Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards, they try to have more things or more money in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do in order to have what you want. ”

— Margaret Young

It is a curiosity that we do often tend to live our lives from the perspective of a have -> do -> be, or a do -> have -> be. As in, if I do hard work, I can buy a big house, then I will be satisfied (or feel safe, or be admired…), or, if I have a lot of money, then I can do many fun things, and I will be happy. The funny thing is, it doesn’t always seem to work out that way, does it? I’d even go so far as to say it rarely works out in that way. Having things, and doing things, can lead to amusement, distraction, and fun, but those deep seated beings we want – fulfilled, satisfied, loved, connected, content, enlivened – they seem to escape our grasp. The unfortunate thing is I think we get confused. We do something fun, and we feel amused for a bit, and we confound that with being happy or fulfilled; when the fun stops the feeling disappears soon thereafter, and we get trapped into thinking we need to go do something fun again, or that all we can get in life is to continually go out and buy more, do more, and hopefully someday when we have allll the stuff we covet we will be fully satisfied and fulfilled and blissful.

And yet that someday never really comes; the yardstick keeps moving and our desires grow insatiably towards more and more. (And this is not to say that we shouldn’t do fun things!)

What Margaret Young suggests, and what I’ve found to be the counterintuitive yet surprisingly effective way, is to live in the other direction: be -> do -> have. And maybe it isn’t so counterintuitive … if we are being a certain way (say angry as an easy example), we automatically act certain ways (we raise our voice, bang on the table), and we get certain results and have certain things in our life. Our being automatically gives us certain actions, certain doings, that produce results. If we can tap into that being to begin with, in all those areas of life that are dear to us, then that gives us a double bonus: for one, we take more effective actions to realizing that which we want to have, and two, we already have the grand prize: the being and the experience of life that comes from that being, which is, ultimately, what we really want.

It can take some work to tap into that world of generating the being. We’re learning something new. What’s heartening is that there are areas where we already have those ways of being: we call that our personality. We can see right there, if we let ourselves be present to it, the effect of how those fixed ways of being play out in our lives, where it works for us, and where it doesn’t work for us; where it produces the results we want, and where it doesn’t. When we see that, we can start to work on training ourselves to generate those ways of being we do want, we can become flexible in generating ways of being that are appropriate for a certain situation and not be stuck with what we, or others, think is our personality (and we can, of course, keep our personality and ways of being where they do work for us). The best way to get at it, I’ve found, is to delve into the barriers or ruts that restrict our freedom to choosing ways of being. Then it is a matter of training ourselves to be present (as always, the first step in all self cultivation and spiritual awakenings is to train our ability to be present) and to choose our way of being moment by moment by moment.

Like most things worthwhile it is a lifelong practice – a practice that holds the promise of a greater experience and quality of life and the peacefulness that comes with it.