If you are behaving “correctly,” and those behaviors arise
from a state of fear, those behaviors may not be helping you. In fact, they
more likely are hurting you.
But maybe I shouldn’t state it quite like that, since it might induce a state of fear. ;P
Here’s the skinny. The idea of discipline has a good reputation. If you can just push through difficulty and internal resistance and do the things you are supposed to do, consistently, you will produce desirable results. It’s simple.
It’s how we go about exercise. It’s how we go about improving our diets. It’s how we go about our work.
I’m Doing it Right—Right?
Let me treat you to another perspective.
Say you walk into your doctor’s office and he tells you this: “Mr. Man, you are getting fat. You need to lose 30 pounds, pronto, or you will die.”
To keep with the story, let’s say that you are 30+ pounds overweight, and your physical health is less than stellar.
This means that the doctor is basically right. If you want to improve your health, you ought to lose that 30 pounds. And if you don’t, you may indeed die prematurely.
The logical next things for you to do, then, are to begin exercising and changing your diet. Yes?
Let’s say you choose running as your main form of exercise. Running is super healthy and fun and awesome, so this is a great choice.
Finally, let’s say that you indeed go for your scheduled runs every day, like a good Weight Watcher (the Weight Watcher program is about running, right?!). Woohoo! Awesome! Keep up the good work!
Now, let me introduce the trickiness. What if you wake up every morning thinking, Oh my god, if I don’t go running today I won’t lose weight, and if I don’t lose weight I’ll die!
And you pile on top of that thought. Should I go now? But I don’t want to go now. I want to eat right now. But if I don’t go now I might never… I mean, I could go after work, but I might be too tired… Oh my god, how am I going to make this work?! How am I to keep death at bay?!
And you continue along that train of thought all day long, until you finally go for your run. Upon completing the run, you get a moment’s relief. And then… Oh goodness, when on Earth am I going to run tomorrow?!
It never ends.
People generally agree that running contributes to health. Similarly, people generally agree that fear does not contribute to health. We all know that chronic distress does not empower us or make us feel good.
So if you engage in the behavior of running due to fear-based thoughts, is your health ultimately improving or declining?
Behavior vs. Motives
Fear- the need for dominance and control- is more detrimental than any destructive behavior you could engage in. When you are in a state of fear, you give your power away to things outside of yourself. You declare those things to be the master of your fate.
So when you run due to fear-motivation, to continue the earlier example, you are assuming that your well-being hangs on whether you run every day. If you run, you get to live a little longer. If you don’t, death comes nearer.
But what if things don’t quite have to be that way? What if engaging in any behavior due to fear- even if it’s a “good” behavior- is actually detrimental?
“Detrimental” means, most importantly, that acting out of fear will further entrench you in fear. The more fear-based action you take, the more fearful you will become. You create momentum for yourself in the direction of fear.
“Detrimental” can also mean that your physical health declines, your mind becomes foggier (i.e. it’s harder to think clearly), you have a harder time tuning into your desires—overall, you become less functional.
In other words, you would be better off fearless and not running than you are fearful and running.
The Alternative to Fear
Let’s say that rather than an overweight person who’s running solely for health, you’re like me—you have other reasons for running, and you like to run in races.
How do you get yourself to run every day? How do you consistently engage in all the training you need to? Most of all, how do you get yourself to run uber-deliciously-fast?
Well, if you run with constant worry about doing every little thing right and whether you’re improving and why you aren’t yet and why that guy who smelled like tuna fish beat you in the 5K last week… Then you will fail. Not only will the fear hold you back, but you will likely sabotage yourself or eventually quit because you just don’t want to deal with that damned fear anymore.
So if fear doesn’t work, what is the alternative? You know the answer, baby. It’s all you need.
Love vs. Fear
So, run with love… Alrighty. What does this mean?
Fear sees all things (including people) as being fundamentally separate from one another. This means each thing must compete with all the other things in order to sustain itself. The amount of energy in the universe is small, and if you don’t scramble to get a piece of the pie, you ain’t gettin’ one.
Love, on the other hand, sees us all as being connected. There’s no need to scramble, rush around, or flail about—no need to live frantically. Love knows that we all shine all the time, even when we can’t see it. Because we are all connected, each one of us can share energy with all that is—the whole that is all of us.
Because our connections to each other and to everything are natural, the desires that naturally arise within us will contribute to everything, provided we follow through on those desires. This contribution comes in the form of raising energy. When you follow through on your desires you raise your own energy. Because everything ultimately is energy, when you raise your own energy you raise the energy of us all (provided you didn’t have to drain energy from another in order to do so).
Love sees abundance. There is no competition for energy: there is enough for us all. We can share it freely and raise our energy together.
Fear sees scarcity. The amount of energy is limited, and there’s not enough to go around. The only way to raise your energy is to take it from something outside of yourself.
The important thing here is that where energy is seen as being abundant and is shared freely, there is flow. You experience flow when you become aware of your present-moment desires and follow through on them. A desire is energy that rises up through you. When you show the willingness to let that energy flow out of you and into the world, in the form of whatever action you are engaging in, you experience a state of flow.
In the abundance paradigm, flow is expected. You know there’s flow. It’ll always be there. The Black Eyed Peas were on to something when they named an album The END—that is, “The Energy Never Dies.” That’s because it doesn’t. You need not worry about how you will spend your time or meet a certain need in the future, because in each moment there is a flow to follow. When in that flow, you are always right where you need to be. Likewise, you always get what you need.
Obviously not everything manifests at once, but it doesn’t need to. When you see life through the eyes of abundance, you know that your desires and highest intentions will be realized. It’s simply a matter of when.
Because you know that you shall have it all, there’s no need to worry about it. When you know your goal will be achieved, you can simply enjoy the journey. You will still exert yourself—and this exertion will feel very right to you. It will feel like going with the flow—even when it is hard.
With all of that established, you don’t have to fuss about when is the right time to go running and how you’ll fit it into your schedule and whether you’ll genuinely want to go running and blah blah blah. The desire will arise naturally. You’ll know when it’s time to go. Likewise, you’ll know when it’s time to stop. It will feel right to you—all of it. And no fear is needed.
Generally, the action that feels "right" to take will be the one that appeals to you most both intellectually and emotionally. Go to where intellect and feeling intersect. That's where the path lies.
So if you feel that you’re chronically stuck or getting bad results, consider that you may be giving your power away to something outside of yourself. You think that if you don’t run you’ll be unhealthy or unworthy. You worry that the flow- the desire- will never be there. You feel helpless.
When you consistently succumb to fear and give your power away, and consequently get undesirable results, you’re likely to lay down rules for yourself in an attempt to “stay on track.” You’ll establish more restrictions. You’ll be stricter with yourself than ever. You’ll hope that the cleanest discipline possible will save the day.
Of course, when you do this- when you walk on eggshells ever-more gingerly- you make yourself even weaker. Because if you take one step outside of your impossible-to-follow rules… Bam! You’re toast.
Here’s the thing. It’s only fear that is in need of rules in the first place. The more fear there is present, the more rules and restrictions are needed to keep things under control.
Think about it. Imagine a being of perfect love. An angel will do. This angel would never inflict harm on anything, including itself. In fact, any being that comes in contact with this angel will be so wrapped in unconditional love they’ll be, well… I don’t know. What’s better than that? They’ll feel awesome.
Tell me, would you have to impose any laws upon this angel? Would you have to threaten her with punishment just in case she breaks the laws?
If you know for sure that she is not going to do any harm and is not going to break your ludicrous laws, then why do you need the laws in the first place?
When you have relative self-trust, and are basically comfortable with who you are, it’s useless to tell yourself what not to do.
For example, think of a person who is both comfortable in her own skin and who follows healthy eating habits. Do you think she tells herself throughout the day, Hey, sweetie—keep your mitts off the twinkies! Your thighs are gonna swell right up! Do you think she has any need for such self-talk?
Not only that—what if she doesn’t even need a rule for herself that involves not eating Twinkies? What if she doesn’t need to explicitly restrict and instruct herself? What if she just stays in a state of love, where no limitations are needed because love is freedom? And what if this sense of love, flow, and abundance in her life magically keeps her Twinkie-free?
When you know yourself, you don’t need to control yourself. When you know who you really are, you can kick back and enjoy the ride—the ride of a life lived exuberantly.
You see, when you set rules and limitations for yourself, you give your power away. You declare that something outside of yourself is more powerful than you. When you remind yourself 20 times a day, Don’t go near the Twinkies, damn it!!!, you’re declaring that Twinkies are more powerful than you. And by your declaration, you are right. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. The declaration can change. The story can change.
Embrace Your Will
Several years ago I was anorexic. My parents sent me in for a doctor’s appointment, and the doctor told me to add a supplement (which I have forgotten the name of) to the foods that I ate. It was a powder, best added to liquids, and its purpose was to provide extra calories.
Though I was disrespectful of my body’s needs in a very obvious way, I still cared about the health of the foods I ate. In particular, I didn’t like to eat foods that had strange-sounding ingredients in them (and I still don’t). I couldn’t see how those could be good for me—and a strange powdery substance was sure to be full of them.
I didn’t even want to go look for the crap in the grocery store, but I did. When I found it, it was just as I suspected: pure junk. I wanted nothing to do with it.
I didn’t think quite in these terms at the time, but I was not going to compromise my values just because someone thought I should. I was not going to doubt myself all because someone thought I should be afraid.
In spite of not following the doctor’s orders, I regained all of the weight I lost several months later—and then some. I’ve had no weight issues to speak of since.
A month later, I was suicidal. After several years of mental health issues this was more or less inevitable. I spent a night in the hospital, and had an appointment with my doctor shortly thereafter. He recommended Prozac.
Again, my values were challenged. For a while I had avoided medicine as much as possible, and I knew that anti-depressants had a way of doing more harm than good.
But I was in dire straits. Things looked bad. I felt insane. People close to me wanted me to go on medication. It appeared to be the most logical thing to do.
Yet, I had a little bit of will left in me. Just a tiny morsel of belief in myself. To not go on medication might have been the only desire I had in the whole world, but it was something. So I stepped into it.
I told the doctor, “Let’s wait.”
It was probably the only love-based action I took all week: in those days I was constantly afraid. Yet here, in this odd and seemingly-irrational desire, there was a potential for power. So I planted the seed. And it grew.
A month later I felt like a different person. Going on medication was not even a question in my mind: there was absolutely no need for it any longer. While I still had a lot of growth and change ahead of me, I had made it. It was clear that I would live—because I willed to. In one small decision, I chose to live the way I wanted to. Before long, I desired to live more than ever.
Whatever seems to be holding you down, you are stronger than it. You might not beat it by overpowering it. But you could break the chains it has bound to you by not giving your power to it in the first place.
Don’t look at the chains. They aren’t real. You only imagined them.
Only you can trap yourself. Likewise, only you can set yourself free.
Give it a shot. What if you didn’t need to boss yourself around? What if you didn’t need to keep lists of rules for yourself like you’re a five-year old? What if you let that all go? Would your life fall apart? Or would it come together in a way you previously hadn’t imagined possible?
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