This guy is of like mind. In some ways at least. Here are some more links to his stuff.
Try You Are Not So Smart on as well, plenty of good thoughts there.
Alan Watts: “This is the real secret of life, to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now….”
You see, the thing is, all the answers of your problems have probably already been found. I know we are all unique individuals in this universe, but we are also all a part of the ocean of humanity that has existed for years upon years. Ultimately, our lives are so much more similar than they are different, no? That is why we read and re-read works of literature that are hundreds and thousands of years old: the basic themes of being a person haven’t changed. To love and be loved, to eat, to have shelter and freedom, or whatever other hopes and needs and wants that you can imagine which a Mesopotamian or Hittite or Incan (or whatever name you want to assign to any ancient people) was able to imagine just the same as you.
The “thing” is that it is no “secret,” especially not in this modern age of information literally at your fingertips. The “thing” is that so much of our drama, our comedy, our music, our art is telling you the “secret” all the time. So is our science! All you have to do is listen.
Listen. Listen to your heart, that “still, small voice” inside you that philosophy and religion will tell you connects to all humanity, to the Universe, even. Listen to the voices of the past and the present, and be open to the voices of the future, but know that you already know the answers, if you are brave enough to listen.
Alan Watts’ quote above sounds easy, and for some it is, I suppose. For most, it will be the most difficult undertaking they will ever attempt. What does it mean to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now?
I believe that you make your own reality. Let me explain. Cognitive psychology shows us that our perceptions are flawed and because of things like confirmation bias, hindsight bias, the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, among other problems with our ability to sort of irrelevant from relevant data in front of us, we believe, indeed, we think that we know things that simply are not so. Essentially, we tend to focus on the things that we give our attention to, and give our attention to that which we focus on. Sounds like a load of crap, right? I mean, I just said the same thing forwards and backwards, right? Not exactly. The best example I can give you involves pregnant women and new cars. Not at the same time, silly people!
If you have ever been pregnant (or been a part of “we’re pregnant” if you know what I mean), or shopped for a new car (new or used, but new to you) you already know what I mean, right? By the time you finished reading that sentence you went “oh, yes, I get it,” but just in case, let’s elaborate briefly: when you or your spouse, partner, whomever, was pregnant for the first time, suddenly you saw pregnant women everywhere! You were surrounded! There was no escaping. It was like a nightmare scene from a movie (or a dream sequence, I suppose, if you weren’t’ scared of the impending chaos of parenthood?) Same for the new car, right? My family plays a game similar to the old “punch bug” or “slug bug” game with VWs, called Cheesy Squeezy, which we got from a friend, in which you squeeze someone in the car on the arm, knee, leg, when you see a cheesy-yellow car. Suddenly, there were lots of yellow cars I never noticed before!
The thing is, they were already there, of course. It’s just that we hadn’t noticed, we weren’t “attending to” the expectant moms or yellow cars or Hyundais until we were focused on them for selfish reasons.
So, I have a few questions for you. What are you attending to? (I know, never end a sentence with a preposition. To what are you attending? BTW, that grammar rule is totally arbitrary, it was Dryden’s folly). Where is your focus? What affects your focus? That one, I’ll answer: all kinds of input, much of which is both out of your control and, if I may use a controversial term, subliminal. We can talk about “priming” another time. Why are you attending to that? Is it urgent? Important? Does it make you happy? Does it give you pleasure? Joy? Or, rather, does it give you stress, anxiety, or even pain?
In my quest for how to say the things that history, philosophy, religion, science, and existence have taught us so that you can benefit from the accumulated learning of the ages (not a big deal, right?), there are a few themes that emerge.
- While common, it is also individual. Your conclusion are yours because you are, as I like to say, the “sum of your life experiences to date, including this right now.” You can’t step in the same stream twice, and you aren’t the same person you were yesterday because you’ve had another day of being you to add to the ingredients that make up you.
- Being a “searcher” leads to unhappiness, because it’s ultimately disappointing. “Let go, let God” is actually more peace-inducing, much like “everything has a beginning, has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well.”
- Another Buddha quote says “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” Or perhaps you prefer “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” I like that one. Our thinking defines our reality, just ask a paranoid schizophrenic. This may be the most important thing, really. Try this one: “It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” Dale Carnegie said that. Go read Norman Vincent Peale. You make your own reality.
I want to talk about that a bit. I read a story of a lady that was being taken to her retirement unit in the home by her son, telling him how much she was going to like it, he interrupted “Mom, how do you know? You’ve never even seen the place. The room could be tiny, the residents could be mean.” She replied, “It doesn’t matter, I’ve made up my mind that I will enjoy myself there, that I will meet new people and have a good time there.” You can choose how you go about your days, it’s not a matter of which side of the bed you get up on! Choosing to have a good day is something you can do.
Happy people don’t have more pleasant things happen to them than unhappy people, they just attend to the good and let go the bad, so the overall impression of their life experiences is one of happiness! It really is that simple ultimately. Do things that make you happy, avoid the things that make you unhappy.