December 31, 2020.
When I was a kid I used to sing that “all these adults” have figured it out. I saw that everyone who is over 30 understands how the world functions and their lives are seamless with them always being in control. When I myself became an adult I realized that nothing really changes, on the contrary, many of us are even more dazzled than confused because they forget who they are and lose their Inner Child.
Here are some of the truths that I grounded myself in yet again this year:
The map is not the territory.
As you would use a map to navigate unknown terrain, your own mind is a unique map that you use to navigate life.
We all have our own belief systems, our own idiosyncrasies. We have our history, our traumas, things that make us unique.
The truth is we are all very very different.
What is true for you will not be the truth for the one next to you.
The map is not the territory.
None of us has the full picture of what’s going on, and we all do our best with what we have.
We all are unique.
We are unprecedented manifestations of infinite consciousness.
We are different. And that is the beauty of it.
It is important to be mindful of this, as often we think that’s our way of living life is the only right way which can’t be true by default.
Yes, individually we might have progressed on our own paths, and we even might have learned something that many other people still in the process of understanding, but that doesn’t make us better or worse.
As Alan Watts would put it, “An acorn is not better than the oak. Both acorn and oak are just different phases of development of the same being.”
We are just like acorns and oaks.
Some of us are sleeping, some of us had awakening experiences, some of us are seeking enlightenment, and there are a few among us who are enlightened.
Every acorn has the potential to become an oak.
Every human has the potential to discover his Buddha’s nature.
But this journey is personal. Some of us have to suffer a lot to become seekers. Some of us become seekers because they feel that there is no other way to live for them but to seek.
And once you ground yourself in the truth that walking the path is the only way for you, there are truly no more options, or in the words of Buddha himself:
First you choose to path. Then the pass is choosing you.
We all must learn how to fight our own demons. And I am not talking about demons in some biblical/religious kind of sense. Our demons live in our thoughts and it is the energy of our attention that keeps them alive. We must drive to learn how to be in control of our attention and do not feed what destroys us. It is what we focus on that multiplies.
And that brings me to my next point.
The map is not the territory, but when the same map is used for a very long time THE MAP BECOMES THE TERRITORY.
Here is something to meditate on.
No one ever experiences the reality, only the perception of reality.
We all have our own sets of mental filters. We distinguish 4 basic mental filters:
The Generalization mental filter comes from the tendency of our minds to find trends and then group concepts based on the common patterns observed.
Racism is a good example. “Those black people” or “those white people” that’s one of the most primitive and usually unsubstantiated generalization.
Deletion — is the tendency of our mind to erase the memories or certain elements of the memories that we don’t like or that simply don’t fit in the picture that we want to have.
It could be our self-preservation mechanism. Our brain is “pre-programmed” by nature to erase negative memories so that we don’t go completely mad bent by the burden of life experiences.
Distortion is similarly a tendency of our mind to create a narrative that is different from what actually had happened. We want to create an image that is in alignment with our existing map so we twist the facts, both consciously or subconsciously.
Lastly, personalization. This is simply an unhealthy tendency of our ego to take all things personally. When we think that things not just happened but happened to us specifically as if someone had targeted us as victims, that’s personalization in play.
I’m sure you get the idea and you will find your personal examples for every mental filter listed here.
The point is that we have a piece of incoming information absorbed by our mind, it passes through these notional mental filters, we process and analyze what’s left after “filtration”, we come up with our individual interpretation and narrative of events, and then we produce a response. Oftentimes the response is automatic. All these steps take place in seconds. Why?
Because the map becomes the territory. You only see what you want to see. Or in other words. You will find confirmation for everything you believe in.
We all should be aware of the twisted and very selective nature of our perception system. Our own mind plays tricks with us and we will be tricked if we are not operating from our center — the place of non-judgmental observation.
“You are the unchangeable awareness in which all activity takes place”. — Papaji
I’d really love to talk here about meditation and spirituality, but you won’t stop me if I start. What I’ve written so far can be used as food for thought so we will have to come back to this topic slightly later. I am aware of my quantum thinking and I know how confusing it can be for the reader but I want to come back to the lessons of 2020.
Today is December 31st.
2020 has finally but quite unexpectedly come to its end.
There are three things that I usually do on the last day of the year.
- I process the lessons of the past year.
- I analyze my current state.
- I meditate on the system for the next year.
So first, lessons.
I understand that what you will read here will be of little use to you. But I will try to keep it short and sweet.
- I realized that it’s never too late to start from scratch. And it’s definitely not too late to start from scratch when you’re 32. You can give up all your notions of self, start a second career, start a third career, start a side gig, start not a chapter but the whole new book of your life. It is never too late.
- I realized that in the world of work there are only two things that matter — who you are as a person and who you are as a professional. You have to be warm and you have to be competent. And even though your personal preference would be to stay away from the spotlight, the circle in which you have to step in to make things happen and that circle of the spotlight of public attention are usually the same thing.
- I realized that consistency is more important than quality. You have to have the courage to put yourself in the field, get messy, get creative, come up with the solutions on the fly. No matter how long you plan the capabilities of your intellect are limited, so is your capacity to foresee the future. You won’t be always producing high-quality work, but if you are consistent enough, you will be able to manifest the desired outcomes, even if the path of their realization is not what you have expected. The Compound Effect, 80/20 rule, and all that jazz.
“Whatever comes, let it come. Whatever stays, let it stay. Whatever goes, let it go.” — Papaji
- I realized that the longer we stay in the hamster wheel, the more we forget where we are running in the first place. We need times when nothing is happening when we unplug and step out of our own lives to gain some perspective. There are things that we control, and then there are things that we don’t control. We must stay centered and wise dealing with both.
- I realized that I need to be humble. Ego is the enemy. Whatever I say is not true. Words are just limited manifestations of thoughts. Silence is the only accurate representation of the truth. Whatever I think is not true. All thoughts are the products of the mind. And I AM NOT MY THOUGHTS. I am the unchangeable awareness that takes place. The clouds pass, the sky remains still.
- Finally, I realized who is my best spiritual teacher. Everything I need is hidden within. It is good to read books, study, and learn new things about spirituality — it is all fun and it arms me with the vocabulary to articulate accurately the experiential events that are taking place inside. But when I truly look within, and I discipline myself to stare long enough, I soon discover that there is no difference between myself, the Self, and Guru. There is no teacher, there is no teaching, there is no student. I’m always free.
“You’re not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” — James Clear.
- This is the quote that became my code of conduct. We all set goals, write New Year resolutions, envision that beautiful year ahead, but the truth is all of it is useless unless we come up with a really good system that works. We should invest time and some deep thinking into developing a system that truly facilitates our performance on the task and seamless flow from one task to another. Our system should support our automation without making us robotic. We should dive into the deep work rather mechanically, almost thoughtlessly, just as we brush teeth every morning and yet stay mindful of what exactly is happening every single moment.
2. Current state.
I’m in a good place. I know what I am but most importantly I am aware of what I’m not. It is good to know that I also have the ability to lead others to this place — to the place of unknowing, unlearning things that have been picked up without thinking or imposed forcefully by the external world.
I have made some progress in my understanding of the role of personal and professional identity. I’m still learning the intricacies of identity sculpting, but at least I have had confirmation that I’m on the right track.
I know that I need to be smarter with money and with my systems. But in that context, I will always remain a work in progress.
What is way more important, is to ground myself in the truth — that my essence, my true nature, is never and can never be work in progress. I am perfect. I’m complete. There is nothing to add and nothing to take away. There is nothing for me to do to be worthy, and nothing for me to become. I am a BEING, I am NOT a BECOMING.
What is the purpose of human life? My guess, it is to return home.
We need to question ourselves who we truly are so restlessly, peer within so intensely until we get to the point that will explain all our efforts — until the “I” disappears.
3. The system for the next year.
This year I’m planning quite an undertaking (at least on my scale of things).
I’m coming back to the practice of 30 days challenges, but this time I want to have a separate challenge for every month of the year.
I know that the agenda will be changing as I progress through it, but this is the plan for the year:
- No-spend January + writing challenge. Spend money only on the essentials: rent, bills, food. Cut expenses on non-essentials: gadgets, treats, nice-to-haves, gifts, clothes, haircuts, etc. Writing: post 1 essay on Medium every day.
- No-sweets February. Cut: sugar, Candies, chocolate, cakes, ice creams, soda etc. Pasta and pizza is ok (otherwise my wife will be depressed). Body: pull-ups challenge. 222 pull-ups every day. The goal is to minimize the sets by Day 30.
- Meditation March. Meditate one hour every day.
- Reading April. Read 2 hours every day.
- Cold showers May.
- Running June.
- Declutter July. Throw away one thing every day.
- Daily vlog August. Record and post one YouTube video every day.
- Music September. Buy a guitar and play one hour every day.
- Book October. Write a new book in one month.
- French November. Study French every day.
- Cooking December. Cook one new meal with my wife every day.
I know what you’re thinking.
“You have a big mouth on December 31st. But let’s see you after a couple of months.”
I know that we all I am being idealistic at the beginning of the year, and then the fuel depletes.
But let’s see how it goes. We fail and we learn, right? So if we do fail, at least let’s do it with gusto ☺
You do your thingy. And I’ll do mine. It’s all just for fun after all.
I wish you to have a wonderful new year.
Be brave and courageous in the endeavors you plan to undertake.
Be restless during the day, and restful during the night.
Seek excellence in playing the game but do not be attached to its outcomes.
Remember that it’s all just a game.
Step aside to laugh at the laughable efforts of the thinking mind to draw you into its illusions.
Do not chase ghosts.
The time is now.