Thursday, October 8, 2009

Screw It! Or..."The I'm Sick Of Self Help Books" Self Help Book

If I am correctly reading the implications of all the self improvement books, here’s the paradox: I desperately need to change. At the same time, I desperately need to accept myself exactly as I am.
I woke up this morning, and I still had the same problems I had yesterday. I might be a compulsive eater, or a pill popper, or a seeker of awful relationships, or a gambler, or any number of things that I wish I weren’t. I’m desperate to change myself, to become a better person, more reliable, competent, responsible, creative, positive. I want to enjoy life, not suffer through it!
Where did this come from, this “ideal self”, this expectation that my life is going to be superb, transcendent, vigorous, fulfilling, that my dreams will come true if I’m REALLY persistent, that my wounds will be healed? Who gave me that idea? Oprah? Dr. Phil? A book? Television?

Where did this ‘self improvement’ model emerge and take over my life? This urge to get better and better, whatever that means, has become another addiction, and it’s making me even crazier. I can’t turn around without another book telling me what’s wrong with myself and how I should change it. At the same time, the guru is telling me to love myself as I am, that I can’t change until I’ve really given myself unconditional love. Is it any wonder that I feel crazy?

If I were to give myself unconditional love, I might turn into a puddle of ice cream that will slowly drip into the carpet until there’s nothing left of me but a sweet-smelling spot.
It’s said that changing one’ s self is the hardest job of all. No, there’s one job that’s harder: Loving yourself. I know it sounds hokey as hell, "loving yourself is hard" but it is! There are so many fears about letting go and just ‘being’, so many fears about not living up to some nutty competitive idea of how I should look, where I should live, what I should drive, what I should own. How am I supposed to love a creature this imperfect, this flawed and grotesque? How do I love a person who’s THIS BAD?

It would be irresponsible to love myself. That just wouldn’t do. I’d go soft. I’d sink into illusion and denial. I’d stop working on myself. I’d lose the benefit of fifteen years of therapy.

The Judgment Pressure Cooker

How many ways do I feel judged when I step out of my house to go to work? How much armor do I have to strap on to face the world? Everything is about appearance: there’s my weight, my clothes, my car, the whiteness of my teeth, whether or not I have hair. Is my skin unlined? Is my neck getting a wattle? Should I wear high collars and turtlenecks to hide it? Should I wear stripes to look thinner? How about a corset, a girdle, a tight belt, to hide the expanding waistline?

Aging is a disaster to be fended off as long as possible, by all means. That doctor on Oprah who tells you your so-called “REAL” age helped me do the calculation. I added up factors like my blood pressure, diet, number of remaining teeth and it turned out I was a hundred ten. I was already dead.
How much money do I make? If I’m not making enough money, I’m told that I must change the way I think so that I will “attract the right energies”.

What kind of job do I have? Am I a professional or just a working shlub?

What’s my house or apartment look like? Does it advertise success or is it a dump? Again, I’m not “attracting the right energies”. I feel very guilty about that. If I think and visualize correctly and stop sabotaging myself the “universe” will deposit everything I want, k’zam! right into my pocket. I know what it is: it’s my wallet. My wallet is not organized, it’s sending a signal to the universe that my thoughts about money are chaotic. Wow, I’m self-sabotaging, missing all these clues.

How long is it, two years, now, since I straightened out my wallet? Since I started visualizing all the things I want and chasing away negative thoughts? My mind became a well trained soldier in banishing doubts and hang-ups. It stayed in line, it repeated over and over again, “I can do anything I want I can do anything I want.” I followed the directions in the movie and the book, “The Secret Of All Secrets”, I was disciplined! I visualized my bank statement, an exact number, sixty five thousand two hundred eighteen dollars and thirty five cents. It’s a modest number because the bank is not the smartest place to keep money. I also visualized a safe full of gold ingots, saw myself riding the latest recumbent bicycle and using an eight thousand dollar camera. I have a fake check for three million dollars taped to my fridge. Hours and hours every day I did this visualization.

I had one teeny little lingering doubt about this program. Maybe that’s why it didn’t succeed. That doubt kept whispering in my ear, “Isn’t there something rather graceless about grabbing the universe by the throat and compelling it to give you everything you want?”

Even our spirituality is dominated by this drive for success. It’s sunk right into our hides as if a shotgun has blasted pellets of it to exactly the right depth. It’s impossible to extract. It’s so completely American, this self improvement mania,this urge to raise our station in life. This drive to succeed.

What’s sad about the way our social system is organized is the utter lack of compassion we have towards one another. The non-succeeders are treated as though they have a disease. They’re marginalized.
I’m not doing really great right now, I feel as though I’ve been pushed to the periphery of things until I barely take part in the workings of American culture. {sic} It’s too complex! There is so much paperwork, so many rules, I’m sinking under the weight of mere self maintenance.

It’s TOUGH to go out the front door and take on the world, day by day. Look at the junk that’s endlessly thrown in our faces.

I have an announcement to make: If you are here, you’re a survivor. You’re immensely heroic. To be a participant in the process of the Earth Plane in any form whatsoever is an act of supreme courage and achievement. Let’s put it in perspective, please. This is no cheap ticket, this life. This is Earth. Or, as I prefer to pronounce it, with a deep Brooklyn accent, Oyt. Dat’s where we are, Oyt. Dis ain’t no picnic, dis Oyt. Dis is a hell of a mess and a tough woild. Okay, okay. I’ll just stick with Oyt but blow the accent.

Oyt is a special place. It’s a material manifestation of God’s imagination. It’s a place where learning is done. To own a body, a human body, is a very extraordinary fate. The body is going to suffer many processes, and, eventually, it will decay and die. If you examine that reality with an unflinching gaze, you begin to realize that it takes some guts to continue, day by day. Give yourself some credit.

The alternative, to NOT exist in a body, means one of two things: you are either a ghost, without the courage to incarnate, or you are a Master, who is finished incarnating. In the middle, right here, is life in a body. On Oyt.

Your life, the experience you are having, however difficult or painful, is a gift without parallel.

Sometimes I make lists. One of my favorite lists consists of ways to be stupid. You know, “Ten Of The Stupidest Things People Do”, something like that. At the top of the list always seems to be the same thing: To regard this world as the only world there is.

I know, I know, it’s very scientific and brave to eschew spiritual possibilities. To be rid of crutches. I know many fine people who proclaim that this is the only world that can be proven, therefore, it’s the only world they accept as real.

How unimaginatively sad. I require no proof at all. I need only examine the facts as they exist, to make a leap of faith and surmise that there MUST be a mighty plethora of worlds, dimensions, alternatives and ways to experience being conscious. Just because I don ‘t know what they are, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Therefore, I consider it to be unbearably stupid to deny that something great and mysterious is occurring, simultaneous with my little life and its problems. There are other worlds, and we’d better recognize the possibility that we survive death, in some form and take responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Because there are consequences; we are held accountable.

That doesn’t mean we have to get crazy and turn ourselves into perfect little angels. Not at all. It just means we need to see things with an open mind.

Meanwhile I’m getting blasted with this message that there’s something wrong with me but if I truly live in the “moment” there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me. Where is this moment? Oops, it’s gone. Here’s another one, grab hold…nope,
gone. Another one, gone…gone….

I understand that NOT living in the moment is to live in the past or the future, both of which are places in the mind, noisy places full of desire, plans, regrets, a tangled bedsheet from a sleepless night of the soul, mind mind mind mind.
Shut up, mind! Let the heart speak!

Can someone tell me what this wonderful “moment” is? Mr. Tolle? Deepak? I thought not. You counsel me to “be” in it but can’t tell me what it’s like. Here’s what I’ve observed.

First there is breathing. I’m breathing, in and out. My heart is beating, my blood is flowing, my skin registers the air temperature. And I wonder how I’m going to pay rent next month whoops! Lost the moment.

Let’s try again. Breathing check. Heartbeat check. Blood flows check. Air temperature check. Uhh. Sounds. There are sounds coming to my ears. Wind blowing through leaves? Ah lovely. I Probably wasted my time sweeping the patio…whoops!

Damn, this moment shit is hard. I get only so far and then start thinking of other things and wheee, I’m whisked away into speculation, worry, schemes. All games of the mind. So, what does it take?

Superhuman concentration. To be in the “now” requires superhuman concentration.


I’m really fucked.

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