I wonder if the birds I see from my window, swooping and gliding along on the waves of the wind, are wracked with worry about making it to their destination.
Or are their bodies flush with the pure pleasure of the art of flying?
I wonder if there are birds that flying never came easily to, that had to work for it, and if it sapped the joy out of it, shamed by the other birds for their lack of natural talent.
Being human, it’s difficult not to wonder if other aspects of consciousness have any similarities to our own experience.
Stepping away from the sky realms and submerging into a different stream of metaphor, I have to admit I don’t have the natural grace and rhythm of a fish in the sea.
Flowing with the current of the sea is something I’ve had to work at. I’ve raged against the mellow lull of the current, and battled against the violent turbulence of the tidal crest.
It’s taken a lot of effort to exhale and let go.
I’ve come to realize it’s because I was never taught to love the process. It would have been a lot easier if I had. Maybe it’s not something that can be taught except by example, but here’s the dilemma:
I’ve been heavily conditioned all my life to focus on the end goal.
This means that until I began to identify and deprogram this conditioning, every time I was trying to surrender I was fighting myself on an intense level.
I was taught that it’s not about the process of learning to love knowledge and discovery, it’s about the grades I get. It’s not about the skills I fine tune and hone, it’s about the certificates and academic degrees I can show to get the job. It’s not about doing what I love as a vocation, it’s about the pay cheque I garner at the end of the day. It’s not about the pay cheque but about the piled up bills I need to pay. It’s not about the relationship and enjoying getting to know each other, it’s about getting married. It’s not about writing the article, it’s about getting it published. It’s not about the exploration, it’s about the final stop.
These are the messages that have been programmed into me, by society and through the baggage of generations of ancestral beliefs handed down painstakingly with great determination.
Inside, I’ve never agreed. Inside this skin lived a rebel that said:
Screw you, I don’t want your dictates and mandates. Kindly take your ideas of how I should lead my life to those beloved places where the sun doesn’t shine.
However, if self-exploration has taught me anything, it’s that my inherent belief system and the conditioning carefully hammered into my subconscious are often working against each other.
Have you seen that Dove commercial where we’re blasted with image after image of the messages that the media sends about beauty and it’s ideal standard, giving a fair representation of what children absorb?
Maybe you’re someone who has argued against these images all your life and staunchly disagree—I am. Seeing the onslaught of split second visuals thrust into my face made me realize how despite my surface values, these ideals had been superimposed into my subconscious. To go even deeper, just imagine how they are embedded into the collective consciousness, which we are all intricately connected to no matter how much we argue that our own existence goes against the grain.
In a similar vein, while on the outside the ideals I touted were a reflection of my innermost authentic truth, in the actual experience of my life I was incessantly and persistently unhappy, agitated and filled with anxiety, judging myself to be inept at life.
Instead of accepting ‘what is’ I was crippled by ‘what is not’.
It’s not that I have no goals and stay everlastingly in the process.
It’s just that I want to define my own objectives and allow myself to find my own pace. Otherwise it’s like marching to the beat of a drum that aggravates my entire sense of being and makes me grit my teeth, instead of finding a beat that I can dance my way to where I want to go.
I’ve never enjoyed the expression ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too.’ I mean, why not? I don’t intend to ever put a cake in front of me just to torture myself by the idea of what I can’t have.
Something to consider—imagine being deprived of the act of delicately absorbing each molecule of flavor that explodes with great aplomb into tastebuds tingling with anticipation. Instead, somehow that part automatically skips itself directly into the cake straightforwardly entering the digestive system. Would your appetite for cake truly be sated?
To truly experience the pleasure that cake can bring to life, learning to love the process of baking is vital. Pouring love into the ingredients, licking the bowl clean after setting the mixture into the baking dish. Sitting down with it, to let the scent waft its way up to yearning nostrils, and into the heart, to let it percolate there, so that when that first bite is taken, it tantalises the senses and fills them with contentment.
The pleasure derived from the outcome is directly correlated with the attitude put into the steps to get there.
Living for the end game means anything but that feels like a failure. Every step on the path is a reminder that we aren’t there yet. It gets even more complex as it seeps into the sense of self—it’s not just the journey that feels like a failure, but rather the whole identity. “I am a failure,” is the resounding thought loop that permeates into the brain synapses and the trajectories of the mind.
Existing solely for the future meant that I wasn’t enjoying any aspect of my present. The moments I was filled with gratitude for the happy, silly, fun parts of life (which I truly did have a plentitude of) were few and far in between because of the nature of my fixated gaze.
I was focused on how I wasn’t where I was ‘supposed’ to be, and how I wasn’t measuring up to what was expected of me.
There’s so much I stopped myself from doing just because I felt I didn’t know how. Keeping my eye only on the prize, I didn’t understand that some of the greatest joy is in the scary thrill of starting something new, not knowing how it will unfold, but doing it anyway, and then as it goes along watching myself develop and unravel in a way I’ve never experienced before.
That’s where the magic seed develops into a sprightly sprout.
It’s the space in between the beginning and the end that is the most exciting because it’s where all the lessons are learnt and where the experience shimmers, sparkling with it’s promise of adventure.
People in teaching positions sometimes seem to expect others to be perfect at something right away (whether they themselves are or not), and feeling that pressure we start judging our own progress by that standard. We keep comparing our beginning to another’s middle or end. Some things don’t come to us naturally, especially when we were never shown how or berated for not knowing automatically.
I keep coming across people who are too scared to start something new, especially something of creative bent, because they strongly believe that they have no ability for it. I can relate, I’ve been there.
I’ve resented my goals and often indulged in grievous self-sabotage due to feeling overwhelmed at the pressure I’ve felt to get to the finish line.
It made me want to not try at all—perfectionism and procrastination both stem from a fear of failure. If I couldn’t do it perfectly I would rather not do it at all, which rather than being a simple cop-out made me feel miserable and inadequate, and kept feeding my fear that I’m a failure.
Resetting my default has meant confronting my shadow on a very intimate level and taking out those dusty demons from the dark only to realize that my ‘demons’ are actually fragments of a scared child that has been inundated with an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. The healing work has led to a realization that I don’t have to prove my existence to anybody.
I am worthy of love just simply because I exist.
Coming from that vantage point of love and compassion, I want to do the best I can for myself because I deserve it. I want to fulfill my dreams and aspirations, and I want to do it with zest, passion and creativity.
Slowly I’ve learnt to release the judgment of stumbling through the beginning.
I’ve learnt that if I kept trying to emulate the way another vocal artist sings their song, I would never stumble upon my own hidden song and the natural intonation of my own voice. If I ignored the poetic algorithms of my process, I would never learn how to make it my own.
Once we’re there at the finish line, there’s nowhere else to go, except onto the next goal. If we forget to savour the taste of the journey, we’ll end up ceaselessly in pursuit of happiness, and sooner or later it’s going to tire us out because the pursuit of happiness means always being in chase mode.
Set goals based on true desires, not what has been fed into the psyche. It doesn’t mean deliberately ostracizing marriage, jobs and education for the sake of breaking conformity if at heart those are things truly desired—but let the marriage be an expression of the love and understanding shared with another, let the vocation be the outcome of being immersed in our passions, go to university because of a genuine desire to learn. Doing so automatically causes a shift in the system—the best way to stick it to ‘the man’.
And if those things are not for you, find a different way. Instead of feeling discouraged, trailblaze into new territory. Discover how you want to live.
Remember that we don’t need to search for a purpose—we are the purpose.
What we need to figure out is the best way to express it and there’s no way to do that without exploration.
That’s how we learn surrender and how to actually let go—by loving the process.
If at first we don’t succeed, it’s because we’re on the journey of learning how to.
Enjoy the ride.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Maya Nadeem
Volunteer Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renee Picard