During the holidays, perhaps paradoxically, there seems to be a tendency for many of us to feel less than our best. Many people I’ve spoken with in the past week have been asking themselves the questions that have no easy answers. What’s it all about? Have I wasted my life? Am I such a screw-up that I missed my shot—at love, career, success? Why should I even get out of bed this morning? This (life) has been going on long enough. Can’t I just leave now?
We all have our own version of this interior dialogue. And at this time of year, it can grow loud; and looking back on the year just past, the voice will have new and better ammunition to make its case against us. For this time of year is, by cultural agreement, a time of stocktaking. Witness all the ‘best of’ lists. And in our personal stocktaking we naturally compare this holiday with every other holiday we’ve experienced, as well as with the perfect holiday in our mind that happens to others, but maybe never to us. Taking these little trips down Memory Lane, we may find ourselves beset with wistfulness, longing, loneliness or despair. We take these feelings out into the world, comparing the way it feels to be me with how it seems to be you–comparing our insides with the apparent outsides of others–and coming up short. This then can lead to add-on feelings of guilt, sadness, fear and anger.
All of this tumbling together in our mind, and then the world makes its demands on us: to be an employee or an employer, a parent or a child, a partner, spouse, lover, etc. To buy groceries, buy presents, plan parties, answer email, drive across town, be one among many in crowds and traffic and everyone else wrapped up in their own drama.
It can be exhausting.
It helps to remember that our mind is merely making its best guess as to why we are feeling the way we’re feeling. You feel bad? Well of course you do. You are bad. Or, the world is bad. Life—your life—is not worth living. And here’s why…
When meditators find this direction of thought in our inner dialogue, we know to name it as “stress release;” for nature does not think this way, ever. Nature does not wish for an end to itself. It never discounts the worthiness of life, the worthiness of the world. Nature does not tell me No. It does not tell me Stop or End It All. Its message always is: Live. Evolve. Grow. Expand.
When I have thoughts and feelings that tend in the direction of the negative, I remind myself that nature is freeing me of the stresses within which these thoughts and feelings have been held, stresses I’ve been gathering all my life from every overwhelming experience I’ve ever had. I remind myself simply to observe the thoughts without letting myself be defined by them. Feel the feelings without having to know why. Let them flow through my body without having to name them or understand them or hide from them or fix them. Feel them to their depth, knowing that they will change. There will be an end to them. They will pass. And when they have passed, I will be lighter, more present, and have even more of myself available to bring to my life.
The Veda says there is only one thing. Call it consciousness, call it nature, call it God. There is one thing and I am that one thing. It’s not possible for me to be the exception to life, to be the one who doesn’t belong, who doesn’t deserve. There is one thing and it wants only what is best for Itself. Wants only the best life for me. When I listen for its voice, in myself and in the world around me, it lets me know with each moment in what direction this best life lies.
The voice of doom and despair, or the voice of life? Which voice am I going to listen to today?
Today I will remind myself that my thoughts do not always have my best interests at heart, but that God always does. I will remember that I have an assignment–to express and enjoy life in my own unique way–and when I am present to something other than my thoughts, that way will begin to become clear.