It would seem that the task of providing for ourselves and for those we love brings with it a certain kind of dissatisfaction. Most of us must go to work every day and perform repetitive tasks that are rarely of our choosing. And when these unwanted routines run--as they do--through our reality, it isn't long before our growing resistance to them leaves us feeling weary, if not burned out!
Even if we're lucky enough to make a living doing what we wish, what feels good one moment can become a grind the next; we all know the drill whenever we start feeling stuck. Resistance to our situation swells in us like a cresting wave, and moments later we're carried into a world without gratitude, enthusiasm, or hope. Now add to this sad scenario the fact that this resistance itself becomes a part of our routine, and it's easy to see why we often feel as if we're stuck in a rut!
Yet, not everything is as it seems. Looking at life through the eyes of resistance is not unlike looking at our own reflection in a pool of troubled waters; everything gets distorted. In fact, when seeing our lives through the narrow bars of some unwanted state, nothing is the way we see it.
Yes, it may feel as though we're stuck in some rut, but our original Self can no more get stuck in a rut than sunshine can be glued to the floor. So, the first step to releasing ourselves from any sense of being in a rut begins with seeing this truth:
The real nature of what we call our "daily grind" is really just our own mind telling itself, over and over again, how much it wishes things would change.
This brings us to this next important lesson. It comes to us in two parts, but tells one story much as an oak tree grows out of an acorn. First, our present level of mind can only place and hold its attention on one thought or feeling at a time. Secondly, as goes our attention, so comes our experience.
For example, we can see that, whenever we give our attention to something beautiful--a field of spring flowers or robins romping in a birdbath--we experience within us the delight of what we've given ourselves to see. But as we're about to learn, this same principle holds true when it comes to how we make ourselves feel when looking at "scenes" in our lives that we don't want to see. Let's gather the details behind this important discovery.
When we feel stuck somewhere, in a rut of some kind, to what do we give our attention? As a rule, what we see in our mind's eye is the circumstance we think responsible for how we feel in that same moment. Although this pattern of placing blame on conditions outside of us seems wise, a closer look tells a completely different story. In fact, this way of looking at our situation is a part of the very rut we wish to escape! Remember:
No condition outside ourselves can create a rut or trap us in it. It's impossible. Use the next friendly fact to prove this important idea:
Ruts don't create the cattle that follow them; cattle create ruts by blindly following one another, slowly grinding down the ground upon which they walk. If life seems like a grind, it's only because we're following around the same level of thinking that makes it so. Blaming outside circumstances for trapping us in a rut is like blaming the television for the boredom we feel while sitting watching nothing but reruns.
It's time to break our ties with anything in us that would rather complain about its situation than go to work to change it. And it doesn't matter where or how we feel stuck--whether we're living under what seems an impossible situation, making too many self-compromising choices, or feeling like a prisoner of what seems an inescapable past. Yes, our condition may feel real, but any reason our mind gives us about "why" we're stuck there is a lie! Great nature herself proves the truth of this when we know where to look!
Nothing in life repeats itself in exactly the same way: not the seasons and not the path of the stars that drive those seasons, let alone the eternal genesis that sits behind all of creation. More simply stated, life never travels the same road twice. Like a bed of roses bathing in streams of sunlight, not a moment unfolds where some new impression isn't raining down upon us, even as it wells up from within. So any time it feels as if we're captive of some condition outside us, this sense of self has to be a lie, because nothing in real life remains the same! Living in the grip of this illusion is like sticking our finger into a bucket of ice water on a beautiful summer day, then not wanting to go outside because we're sure it will be too cold to play!
So, the first step to breaking out of any rut in life is to no longer enable the parts of us that keep walking in them while wishing they weren't so deep! Learning to watch our own thoughts and feelings--to be quietly attentive to what the mind is attending to in each moment--ensures that we won't fall into these ditches, because our heightened level of attention keeps them from being dug!
We wouldn't allow a small child to wander around, unattended, in a working construction zone; in such a place, danger is everywhere for the mind that can't see it. Nor, for the same reason, should we allow our own mind to just go and do whatever it wants. Even though it remains largely unseen, life on earth is a kind of invisible construction zone, a ceaselessly active "creative zone," in which dwell a host of psychic forces, light and dark alike. The extent of their power to influence how we experience our life depends upon our awareness of them. Again, as goes our attention, goes experience.
Trying to reclaim our attention can feel, at times, like trying to pull a willful child out of line just as it about to get on its favorite amusement-park ride. This interior struggle can be very difficult at times, because, as hard as it is to believe, there is a momentum to all things--including our misery over feeling stuck. Such misery doesn't just love company; it wants to continue with its life. Nevertheless, persist! Each moment of reclaimed attention gives us a stake in the freedom it grants. For encouragement along the way, just notice how, each time you bring your attention into the present moment, it's you who gets the gift of being made new. That's the way it works.
See how many times you can catch yourself just as you're about to go on the "ride" of not wanting to be where you are--of not wanting to do what you must. Then deliberately step out of that long line of repetitive thoughts and feelings. Take your attention off what you don't want, and bring it into the new moment--as it is.
This new and higher level of attention connects you to the present moment, the living now that is one and the same as your original Self. The interior task of working to remain attentive in this way grants you entrance into a world free of routine, without ruts of any kind-- because no one has ever been there before you.
Excerpted from The Courage to Be Free, by Guy Finley, Red Wheel Books, 2010
Guy is the acclaimed author of The Secret of Letting Go and more than 37 other books and audio programs that have sold over a million copies in 16 languages worldwide.