September 6, 2009

The Road Well Traveled.

Recently on a Sunday afternoon, I browsed through a popular fashion magazine. It was like looking at the lives of those who lived in an alternate universe. There was a picture of a pair of shoes that cost as much as my rent. How is that possible?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for looking your best and taking care of yourself. When I was miserable, insecure and lacking direction, I used to spend a good portion of my money on make-up and clothes. When I was in college, my friends used to call me glamour girl.

Now my version of glamour is a pair of comfy pants and a bohemian shirt with as little make-up as possible. That said, I am an advocate of skin care but my current morning routine is a total of 25 minutes and that includes taking a shower. When I was very unhappy, it would take me that long just to put on my face or what I now refer to as my armor. As you can see, I have changed a lot.

We live in a world where image is everything. When I was younger, it seemed that everything had to look a certain way in order for everything to be right but no one ever seemed to talk about substance.

Society somehow bombards us with the belief that if you have the right car, the right degree, the right spouse – that all will somehow add up to a happy life. However, I have known people with the right car, the right degree, the right spouse and the majority of them are miserable. So what happened? Where did they go wrong?

Of course, it would be easy to say that they put their faith in material items and not in themselves or in life. That is true to some extent. However, we all have fallen into the trap of thinking that life can be reduced down to a simple formula. Yet that simple formula never takes into account that each one of us is unique.

So here we are acting as if mankind can be treated or viewed like a herd of cattle yet we never take into account that maybe the formula that we think is true is really an illusion to some degree.

For example, when I was in high school, I was horrible at algebra. No matter how hard I tried to understand it, I just could not. Writing a ten page paper on Charles Dickens was a piece of cake but to solve some weird equation was enough to make my brain turn into mush.

Inevitably, I ended up failing one quarter and all hell broke loose. The teacher and guidance counselor called my parents. You would have thought that the Soviet Union (which was still in existence when I was in high school) was attacking America based on the full force of the assault.

When my mother asked me what had happened, I simply told her that it just did not make sense to me. Apparently, this was not a good enough answer because I had to pass algebra in order to graduate.

So my dad who is a math genius (love the irony) had to tutor me and he was amazed at how some formulas just did not register in my head. Word problems were even worse. I remember at one point when his patience was at its lowest, I argued why one plus one had to equal two. Where is the logic in that? My father was stumped  and I felt I had won a victory.

Eventually, I managed to pass algebra and graduate but that whole experience made me dislike math and made me even more leery of the concept of formulas. It was not until I was a serious student of Buddhism and spirituality that I realized why I had an inherent distrust of formulas.

Formulas limit us to the possibilities that are out there in the world. When we confine something to a set method, you remove any chance of wonder or joy of what life has to offer. Many of the discoveries that changed our world were discovered by so called chance.

If you live your life only looking through a narrow lens, your experience of life will be narrow. But if you look at life from the view point that the world is your playground, just think how much fun you will have.

We all have obligations that need to be taken care of such as paying our bills, rent or mortgage and so on. However, you also have an obligation to have a well lived life. Life is not some gig that will go on for eternity. This ride will end eventually. So why not remove the illusory barriers and just make the most out of what you have.

What you put out there comes back to you. Think life is this horrible journey, then that will be your experience. You are not a cog in the wheel that has no power. You are the wheel, so take charge of your life.

The Dalai Lama said it best:

“Smile at others and keep the world smiling”

The world does not need any more small petty people sapping up resources. We have seen the damage of such behavior. The time has come for all of us to grow up and finally start living right.

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