Mind the Gap
If you have ever ridden the London underground, you are familiar with the warning that’s painted on the boarding platform. This simple admonition is , “Mind the Gap.” As I was walking about this morning appreciating the freshness after a much needed rain, the gap between what I understand and my behaviors was, once again, in my face.
How is it that I “know” so much and this awareness doesn’t translate into behavior that is consistent with that knowing? I know the impact of worry. Doesn’t matter what the worry is. How much money I have. What others think of me. How I spend my time. The list seems endless. Each time, I take a breath and feel the cause of the worry, I always get the same answer. I’m putting my attention on the future. I am not living fully in this present moment.
I know that living fully right now, putting no attention on anything else, offers experiences that aren’t possible otherwise. Knowing this is great. Why do I act differently?
The answer to this question has been elusive until now. I didn’t expect to write the preceding sentence. The answer presented itself, and I am taking pause to feel the consequences of its revelation.
A bit of digression before I reveal the answer. Marianne Williamson wrote in her book A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
The foundation for the answer I received can be felt in this beautifully expressed writing. “Who are you not to be?” This simple question is at the crux of our human condition. I am provided indoctrination from early on that my life is filled with limitation. I can’t do something because we don’t have enough money. Someone like me wouldn’t ever be capable of some feat that requires being extraordinary. I’m only an insignificant being, after all.
This lie is told over and over again. The reasons vary, but generally revolve around the theme, “you don’t want to get too big for your breeches.” All sorts of adult “authority figures” believe they are saving me from the dire consequences of self-aggrandizement or preparing me for the harsh reality of what’s possible.
Their good intentions don’t negate the consequences. They are planting the seeds of my deep belief in my limitations. Once this process is begun, there are ample sources of evidence to confirm my deficiencies and limitations. The only problem is that the evidence is incomplete. It is discovered through the lens of beliefs of insufficiency. Kind of looking at a glass as half empty or half full.
Over time, my beliefs become so strong that I’m certain they are true. Sure, I may have momentary experiences that are outside these beliefs. Maybe I excel at an athletic event or accomplish something that seems impossible. Soon after the event, the old, ingrained beliefs are loudly pointing out that this was a fluke, and certainly not to be experienced again.
It was said that Steve Jobs created a ‘reality distortion field” around himself. When people talked with him, he would be so persuasive about what he was advocating that even if they believed something quite different at the beginning of the conversation, they were enrolled in his perspective by the end.
We all have the power to create our own “reality distortion field”. When some read this phrase, they may say, “Come on, we know it’s important to accept things as they are.” Yes, I absolutely agree. Accepting things as they are is vital for pragmatic living. The challenge I have (and I suspect you have as well) is seeing things as they are.
We look at the world through our personal reality. This reality is formed by so many influences. These influences take the form of beliefs that, for the most part, we are unaware of. I grew up in the south and have a fondness for certain southern accents. When someone starts talking in a slow, comforting cadence that elongates the vowels and lets the words move smoothly out of their mouths, I find my mood is happy. This person could be telling me things that I know are completely false, yet my love of their speaking voice, starts numbing my discernment, and I begin believing them.
We all have our blind spots. Ways we misperceive what’s real because of our likes and dislikes. Seeing the world as it is means being aware of this tendency and minding the gap. You see, this gap is created by misperception, reinforced over time. This misperception isn’t only in our thoughts. It is also in our automatic emotional and physical reactions.
Changing your world view is actually very easy if you’re willing to commit to one important principle. Be patient. In our culture, we want things to change RIGHT NOW. It’s not that instant change is impossible. It’s just that it doesn’t happen often. More likely change comes from taking one step, then the next, then the next.
If I remember patience, I start accumulating the benefit of change more quickly than I thought. Each day’s addition to being aware of what’s real deepens my experience. Which takes me back to the answer I received to the question, “Why do I act differently from what I know?”
I forget to ask one simple question. This question is different for each of us. My question is, “Is this moment the greatest moment of my life?” As I hold that question in my awareness, it becomes my reference point. If the answer is no, I remember I can have the greatest moment of my life, right now, and I do. If the answer is yes, I smile and allow myself to feel the amazement of this experience.
There is some misperception of the qualities of a greatest moment. Some will believe (and that’s the problem isn’t it?) that greatest moments are always about feeling happy. Sometimes that’s so, and at others times it’s not. Greatest moments are about experiencing everything possible, with no limitation, right now.
One of the most powerful examples of this, is my wife’s story about her labor with our youngest. She had heard a few women say that the most intense contractions of labor could be ecstatic. When she heard this, she felt disbelief. With our next youngest, her labor was fast. Start to finish, it was over in a few hours.
With our last child, labor seemed to go on and on. Her expectation of a quick delivery, simply wasn’t happening. As her labor continued, she started experiencing what she had previously disbelieved. The pain of the contractions, rather than something to cower from was a wave she rode. She felt bliss. There are photos of her in the birthing pool, at that time, filled with her radiance.
She was totally in the experience. She was not referencing what anyone else said about the pain, or her own experiences of previous deliveries. She was in the NOW. The experience that most call deeply painful was intense and joyful.
As I finish writing to you, I am filled with wonder. I have been moving in and out of great moments. There is a little voice that says this won’t last. I smile, and rather than give it my attention, ask the question, “Is this the greatest moment of my life?” Yes it is.
Is this the greatest moment of your life? If not, I invite you to let go of any disbelief, and join me in living in the experience of greatness.