I have been spending a lot of time recently in contemplation of Life.
My life in particular.
Viktor Frankl wrote a book called “Mans Search for Meaning”. Viktor was a prominent Viennese psychiatrist before WW2 who spent time in Aushchwitz where he was able to observe the way that he and others coped (or not) with the experience. He saw that the sort of person the concentration camp prisoner became was the result of inner decision and not of camp influences alone. He noticed that it was the men who comforted others and gave away their last piece of bread – who lasted the longest, and he came to believe that mans deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose.
Meaning and Purpose.
Nietzsche said “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”.
Last week you could say I had an existential crisis. Very unpleasant. I felt disconnected, agitated, felt I had no purpose and wondered if perhaps I had been mistaken and life was meaningless and random after all. Fortunately it didn’t last more than 24 hours: my heartfelt compassion to those who experience depression if that is what it feels like.
As often happens, it was a prelude to breaking lifelong habits of thinking that have constrained me and kept me stuck. The process is not always comfortable.
Feeling despair galvanised me into deeper meditation with the intent of obtaining clarity. Everything is useful in a universe designed to support our spiritual growth.
It had been bothering me a little for a while that I am writing a blog ostensibly about cancer however I often don’t mention cancer. I have realised very clearly that I am not, and never have been interested in cancer per se except as a vehicle for growth. For me, that is the sum of it. Cancer itself, in my mind is neither good nor bad – it is merely an opportunity for self discovery and ultimately freedom, and I believe that once it has outlived this purpose for me, either it, or I will go.
Who knows which.
I don’t want to write about various treatment options, there are many, many sites out there who do that well. Physical healing has always been of secondary importance to me. Healing emotionally, mentally and spiritually through cancer has always been my focus. Interestingly, I am still alive and very well long after statistics suggest I should have died. Perhaps I am not so foolish after all.
The connection and impact of mind and spirit on the body interests me greatly.
Freedom interests me even more.
This was another realisation I had in the last week. That for the last thirteen years I have been focused on becoming fear free – working to release myself from beliefs that prevent me from living in total peace no matter what, and I thought my purpose was about fear. Perhaps working with people who have cancer and are fearful, or people who are dying and are fearful, but lately this hasn’t felt quite right which probably initiated the collapse into meaninglessness. If this wasn’t my purpose after so many years thinking it was, then what was?
I realised that behind the desire to be fear free was a driving force to be free.
I am not talking about physical freedom although that is an aspect of it. I am talking about being free from the past. Being free from programmed sub conscious beliefs that don’t serve me. Being free to choose, consciously, how I AM in any given moment without being triggered into reactions. Being free to make decisions and choices based on what I feel is right for me, not because it is the “right thing”, or I “should” do it. To not be controlled by emotion.
Being present; not lost in thoughts of the future or cling-ons of the past. In the present is where life is. Everyday I go out in nature and photograph birds, and I see them serenely living their lives in each moment. It seems to me that the little Honey-eater doesn’t sit on the branch brooding and resenting the magpie that chased it, planning revenge. Or the Great Egret I saw yesterday standing in the estuary suddenly dive-bombed by bullying seagulls didn’t appear to dwell on it. They moved on. It moved on. Serenely.
It appears to be only humanity that is both blessed and cursed with a mind that thinks beyond survival instinct. This mind is not harmless or powerless. Not at all. This mind makes our life enjoyable or not. This mind creates the experience of how we live our life. This mind affects our relationships. This mind creates our perceptions then directs us to see only what we believe. We see nothing as it really is because we see it all through the biased filters of our mind.
Our mind has the most powerful affect on our life. Above anything else by far.
We think other people upset us, but it is our mind that upsets us. We think our environment affects us, but it is our mind that creates the perception of our environment that affects us.
I believe we have a choice.
We are being lived regardless, either way. Life will unfold as it unfolds. We actually have precious little control over much outside of ourselves as you may have noticed. This Covid-19 scenario is helping us to understand that a little better – our illusion of control, the illusion of stability of economies, the illusion that death shouldn’t happen – even among the elderly.
We have a choice. We can continue to believe we are predominantly a body and a mind, and leave the mind in control – the unruly, undisciplined mind in control – that way lies suffering.
We can choose to go a little deeper, open our minds to being more than that. Align ourselves with our spirit. Seek meaning, clarity, peace and purpose above money, assets and materialism and discover the joy that lies beneath. And begin to rein in the un-managed mind.
In his book, Viktor Frankl says “everything can be taken away from a man, but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances (concentration camp), decide what shall become of him – mentally and spiritually”.
Times are changing. We can’t afford to keep sleeping. We need to become more conscious of the choices we make. Conscious of our attitude. Consciously choose our attitude.
First we need to believe that a consistently peaceful, happy mind is possible… Then seek to have it for ourselves.
Learn to immerse ourselves fully in each moment. Really truly experience life. Get out of our head.