The Solution To Our Everyday Problems Can Be Found As The Undo Button Within Us!
I envied my neighbor’s cat, who seemed a consummate expert at doing nothing, yet the cat exhibited no guilt over it. I found myself not very good at that cat-like repose. I always had so much to do, and I felt so very responsible for doing it. And if for some rare moments I succeeded in doing not much at all, guilt was sure to plague me.
Many of our lives sound similar notes of countless demands on our time, mental unease of one sort or another, and stresses of various kinds that pressure us with increasing tenacity from day to day. This is even truer if our lives consist of both working in a profession and managing a private life.
The in-box at work, whether on the corner of your desk or in the electronic mail program on your computer, seldom stays empty for more than a few minutes. When you’re at home the ardent telemarketer inquiries after your well-being, just as you finally head toward the dinner table. With dinner barely finished, you’re off to deposit your youngest at the piano class teacher’s door. Demands for your time and mind press on relentlessly. This pace is typical of the Western world. Every man and every woman, young or middle aged, are undeniably upwardly mobile in personal motivation.
Amid this frenzied productiveness, you sometimes may have felt tempted to push a cosmic “undo” key not unlike the kind you can find in some computer programs. You have just typed in a mess on your computer screen, and you reach for the button that says “undo”. Instantly, the clutter in front of your eyes disappears, and you’re back in the original space, now of course cleared of the complications you had mistakenly created.
On the macro scale of our lives, some of us try to push the cosmic “undo” button in various ways by quitting a stressful job, leaving the megalopolis-GTA to move to Montreal, abandoning an unsatisfactory marriage or relationship or taking a three month trip around south-east Asia. If we’re lucky, the step we’ve chosen to take allows the immediate pressures within us to subside, and we regain our inner balance. But many of us are lucky only for a while, until new pressures mount once again, making us feel bound hand and foot, prisoners inside our own lives and minds.
It can take a while to discover that the real undoing begins inside, not by merely rearranging the outer situations of lives. It certainly took a while for me—first to understand the idea and then to begin to apply it in a very practical way to my own life.
For years I’d been rushing daily work to attend to a pressured management job only to rush home at the end of an exhausting day to attend the needs of a family, going non-stop until bedtime. My mind felt as though it were pressed into a vice by the onslaught of thought on thoughts beating at the door of my awareness. “I must remember to e-mail that memo to Vatsi tomorrow…I probably should have forced an earlier cut-off of that lengthy discussion of alternatives at today’s planning meeting. The telephone bill and internet bills are due by the tenth, must not forget…Dinner party at the Rathy’s on the thirtieth, and did I RSVP?”
Now and then I would stop my dash through the day for a second or two to sneak a quick glance at a tiny poem I had tacked up some years ago on the bulletin board in front of my desk in my study at home.
“I am not eager, bold, or strong—all that is past
I am ready not to do, at last, at last!”
-Peter Canesius, 1521-1597.
It was a strange poem, one that seemed to speak blasphemy in the face of my upbringing that urged me to do, to accomplish, to be industrious conscientious, resourceful, and relentlessly strong, eager and bold. Yet, for years, the yellowing piece of paper with its simple, perplexing words continued to hang in my study, beckoning me toward a different kind of thinking from that which I was used to. I barely understood that way of thinking, yet I was inexplicably drawn toward it. It spoke to me of ways of being that had little to do with doing as we usually define it.
So I continued my dash through the complexities of life I myself had created around me. However, I kept wishing for a “undo” key to push that might unravel the cocoon of complexities around me and bring me closer to the simplicity that Peter Canesius seemed to be hinting at. For so long I felt close to suffocating, like a silkworm wriggling inside yards and yards of silk, unable to get out.
How to undo this cocoon I’d created? The rush seemed endless and the self-created pressures real. The need to succeed was overwhelming, and so was the inner push constantly to do something in order to prove to myself that I existed—and worthily so.
I had known for a good many years that the real undoing—the inner transformation that brings us to a new plateau of balanced clarity—begins inside. Yet, I found that impossible to accomplish while spinning at high speed on the carousal of activities I had chosen to mount. One day, I decided to get off the merry-go-round without even waiting for it to stop I quit my job. At first, I reeled from the momentum I had created. I could hardly keep my balance as my body kept lunging forward with the motion already set in its limbs. My mind too, continued at a frenzied gallop, even though many obligations had already fallen away. But in time, I came to a relative rest. My mind and I stopped the mad rushing long enough to begin to hear, feel, and think—simply to be.
In my case, as in the lives of many others, an outside event was needed as a catalyst for the inner act of clearing the mental dross and simplifying the emotional complexities. Yet I knew all along that the real magic—the liberating transformation we long for—takes place ultimately in the landscape of our minds.
That lesson I was still to learn through trial and error—and unrelenting practice. Over and over again, day in day out, I had to relearn, integrate, and put into practice a few powerful, self-transforming ideas that I had had the good fortune to be exposed to in my early adult life. This shows how to move away from a mental culture of finding all solutions outside ourselves to learning how to forge solutions inside. They show us a new way to be, how to liberate ourselves from our self-created complexities and learn to find our sense of self in naked simplicity of the moment.
While it remains a worm, the silkworm is confined to its cocoon. It bursts the walls of its cocoon of gossamer thread only after it undergoes transformation into a moth. We too, need to allow a profound shift within ourselves- a transformation- before we can feel the radiant simplicity of a liberated life.