Running on empty
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.” ― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Life: it’s always running ahead of us.
Yes, there are moments of bliss but they’re increasingly rare, and often feel forced, not spontaneous.
You might think this inevitable given all the things on your plate — e.g. work, a bit more work, money, family, caring for others, children — but is it?
Think about the last week. How much ‘me’ time did you set aside to recharge your batteries? Little, I suspect. And what really is ‘me’ time? I think it goes beyond doing your own thing. It should (without being prescriptive) be directed at radical self-enquiry; namely, Who am I?, What am I? and most apposite to this post, What story am I living out?.
If we stick with that last question a minute, I think it central to our need to be part of our ‘always on’ society. In other words, too many people are acting on impulse without questioning fundamentally why they’re doing what they’re doing. If there’s a purposeful life to be lived, it’s not being breathed into existence because your auto-pilot version is getting in the way.
Hey, we’ve all been there. If I think back to my first business, apart from the vim and vinegar that comes with age (I was 19 at the time), I assumed that the ‘driver’ of me working seven days a week and burning the candle at both ends was to prove to my parents that I could make something of my life. How stereotypical; but I never questioned the internal story until the very end when the business was in decline. Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered by then but it might have woken me up from my narcissistic torpor that then fuelled the next 20 years of my working life.
The thing is, we all have an internal story that fuels our life.
You might think that to be at peace and not being so knackered all the time it’s simply a case of doing less. It is, but it’s very easy, without self-enquiry, to find in short order that you’re back on the same hamster wheel.
Some people do escape their story, but if my example is anything to go buy, it was brought about by a sudden, death-dealing shock, where I thought, “Holy sh*t, is this it?”. And I was not only forced to consider my mortality, but also to reflect at the most fundamental level how it was that I managed to blow so much of my life ‘working for the man’ but never coming alive, or even being aware of, true self.
So, if there’s a message to this post, I’d suggest it’s to go beyond the current story, not come up with a better one — which will take you down another rabbit hole — and understand who or what it is is fueling your story. Trust me, there are very few people in this world who don’t have a story to play to. Trouble is, it’s very rarely theirs but mostly a product of their childhood, life chances and who they think they need to be in pleasing others.
True self on the other hand doesn’t need any story. It means to be, which is the highest form of meditation.