Improving Your Life in THREE Easy Lessons
By: J. Marlando
We’ll begin by generalizing what you probably do most of the time: If you’re a family person you no doubt get up, make sure the kids eat and get off to school so you can shoot off to work on time. If you have children or not, even if you’re married or not, you go to work, do what you have to do and then, unless you’re very fortunate, drive through rush-hour traffic to get home. You eat and maybe even have a cocktail or glass of wine to ease the stress of the day watch some television—an unfunny sit com, a med. show all about other people’s troubles or a group of lawyers and law enforcement agents trying to rid the streets evil-doers…and succeeding every time. You go to bed and you sleep (if you’re lucky), then you wake up the next morning to start the entire process all over again.
Only you know what your schedule is really like but, chances are, the above is a fairly good metaphor for how you live a lot of your life not counting dinner out now and then or maybe even a movie every once in a while. The point is, unless you are among the minority, you’re probably among the majority whose life is pretty much on a treadmill of responsibilities and obligations and you’ve become a bit like Ericurus’s “fool” of 200 B.C. who with all his other faults is always getting ready to live.
If you’re a decent human being and I am assuming you are, you probably spend a lot of your time doing for other people. And this is a good thing! After all, it is always good to be kind and helpful to others; to serve others in acts of love and caring. But doing for others can get monotonous and tiring too!
So what are we getting at with all these rather negative observations of life in the sluggish lane?
First of all, the odds are that you’ve let your own life get caught up in the cogs of routines—well, to a certain extent, this happens to just about all of us. We all have certain duties and responsibilities to contend with. After all, if no one does the dishes, the dishes never get done. There is a lot in our lives that dirty dishes symbolize as the stuff that we have to do, if we want to or not. In fact, one of the most common complaints in marriage is simply, “we don’t do anything anymore.”
What this really means is that we don’t do anything “fun” and “free” anymore. As a result we can get cranky, maintain a somber attitude and even get to feeling like a prisoner in our own skins.
These condemned feelings, however, are not always because of exterior circumstances. After all, using dishes as metaphor again, once they’re done they’re done or, it isn’t the end of the world if we let them pile up now and again. Remember what Rainer Maria Rilke said:
If your everyday life seems poor to you,
do not accuse it; accuse yourself, tell
yourself you are not poet enough to
summon up its riches, since to the creator
there is no poverty or poor or unimportant
What this implies of course is that our world is what we make it and there is obvious truth in this view. A problem is however, that we fall into ruts and routines not only in our physical lives but in our psyche lives as well. We can easily fall into the trappings of living in an Oh hum, same old seven and six world that is nearly always more self-constructed than imposed.
Nevertheless, another unhappy-maker in our lives is that we can too often feel “imposed on.” And, truth told, we often are by circumstance and by others. That, I suppose, is part of all our lives—more dirty dishes, so to speak.
So how the heck do we snap out of these common doldrums?
There are three major changes that you can make that will immediately improve your life as long as you are in at least normal good health. Indeed these changes can uplift your attitude, rekindle your energy and simply make you a happier more content person.
Stop condemning yourself to misery by blaming others for your unhappiness. If you are not doing what you want to do in life, you are not a martyr, you are a volunteer.
What may surprise you is the fact that it is absolutely impossible to do anything that you do not choose to do. As adults, we are all victims or victors of our own choices.
Indeed, give it a test—try to do something that you don’t want to do…impossible!
This, however, does not mean that we never do anything that we don’t especially like to do. You know, we might prefer going to the beach instead of work but we choose work for all the apparent reasons.
And so DECIDE not to self-indulge today but rather self-absorb.
Permit yourself to live outside the whispers of your mind—I hate this, I wish I was somewhere else…I’d rather be doing anything than this…I’m just so unhappy…and so forth. For one thing, in all this, all you are doing is affirming the negative in your life. Indeed, in this view *Eckhart Tolle tells us, “The pain that you create now is always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is.”
Instead of resisting, change the difficult (painful) chore into a fun and joyful chore. While it is true that you cannot always be doing what you love to do…you can ALWAYS love what you are doing.
Permit yourself to become “absorbed” in whatever you do—refuse to judge the task.
The moment you say something like, “I don’t want to do this” or “I don’t like doing this” your brain will automatically release all the chemicals of anxiety and frustration, maybe even anger as well. However, you can actually tell your brain what to do and so, at the start of doing anything, muster the courage and energy to say, “This is fun and I love doing this” and see what happens. And, if the dynamic wears off, simply say it a few more times. If you make this your habit, your world will begin to unfold happier than perhaps you ever thought it could be.
It can probably be said that you are a loving person and as a loving person, you have both empathy and compassion for others. Indeed both empathy and compassion are qualities of love. It is essential, however, to love yourself and therefore to also to treat yourself lovingly. In fact, Erich Fromm tells us that “If an individual is able to love productively, he loves himself too…”
When we speak of self-love we are not speaking of ego-selfness but instead having an open, caring heart for the self as well as for others. And so, every morning when you look in the mirror say, “You are both loving and lovable,” at least a few times to your reflection. If you make this your habit you will not only feel better about yourself but also about your world. In fact, you can ONLY love the world and love others to the extent that you love yourself. This is something to think about when you are having one of those gloomy days and you are feeling more lost than found.
Walk daily in the wisdom of Dalai Lama who tells us, “The purpose in our lives is to be happy,” and he tells us how to construct happiness in our lives. He says, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion!
In light of lessons one and two, know too that as you try to make life easier and more pleasant for others, to also give time to making life easier and more pleasant for yourself. Give yourself space to enjoy you; to do what pleases and uplifts you—play tennis or golf if these games give you pleasure; sit and meditate, do yoga or simply soak in a tub of water; sit outside in the evening just to listen to the silences or watch the setting sun; read, take walks, paint, write or in other words stop permitting your life to be condemned to duty alone.
Stop waiting “to live.” One of these days has already arrived! It is the moment for you to gift yourself with the pleasure of doing what brings you joy. And, stop fooling yourself if you are one who creates the myth, I just don’t have any time for me. This is a common modern myth because so many people actually forget to enjoy themselves. They become trapped in the routines of their lives but you can decide not to be or remain one of them. And once this decision is made, good things begin occurring for you.
I cannot tell you how these three simple lessons work but I can tell you that they do.
*Tolle, Eckhart *The Power of Now * New World Library