One night I was having a marathon bull session with my pal, Sparky Brown, who is more fun than a tubful of snapping turtles. For some reason, we slid into sharing memories of painful times. He was telling me he was mistreated by Tom, Dick and Harry and I was telling him how I got the shaft from Linda, Lou and Mary.
Suddenly he said, “Why are we concerning ourselves tonight with things that make us unhappy?” I sat stunned by the utter simplicity of his question. Then I felt chagrin that we had wasted a precious night of fellowship on negative tommyrot, dragging old stinking corpses out of the closet.
If you hired someone with a time clock to follow you around all day and record the time you devoted to old crap from your precious old crap pile, how much of your day would it be? Add to that the time you spent on current concerns that you know you can do nothing about. Then have your timekeeper record the time you devoted to happy thoughts and creative plans for today and tomorrow. If you looked at his little tally at the end of the day, you would know exactly why you are happy or unhappy.
Notice I called our crap piles “precious.” We might protest, saying, “They are not precious to me!” But our life is our time. If we are devoting our time (meaning our life) to mucking around in our past and present miseries, then it is something precious to us. Some of us need more than past and present miseries to muck around in. We have a long list of future fears to roll around in, like a Tumblebug in a pile of cow manure.
I have faced it and you must face it at some point in time: we do enjoy mucking around in misery. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it. We like to outdo each other in comparing our miseries. When someone tells us how sick they have been, we are listening and thinking of how sick we have been and as soon as they catch their breath, we immediately launch into our own gory tale of woe.
The Buddhist writers did me a favor by continually talking about awareness.
I started reading them solely because I wanted to learn how to meditate and quickly discovered that Buddhism is extremely valuable as a path of mind management even if you never adopt it as your religion. And if anything is absolutely essential to controlling our own minds, it has got to be awareness.
To be aware of myself, it is necessary for me to observe myself all the time. I have intentionally created an extra me. It is my observing self. I authorized it to talk to me. I told it to tell me the truth. So it is constantly saying, “You were not completely honest with that person … you are not being real right now … what is your real motive in this decision you are about to make? … Is there a higher way to look at this?” It also tells me when I do right. It tells me when it is proud of me. It urges me to look at the best sides of the people I meet.
Everyone has an observing self that we often call “conscience.” It is much to prone to guilt-trip us. I have tried to expand my conscience into expanded awareness. I want to know when I am doing right as well as when I am acting from baser motivations. I see no purpose in self-abusive guilt but the secret to creating a better life is an expanded awareness.
We will spend much less time on things that make us unhappy when we learn how to be aware. Awareness is not a one-time trick, it is a lifetime process of making ourselves happy and free.
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