“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’.” – Eckhart Tolle
Worry about whether you are exactly where you need to be?
To achieve your goals, aims or ambitions that is…
It’s often hard to know.
Frequently, we feel we’re not making sufficient progress or that we’re treading the wrong path entirely.
It’s a common feeling everyone encounters, as this little story illustrates…
London part one
It was a cold and wet in London, the darkness enveloping me like an impending cloud as I left my block of flats at 6am in the morning to make my morning walk to the train station.
Only a few hours before I’d been awake, kept up by a gang of kids hanging out beneath my bedroom window.
I was tired and grumpy.
Neon streetlights cast an ominous glow on the frosty ground, a sign of things to come…
I would soon be trapped in a neon-lit, windowless room for the next 10 hours of my working day. In a job I hated.
I wondered (as I did most mornings); is this where I’m meant to be?
(To be concluded shortly…)
Perhaps you have a career ambition or personal aim…
That could be getting a promotion or securing your dream job.
On a personal level, it could be a question of losing weight or travelling somewhere exotic.
Two main things usually emerge in these quests:
- Progress feels incredibly slow
- Things get really hard
The fallout from these sensations is, unsurprisingly, psychological pain.
And the consequences are pretty universal, as you wonder whether you are exactly where you need to be in life.
Here’s the thing though, lack of progress and pain aren’t always bad.
We all know deep down that achieving anything worthwhile requires sacrifice and a degree of discomfort.
It’s just that popular media glorifies the overnight success, making us impatient little humans who do our best to avoid pain.
However, true mastery takes years of hard work, pain and persistence.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius
However, there are some caveats, which we’ll investigate now.
Now, most articles like this launch into an overwhelming flowery waterfall of re-assurance.
Here’s the thing though. Maybe change is needed.
It’s not that you’re in the wrong place per se (as we’ll explore shortly), but consider the following smoke signals:
- You’re in an abusive situation – could with a partner or at work. Such situations might imply a change is needed.
- You’re repressing a burning desire or ambition, resulting in psychological constipation.
- Finally, a more controversial one that cuts both ways: you have no plan. In one sense this should make you completely at ease with where you are because you have no comparative for your current situation. However, this is often tempered by point number two. You have a deeper, unfulfilled ambition and rather than pursuing it, are allowing yourself to be buffeted by the winds of chance.
Even though these might appear as harbingers of doom, they’re not negative at all.
If you’re experiencing any of the above, you are exactly where you need to be, as you’ll discover shortly.
London part two
Now, circling back to the story.
After working that job I disliked, I decided I wasn’t in the right place, physically or psychologically.
That night I got back to my house and told my flatmates I was moving out.
Vietnam was the plan.
I’d decided that escape was the only option and teaching English in Asia was the way.
After some incredible experiences abroad, however, the same malaise began to surface, reminiscent of my experiences in London.
It seemed my feelings were following me.
“Wherever you go, there you are” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Was another change needed or should I disregard these rumbles of discontent?
Fortunately for me, a teacher soon emerged, providing a unique insight into my predicament.
That teacher was meditation.
Meditation taught me that too often our psychological wellbeing hinges on external factors.
We overemphasise form.
Instead of changing our externals, we simply need to redefine our relationship with the world around us.
Rather than preemptively abandoning our current path for what may seem like a better opportunity, we can neutralise our subjective reactiveness to our situation.
So often we judge events as being good or bad, but Buddhism teaches us that these interpretations are mind-made.
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” – Eckhart Tolle
The desire to escape our negative interpretation of events is the root of suffering.
And remember the caveats from earlier?
It’s often the struggles we encounter in life that lead us to these very insights…
To question the validity of our transient thoughts and feelings.
When everything is awesome, we have little reason to delve deeper.
But any pain you experience provides a counterbalance; an invitation for self-reflection and questioning your fundamental labels and assumptions.
So even in those toughest of times, you are exactly where you need to be.
You are exactly where you need to be
There’s no wrong place to be.
All the suffering you have or might be experiencing are teachers…
Guiding you to the realisation that you can step back and impartially observe your thoughts and feelings.
Avoiding that which feels bad or chasing that which feels good is no longer necessary.
You can finally redefine your relationship with the present moment and simply chop wood, carry water.