In my life long quest for an ever more centered and content life, I love discovering tools that bring me back to equanimity when it has slipped away, which it inevitably does.
Recently, I was feeling particularly content while sitting in a hot spring. As I was trying to reverse engineer my contented state so I could leave breadcrumbs for a future self to find his way back, these 4 phrases came to me.
- I’m already whole.
2. Everything is a gift.
3. I’m here to serve.
4. This, too, shall pass.
Our culture tells us the opposite of these:
- You need to have more things and more cool friends in order to feel whole.
2. Everything you have and everything you are is not quite good enough.
3. You are here to get ahead and succeed.
4. The drama of your life is the only thing that is really real.
It’s like the whole world is one big billboard selling discontent. In order to be happy and sane in an insane culture, we need mantras like these to remind us that the world’s sales pitch is not the truth.
I’m already whole.
When I contemplate this idea I start to notice the contours of what it’s really like to be me instead of scanning my environment for things or people to covet.
Everything in my system calms down. The seeking engine inside takes a rest. The little muscles in my back release. My head returns to its rightful place directly above my shoulders. My shoulders drop. My breathing becomes deep and full.
The persistent belief in our own incompleteness is ruining us every day. On some level, we are all waiting for some circumstances to be true before we live our lives fully. Yet, every time I feel full and complete and seem to trust myself to find the answers to life’s puzzles I’m reminded of how counterproductive it is to believe in my incompleteness.
You don’t need a partner to be whole. If you are partnered, you don’t need your existing partner to be different to be complete. You don’t need to finish reading that book or take that workshop to be complete.
Even when your room is a mess, you are complete. Even when people are waiting on you for things you are procrastinating, you are complete.
We think our sense of incompleteness somehow motivates us. And it does, but it simultaneously erodes the very thing we most need to sustain great habits: a sense of completeness. Thinking something is wrong with us is the junk food of motivation. It’s so much better to be motivated by inspiration, instead of desperation.
When you come from a state of wholeness where you have everything you need, then everything you receive is like a bonus. Everything becomes a gift.
Everything is a gift.
One way I know that I’m really in touch with my wholeness is that everything good becomes easy to see as a gift. My morning coffee, spending time with a friend, my favorite shirt, a sunset.
We’ve all seen the articles and the memes about the power of gratitude. If you are like me, they make your eyes roll. It just doesn’t connect for me. I always had a tough time really feeling gratitude for many things because I did not have the prerequisite understanding that I’m Already Whole and Everything Is A Gift.
This has all changed. Now I could write tons of things I’m grateful for.
But note that it says “everything”. That means that even the things we don’t like or the things that don’t go well can be gifts, too. This can be a bit more challenging to accept, especially for truly horrific or traumatic things, but where and when it is possible to see things this way, it can be a great practice.
How many times have you not gotten what you want and then later realized that you learned a lot from it? Or that by not getting what you wanted you got something even better than you could have imagined? Or you are able to turn pain from something terrible into leadership that helps heal others or prevent others from experiencing similar hurt?
Seeing everything as a gift can also be an antidote for loneliness and isolation. When you are not focused on what’s missing it’s easier to see how awesome you are. And when you can see how awesome you are you become a gift to yourself. It becomes easier to see yourself as your own best friend.
Seeing everything as a gift also seems to help me surrender to wonder. My life seems to work better when I marry goals, plans, and taking action with surrender, allowing, and curiosity. So even if I can’t understand in the moment that something is a gift, I envoke a sense of wonder about how its value will become obvious to me in time.
When everything is a gift, the words “thank you” take on more significance. I think we say “thank you” reflexively in our culture. We say it more from a desire to adhere to social graces than as a true expression of gratitude. But when everything is a gift, gratitude for those that give those gifts takes on a certain reverence. Since adopting this mantra, my “thank you” is coming from a deeper place.
When everything is a gift, it becomes easy to see just how much abundance you have. What are you going to do with all this abundance. Seems superflous and selfish to keep it all to yourself. From this place of abundance, it’s natural to want to serve others.
I’m here to serve.
When we don’t feel whole it’s easy to feel like the world owes us something. Instead, we see everything positive as an opportunity to catch up or to get ahead. When we are focused on filling some void, getting ahead, or achieving some personal goal, it’s easy to forget about serving others and the sense of deep satisfaction that comes from it.
But when you are already whole, and you see everything as a gift, the only thing left to do is give it away, to help others. To serve. It’s what feels most on purpose when the other things are satiated.
Service can be as simple as noticing other people’s needs in a room and filling them… like getting someone a glass of water, or sharing some knowledge you have with someone who wants that knowledge, or giving someone a hand with a project, or doing something nice for someone.
There are also less obvious implications to the realization that we are here to serve. Sometimes the way to serve is not to give people what they say that want or need but to help them see that they are already whole, that everything is a gift, and that they, too, are here to serve. Sometimes the way to serve is to get a good night’s sleep or eat right, learn a new skill, or finally devote the time to that passion you have.
There is a ton of data showing that service leads to happiness. And since we are all seeking happiness, why are we not all serving each other? I think it is because our culture and the advertising industry have convinced us that we are lacking. And so we erroneously believe we are lower on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs than we really are. We are so much easier to manipulate when we believe we are in survival mode. It’s worth noting that there are billions of people in our world whose basic needs are not being met, and if your basic needs are truly not met, then it’s totally appropriate to focus on getting them met. But for the rest of us, there are simply more satisfying things to be doing.
It’s important to try not do service in search of praise. Easier said than done, of course, because praise is like crack to our hungry egos. Praise is not necessary or needed because, remember, you are already whole.
It’s best to see praise for its practical value. It is one measure of the impact you are having. And if your goal is to have maximum impact, praise can be one, albeit imperfect, measure of that impact.
This, too, shall pass.
When I’m stressed or scared or down it’s easy to believe that it’s permanent even when every piece of evidence I have is that this, too, shall pass. This one phrase has the power to provide instant perspective.
Our psyche is like one big monument to permanence, trying to make us forget that EVERYTHING is temporary, including ourselves. Any internal state we are in is also temporary. Knowing that this, too, shall pass makes difficult times easier to manage and great times more sacred and precious. Temporality makes us not put off the important stuff. It hones our ability to prioritize, and take risks.
This phrase has some harsh truths embedded in it, too. Safety is an illusion. You will grow old and die. Everything that once was, will not be. Everything inside of us, outside of us, and us, is a process, not a static object.
Life is just really a combination of moments where you are comfortable and moments when you are not. Big deal. Get over yourself. Lighten up. ; ) It reminds me that maybe it doesn’t all have to be so damn heavy.
Death is totally safe. People have been doing it for thousands of years. Billions of us. We are just specks. And this is a big cosmic giggle we are in. So, don’t be so hard on yourself. Laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Your life is filled with problems that were solved in ways you could never have imagined when you were struggling hardest with them. I invite you to live in a state of wonder and curiosity over how life will surprise you by resolving whatever the challenge du jour is.
I have these phrases written in dry-erase markers on my bathroom mirror. I also say them to myself when I brush my teeth. I say it to myself on my way into social situations or before I go on to stage. I invite you to try it with me and I’m curious about your experience with it.
Now, I will commence the practice of reminding myself that praise is not what I seek in putting this post out there.