Friday, June 27, 2008
BlissQuest: Are Your Own Rules Holding You Back?
Listening to: A musical rule-breaker, a jazz genius, still kicking at 88 years old!
Today's Bliss Formula: I've already taken a walk this morning, something I have not been doing enough of, and it was good to get outside first thing, instead of looking at news and blogs.
One of the things that I have recently been working on is becoming more aware of the rules that I use to govern my life and how they affect me. My goal is to evaluate those sometimes deeply embedded rules in light of this question: Is this rule serving me or am I serving this rule?
The larger goal is to become more spontaneous in my reaction to daily life. To learn that each day is brand new and filled with possibilities that did not exist the day before. To live from my instincts and to experience being born anew each morning. I want to let go of all the "shoulds."
Otherwise, I want to live without limiting myself, without putting myself into some sort of box. In Buddhism, we hear a lot about the concept of "no self." I understand this to mean (after much reading) not that "I" do not exist, but that a solid and unchanging "I" does not. I am always changing and always being changed. I am fluid.
Thinking like this allows me to, for example, accept my moods as temporary. This is important. Instead of seeing a melancholy moment as a precursor to a larger depression, I see it as a melancholy moment -- a passing feeling. Passing. Fleeting.
Thinking like this also allows me to challenge myself.
I could have stopped my "professional" life with teaching creative writing. It was comfortable; I was good at it. Furthermore, it made other people comfortable, because when they asked me what it was I "did," I had that easy answer everyone wants -- "I teach."
But teaching has never been enough for me. I like to do it once in a while. If I thought of myself strictly as a teacher, this would limit my experience of myself as a creative person who needs a variety of stimuli in my life. I am a "snorkeler" and not a "deep sea diver." I need to be learning something new all the time.
"Jack of all trades and master of none" was used as an insult in my family. To be focused on one goal was the ideal and so I set that up as a rule for myself and used it for many years of my life to beat myself up. This was a case where a rule was creating depression and anxiety and deep sadness.
More of my rules:
I am 5'5" and I am only a good person when I weigh no more than 125 pounds. I still fight with this one, but I am learning, especially though yoga, that my body is strong and flexible and beautiful as it is and that I love to eat and food is a pleasure not to be eschewed. During my life, when I have managed to follow this weight rule, it is because I am following all sorts of unhealthy food and exercise rules.
If the house is not spotless, I must be lazy. How many of us believe this? That there are some sort of dirty house police out there, just waiting to come and take pictures of the piles of books and papers and dirty dishes? I have better things to do with my time than worry about imaginary cleanliness enforcers.
The most moral people are vegetarians. I was a vegetarian for ten years, but during that ten years, meat never ceased to be enticing. My partner is a very natural and happy vegetarian. I was a tired and hungry one. Finally, I came to see this as a destructive rule. I still have rules about organic, but organic tastes better, is better for me, and is better for the planet. That is what I would call a good rule.
And there are good rules. But I prefer to call these commitments.
I am committed to my partner. I am committed to clean and healthy food. I am committed to my yoga practice but not to the point of feeling badly if I don't do it. I am committed most of all to being happy.
And so my number one rule at this point in my life is to have fun. If a rule makes me grouchy, I show it the door.
So here's an assignment:
Start watching your most repetitive behaviors and ask yourself if they are based on some rule.
Then try to discern where you got that rule. Did it come from you or someone else?
Next, investigate the "why" of the rule. Why do you have the rule and what does this rule do for you?
And finally, is the rule making you a happier, healthier, more productive person, or is the rule holding you back?
If the rule is holding you back, can you let go of it?
Rules usually originate in fear and constriction. So this exercise is really about opening your heart and your mind -- two places that need to be opened if you are ever going to live a blissful life.