***Originally posted on inwonderlandaly.com***
For as long as you let them, people will try to tell you what your dreams are. Without fail, every single time I’ve claimed that I just want to live somewhere near the ocean and nature with fresh fruit and vegetable at my disposal, I’ve had people tell me that’s not what I really want. People like to point out things that you currently have that don’t align with your dreams. “Alice, you like to be able to go out to eat with your friends. You like to have the means to shop for things you really don’t need if you fancy them. You love everything London has to offer, you like to have a billion different activities to do at the weekend”. Yes. Yes, of course I like these things. Why wouldn’t I? Why would I dislike the comfort that any degree of monetary wealth brings? Who would ever say “I wish there were fewer museums, fewer events, fewer musicians I like who perform in my city”. Would it ever occur to you to think, “You know what? I’d actually like to have less freedom to do whatever tickles my fancy at any given moment”. The thing is, just because you appreciate something that is at your disposal currently, something that’s keeping you content, this does not mean that you must foresee it in your future. Realistically, what joy does the ability to shop and eat out bring me? It’s pleasant and it’s appreciated but it doesn’t really make me feel anything. If we actually dig into the heart of what does tickle our fancy, we can begin to identify the difference between what keeps us content and what truly brings us joy, peace and fulfilment.
Reflect on a memory that you hold dear to your heart. In that memory, do you see your wardrobe, teeming with clothes you haven’t unfolded in what seems like forever? Do you see yourself opening your bank statement looking at your balance? Or do you see other people, your friends, your family, wonderful strangers who put a smile on your face? Don’t you smell home cooked food or freshly cut grass or the ocean? Or perhaps you don’t even see or smell anything, but just distinctly recall the feeling of raw joy and boundless peace and satisfaction from within. This is what we want for our lives. Nevertheless, we cling tightly to familiarity. We tether ourselves to a given set of belongings, a given context, a given identity. We feel like we can trust these things far more than ourselves because of the fear we have programmed into our systems from a young age. We are told to always follow the rules. (Doris Lessing put it best when she said "You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors...) So we settle for contentment instead of leaping after real fulfilment.
Possessions do not evolve and grow. Feeling does.
Possessions are not boundless. Feeling is.
We set ourselves goals that we have thought out. Most of the time our goals are a means to an end and not even an end in themselves. Take the common goal of earning a high salary, for example. This goal is a means to something - to travelling first class and staying in 5 star hotels or to owning a beautiful, expensive apartment. Perhaps you wish to challenge me, and say “Well what if owning a beautiful, expensive apartment is my goal in the first place? Isn’t that an end in itself?”. And to answer this I must ask you a question. Why is it that this is what you desire? Maybe you find it hard to respond and you feel like “just because”, but really contemplate it, there’s a deeper reason. That reason could be anything, it could be rooted in the past - something like to prove something to your past self or to people who doubted you, or it could be anchored in the future - maybe to achieve a higher status in society, to gain the respect and adoration of certain individuals.
It’s important to deconstruct our goals to unearth what is really at the core of them, to find what it is our mind is truly craving under the disguise of an innocent fantasy. We so often forget about how we want to feel in the present (and remember, the future always becomes the present) and instead think about what we want to have. This having includes non-physical things, things like validation from those we admire, attention from the opposite sex etc. Because we focus on having, we fear change. In our minds, changing what we have can feel like loss, or it can seem unclear how our losses versus our gains balance out in the (metaphorical) accounting books. We cling to comforts we already have that maintain contentment and we fixate on what we desire to have in the future, convincing ourselves that it will bring us sustained joy when the reality is a short high. This is such a caged way to be living. We must realise that the future is always the present, and in the present, the joy of having wears off very quickly.
Think about it. Recall any time you obtained something you wanted to have, the latest iPhone, an item of clothing you’d been dreaming of, validation from someone you deemed superior to you. How fantastic does it feel when you finally get it?! But how long does it last? Because we’ve felt a high that we’ve come down from so quickly, we keep wanting to have more. And because we fear change, we begin to collect. We collect and collect and collect until we have everything. (Whatever ‘everything’ means to you). And it is from this that I have learnt the following:
It takes having everything to realise that having everything means nothing.
This is because most of the time, it is our mind that is behind the goals we set ourselves, it is not a truly conscious and awakened self. Our mind uses us far more than we use it, and most of us rarely even notice it. A lot of the time, it generates energy of unrest, be it in the form of evidently unpleasant emotions such as anxiety, nerves or depression or in the form of seemingly positive feelings such as determination and perseverance. Our mind wants to use us to perpetuate its cycle of righting the wrongs of the past and mitigating against the wrongs of the future. This means that when we finally have ‘everything’, all we have done is allowed our egoic minds to seek out all that it convinced us was necessary to be whole, to be happy, when in reality we just sought out illusions imbedded in the past or the future, and concerned only with the ego.
But we are not our minds, and we are neither alive in the past nor the future, we are alive NOW.
Instead of focusing on having, it is time to turn our attention to feeling. Having all of London at my disposal might sustain my contentment. Buying a luxurious penthouse apartment in ten years time might prove those who doubted me wrong and avenge the dreams they killed. But in the meantime, what does being connected to nature, submerging myself in the ocean, nourishing my body with whole foods from the earth make me feel?
It makes me feel alive.
It makes me feel awake.
It makes me feel present.
The noise stops.
The thinking stops.
I just am.
That is what I want for my future. With feeling - genuine feeling, free from the egoic mind - it is very clear when we come out on top, and it is not a short-lived delusion. All you need to do is ask yourself, “Am I at peace? Am I free from suffering?” to gain an awareness of whether or not you are where you want to be in your life. (If the answer to these questions is no, some sort of reflection on your perspective and/or spiritual attitude is in order, and I will write more on my experience with this very soon!)
It's time to awaken. It's time time to listen - to really listen to your intuition, because that is the purest form of what you desire. We dismiss it because we have fear programmed into our systems. We have been told time and time again that our intuition is the voice of fantasy, of what is unattainable, unrealistic and only just a dream. But we have been fed lies. We are addicted to routine, to familiarity, to stability. Most of us are not awake. Most of us are not present right here, right now.
This is what I want for my future, this is what I want for my present.
Decide to let go.
Detach from your mind.
Release your ego.