Friday, June 25, 2010

The Big Con

After 4 weeks of watching sunrises and sunsets, breathing clean, fresh air, being woken by the rooster crowing and listening to birdsong all day, being surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and doing exactly what I please in every moment of every day, I have come to the conclusion that I have been the victim of a gigantic con my entire life!

We are taught from early childhood to delay our gratification, to set our teeth and “grin and bear it” for a reward to be received at some future date. These rewards are mostly tangible “stuff”, which we are conned into believing that we need in order to be happy, in order to be acceptable. And so many of us become big, greedy babies, constantly demanding more-and-more, and bigger-and-better possessions to feed our ever-growing, insatiable hunger, none of which ever makes us feel really happy or acceptable and all of which is actually a vain attempt at filling the deep vacuum we feel inside. Of course, in order to afford the “stuff” (ie: to pay off the debt, which will actually never be paid off because we keep buying more stuff), we need to work even harder and longer than ever before. And so we find ourselves trapped, going round-and-round the hamster wheel of materialism, becoming exhausted, depressed and ultimately unfulfilled and very definitely “ungratified”!

Some other very enticing rewards we are conned into delaying our gratification for, are intangibles. These intangibles include: a sense that we are being somehow “noble” and doing “The Right Thing” by sacrificing our happiness for others, such as our family, our employees, the Company or simply, The World. Other intangible rewards are a sense of meeting (and exceeding) others’ expectations, “getting ahead” in the world, or the good old ego polishings associated with being “The Best” or “irreplaceable” or “climbing the ladder”. Somehow these rewards are even less satisfying than the tangible rewards and invariably lead to a sense of disillusionment or resentment, as our sacrifices can never be valued enough by those for whom we are doing the sacrificing, and the ego buffing just never seems to satisfy our deep hunger for love and recognition.

But, if not for some future gratification, why do we need to work? We are told that it is a way to make a contribution, a way to create meaning for ourselves. But I reckon that there are very few people for whom that really is the case. I think that most of us work because we believe it is expected of us and because we believe that we have to have money in order to buy the stuff we have been conditioned to believe we want and need. Most of that stuff would not be required if we were not trying to live up to some expected lifestyle measure or if we were not requiring to anaesthetize ourselves against, or compensate ourselves for, the pain and frustration of living a life that is not congruent with our deepest being; not congruent with our heartsong.

Living in this beautiful place I have realized that I actually really don’t need the fancy clothes, the car, the gym membership, the expensive entertainments, the overseas trips, the fine restaurant meals, the jewellery and all the other tangible and intangible trappings of “success”. Most of what I need is given absolutely free of charge by God and the rest is easily obtainable by spending a tiny fraction of what I thought I needed in order to survive in my previous life.

I just have to stop living my life in comparison to, and in competition with, others, and find my own measures of value, meaning and purpose. I have to find the courage to listen to my own heart and follow its calling. And, suddenly, a life of magnificent abundance ensues. Abundant health, abundant happiness, abundant time, meaning, connection and beauty.

I would like to suggest that we stop delaying our gratification. I think we have to IMMEDIATELY, AND IN EVERY SINGLE MOMENT, move toward that which we most love. Don’t delay it for even a second longer.

The trick is getting to the core of what it is that we love the most. I might think that what I love the most is beautiful possessions, more money, bigger and better toys, recognition, titles, status etc, but if I get really honest and become still and listen to my heart for a moment, I realise that what I most love is to feel connected: connected to God, connected to Nature, connected to others, connected to my Self. What I really want is to feel that there is real meaning and purpose in what I do and that I am making a real difference in someone’s life. I want to feel that the world will have been a better place for my having passed this way. No amount of “stuff” and no amount of ego buffing is ever going to provide me with this. The only way to find this is to go within and listen carefully to my heart. And then all I need is to have the courage to follow what my heart tells me to do.

I believe that each of us has a very special gift, a God-given purpose, which we have to contribute to the world. When we find this gift and start giving it, we will never, ever, ever have to work again. We will simply be playing – it will be effortless and fun and will give us a sense of meaning and purpose in every moment and true abundance will ensue.

Of course, I can hear you say: "All this is very easy for you, as you have the time and the space and the leisure to find your heartsong". But just a year ago I would have said that it was impossible for me to do what I have done, as I had FAR too many responsibilities and there was no way I could afford to leave my job, to move to the country and to spend 2 years finding my purpose. And yet…. Miraculously… Here I am!

Somehow, when I was ready to listen to my heart, the impossible became possible and the way miraculously appeared.

I definitely don’t have all the answers yet. But I am starting to discover some very interesting questions and I am starting to see a little more clearly and I’m DEFINITELY starting to have a lot more fun!

And so the journey continues…

Next: The Zen of Tree Popping

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Adapting to my new reality

Up till now I have spoken a lot about all the amazing and wonderful aspects of living my forest dream. And all of this remains true. However, for the sake of honesty and a balanced perspective, I have decided to report back on some of the difficulties I have been experiencing over the past few weeks.

I suppose the first, and least significant challenge, has to do with the lack of externally imposed structure, boundaries or sense of purpose. It is surprisingly difficult to decide what to do when faced with a completely empty day with nothing which one HAS to do, when one is accustomed to having the entire day mapped out in hectic activities, responsibilities and general busy-ness! Also, because we are really “off the beaten track”, it’s simply not realistic to jump into the pick-up at a moment’s notice and rush off to town to find some entertainment or distraction. We plan our trips to town so as to ensure that we don’t waste fuel and time and we always have a well-stocked pantry so that there is food for at least a month in case the river comes down in flood and we need to survive for a period of time without a visit to the supermarket. In any case, the town of Knysna is really small and does not offer big-city entertainments. However, I have started to discover the joys of vegetable gardening, baking, stargazing, walking with no destination in mind, photography and just simply chatting and connecting in front of the fire with new friends and my dear partner. Also, there is the odd excitement, such as a helicopter flip with the neighbour this morning and the need to rake the driveway of our 2ha property or pull up alien vegetation from time to time! So, this challenge is actually a minor one that I am starting to resolve for myself.

By far a bigger challenge is the nagging sense of discomfort I have that something HAS to go wrong soon. I guess that somewhere deep in my programming is a hidden belief that it’s just not permissible for humans to have this much happiness and freedom to do EXACTLY what they want in every moment. Somewhere, somehow, there has to be a payback. Could it be that I find it easier to believe in a reality that is an uphill toil rather than an easy, fun, relaxed reality?

This belief is also manifesting in a fear that I am, due to some external calamity or something I have forgotten about or miscalculated, going to have to leave here before I want to. It’s almost as if I can’t relax and fully enjoy this amazing place and experience because I am afraid that it will somehow be “taken away” from me or end abruptly before I am ready, or before I have fully experienced all I wish to experience. This is actually spoiling my enjoyment of this incredible reality I have worked so hard to create.

My dear Zingdad helped somewhat by reminding me that living this perfect, beautiful life in this incredible place is not what my journey is actually about. The journey is actually about following my heart toward my purpose. It is important to remember that this is a journey and NOT a destination. My life in this magnificent place is simply the current manifestation of that journey. It is absolutely guaranteed that we will not stay here forever and that things WILL change, even if only because we are currently renting this place and will soon start to build our own home on our own piece of land! If I attach myself to this place then I am guaranteed to experience pain and suffering when I have to leave. Change is inevitable.

Attachment causes suffering. I know this. And yet I keep feeling the temptation to attach myself to something external to myself. I suppose it’s because I have really cut myself adrift from all my previous ties. Even if I found them extremely constricting to my growth, they were comforting and provided a sense of being somehow anchored in the world. I have the most disconcerting feeling of lightness, of disconnectedness, of unreality. How surprising it is to discover how dependent and even, addicted, I have been to externally imposed structures, routines, expectations, restrictions and definitions of Self! It seems to be a frightening thing indeed to create ones own sense of Self with no external input. However, every time I try to create a routine, boundary or restriction in my new reality, I find myself kicking against it, despite my uncomfortable feelings of being adrift.

Perhaps it’s necessary to simply sit in the fire of these challenges for a while without rushing to try and find quick-fix solutions.

It has not escaped my attention that I could interpret all this as me creating problems simply because my life is so free of any real difficulties or challenges! However, I think a more appropriate interpretation would be that Zingdad and myself have created this reality without any real troubles or worries so that we can spend our time and energy focusing on our real journey toward Self instead on focusing on any perceived lack or difficulty that might serve as a distraction.

And, in the vast, magnificent stillness of this place, I detect the quiet unfolding of some new, and fragile, and infinitely precious thing within my heart.

And so the journey continues…

Next: The Big Con

Friday, June 4, 2010

The first 10 days in Paradise

What I love the most about living in the “wild”:
Being woken by the rooster crowing before dawn
Watching sunrise, sunset and Venus setting every day
The brilliance and exhilarating infinity of the stars
The unbelievable vastness of the silence
Spying with binoculars on the multitude of birds feeding on the fynbos
The overwhelming friendliness and helpfulness of small-town people
No rush hour traffic, no noise, no pollution, plenty of parking in town
Time and space to breathe, to think, to BE
Watching the ecstatic happiness of the dogs running at full speed for as long and as far as they wish
Falling into bed by 10pm, bone-weary from physical work
The breathtaking, heart-stopping beauty of this place
Leaving the doors open at night and feeling safe in a way I have never felt in the city in a cage of burglar bars
No car alarms going off in the middle of the night, no streetlights, no drunken revellers shambling past our house, no beggars, no city squalor, no ugliness anywhere
Driving in 4x4 up the bumpy, treacherous, incredibly beautiful, mountainous dirt road to our home

What takes some getting used to:
At night when the lights are out in the house it is irrelevant whether my eyes are open or closed – the view is the same!
The fine dust that settles over everything regardless of how much I clean
The brown colour of the river water due to tannins and the funny “scum” it deposits round the rim of my teacup
The realization that we need to make sure there are “belts and braces” in place for everything we might need – a dramatically increased awareness of the need for self-sufficiency
No distractions - nothing I have to do and nowhere I have to be
In this place one is confronted with the reality of who you really are. There are no places to hide and you need to be very happy with your own company and with creating your own entertainments.

We spend most of the day watching the ever-unfolding beauty from our balcony. I’ve been taking countless photos but nothing can do justice to the spectacular beauty of this place.

However, below is a small selection:

The view from our balcony

God’s handiwork on display all day from our balcony

Sunrise over the swimming pool

Sunset over the distant mountains

Toasting the sunset

Our house

Our pick-up in front of the house

Zingdad and Zing collaborating on The Ascension Papers

The 2 blondes in my life, in the light of the setting sun

Zingdad in meditative frame of mind

Next: Adapting to my new reality