We are all aware of the drive to do things that will be seen by others as valuable, things that make us feel good about ourselves and things that give us a sense of being alive. What we not so aware of, is that as we unwrap this drive, underneath it there is fear. Just below the veneer of positivity is a need for self validation. Go a little deeper and we find a fear of loneliness - of not being recognised as worthwhile. Go deeper still and you discover that the engine that drives this fear is a sense of separateness . It is this fearful basis that sets both the context and scope for our creativity and experiences.
But here's the thing: What keeps us stuck, what makes creativity appears to take discipline and effort, and what makes change seem so difficult and take time , is nothing more than a misunderstanding about free will.
If we are unaware of the fearful back story to our motivation, we assume that by making choices we are choosing what we want. However, it takes just a few moments of honest self reflection to see that we are not even making choices. Isn't it our mind that is telling us what to want and think and do? It is this hidden dark agenda that is getting played out in our life, one judgement  and decision at a time. This isn't free will, it is bondage.
And so we sleep in a fog of dis-ease, but because we are 'making choices' we believe we are exercising free will, and therefore must be awake.... and if we are awake, the brokenness and struggle we see everywhere must be real. It is this inability to see our own blindness that keeps us in the dark.
In confusing 'making choices' with Free Will we ‘see’ what this aspect of mind (call it ego) directs us to perceive. This is our world now, and there appears no alternative.
Instead of our mind being a tool we use (like any other human faculty) it now assumes the role of C.E.O. of our life, and the intellect (now attributed with wisdom) becomes the straw God to which we all bow. But the mind has now taken on an autonomy that it is not cut out to handle. Crippled with the burden of having to first define who we are, and then run our life trying to uphold and protect this sickly self-perception, it can never rest. This is suffering.
And so it is that, as adults, we so rarely do things solely for the joy of Self expression. And when we do, it is with this dark backdrop and in measured doses, because the mind (now running the show) protests that it is too risky, too irresponsible, too impractical to even consider as a way of living. All bullshit!
This choice, between what mind serves - Joy or fear, is Free Will. Change our mind and all our thoughts change with it, as does the purpose of everything we see. It is us that provides the meaning to our experience of life.
But for the brave ones who do exercise Free Will, whatever they touch with that ends up being imbued with a sense of beauty and timelessness that can quite literally stop us in our tracks as it touches the same still place within us, from where it came. Whether it is the appearance of David , mellifluous words that speak the truth, a piece of computer code that makes something difficult elegantly simple, or just the willingness to drop pretences and meet someone in the space we normally hold between us, this is the power and gift of true art.
Let's take a look at motivation again, because there's still one last step in that unpacking process. If I now look directly at the sense of separation to see what stands between us, I find nothing there. It was only a mistaken thought in my own mind that made it seem real. And in seeing that it never was true, the whole basis for our experience of struggle collapses.... just as it is impossible to believe any lie once we see it for what it is.
In the truest sense, this is what we all want -- to see, and be seen, as we truly Are -- to recognise that we can choose to come from a place of Joy instead of fear, and in doing so choose the nature of our own experiences -- to know that we can heal and be healed.
So when you get to the core of motivation it gets really simple. In spite of the appearance of many, there are only two things happening -- Clarity is being called for or it is being expressed. And even this is an over complication because in both cases we are coming from same place -- one Will. No need then to peel any metaphoric onion, or figure anyone out in order to resolve issues. Cut straight to the core instead, holding the openness to meet in the middle space…. trusting that in the clarity that this seeing brings, everything else falls into place.
Isn't this the choice for Free Will? Reason tells us it can only be when we come from a place of openness instead of fear, that we are able to respond in a truly helpful way… and only by choosing to look past what seems to stand between us that we get to see what is real. Perhaps this is what Gandhi meant when he suggested becoming the change we want to see in the world.
It is easy to overlook our fundamental choice when we see economic, environmental and political collapse, particularly when we see it getting personal. But if you look at things from the perspective of our own growth, then we must recognise that we cannot benefit from anything we have pre-judged and rejected. So rather than be crushed by circumstance, or be angry about it, or try to make it into what we think it should be, perhaps we could allow these experiences to break our shell of self-centred defensiveness that we withdrawn into, and that keeps us feeling powerless.
As Jimi Hendrix said, "The real malady is fear of life, not of death". The caterpillar and the butterfly look on the same cataclysmic event, but from totally different perspectives. Doesn't point-of-view depend entirely on which side of the fence we choose to stand on?
I'll close with a prediction: It will be the artist... not the scientist, or the intellectual or the leaders-of-old... who will step forward and show the way in the times ahead. Carefully crafted plans will be no use to us (we'll come to see these for what they are -- sedatives, lulling us into deeper sleep by removing the need to trust our Self in the moment). But a picture or a poem can bring us to stillness and point us towards our own blindness. Only an artist has the ability to dis-illusion us, nudging us back onto our own path, into Self trust.
Then, in our own unique way, we become artists too.
Credits: Michael Leunig for the cartoon. Michael is a fine exemplar of the power of the artist to wake us from our slumber.
... We tend to see mind as an object, and seeing it that way (having form) we can imagine it confined within the 1.5 litre cavity of a human skull. Form here it is a tiny step to seeing our body as our self, instead of a tool for communication and a vehicle of Self expression. And so in believing this, we take the bodies limits to be our own. With this self-image in place it now appears that life itself is divisible -- 'I' have my own little temporary part it, separate from 'the rest', which I see through the bodies eyes as 'outside' of me.
... The belief in 'evolution by degrees' - that change takes time and effort, is the ego's second greatest achievement. (its supreme accomplishment is getting us to believe that it is us!)
To get an idea of how entrenched and pervasive this belief is, think of the whole self improvement industry, and what our mentors taught us about the need for discipline and effort, and the general acceptance of the '10,0000 hours of practiced required to be genius' meme. Of course, if we use empirical evidence as the test of truth then there is no doubt that all these are true.... in our experience! However, what empirical evidence doesn't consider is the possibility that the whole nature of our experience could itself be a choice.
... Perception is projection , and it is also very selective. The mind rarely comes to rest in open awareness . Instead, it works constantly to pick out a tiny subset of our environment and presents it before us as reality. Judgement and perception work together to give us the illusion we are using reason and acting rationally. Perception cherry picks from awareness whatever evidence it needs to justify a judgement the mind then uses to uphold any decision that supports its dark agenda. Phew!! -- I'll attempt to make this much clearer in an upcoming post.
...Oh please no! Not footnotes of a footnote ;-(
... by projecting the cause of our angst as lying outside ourselves, we avoid the scary thing -- having nowhere to 'put' our feelings. By seeing ourselves an 'innocent victims' of a capricious world, we avoid taking responsibility for what we feel and project, but at the cost of experiencing ourselves as powerless over what is now seen as outside our Self.
We firm up this picture of an 'innocent me' by the stories we tell each other (ideas can only get stronger as they are shared). So telling victim stories is a form of Self-veiling. It is helplessness masquerading as helpfulness. By extrapolating the problems of the past into a picture of a fearful future, we completely paper over the present -- the only place where choice (and therefore change) can take place. Paradoxically, doing this guarantees that our own future experiences unfold in much the same vein as the past.
When you think about it, the idea behind projection -- that I am under the influence of a power or will that exists outside of me (whether we call it Quantum Mechanics, Nature, Gaia, God or something else), is the definition of dogma.
... the idea that stilling our mind and 'being present' is difficult, is another lie of the mind. It takes constant effort for our mind to avoid being present. Our mind works every minute of every day to avoid an experience of complete openness in the present, because if it did, this illusion of 'perception as reality' would be seen for what it is, and the ego's fearful hidden agenda would be exposed. Even in sleep it has to be constantly vigilant. It will jolt you awake in the middle of the night rather than let you become 'conscious' in your sleep.
All this 'Presence avoidance' activity is incredibly stressful and tiring, but it is so commonplace, so a part of the everyday fabric of what we call living, that we accept it as normal. It is only when we collapse under the weight of this stress that society give the particular form of breakdown a label, and pours resources into the study of its 'causes'.
And even when we start to see the ego's mind games for what they are, it doesn't let go. The poacher turns gamekeeper to avoid detection. The principle behind a 'practice' or 'spiritual journey' or 'seeking further understanding' is again this idea that change takes times and effort, a tactic to avoid turning to our Self in this moment and having done. As Chuck Palahnniuk puts it..."It's because we are so trapped in our culture, in the being of being human on this planet with the brains we have, and the same two arms and legs that everybody else has. We're so trapped that any way we could imagine to escape would be just another part of the trap. Anything we want, we're trained to want."
Basically, the ego will do anything to avoid us becoming aware of the fact that allowing our mind to serve the ego's fear based agenda is a decision.... and so at any moment we could simply choose to drop the latest idea about what is still needed, and turn our attention to our Self instead, trusting that it knows its own way into our conscious awareness.