In the movie City Slickers, Curly holds up a finger and says there is one thing. Each of us has to find that one thing.
As I get older, I look back over my life and realize that certain buttons constantly push me. This has led me to consider that if I am ever to become an enlightened human being, I have not one, but three goals to achieve. These are mine. Yours will be completely different. We all have our own personal demons and challenges. They may be big things or little things. So here are my three.
One: competitiveness. I played competitive tennis as a kid and in college. Even though my joints protest, I continue to play racquet sports, but in a social setting. I still have that competitive drive to win. One aspect of this is positive because it pushes me to do my best. But one aspect continues to get me. I hate to lose. So after a hard fought battle on a Saturday morning, if I lose I will stay pissed off for hours afterwards. It’s just a game I tell myself. Why can’t I just enjoy the game and be a gracious winner or loser? I can be a gracious winner because I won. But when I lose, that’s another story. So my first step toward becoming an enlightened human being is to be able to engage in a racquet game, enjoy it, be alive and present and feel positive whether I win or lose. Right.
Two: pride. Having been married forty-six years, my wife and I rarely fight about big issues, but we still argue about some of the same things over and over, such as, you’re not listening to me. There are times when she is speaking about something that is important to her and I’m not paying attention. Then she accuses me of not listening. Rather than admitting it, I try to prove her wrong and me right. My pride can’t take being criticized. So instead of taking in what she’s saying, I respond with, “I was listening. And by the way you’re the one who doesn’t listen. Remember that time. . .”
Three: fear. This is the biggy. I have experienced those rare moments when I have been a good loser and there have even been times when I haven’t gotten defensive when criticized. But the fear factor is the toughest one for me. When I get stressed over writing issues, I’m pretty good at handling them during the day. But at four in the morning, I pop awake worrying about some small item. Did I set up that meeting? Will I have time to get edits completed tomorrow? How will I solve that writing problem? My mind is churning, my stomach’s tight, my right ear is ringing, I’m sweating, my heart’s going lickety split. And I should be sound asleep.
This is the curse of the active mind. What serves me well during the day: analytical skills, problem solving, planning, looking at contingencies, unfortunately, keeps going during the night, and I find myself wide awake and mulling things over in my mind. Sometimes I get up and write myself notes. Sometimes I get up and read. Sometimes I try to get back to sleep. But usually I end up tossing and turning.
My logical mind says to turn it off for the night, relax, get a good night’s sleep. My subconscious mind says, wake up, take care of this, worry about it, look at it sixteen different ways, fix it.
So my final step to enlightenment will be the ability to park the problems of the day, get a good nights rest and then tackle the issues fresh the next day.
I’m sure you have your own list that would symbolize your own journey to enlightenment. For me these are my three. They represent where my mind and emotions are disconnected. I can look at them logically, but emotionally I react to losing a game, a comment from my wife or by waking up in the middle of the night.
So proceed on your journey and when you achieve enlightenment, let me know how you did it.