As I left off with on my last post, one of the realizations that Dan experiences in the Peaceful Warrior is that in life, there are no ordinary moments. Now the idea behind this stems not from moments themselves but how we perceive moments in time. I’d like to delve deeper into this idea in this post to explain a little more about what it means from the book’s point of view and just how it can make an impact on your life.
So Dan’s realization comes at a point where he is told to learn on his own. Soc tells him to ‘sit on a rock’ and ponder, and not come back to him until he has something of value, something incredibly insightful to tell Soc. It begins with him telling him all kinds of things like ‘the hardest ones to love are the ones that need it the most’ and in comedic fashion, from the movie, ‘you put the peanut butter on the bottom NOT the jelly’, and goes on for some time. In the book, he thinks back to a time when he was doing some workouts in the park at uni and noticed some girls ‘admiring him’. A few seconds later while he was putting on his pants he somehow fell over and everyone laughed at him. He laughed along with them and carried on. The point he realized now is when you go through life, the only thing you have is right now. This moment. It’s always this moment. And the point is that as humans we place greater value on certain ‘moments’ over others. What he came to realize that we should hold every single moment as high as the next. Our moment of putting on pants is just as important as performing a double back flip. Because they are, at their respective times, in the moment. Which is when he came back to Soc and says ‘there are no ordinary moments’. The idea ties together the whole ‘present moment’ mindedness. The secret is in letting anything past and future out of your mind. Maintain your focus always on what is happening right now, no matter what it is. Because nothing else really matters, or even exists.
I know this probably sounds a little crazy, but when you see the bigger picture it makes a little more sense. The entire point of our consciousness is to be ‘alive’. But the problem is people are often not even living. As described in the movie ‘the sad thing is people spend a whole life time not ever really being awake’. We are concerned with that big event next weekend, or how their boss yelled at them 2 days ago, or that new car we want to buy. The reason this occurs is the mind taking over our thoughts, and it has become such a natural instinctive reaction for humans. Something has happened, or will happen, and we start wondering about it. Did I say the right thing? Will she say yes? Did I nail that job interview? The theme behind these thoughts are they are not concerned with anything real. Events either have or have not happened and these thoughts run wild. They are focused on the past or the future, both of which are illusions.
The key to living in the present is killing off these thoughts. Because when your thoughts are completely aligned with what is happening to you this very moment, then you are truly living; living in the present. That is when real appreciate of the world can begin. But how exactly do you stop your mind wandering so much? While I hate using buzzwords, you will truly require a paradigm shift. In other words, a complete change in your fundamental internal balance and thought patterns.
While I’ve yet to completely control it, I’ve come to a point where I have a fairly strong hold on my mind. I think there are several realisations necessary before tying it all together. The first is to see just how pointless and insignificant our tiny spec in the Universe is. Actually not see, feel how small we really are. This first realisation opens up to your mind the possibility that what we perceive as being ‘really important’, is actually quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It is our mind that decides something to be important or not. Just step back and consider just how epic the universe really is and how even our lifetime is barely a smudge on the timeline of the universe. By applying this to your day to day events, you can start to see things much differently. That guy who cut you off in traffic , that waiter who was rude to you, even further – that lecture your boss gave you, you can start letting go of the things that you feel are incredibly difficult to get through when at all times you can feel just how little it matters.
Once you’ve gained a grasp on this, the next step is to add humour to everything. Now you might think how is that possible? Surely there are serious events that you can’t make fun of or laugh at. And you’re right, I don’t mean make a joke of everything. But, upon understanding that our ‘difficulties’ are so minuscule, you can begin to see just how pointless it is getting overly worked up about things. Then we can actually find a little humour in everything in a kind of ironic sort of way. It will be extremely difficult to grasp this concept but just remember it is all about being happy.
The third, and final step, is the realization of one important universal law: Change. Meaning -nothing ever stays the same and you cannot stop change. People can spend a life time trying to stop things from changing. This is the most important realization. Every event is simply change, nothing more, nothing less. When you come to realise that you can begin to let go of held up thoughts about whether something was right or wrong, because their is no right or wrong, no good and bad – only change. When we stop resisting change you can feel almost liberated. And this ties into the spirit of nature itself. When you consider things that happen in nature, like the winds blowing, or rivers flowing, or any other thing that takes place in nature, you can notice something. Everything flows with nature, not against it. The trees will bend with the wind, the water flows down the river. The way we approach change should mirror nature. Flow with it, not against it. The less you resist change and the more work with it, the more streamlined your life can be. That is where unhappiness is mostly stemmed from. When we begin to look at things like this it can be amazing the effect on your mood and happiness.
The key to tying it all together though is to choose happiness, always. Described in the book as an unreasonable happiness. But in order to do this you need to break free from the illusions of your mind. Realize that we are a tiny dot in the universe and ‘bend with the wind’. Add a touch of humour to this and you can stay happy through anything that life can throw at you. And remember that this moment, right now, is all we have, it’s all that’s important, and it can never be ordinary. Whether you are washing your car, giving a speech, working out, eating dinner – each moment is as important as the next. Anything you are doing right now, is all that matters. Approach life in this manner, and you will have no ordinary moments.