Sometimes it can seem like that; we look at our lives and we instinctively want to fix, repair or change it around to make it all better. In our society there are a number of industry sectors that profit from just this desire. They try to sell us self help solutions to change your life or achieve your goals, change your outer appearance, even change your personality.
It’s all predicated on the idea that if we can get the right ingredients into the mix we’ll have a happy life. The reason we’re not happy all of the time is that something is missing from our lives or needs adding or fixing. Or maybe there’s something that needs taking away. If that’s not the case then it’s our attitude that’s wrong, but don’t worry, that can be fixed too as hundreds of smiling ‘gurus’ and authors are keen to point out.
It can add up to a persuasive set of messages and backed by the full weight of our consumer culture, we find ourselves being influenced to think, ‘Can I fix it? Can I really be happy all of the time?’
There’s nothing wrong with making changes where we can see those changes will improve some aspect of our day to day lives. But this has to be balanced with the understanding that we aren’t, and can never be in control of our lives – all we can really do is influence its direction to the best of our ability. To test this to yourself, if you imagine even the smallest act that one might perform and over which we think we have control, it is equally possible to think of several factors that could derail that chain of events. Perhaps it seems remote and unlikely this might happen, but it’s important to recognise that it can happen, and in life it does happen.
There are enough natural disasters occurring around the world and enough examples from our lives and lives of others related to health for example to reinforce the fact that we just don’t know what will happen. And that can be a very frightening thought. Sometimes, even the most resourceful of us has to take stock and admit, ‘I can’t fix it.’
So what do we do? Where can we turn?
First it’s important to just see things the way they are, without all our wishes and plans superimposed. We’re part of a much bigger picture. Within the vastness of the manifest universe what are the chances that events will conspire to grant us a perfect and trouble free existence? It’s not going to happen is it?
But this view of life, of what we might call our life content, is just one point of view. Granted it’s the one that most of us spend most of our time immersed in, but it’s still just one point of view and there are others.
Our life content or what we might call the narrative of our lives is time based. We spend much of our mental energy reflecting on the past or projecting ourselves into the future. How many times do we have conversations in our heads before we actually have them? Or repeat recent conversations with slightly different endings? How much time do we ever spend just in the present?
One of the reasons meditation and mindfulness help to give us a sense of freedom is that they bring our attention into the present. And usually what we find is the present is okay. Right here in this moment is okay. The looming disasters and past tragedies aren’t here in the present are they? Where do they exist? They exist in our minds.
But the only place we can act is the present, not the future, not the past. So when we live in our minds and let the narrative rule our lives there will always be stress and worry, anxiety and pain, because we can’t do anything to resolve the future or the past, we can only act now.
If we can learn to see future plans as just plans and past events as just memories and not live in either of these, we can learn to be fully alive and aware just now, focussing our attention on what’s real in the present. All we can do is commit ourselves to act the best way we can right now and then let it go. Regardless of the outcome, which we can’t control, all we can ever do is put the right effort into acting with the best intention. Then remember we can’t control the outcome.
What we then see happening is a dawning recognition that all of our tragedies and disasters, our problems and pain are just a story we tell ourselves within the bigger story of ‘me’. It’s not real right now, it’s just a point of view. And once we see this, we start to see true freedom. We learn to let go of outcomes and stories and live in the real, in the moment.
We see there’s nothing to ‘fix’, this is just another story. We act with freedom, without attachment, knowing all will happen as it happens. We might even learn to let go fully of attachment to all of the stories and then find that which has always been true – we’ve been free the whole time, and it’s perfect.