Posted: 25 May 2009 03:00 AM PDT
Something many of you will know about me by now is that I really try to make the most of life and take advantage of this opportunity I have on earth. Part of making the most of life, to me, is facing your fears and really going for what you want, even if it scares you. That is something I did around 6 months ago when I joined a public speaking club
A meeting at the club usually involves 4 people each giving an 8 minute speech and then 4 other members evaluating them. After that, everyone else who would like to speak is given a random topic which they have to speak about for 2 minutes.
Being quite new to the club I had yet to make a longer speech, but my chance came when I was asked to put together a talk for the next meeting. Originally, I had written a speech about making goals and being able to achieve them; something I like to think I’ve been successful at. Within a few days I had put the whole thing together and just needed to start practicing it.
Around four days before the event, I was putting the finishing touches to my presentation and recording my efforts. It was at this time that I received a phone call to let me know that my gran, who had been in hospital for a few weeks, had sadly passed away.
It was at that moment that I decided to change the topic of my speech, aptly entitled: This is it. The meeting where I was supposed to give my talk ended up being cancelled so I never had the chance to present it. Therefore I’ve decided to share the talk with you all in this blog post in the hope that each of you can take something from it.
I have modified the speech slightly as text for a speech is quite different to text for a reader, but the main messages should still come across clearly.
Without further ado, here is the speech just after I had explained about my choice of topic…
I didn’t want to speak about death for 8 minutes; instead, I want to focus on problems - the things that usually seem so small in times of serious matters.
In order to talk about problems effectively, I decided to look at the three phases of time that our perceived problems come in: the past, the future, and the present.
Something highly obvious, but often forgotten about the past is that it is nothing more than a memory in your imagination. You can only ‘relive’ the past by thinking about it; you can’t go there, you can’t change it, and it will always be as it is.
Yet, while the past is nothing more than part of our imagination, it still has a strong hold on people in this present moment.
First of all, people define themselves by their past. Someone might say: “people made fun of me at school so I must be a loser now” or “I’ve never had a boyfriend or girlfriend so why should I be able to get one now” or even “I’ve had no lucky breaks come my way so why would that change”. We use the past to create limiting beliefs thinking that we can’t do such and such now because we’ve never done it before, and so on.
Secondly, we hold on to problems of the past. Some people who have had a hard childhood never seem be able to forget about the struggle that they’ve went through and it makes them miserable. Even something more recent, like having an argument with a colleague a few days ago, can still bring us down in this moment. This happens simply because we’re thinking about it and those thoughts can bring the exact same emotions as the actual event.
Thinking about the past or letting the past control our present isn’t the only thing that holds people back. There’s also the future.
If the past is nothing more than a memory of what has happened, then the future is nothing more than some projected thought of what might or should happen.
There are two aspects to ‘future’ thinking that people allow to control them and create problems in their lives. The first is that we worry about a possible event. When I had finished my speech I was getting worried about the possible reactions and how well it would go. I was comfortable and in my home, with nothing bad going on, yet there I was creating negative future projections and letting them bring my mood down in that moment. I was getting stressed at nothing more than mind made projections.
Secondly, we hope for salvation in the future. We tell ourselves that the future will bring happiness and wealth and fulfilment or anything else we desire. We use the future as some kind of scapegoat. Thinking that as soon as a certain event happens that we can be at peace or start enjoying life and being happy. We spend this moment now waiting for good things to happen in some other moment.
If we cling to the problems of our past, and worry about what might be in the future, where do we find happiness and live problem free? That’s simple…this moment, right here, right now.
Before I get into that, I want to look at our tendency as humans to label and react to things. Without trying to cause too much controversy, my personal view is that every situation is completely neutral.
To help you understand that, let me ask you a question:
If a young girl gets hit by a car, is that positive, negative or neutral (neutral meaning it is what it is) ? The obvious response to that is that it’s negative, the girl should not get hit by the car, it just shouldn’t happen. Now what if the girl getting hit by a car allowed doctors to find a tumour that they would haven’t of otherwise found out about and managed to save her life. Is the car crash still negative, is it positive, or is it…what it is.
Regardless of your answers to that, what I’m getting at is that it’s completely up to you how you look at and react to things. You can see things negatively, which we tend to do, we can see things positively, or we can accept things as they are, and deal with the things we can deal with.
Even today, there are probably so many irrelevant little incidents that got each of us in a bad mood. The learner driver in front of you was going too slowly, your boss gave you a task to do that you didn’t like, your child made a mess when making breakfast and so on. We resist these things, we resent people and we constantly complain internally because we’ve already labelled the thing or person as ‘bad’.
Did you know, most car accidents aren’t caused by drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Most car accidents are caused by drivers in emotionally charged states. For example, their football team may have just lost, they might have had an argument with their partner or something else that gets their adrenaline pumping before stepping into a car. They can’t let go of what has happened and be in the moment and instead hold onto their problems.
It is this kind of holding on to the past which causes fatal accidents.
Instead of holding on to incidents and let them control you, try to be here in the moment, as often as possible. Take in this situation, this moment, right now. You’re safe, you’re probably indoors and there are no problems you can have right now. You might think you had one 2 minutes ago, or you might think something will come up in 10 minutes, but right now, there are no problems. (See post
What eastern philosophy and spiritual teachers have been trying to tell us for a long time is pretty simple: now is all there ever is. Now is the only constant, it is never not now. I have practically eliminated “problems” from my life by trying to live in the moment as often as possible and not letting my thoughts bring me down.
Instead of holding onto problems of the past, instead of disregarding this moment because you think happiness is found in some perfect future - come back to this moment. Take in your environment, be in it, soak it all up. You’ll be surprised when you find peace and happiness in the most simple of situations.
Just like with my gran, we never know when our time is up. Make the most of this opportunity that we call life: this is it.