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By Brianna Wiest
Doing and being. The two are proposed as solutions to anxiety almost in tandem. Eastern traditions advocate for finding inner peace rather than chasing ambition, but Western culture equates success to happiness and fulfillment. Deciding whether we need to do more or enjoy more is a fine balancing act.
The idea of super success as the antidote to human suffering is not an insane concept. We are, after all, anthropologically and biologically designed to be creative. Every major human development has been a direct response to fear. (Medicine = fear of being sick; Agriculture = fear of starvation; Marriage = fear of loneliness.)
New Age philosophies inform us that the purpose of life is development. It makes sense. Like nature, we are constantly growing. You’re making Co2 as you breathe. You’re creating thoughts as you read this. The Universe itself is continuously expanding. What we can guarantee – beyond the fact that we are born and die – is that we grow.
So to propose that removing oneself from that creative process and replacing it with stillness, and presence, seems counterintuitive. When we are not doing something, we equate the feeling to dying. “Chains of worry forge in idle hours,” after all.
But the misunderstanding, as Aldous Huxley would argue, is that meditation and creation are one in the same. This is because we are not actually creating ourselves, we are expressing ourselves. And the latter only really requires allowing. We must get out of our own light.
When we think of personal development in the mental-emotional-spiritual sense, we often assume it means to become something we are not. Better, wiser, stronger. However, it is really just learning to express that which is already in us.
What we become is not the product of stress and effort, but allowing. We do not create who we are, we allow who we are. The stress and effort that our egos assume are doing the work are only holding us back. The sheer act of meditation and stillness serves to dissolve that resistance.
The personal conscious self being a kind of small island in the midst of an enormous area of consciousness — what has to be relaxed is the personal self, the self that tries too hard, that thinks it knows what is what, that uses language. This has to be relaxed in order that the multiple powers at work within the deeper and wider self may come through and function as they should. In all psychophysical skills we have this curious fact of the law of reversed effort: the harder we try, the worse we do the thing.
It is as Julia Cameron says: we must get out of our own light.
“Our personal self — this idolatrously worshiped self — we are continually standing in the light of this wider self — this not-self, if you like — which is associated with us and which this standing in the light prevents. We eclipse the illumination from within. And in all the activities of life, from the simplest physical activities to the highest intellectual and spiritual activities, our whole effort must be to get out of our own light.”
The work, as it were, is not the effort. The work is in the allowing, and the dissolving of the resistance that keeps us from expressing our infinite streams of potential. We cannot be anything we want, but with enough determination, we can hold the freedom to be exactly who we are. And that, after all, is what we’ve really been after all along.
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- Alan Watts On Why Highly Intelligent People Tend To Be The Most Emotional