Is Your Life Really the Same Old Thing?
By Joyce Shafer
Do you ever say or get the response to the question about how things are going, "Same old, same old," or something similar? What does this really mean?
I woke and, still under the covers, said my statement of "Good morning. Thank you for another day." My ego-mind followed with the thought, "More of the same." I sat up quickly because another part of me said, "That's impossible. Every moment is a new one. If anything is the same, it has to be you: your perceptions, thoughts, words, actions, and behaviors." That got my attention because it rang, rather clanged loudly, of Truth.
It's impossible for any moment to be the same as any moment that came before it. Something has increased, decreased, or transformed. We can replay memories or think the same thoughts, but even the replays are different each time and the thoughts amplified or diminished in some way. Ultimately, the "same old thing" showing up in life moments is our ego-mind. This is because its identity is bound to certain strictures, ideas, or beliefs; and if moments don't match ego-mind's expectations, even negative ones, it gets critical, which takes it out of the new moment, and it misses it.
Every new moment is completely, well, new. The only way old gunk can get into a new moment is if we put it there. The only way things can look the same is if we "see" with the same assumptions and prescribed mental images we used yesterday, instead of with our presence, free of pre-interpretation. Do you look for what is different or only for or at what is "the same?" The "same old thing" is not life or its moments. It's us.
Our ego-minds have a need for a level of constancy, as well as a level of change. How much, often, or fast change happens and how well this is tolerated is different for each one of us. Even people who relish change or the new or different more than some, still have certain aspects they prefer be a certain way. We all have our personalized level of comfort when it comes to stability and shift; but this is more often dictated by our ego-mind than our Spiritual Self.
We can practice being open to the fact that even if we do some of the same things every day or during the work week or weekend, the only thing that is really the same is what happens in our ego-mind, first and foremost, about what we experience. The "same old thing" or "nothing's changed" is a result of approaching life moments as responsibilities rather than in relationship with them. We don't tend to have relationships with our moments; we more often just blow through them to get to some point we believe we need or have to get to, or away from.
After jotting down what you've read here so far, I went into the kitchen to do what I do each morning, like open the blinds and get the coffee going. This time, I looked at the blind rod, paid attention to how it felt to my fingertips and the sounds it made. The dishtowel was folded with more awareness of its texture and colors. I know; I know ... Who has time for such things? We do. We must, if we want to have a richer experience of our moments.
These musings brought to mind Dan Millman's first book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, which I grabbed off the shelf and started to reread. In this book a man, whom Dan nicknames Socrates, becomes his spiritual mentor and challenges him to let go of preconceived notions and mind chatter and embrace a new way of thinking and perceiving himself and life. Socrates tells him it's time he starts to find answers from within, so has Dan sit on a flat stone until he has "something of value" to tell him, "an insight worth sharing." Dan sat on that rock in those pre-dawn hours and after the sun rose and grew warmer, and on past midnight, searching for a worthy insight, after several failed attempts sent him back to the rock. He decided to do some T'ai Chi to stretch his muscles and relax his mind. A scene from a few days earlier came to him and he had a realization. He went back to Socrates and said, "There are no ordinary moments!" That earned his reprieve from the rock.
Another important segment, among numerous ones in that book, was a story Socrates told Dan when Dan rejected the idea that his life had been and was, in large part, arranged or created by him. Socrates told him about a construction worker who complained about the peanut butter and jelly sandwich he found in his lunchbox every day. He did this day after day after day, until one day one of the other workers, frustrated with hearing this yet again, said if he hated peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so much, why didn't he just ask his wife to fix something else? The construction worker said, "I'm not married. I make my own sandwiches." It's the same for our moments: no one makes them into what they become for us but us. I'm speaking, of course, primarily of the inner-level perspectives, more than the outer demonstrations, though the latter is influenced by the former.
We typically spend more time thinking about past or future moments (and grievances) than embracing the moment we're in. We are only in one moment at a time, and nothing about a moment is ever ordinary except our interpretation of it. If nothing appears different or special, it's because we use the same vision today as we used yesterday. Everything is changing in every moment. And it isn't that each moment has to be adventure-filled. Some of the best moments are the quiet ones, or the "ordinary" ones.
Just as it takes no effort to be unpleasant, but may take some effort to be pleasant; just as it takes no effort to feel unthankful, but may take some effort to feel real appreciation, it takes no effort for your ego-mind to jump between the past and future and grievances, but may take some effort for you to choose to be in the moment, which is usually grievance-free, if you really see this Truth for what it is: What we worry or fret about usually isn't happening in the precise present moment. If it is happening in the precise present moment, we're taking some form of action about it. However, even when we take action, we often let our ego-mind run amok, like when we drive or walk to the market and hardly recall doing so because our ego-mind is thinking about something other than what we're doing.
Don't add stress and strain to this by letting your ego-mind tell you that you have to be in the moment and that something's wrong with you if you aren't or if you slip out of it. If, or I should say when, this slip happens, just watch that with the same calm curiosity or serene fascination you'd watch an insect or bird or fish in an aquarium or clouds in a breeze, and you'll find you're back in the moment.
Just come back to the moment when you catch yourself not there. Allow this rather than try to force it, which won't work, because force or judgment means you're back in ego-mind rather than the moment, which you can slip back into as you do sleep. If you're committed to doing this for yourself, allow your attention to it, born out of awareness of it rather than ego-mind's insistence or force, to expand as your experience. Question: Can you feel real appreciation and not be in the present moment when you feel it? A-ha! Next time you want to bring yourself back into the moment, feel genuine appreciation about something.
When you bring new, open vision to moments, you can choose to transcend old thought patterns and choose new ones that better support you being in the Now Moment. This shifts "same old, same old" into something else. This adds freshness to how you experience anything or can choose to experience anything. And when freshness is present, enthusiasm, creativity, or focus is too. It's a good practice.
Practice makes progress.
Joyce Shafer is a Life Empowerment Coach dedicated to helping people feel, be, and live their true inner power. She’s author of “I Don’t Want to be Your Guru” and other books/ebooks, and publishes a free weekly online newsletter that offers empowering articles and free downloads. See all that’s offered by Joyce and on her site at State of Appreciation.