Why me, why here, why now?
Why me? Why was I born into a poor family? Why did my friends get many more presents from Santa Claus than I did? Why did all the other boys in High School have girlfriends but not me? Why did other families have newer cars, bigger houses?
Why me? Later when I was at University why did the other fellers have girlfriends, some had more than one or a succession of them and I had none. How come they had lots more leisure time, more money and I was alone, always busy and still poor? I was a very diligent member of the Church but very unhappy: my questions were deemed wrong. I had poor self-esteem, poor social skills and a big chip on my shoulder, and a self-indulgent question – Why me?
Why me? Later I came to realise that I had had, in fact, a very lucky childhood. I had very loving parents, who were good moral models and I was encouraged to follow my talents as far as I could. As a child I had had plenty of physical and intellectual freedom which allowed me to satisfy my inquisitiveness and relentless questioning. In my teen years although they were lonely they were rewarding at school. I did very well. Thanks to my mother’s encouragement I aspired to and went to university: the only one of my extended family to do so. I was the black sheep of the family but become comfortable with that.
Why here? After I left University and the Christian Church I fell in with an odd bunch of people, quite alternative, bohemian and free thinking. They introduced me to meditate which I learned at the Age of Enlightenment Centre established by the Maharishi Yogi. The first thing I discovered after I started meditating was that I could no longer deceive myself: my liberated conscience played hell with me thoughts and actions. I came to see that the poor self-esteem and poor social skills I had were personal development characteristics and not a life sentence.
Why here? I was lucky to have a series of mentors who helped me on my spiritual journey. Most were holy men or women who respected my opinion, encouraged my doubting and held different views from me and actually from each other. I was beginnings to keep but it was limited to the people I associated with.
Why here? When we returned to New Zealand from Ireland, Laurie introduced me to this group (the Wellington Study Group). Good Company now took on extra dimension with the experiences and wisdom of many different people, a forum for discussion but no dogma and performance criteria, other than an honest desire to continue the journey. I now added other sacred texts and the thoughts of enlightened people to my Good Company in a way my previous encounters had failed to do.
Why here? I see the functioning of the WSG as supporting my spiritual journey through what is also sound psychology, good philosophy and supportive friends. A good philosophy of life for me is one that is cohesive, internally consistent, based around common sense and that allows me to doubt everything as a prelude to change: an environment that I find positively encourages doubt but without anxiety.
Why now? All through my spiritual journey, especially after I had left the Church and have associated with Eastern philosophies I have been instructed to be in the moment, to live in the moment or be in the present, but I did not understand what that instruction meant. That is until I saw the psychological implications.
Over the last two years or so in our group we have discussed the principal of living in the moment, succinctly captured in the quotation from Good Company (p.15):
One stays in the present,
and one acts as the occasion demands,
and the whole thing passes.
One stays in the present. Why should I stay in the present?
Because that is not only all there is but it is the sum total of my existence and my experiences and my knowledge. It enables me to set aside all expectations, the highs and lows of my past, my fears and expectations of the future. It frees me. I can approach even second of the day as new and unprecedented. I can see the moment as unique, as if I had no personal history or experiences and no expectations.
Only then do I act. How? As the moment demands. Now I can act, calling on all that I am and I can make the best response I can with what I know.
And the whole thing passes. I cannot determine the outcome or the consequences of my decisions as these are beyond me. I can however be satisfied with my decisions and actions but only when they are made with complete honesty, with the best of intentions and free from psychological encumbrances. I take comfort from the honesty of my intent.
Living in the present is liberating. It is the lessons of life and the experience of living that enlivens me. I am guided by my own thoughts and beliefs, the wisdom of other and the sacred texts. I do not want to be focused on regrets as that just drains away my energy. I do not want to be focused on the future, expending energy on the unknowable and on the uncontrollable.
There is a universality in the wisdom of those three lines. Even Albert Einstein recognised it. He said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
One stays in the present
And one acts as the occasion demands
And the whole thing passes.
* Good Company has three elements: the association with others who are also seeking spiritual enlightenment, the help of a realised / enlightened person and sacred scriptures.