Apparently ‘working on yourself doesn’t work’.

At least according to Ariel and Shya Kane who wrote a book with the same title which I read many years ago and which popped up for some reason recently.

Sometime I find it hard to ‘get it’ while reading a book. Not because of the language per se, but because I cannot get my mind to wrap around it and understand mentally and physically what is meant by the message.

So the authors had explained how to get to the moment and that like on a map, you first need to know where you are to find out how to get to where you want to go. Yes, I get that.

The book continued about ‘awareness’ – which I already find a difficult word (in the esoteric sense) to deal with – and the difference between change (which ‘is incremental and happens over time: past/future’) and transformation (which ‘is exponential and instantaneous: now’). I was tring to grasp that concept while reading this late at night.

Their explanation on prejudices and how having to be right all the time (even when you’re wrong and especially when you’re right) gets you in a circle of having to prove the other wrong. To be really alive you have to stop wanting to be right all the time. That made sense to me although I have a default setting of wanting to be right…

The book continued onto our past and our memories and successfully proved to me why my memories are mostly wrong and if they are right they represent me at that time in the past from which I have evolved since.

The authors explained a private consulting session where just by massaging and ‘being present without judging’, the consulting woman had a breakdown remembering something from her past which changed her life forever. I remember thinking at the time that this was a little too weird for me. Yes since then, I have had similar experiences and can now better relate to what they meant.

The book then gives an explanation of ‘being in the moment’. We all think that there has to be a reason for why we are the way we are. Attached to our life story, we blame someone or something. What if there is no reason? Basically, you can’t blame on the past how you are being in this moment. You can’t fix your childhood or anything else that happened in the past. I can see that.

Getting past the past is done by forgiveness. Forgiving the past instead of working on yourself to try to fix it. Moving from a psychological framework to an anthropological one (notating, neutrally observing what you witness without trying to change what is seen). When you’re a child you judge your parent because you are unable to share the adult’s perspective – by virtue of age and lack of maturity. The authors suggest that you try ‘being’ the other person rather than ‘judging them from the outside’.
At the time I could not understand this concept. Now of course I agree that when you forgive you really and above all free yourself.

The book then continued with the principles of transformation. By this time I was sitting in bed with serious hiccups and was trying to hold my breath, swallow funnily etc to get rid of them. Nothing would do. I was reading the first principle which says

‘Anything you resist, persists – and gets stronger’ 
(for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction).

The second principle says

‘No two things can occupy the same space at the same time’.

Physically (no two persons can sit in the same chair at the same time) or mentally (you cannot be happy and sad at the same time).
The third principle says

‘Anything that you recreate or have be exactly as it is, will complete itself and disappear. In other words, if you let things actually be the way they are, they disappear’. 

As I was reading, I was thinking about my hiccups and decided to just let them be. I tried to be ‘in the moment’ and give them the space they were already occupying anyway. And, believe it or not, they vanished. I couldn’t believe it myself. I was stunned.

I continued reading with interest about how ‘Each moment became a separate jewel in time. Not to be gotten away from or ignored, nor to be compared to the moment preceding it.’

So being happy is not better than being sad. One cannot be happy all the time and we should quit pursuing that feeling and instead be present in all states of emotion we are in. Because the only moment true and lasting happiness can be achieved is NOW. ‘Until you are willing to be the way you are – in any given moment – you can never be happy because happiness is only one of many emotions that human beings are capable of experiencing’. Cristal clear.

The authors continued to explain that the experiences we live through are written on our hard disk. Whenever we experience something similar, a window pops up and reminds us that we have lived a similar experience. The thought processes or emotions derived from such experiences tend to pop up and try to guide us in our ‘now’ experiences. But what happened then is not necessarily relevant or equal to now and we need to stop ourselves from listening to ‘old recordings’.

So should we make choices (‘a selection made after consideration that is reflective of your heartfelt desires or authentic wishes’ – basically ‘expressions of your heart’) or decisions (which are ‘intellectually determined, based upon your considerations’ – basically pro and con facts)?

Like with memories, decisions we made in our past cannot be blueprinted onto our current or future life. We should avoid linking that registered information to today’s happenings. So no more ‘déjà vu’, no more telling ourselves the same things we did in the past, no more getting defensive about something or wanting to be right all the time.

The authors say we cannot get rid of that behaviour but bypass it and awareness is the key. We should ‘notice our behaviour like anthropologists, it will allow us to disengage from old decisions’. We should live in the now, stop complaining and ‘resisting circumstances in our life because that will only perpetuate dissatisfaction and generate pain’. Ahuh.

So we need to be aware of what we are doing, note what what we are doing without passing judgment.

At the time I read this book, I was in a totally different state of mind and life situation and I found that very difficult.

Yet I realise how far I’ve come since then. Now, when I yell at my boys for some silly thing they did that I don’t approve of, I tend to note and observe this without judging. Not always mind you! When I’m tired or stressed all I can think about is that I shouldn’t be yelling at them, that I should try to better myself in order to find another way to tell them that what they are doing is wrong.

Trying to be better would be a decision which kills off alternatives. ‘A simple noting that things are different than what you would prefer – and the way is open again’.

This was a difficult sentence for me back then (I read this about 10 years ago). Now I ‘get it’ 🙂 .

The book ends with an excerpt of Sengtsan’s hsin hsin ming ‘The great way’:

The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.

I still struggle with this of course. I have my preferences, I like and dislike certain things, situations or people…

So I guess the book fell off the shelf for a reason. To show me how far I’ve come but also how far I still have to go 🙂