibility for our own life and well-being, we will remain trapped as an extra in the soul-destroying victim movie of society.
To be clear, being a life-dreamer does not mean indulging in some feel-good fantasy and retreating into some optimistic la-la land. It is not putting on a fake smile whatever the challenges we face. It is not about being perpetually positive by refusing to acknowledge the negative. Quite the opposite. Being fully present means embracing the inherent polarity of life – the good and the bad, the sweet and the sour. Being awake and present is to fall in love with life with its complementary opposites. It means acknowledging that life is sometimes bad, whilst also remembering that it is always also good. Then we understand that every moment is both good and bad, although it is sometimes hard to see the good in a bad experience. There is no such thing as a solely bad experience, only the wrong attitude: or, as the comedian Billy Connolly puts it, “There is no such thing as bad weather, there’s just the wrong clothing.” It all depends on how we look at it. Being fully present is seeing things as they really are.
It is not about always feeling good, but being okay with sometimes feeling bad. It doesn’t mean that life is always easy. It is trusting that our problems are part of our curriculum of personal growth and spiritual awakening. Our everyday experience of life can change dramatically, if we adopt this approach to our life-dramas.
Life need not be a constant fight. We now have an option to quit. We can step out of the boxing ring and hang up our gloves, and instead become a fully awake life-dreamer who understands that every moment is both good and bad, and who embraces both, whilst consciously choosing always to seek and find the good. Then life becomes a dance rather than a war, a duet rather than a duel. Out of that understanding and out of that way of being, our unique life-dream can then take shape.
Be present. Live life.