NOTE: The following is an excerpt from my newly released e-book, Everyday Joy: Or, How To Be Happier and Healthier, and Party All The Time. Although this article does not deal with retroactive jealousy directly, it’s still very relevant for our purpose of discovering new perspectives, and exercises for letting go of jealousy, possessiveness, and neediness in relationships. I hope you enjoy.
WESTERN SOCIETY IS obsessed with the intellect. Most of us are convinced that our personality, our charm, our contribution to the betterment of our species occurs as a result of the effort of our brain; convinced that, in the end, our intellect will save the planet from destruction. Convinced that our ego—our sense of self, of individuality and accomplishment—makes us who we are. If we exist as individuals at all, we think, surely our brain—our conscious mind, our ego— represents the seat of our personhood. And so we struggle.
Most of us go through life with a deep and unfulfilled longing for communion with other humans because we feel lonely, and trapped in our own heads. People tell us that we are each unique, isolated individuals on a distinct journey from all other beings on Earth; a visitor to this planet, rather than a product of it. We feel like no one can understand us because everyone else is as limited by their own unique, ego-based perspective as we are.
In our attempts to quell this gnawing sense of isolation, we join religious organizations, cultivate a network of close friends and family members, and seek out romantic relationships. On some level we are convinced that these relationships will provide us with the intimate communion we so desperately seek, but we’re wrong. After we join the church, or make a friend, or get the girl, we still feel alone, and can’t figure out why.
“She doesn’t understand me,” we think to ourselves. “Why doesn’t she give me what I need?” although we are unable to express exactly what those needs are in the first place. We might try to explain our needs in vague terms such as “intimacy,” “desire,” “love,” “passion,” or “commitment,” but we are all basically saying the same thing: we want to feel less alone. We always want to feel less alone.
This sense of isolation can trace its roots to social conditioning, rather than our biology as humans. From the time we are born our parents and society and culture tells us that we are all, basically, freaks; isolated beings who, through either some galactic oddity or God-directed initiative, miraculously appeared on this planet at a certain point in time with unique strengths, abilities, weaknesses and demons, each of us different. We are one-time visitors to this planet with individual egos and physical features that distinguish us from all of the other visitors that came before, and will come in the future. We’re told that we all come into, and depart this world alone; billions of strangers on billions of isolated journeys. Either cosmic flukes, or children of God counting the days until we return to His heavenly kingdom.
We all hunger to share intimacy with others without realizing that communion is hard-wired into our being from the moment of our conception. We don’t realize that we each represent living parts of one giant whole, as opposed to individual visitors on limited-time only trips.
We are the sun and the moon and the stars and the Earth and the planets and the light and the dark of the cosmos all wrapped up in one. We are, each of us, an aperture of the universe looking at, and experiencing itself. Each of us is the planet, in a very real sense, and thus, we are as far from being isolated, cut-off visitors to this planet as could be possible. We are anything but alone.[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XqYnAVqS4I]
It’s all very well to read this in a book, or listen to a lecturer describe the same, but it isn’t always easy to really feel it; really live with that knowledge deeply imprinted in your consciousness. There are various routes which make it easier to get there, and I believe that simply being present and living in your body, rather than your brain, is one of the most effective ones.
Why do millions of people around the world play sports every day? Why do we go for a run? Why do we go to the gym? Why do we have sex? Or meditate? Why do we go for a massage? Or go for a swim?
The answer to all of these questions is presence. Any activity that requires our full body’s, and not just our brain’s, participation immediately gets us away from the constant noise in our heads, and into our bodies. Any activity that requires our full body’s engagement, alertness, and attention makes us feel more present; when we play sports or have sex, we become intensely engaged in the present moment. We partake in these activities for a variety of reasons, but one common reason is that they are all simple routes to presence.
We instinctively partake in activities that encourage presence because we are happiest when we are most present. Most meditators, practicioners of tantric sex, and professional athletes share a common characteristic: they feel happiest, and most at peace, when they are wholly engaged with the present moment as they give their gift and perform their craft. Thankfully, anyone can achieve this type of presence in any moment, and thus, we all have access to happiness in any given moment.
But most people feel like they can only experience this type of full-body, wholly-alert presence when they are meditating, or exercising, or having sex, or playing sports, etc. but they’re wrong. Full body presence is possible in any moment, regardless of where you are or what you’re doing.
For centuries, practicioners of Zen have been cultivating this ability. Teachers of Zen challenge their students to be intensely engaged in whatever they are doing, in any given moment. In Zen, if one is tasked with washing the dishes, one is to wash the dishes and be conscious of nothing else. It then becomes possible to lose yourself, and shed the illusion of your ego, in the act of washing. Meditation is not reserved to sitting on the floor and being quiet. It is preached that life itself should be one long meditation, whether we are practicing walking meditation, singing meditation, laughing meditation, driving meditation, or washing-the-dishes meditation.
So try this: after you finish reading this article, meditate on whatever task you perform next. Whether it is washing the dishes, walking down the street, driving your car, or simply sitting and looking out the window, become wholly immersed in whatever you’re doing. Focus on the experience and nothing else. Pay attention to the sights, sounds, tastes, and smell associated with whatever you’re doing. Stay alert.
As you begin to focus on the external stimuli associated with your current surroundings, start to train your focus inward. Pay very close attention to the physical sensations you are experiencing; feel your arms resting on your chair, feel your posterior snug in your seat, notice any slight aches or itches or pains or pleasant sensations on your body. Breathe deeply. Listen intently. Become as intensely, physically conscious as you are capable. Interpret nothing, label nothing. Just observe, and be.
When you practice being fully, physically conscious in each and every moment, the universe opens up to you, and you begin to realize your oneness with that bowl you’re washing; your unity with the street you’re walking; your connection to your partner that goes beyond the emotional, or sexual.
Practicing this type of intense, fully-present consciousness helps us realize our unity with all things, and thus, our sense of isolation from others begins to fade away. You begin to realize that your loneliness is a sham—you don’t need someone else to make you feel less lonely because you are already, inherently, one. You aren’t really lonely because you are not, and never can be, alone. This isn’t some type of new age fluff: this is scientific fact.
Your relationship to the world—to other humans, to other animals, to plants, to inanimate objects, to all things—is one based on mutual dependence. You would not be without the universe, and the universe would not be without you. Because you depend on the external world for life, and life depends on you to carry on living. It is impossible for you to be alone as you are one with all things, as all things are one with, and in, you.
In each moment we make a choice: to be present, or not; to acknowledge our unity, or not. And thus, in each moment we have the ability to choose to be happy, or not.
(And a huge thank-you to everyone who has downloaded the e-book, and left kind reviews so far!)