Everyone’s on a development course. It’s just that not everybody knows it! The nature of the development course is this: if there is something you are not aware of, combined with a longing or anxiety in yourself, then you will suffer. If, however, you achieve awareness, combined with a mastery of your longings or anxiety, then you will escape suffering.
Rebalancing your life always involves matching these two aspects: wisdom (awareness of how things are), and compassion (freedom from selfishness). So that’s the recipe: if you want to suffer, then lack awareness and be selfish; if you want to escape suffering, then gain awareness and cherish others.
PROBLEM 1 – NOT SPEAKING DIRECTLY
One of the ways in which you gain awareness, is by participating in honest conversation. Families sometimes hide truths by avoiding honest conversation. Manipulations happen because each party is too afraid to openly state an available truth.
For example, let’s say that you have an argument with a member of your family. You want things to be one way, and the other person wants things to be another way. Maybe you hold back from being too clear to them, because you don’t want to offend – and, anyway, you are pretty sure they’ll react in their usual way, and not really see your point of view.
In this way, lack of trust breeds lack of knowledge. No one speaks openly, because everyone is afraid of the eruption that might result if the volcano was approached. We walk back down to the safe lands, where we all mind our own business.
This, at least, provides a kind of temporary peace. True, every now and again the eruptions of anger happen; but, broadly speaking, there is peace.
The trouble is, that kind of peace relies on partial awareness. Conversations happen, but they never really get to the nub of things. You never really get to state your point of view.
EXERCISE 1 – LETTING YOUR VOICE SPEAK
If you can persuade yourself to speak your truth more directly, then you open up more possibilities for awareness.
This week, practice describing to other people, as accurately as possible, what is going on for you, and what you want. For example, if you are in a shop, and you wish you had the courage to ask where something is, try to encourage yourself to find someone and ask directly. If you are unhappy with customer service from a supplier, then persuade yourself to phone them up and describe the problem. Once you have tried small things, move to bigger things. Try explaining to a family member, or a friend, how you feel about a situation.
For the purposes of this exercise, imagine that ‘no knowledge exists unless it is shared’. In other words, if you keep it in your head, then it doesn’t exist. Under these rules, the only way to propagate knowledge is to share it. Once you have shared your truth, listen to the other person’s truth. Now you have two pieces of truth. And so on.
One thing that usually stops this happening, is the fear of what others will say. But practice getting over that, and starting the ball rolling anyway. One day, it may be too late.
PROBLEM 2 – BEING FEARFUL
One of the ways you can lose your self-cherishing (a major cause of anxiety), is to reduce your fear of loss. In relationships, we often hold back from experience because we fear a loss may result, whether rejection, anger, or something else. People stay stuck because everyone is afraid to move from their comfortable ground.
Just like with not speaking directly, the problem here is that everybody beats about the bush, and no one ever takes a necessary action. If, however, you can persuade yourself that you could cope with the potential loss, then you release yourself to take action.
Fear of action keeps many families, and many relationships, in a state of partiality, in which people vaguely tolerate one another, but are never really quite themselves.
EXERCISE 2 – LETTING YOUR COMPASSION SPEAK
One of the few ways to overcome fear, is to be compassionate. That’s why people become so brave in emergencies. They see someone who needs something urgently, and they take the necessary action.
The problem is, in normal life, the urgency, and therefore the motivation, is not very great. We often do not really care whether everyone moves on or not. As long as things tick along, we are OK with how things are. We get lazy.
Motivation is a genuinely hard problem. But there are a few ways to generate it. Here are three (you can choose one that suits):
Align yourself with already-urgent situations. For instance, if you wish to increase your motivation to help others, expose yourself to news, information and organisations which highlight others’ need and makes it urgent.
Remind yourself that death comes to us all. Knowing that you are not here for ever, can help to increase a sense of urgency in putting situations right.
Use meditation to contemplate the suffering of yourself and others. If you allow yourself to see it clearly, then you can be more motivated to act to alleviate your, and others’, suffering in your daily life.
This may all seem remote from the theme of life balance.But think of yourself as a pair of scales, ideally in perfect balance.
On one side of the scales are the things you know, and your thoughts for others. On the other side are the things you don’t know, and your thoughts for yourself.
Most people spend too much time on one side or the other, and unbalance their lives. See which one you are:
KNOW-ALL CARERS – Favourite phrase: ‘I know what you need.’ Specialist behaviour: proving their knowledge, and going on about how much they are doing for others. Super-skill: rescuing. Blind spot: inability to sit with uncertainty or think of themselves.
ANARCHIST CHILL-OUTS – Favourite phrase: ‘Whatever.’ Specialist behaviour: wandering among chaos and uncertainty, and saying how bored they are with life. Super-skill: being rescued. Blind spot: inability to tolerate rules or think of others.
ACHIEVING PERSONAL BALANCE
If you are interested in balancing yourself, then:
IF YOU ARE A KNOW-ALL CARER – Learn to sculpt your time so that you have plenty of space away from your normal rules, time to rebuild yourself. All your instincts will fight this, but if you can learn the art of the Anarchist Chill-out yourself, then you won’t need to seek one out to do it all for you!
IF YOU ARE AN ANARCHIST CHILL-OUT – Learn to scuplt your time so that you have plenty of activity in others’ company, learning to share in their rules and rituals, and choosing some for yourself. You will initially be reluctant, but if you can learn some systematic ways to participate in society, then you may feel less isolated and bored.
Everyone benefits from gaining awareness, and becoming more compassionate. We can overcome lack of awareness by sharing more direct conversations. And we can overcome our lack of compassion by motivating ourselves to leave our comfort zones.If your comfort zone is applying rules and rescuing others, then learn to take chill-time to refresh yourself. On the other hand, if your comfort zone is escaping rules and ignoring others, then learn to make engagement with others and help them on their own terms.
At different times in your life, you will fall out of balance in different ways. Only you will know what you need to do next in your development.