2016: The year that was

Two days ago while eating breakfast with a friend we began to speak about the new year and I asked whether they had any new year’s resolutions. Their answer was that while having goals/desires/aims for the year ahead was important, more important to them was reflection on the year that was. This is so for me too. Reflection is for me the only true way to learn from what has happened, it brings things that may be shrouded in fog into the light of day.

However, it can also be tough, and so it is necessary to be careful not to get caught up and dwell on things – after all, the past is the past; it doesn’t really exist, except as you choose to create it in your mind.

One of my favourite lines from The Lion King comes from the wise baboon Rafiki.

Rafiki hits Simba over the head with a stick:

“Owwww, what was that for!?” says Simba.

“It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past, he he he!” says Rafiki, “The past can really hurt … but the way I see it, you can either run from it… or learn from it!”

The year that was for me – well, it has been one crazy year…

The highest of highs

The highest of highs came in a setting that I would never have dreamed of – while driving alone from Seattle to Whistler (I have written about this experience already – The moment I discovered inner happiness…). It was not some thing that I did, but rather some thing that happened – an internal experience, unlike anything I had ever encountered before.

So then, what caused it? This question is flawed as I do not believe any cause can be attributed to this experience… Attributing the experience to any one thing or collection of things in particular would be an injustice. It just was and that is all that need be said.

The lowest of lows

The lowest of lows came a few months into Portland life. A battle began to rage between the thought of who I was, and the thought of who I was becoming. I wrote about this battle between the aptly named Mark A and Mark B (Life and poker – goals and objectives). To summarise:

The thought of who I was – suit wearing, working in a respected institution, wakes up early, goes to bed early.

The thought of who I was becoming – track pant wearing, works in an environment that is not respected, wakes up whenever, goes to bed after midnight.

Both of these thoughts of myself are fictitious of course. However, this truth can often get obscured, as it did for me during this time. And this battle led me to slip back into a semi-depressed state.

Luckily this state did not last long. And I feel I have become much better at recognising this within myself. My biggest learning, which I have written about below, brought me back from this space and into reality again.

Catching dreams

I ticked off my dream of playing poker in the World Series of Poker! I even got mentioned on the World Series live updates webpage while playing in one of the tournaments!!! Not once, but twice!

 

This was in the running for “highest of highs” for the year – it came in at a distant second.

The funny thing about achieving this dream was that, having achieved it, a stark realisation dawned on me – the show must go on. And so, new dreams, goals and ambitions arise.

This is the path that I find myself on. Uncertain where it will take me, but I know good things must come so long as I continue the work I have begun.

My biggest learning

Who are you?

Things come and go. Jobs, relationships, experiences. They are impermanent. If you accept this truth, then you also accept that these things cannot be you. A very tough pill to swallow, given that we are conditioned to believe that these things define us – you’re a doctor, you’re a janitor, you have a big house, you have a small house, you’re successful, you’re unsuccessful, you’re such and such’s husband or wife or partner.

You are not. These are merely the stories that others tell us, which if we are told enough we begin to believe, and in turn tell ourselves. Fictitious creations of our sense of self that arise in the mind. If you wanted to call it something, “ego” is probably most accurate.

You are not these stories. You are something much much deeper. However, if you continue to derive your sense of self entirely from “things” that are external to you, that is to say things that are external to your being, you may never begin to understand this truth. It also means one hell of a mess is in store for you once the things that you have identified with eventually dissolve (which they eventually will due to their impermanence).

So then, if you are not these things, then who are you?

You are.

Notice the period. This is the only real truth. Only once everything that I thought I was (or more accurately I should say, everything that I’d identified with) dissolved was I able to realise this truth. But that doesn’t mean it is easy to remember… It’s so easy for the mind to trick us into forgetting this truth – see above “lowest of lows” for an example – the “ego” it seems is a tough sucker to kill, adept in survival tactics it loves to attach itself to the next thing it can find… it seems that only with much practice will this truth stick and with that sticking may the ego finally subside.

Looking forward 

On a personal level, objectives, goals and ambitions for the year ahead exist.

As a collective species I foresee we are destined to repeat the past, yet I remain hopeful to be proven wrong.

What it boils down to for me is this: There is a lot to look forward to, but why waste time thinking about that when there is a beautiful now.

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