I got super sick over the Thanksgiving holiday and it put me in touch with a very real truth. I am, indeed, a fraud.
Not that I am walking around lying to everyone I meet.. but then again maybe I am.
While laying in bed fighting a fever and being unable to hold down even ice chips, I got in touch with something very real. All the things that keep me up at night and the anxiety I feel in my every day life is really.. well, bullshit.
Even the stuff that “feels” good, it is also bullshit. I got really lucky this year in my life. I had some media attention I did not expect in my film making world – articles were written, invitations to speak offered and you know, in the end.. none of it helped me when my body gave out.
What hit is that if my body gives out, none of the above matters. I cannot participate in life. And certainly all the things that I hung my identity upon mattered. In fact, none of it mattered at all. The only thing I really wanted to do was feel “good” again.
And that is the quest isn’t it? The accumulation of all the bullshit we sell ourselves.. that it will make me feel “good”. Because feeling good is the essence of life.. or so we are told. A new car, a new house, financial security, a rewarding job.. all of these things sure seem like worthy ambitions and the pursuit of them sure makes you feel good. You are working towards “something”. I was taught pretty early on that I need to be driving at something to have purpose and meaning in my life. Well, I am here to tell you that while I was throwing up sips of water, all of the purpose flew out the window. I was living in the most basic of all human instincts.. survival.
But here is where the revelation comes in. Stripped of all my ambitions, all my desires and left with just a desire to survive… life got very real.
The things that mattered.. that really mattered got very real…
Connections with people..
Feeling my way into life…
All of these are elements of the survival instinct. What is really ironic, is that as sick as I was..a 102 degree fever, no food and so dehydrated my eyes went jaundice, I really got present.
I was instantly bodily aware – my somatic systems were in over drive constantly scanning my body for signs of trouble. When I did finally eat, I ate slowly, purposefully and only ate what I needed to .. well.. survive
I rested – I allowed myself to rest. Something I never did before being sick. Before this I was up at 4:30am.. working.. then did my full work day only to come home, open the computer and work more. Rinse and repeat daily. When my body gave out, I watched hours of TV napping and sleeping 11 to 12 hours. I allowed myself breaks. I never did this before. My desire was to just keep going.
I took slow, purposeful walks – When I felt like I could get out, I did so slowly, constantly aware of my body and it’s messages. I noticed the outdoors, the sights, even the smells. I appreciated being able to be outside, to feel the heat of the sun or some day the cold wind of incoming storms. Before, when walking the dog, it was a chore. Another “to do”.
This is where the fraud stuff comes in. You see, as a coach, I talk to people daily about mindfulness, and I never realized how unmindful I really live. I live in auto pilot in constant “pursuit”.
And I see now how so many people I know (especially coaches) live in this pursuit mindset. It’s a form of survival, a “if this … then” sort of mindset that continues to create drive. Sometimes that drive is a real passion, but most times its a form of distraction. A way to keep and feel engaged in life. Its a sham. Because in reality the pursuit is the direct source of all anxiety.
I read a book about Nothingness and the freedom of it. It was written by a Zen buddist and his thought was that in nothingness, that is where we have our truest freedom. If I am really nothing, and nothing I do really matters.. then I am free of all the worry and concern I have about my doing.
Consider this, what if at your core, really true self there is nothing to be seen? What if in this space that is you and me, there is no energy, no desire, no anxiety, no depression, no self imposed meaning to how we see this world? In the end, we are then in our truest form. When you are dying, will the pursuit matter or will the face of the person you love most in the world be the one thing that matters? Will the idea of being outside and feeling the warmth of the sun be the one thing you want more then anything?
So yea, I am a fraud. I have been a total fraud. I have been in the pursuit and not really living in a mindful way that expresses this idea of nothingness. The meaning of my life is a self imposed perception placed on it based on my skewed experiences. I think I “ought” to do a lot of things. But in reality, none of those things really matter.
What matters is that I am nothing. I am a biological, spiritual being here on this spinning globe who is consistently living in the silent anxiety of survival. Once this is known, understood and felt, I have to admit – I can feel the winter air, I can feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, I can look at my wife and feel truer love, I can sit patiently in my life and experience it. And in that way, I no longer feel a fraud. I feel free.