“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.” ― Thomas Merton
We struggle endlessly to make sense of life. At times, we feel crushed by the weight of expectation.
You don’t need me to tell you that in those moments of ‘bliss’, life is wonderful. It’s almost as if you don’t exist. It’s no wonder, therefore, an industry has been spawned trying to create this sense of magic — think mindfulness, personal development and spiritual development.
But the truth is, you can’t will your experience — see the work of Arthur Schopenhauer. You can only live it. I’m not saying you can’t use great gobs of willpower to change your habits (so that you spend more time working on your sense of personhood), but what I am saying is that some people will be expressed this way and others not. (In the past, when I’ve said it’s all a choice, perhaps I should have said that you can only live out your experience of life.)
You might understandably draw the conclusion that absent control, you should give up now but that’s a fallacy. I dare you to sit still for as long as possible and see what happens. You might be able to manage an hour or so, but, pretty soon, you’ll be compelled to move, to visit the toilet or quench your thirst. Again, you don’t will this; it just happens.
What I’m pointing to is that the more you think you’re in charge, the more stress you’ll bring about, when things don’t go the way you want. I’d say, going with the flow isn’t such bad advice.
But in the end, you can find yourself all at sea trying to work out if you’ve willed something happen or not — and that’s why I recommend you live life fully accepting the good, bad and ho-hum. And when I say ‘live’ I don’t mean to suggest you do something extraordinary, but just once in a blue moon you say, “Thank you” for everything and nothing — it’s all the same: one amazing, mysterious happening.