Buddhism talks about the wheel of suffering or “Samsara.” This is a great metaphor, as life in the Western World has reached a nadir of behavior, that equates to being a rat on an exercise wheel: we work, we earn money, we buy ever-increasing degrees of comfort (tools to relieve us of work and ritual), we get into debt, we work to pay off the debt, we earn money etc. If you’ve heard of Eckhardt Tolle, you’ll know that he talks about being in “The Now.” It’s easy when you know how, so here are a couple of suggestions to subtly change the mental process that determines the values in our lives that don’t really serve us.
Selflessly Serve Others. This is a strange concept; it determines that by serving others we receive tenfold what we give of ourselves. It therefore becomes inadvertently selfish to be of service to others. By practicing this, being of service becomes second nature and requires no thought of selfish injustice or apprehension before following through with the act. When we work to improve the lives of others, we indirectly elevate our own lives in the process. By doing this, life becomes richer and more meaningful. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the levity and wealth of feeling, which accompany this way of living become undeniable over time. This does not require becoming a Buddhist Monk, rather it requires a change of perception. The greatest of all acts of service is to be of service to oneself by setting an example to others – not from a place of ego, but from a place of love and compassion. And what’s more… we don’t have to leave home to do this as we can serve our family and our friends.
By taking the focus off the self and putting it onto others, we aim towards a higher purpose. Giving of time and energy are truly the greatest gifts, as these are the most valuable resources that we have to offer. Something as simple as daily letting five cars ahead of our during our commute will be a surrender to powerlessness over people, places and things, and an acceptance that time is not our slave, nor are we the slaves to time. Direction and abundance follow from this practice, and so once again, by not adopting this method of living, we are denying ourselves what is rightfully ours.
Embrace the Present. By trying to reach the extent of our human potential we miss the target completely. It is only by adhering to the elements of life that we succeed in creating a life in itself. When we understand that the whole is merely the sum of its constituent parts can we realize ourselves. When we relinquish control over our lives and establish control over our actions, our life becomes governed by what we put into it and as a result it begins to change. By embracing the present we allow ourselves the clarity of what is, rather than the projection of what we would like, or the fear of what isn’t. Colors become more vivid, we hear our heart beating and feel our hands, feet, arms and legs. The numbness of non-participation leaves us and we begin to “Be”.
When we learn to be, we can learn not to worry. Worry is a tool of the ego to give it power in draining us of our energy. It is like a naughty child that refuses to be quiet at the dinner table. If we allow it to annoy us or get under our skin, or to make us worried, it is happy because we give it undue energy. If we observe it as what it is, almost immediately it becomes quiet and ceases to be obtrusive. If we live each moment as if it were our last, not in the morbid sense, of course, then we allow ourselves the vastness and depth of experience, which cannot either be replaced or surpassed. Life is now, not if we win the lottery or get the next paycheck, pay raise, girlfriend/boyfriend, cup of coffee, cigarette or night’s sleep. As children we were able to live in the now but at some point for all of us there was a point when the trials and tribulations of the world were passed onto us by our parents as it was to them by their parents. The end no longer justifies the means, because the end never comes unless we die, and if the Buddhists are correct, if we don’t get it right this time around, there will always be the chance to do it again and again and again… What lies behind and what lies in front is of little value when compared to what lies within.