Eastern sages and Western life coaches will both tell you that if you want to change something in your life – a habit, or a condition – you must be that change in every single moment.
Alan Watts used to tell a great metaphor to convey the idea that what seems to us like the future may be heavily influenced by the meaning that we give to the past, like a sailor at sea, looking over the rear deck of the ship and believing that the wake was steering it.
He proposes that we are that sailor obsessing over events that have already taken place, which is the wake of the past. It’s easy, then, to have the past fill up the future, because we hold on to it so tightly in our memory, identifying with that which we have been for ourselves and for others, playing those records over and over again.
We tend to end up believing that is just the way things are, when the truth is simply that it is the way they have been up until now. It is possible to see that the wake (the past) is simply a result of the current state of the hull, rudders and engines of the ship, which are our state of mind, fears, dreams and points of focus in the present moment.
“The future is now.” – J. Krishnamurti
Now, Krishnamurti was a little hardcore. Dude never laughed. But he did have some great words on this topic. He often spoke in questions, encouraging the listener to contemplate something for themselves and make genuine discoveries. Something he asked a lot about was the human potential for change.
Why don’t we change? Can humans, totally, radically change their behaviour and beliefs? Are we doomed to an existence dominated by conflict? What are the obstacles to change, and how does one go about it?
My take on the way he put it is that in order to see a change in that wake of the past, which we create as a result of both present thoughts, beliefs and actions, we must change the way that we are now; go under the hood and adjust the mechanics that are producing the undesirable results we’re currently experiencing. Instead of changing “later” when the imaginary never-never-land of the future comes, we make a radical, total shift in the moment. Thereby we change the “future” and what becomes the “past” through the infinite opportunity of the ceaseless moment that is occurring right now.
Most of us at some point have lived as a victim to our quality of mind and habitual patterns of the time. We looked at life unfolding behind us and wondered why it isn’t they way we wanted it to be. At least I know how that feels, to imagine a next level condition or opportunity that I desire to come to pass, but when I look back on my week and ask, “what have I done to make that a reality?” sometimes, the truthful answer is: next to nothing. ‘cuuuz I’m human.
Brainstorming is a necessary part of creating and completing projects, but unless equal, real ground is covered in the real world, all that thinking is about about as useful as a hole in a boat.
Oh yeah, that’s me. Par excellence. I get off on thinking. But there is a fine line between that and procrastinating because of the resistance in my mind. I toe that line often. So for a lift out of these periods of coasting in loops of creature comfort, I remind myself:
Things in my life are the way they are because of the way that I am.
Sure some things are acts of god, results of natural chaos, or the doing of some regular ol’ asshat, there certainly are patterns in the bigger details. The life I am currently experiencing is a result of choices I’ve made in the past, for better or worse. If I find myself in familiar and stale circumstance, that means I’ve been making the same choices for quite some time, never really making consistent alterations in behaviour and challenging the outer limits of my comfort zone, increasing the level of healthy risk necessary to fulfill my innate human desire for uncertainty and growth.
We are defined by those few seconds in each day where we choose between following that hard-wired habit, or urge, and taking a stand against it and building a new one. Choosing to cultivate a higher level of self-expression means, more often than not, engaging in behaviour which fosters it’s manifestation.
In the end, it’s these small moments that make the biggest difference.
Put on those runners, make that call, take that plunge, whatever it is. Your future self will thank you for it.
image credit – hdrcreme.com