Recently, I wondered why we seem compelled to seek out guidance from others instead of listening to our own inner wisdom. If you're like me, I've been a life-long learner. That sounds very admirable, but I'm not so sure the second half of that phrase is truly accurate.
I've most certainly been seeking enlightenment all my life. Yet, I wonder if learning has been the result of that pursuit. I wonder (if I'm really going to tell the truth here) if learning was my real intention. For me (you perhaps too?) this single-minded quest for the holy grail of spiritual truth was a very effective way to keep me from owning up to my own life, my own thoughts, and my own results. As long as I kept looking for answers, I wasn't quite yet responsible for any of it. I was a 'work in progress.'
But, knocking on the door of sixty very soon, I must stop and take a cold hard look at how I've been avoiding what we must all finally admit to: this IS my life as I'VE created it. Every last morsel of it. I am the author, the heroin, the villain, and the critic. No one else is responsible. No one else can fix any of it. And no one else savor its sweetness.
This idea of pursuit flashed through my mind this morning while I sat on the toilet. I know...TMI! Like none of YOU would ever admit to sitting on a toilet! I know some people read; I tease my kittens on the other side of the door. They love reaching their paws through the small gap at the bottom. I threw down a pen I had handy and Punkn tried and tried to pull it back to his side of the door. He'd almost get it and then he'd bump it and back it would roll.
I felt great appreciation for my thumbs while watching this kitty game. What would have been simple for me was quite a tricky endeavor for my little four-pawed friend.
Then I notice something interesting. Even when he had the pen almost totally on his side of the door, he'd pop it back to me. And like a flash it struck me. He wasn't interested in HAVING the pen. He wanted to keep the game going. He liked the chase; the pursuit.
It reminded me of another furry friend of mine, Boo. Boo is a daytime outdoor cat and he loves to hunt. Birds, mice, lizards, spiders. If it moves, he'll chase it. The first time he caught a bird I was heartbroken. He hadn't quite killed it, but death might have been preferable to its continued agony. Do birds experience agony? I picked it up, tears rolling down my face and apologies whispering through my lips. I gently tossed it into the sheltered gully beside my home for one last airborne flight.
But, it was the mice he caught that came to mind this morning as Punkn kept our game of pass-the-pen going. When Boo caught a mouse he'd play with it. Catch and release. It would scurry away hoping, I'm sure, for an escape hatch. Boo would lie there watching it dart off and leap back onto it moments later. When he did finally get around to killing the poor thing, he'd continue flipping it up into the air and pouncing on it. Over and over. Then he'd get bored with the limp adversary and walk off. He could care less, it seemed, about HAVING the mouse. He just wanted to hunt.
Lessons come in all shapes and sizes and even from furry gurus. Are we all just interested in the hunt? The pursuit? Perhaps in your life you've noticed what I have. After I get what I've been chasing - full of excitement for reaching my goal - the joy wears off pretty quickly. The new job begins to look and feel a lot like the old one. The new car smell fades. The new house gets dirty too.
Somehow having what I wanted wasn't nearly as fun or exciting as before having it. The chase just felt more engaging and alive. I'm sure that's why we don't take much time to savor the moment of accomplishment before setting of on the next worthy quest.
Back to that pursuit of knowledge and truth. Could it be that we've been unconsciously avoiding knowing the truth? Maybe that's why we continue to look outside ourselves to others for our answers. Deep inside we know they can't possibly know our answers, yet we keep knocking on their doors, going to their seminars, reading their books, seeking their advice.
I once heard someone describe achieving their goal as a little death. The challenge had been met and the game was over. Is it possible that just beneath our level of conscious awareness we believe that to truly know the truth about who we are and what this life is ends the game? Ends the pursuit? Subconsciously, the end is death. And we'll avoid death at all costs.
If you've been seeking all your life and still haven't found, there's really only two explanations. Either there's nothing to find or you don't want to find it.
Just something to think about next time you're sitting on the toilet.
Karen Wright is author of The Sequoia Seed: Remembering the Truth of Who You Are, a great read for anyone who is seeking understanding or guidance, inspiration or clarity in his or her life.