It is one thing to see the problems that mire you, and quite another to escape them.
You see, the first thing I do when I see a new problem, a new issue, a new trap, is panic.
I only just noticed this - but it is the truth. I panic. Then I fight.
It's how I've lived a great deal of my life, and the more I see it in myself, the more I realise that I am not alone.
Admitting you have a problem is the first step, or so they say.
What's the second?
Well, the truth is that in panic, there is at least motion. Panic can get you out of a situation, although it's far from reliable.
When you act out of panic, you set yourself up for a war. You are fighting, and when you fight, enemies rally against you. You emanate a nervous energy that causes people to raise their guards against you, and sometimes it might seem that even reality itself is resisting you.
Now, you can do this and win. I myself have achieved several things in my life through struggle and fire, and achieved them well.
But there is always a price to pay for doing things this way. When your energy is coming from a place of defiant rejection of what is, there is a build-up of darkness inside you. Poison, both internal and external is created.
You make your omelette, but you break a shitload of eggs doing it. It takes longer. It pushes you to the brink of destruction and despair, over and over.
And that brink is where the real battle is fought. For the longest time I believed that it was there that all victories were won - because at the end of despair there is always a choice to keep fighting or to give up.
As long as you just keep fighting, you will eventually achieve.
That's basically been my philosophy on life for a long time now.
I'm 27 and I have almost a full head of gray hair.
And yes - I have achieved a level of endurance that I think is pretty singular... but that's not a good thing. I often fall back into a fighting mode - often without noticing - and trigger more battles, more stress, more poison.
I guess that life has taught me - that I have taught me - that struggle is the arena in which success is won.
I no longer think that's true.
I think that there's something else, a higher way of achieving. A way of achieving that does not drain and injure. A way of success that leaves one stronger for the journey, and not haggard and torn, slugging your way to glory like Rocky in the 15th round.
It all comes down to the second step.
The first step is admitting you have a problem.
The second step is to chill.
To accept the situation, to accept that you do have the problem. To accept that there is no immediate solution.
Tolle speaks of a man stuck in mud. I'm that dude. And that dude fights and struggles, lashes out for any ground, hates the mud, blames the mud, blames himself, rages and laments.
His struggles suck him deeper, deep down. Right down to the bottom.
And it is here that he will either give up, or fight on though all reality and sanity is screaming at him to stop.
And as long as he simply refuses to die, as long as he never stops fighting, he will get out.
But who will he be when he gets out?
What kind of a man will he be?
What kind of darkness will he carry with him from the swamp?
I am amazed that I still stand and move and breathe when I think of the huge reservoirs of toxicity I have exposed myself to throughout my life. But again, there is a truth about fighting which spiritual teachers rarely speak of, and it is this:
It hurts so bad, it hurts more than anything else in the world, and it opens you up to such stunning levels of emotional pain that you would be amazed the human mind could experience agony to such a degree.
But it works... in a way.
Whatever CONTINGENT problem you have, you can resolve through struggle.
And that is why it is such a popular method. There is a simplicity to it. You fight, you endure, and if you endure for long enough, and fight hard enough, you will probably win.
But here's the real reason why fighting is futile...
The CONTINGENT problem is NEVER the real problem.
You're bad with girls? That's not the REAL problem. The real problem is that you're unhappy with YOU.
And if you get good with girls by FIGHTING, you will end up an emotional wreck who can pick up chicks like a rock star.
Or, like me, you'll go through a phase of being awesome with girls, but you'll have built up a backlash of negativity in your mind, a backlash that's just waiting for the right moment to swing into your self-esteem like a wrecking ball and tear you down to less than you've ever been.
The problem with "saving the world" is that there are a million ways in which your ego WILL kick off. There's no way to do this in an "enlightened" way which completely circumvents the negativity you're going to encounter.
You see, you will panic. You will. Sorry.
And when you do, the quality of action that you put out there is going to be chaotic, destructive, antagonistic and basically shit.
So what do you do?
Well, Tolle finishes the story of the guy in the mud like so. What if the guy, instead of fighting his situation, just accepts he's in the mud. He's not REACTING to it in a knee-jerk emotional way, he just accepts the situation.
Then he looks around, and looks for a solution. Maybe he sees a branch that he couldn't see before because he was thrashing around, and pulls himself out. Maybe he just moves with confidence, care and purpose, and extricates himself from the mire by himself.
Whatever he does, the quality of action rising out of that situation is very different from the panicked thrashings of before. There is a smoothness, a calmness - a silent power backing every motion.
Same with any action.
For the longest time I saw the 'matrix' of social conditioning as the mud. I thrashed around in it, I railed against it. I wanted to save the world, but that desire was suffused (and perhaps even born) in desperation.
That desperate energy flowed through me, and through everything I did. I was fighting, and the world fought me. I threw a punch, the world threw 50.
Accept it. Accept the mud we're mired in. Accept the matrix, accept the madness. Accept that it exists, and that it holds us fast both in the world outside and the world inside.
Admit there's a problem - accept it - look at it - be cool - don't lose your shit - then act with measured and calm movement.
That's the formula.
Acceptance brings us in line with our true power. Instead of acting through what the Hindus refer to as Karma (desperate, personal, egoic and contingent fighting), we act through the grander conception of Karma - we bring the full, smooth force of the universe to bear through our actions.
The way to act through universal karma and not personal karma is to accept the mud.
And we can do all sorts of kick-ass shit.
Just remember - when you're trying anything great, it's not the rejections you need to watch out for... it's YOUR rejection of the rejections.
Whenever you're fighting, remember... surrender. Accept. Then act with smooth and balanced power.
Oh, and one other thing...
Keep your eyes on the prize, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Eyes on the prize.