Wednesday, 23 December 2015

FOMO

“Fear of Missing Out”


ˈfəʊməʊ/
noun
informal
  1. anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. 

When I was a child it was commonplace for people of my parents' generation to have a showcase (vitrine) in their house in which souvenirs from travels and special occasions were displayed. Everything from miniatures of famous landmarks once visited to wedding cake toppers. I was mesmerised by these memories encased in glass. Each item marked an event special enough to be preserved and enshrined.

Though it took me longer than many to begin to explore what the world has to offer, when I finally did, I instinctively began collecting souvenirs. You may look at my collection of miniatures of some of the world’s greatest landmarks I’ve visited and think that I’m well travelled, but actually it has taken decades to accumulate. It was not a hungry accumulation. It was not a feverish consumption. It was slow and mindful and each step was carefully considered and deeply appreciated. Similarly I could list the various things I’ve done and achieved and it may sound to some like I am fairly accomplished. But again, each of these steps was taken slowly and mindfully and with careful consideration.

In between each of these souvenir moments were long periods of ordinariness and even banality. Before the rise of social media, the anxiety I felt to “get more out of my life” was mostly limited to things I’d see on tv or in magazines, or friends’ stories and photographs shared with me in person. To be sure, FOMO did exist back then, but it was more subtle. Even so I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that there is no rush and that one day I’d look back and know that I have done enough and that all along I was enough. I’d explain that taking slow, measured and mindful steps would not leave me feeling like I’d wasted precious time, and that memories do not have to be abundant to make one feel abundant.

I cannot help but notice that nowadays people seem to be scrambling around at high speed trying to cram as many activities and experiences into their lives as possible. One or two social engagements a week no longer seems to be enough. It seems to be necessary to stuff each year full of parties and travels and seminars etc. When someone professes, “I’ll rest when I’m dead”, I have to resist the urge to say, “Without rest this may be sooner than you think”.

It would be naive to believe that the rise of social media has not contributed to this rapidly growing anxiety. We are confronted daily with airbrushed glamour shots of our friends’ latest achievements, parties, holidays and gourmet dinners. It’s enough to start to believe that you have slipped into some frustrating parallel universe where everyone else seems to enjoy 72 hour days and 1095 day years, while you are still stuck with only 24 hour days and 365 day years, and where 8 hours sleep is still required each day. Fear of missing out seems to be driving us into frantic activity or making us feel anxious that we are not doing enough or not being enough. Don’t get me wrong, FOMO is not always a bad thing, sometimes it can motivate us to reach for something new at a time when we needed inspiration or motivation. But I think it more often generates a dangerous undercurrent of dissatisfaction.

This chronic not-enoughness seems to be consuming us and leaving us feeling small and insignificant and wasteful, when nothing can be further from the truth. We have forgotten how to be still and savour the moments of our lives, both the small daily moments and the grand souvenir moments.

I remember sitting at my grandmother’s feet and listening to her tell magnificent stories from her life. There were not thousands of stories, or even hundreds, but each story was told with such joy and such vivid detail that I was transfixed. I wonder if we’ll be able to give our grandchildren the same gift or if our life stories will be nothing more than a blur of feverish activity where we did not take the time to honour the truly special moments or breaks in between to absorb and appreciate them.

Perhaps this new year our resolutions should include more time to rest and more space for contemplation. Perhaps through this fear of missing out, what we are actually missing out on is the stillness within us where true abundance resides.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Generous Assumptions: A Doorway to Connection

In Brené Brown’s book “Rising Strong” she unfolds the anatomy of trust. Brown quotes Charles Feltman when she describes trust as “Choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” She breaks trust down into its key components, one of which is generosity. She explains how we are more likely to trust people who make generous assumptions about us and our intentions and how people are more likely to trust us if we do the same for them.

Though the anatomy of trust is a fascinating topic, it is the idea of generous assumptions that strikes the deepest chord with me.

Have you ever sent a text message to a friend and received no reply? Did you pay attention to your response to this situation? What were the thoughts that went through your head? Allow me to offer some possibilities: “She is deliberately ignoring me. What an asshole!”. This is not an example of a generous assumption about your friend. “She is obviously angry with me. I must have offended her in some way”. This is not a generous assumption about your friend, nor about yourself. It is disturbing how often we encounter responses either within ourselves or from others that are some version of the above examples. No doubt we have all encountered at one time or another people for whom this sort of victim position seems to be an almost default response to any words or actions that leave even the smallest room for misinterpretation. Their first assumption is that they are been deliberately attacked.

“I like when I don’t have to be careful about what I say. That’s when you know you’re with the right people” (This is a quote, I do not remember from whom, I recently saw on Facebook). It is almost impossible to establish or maintain a deep connection with someone when we find ourselves feeling anxious that our words and actions may be misinterpreted as an attack. Feeling like you have to walk on eggshells may be one of the most powerful obstacles to true connection.

A generous assumption would be more like “I know this is a busy time for my friend and I understand that I do not fall within her circle of close friends and family, and it is therefore okay that I do not receive an immediate response”.

I’m not suggestion that every such situation be dismissed with a generous assumption. Sometimes the words and actions of others are blatantly unkind, in which case it is appropriate to set boundaries and make those boundaries clear to others.

What I am suggesting is that a great deal of the time when we feel slighted by another, it was not intentional. Or even if it was intentional in that moment, it was just a lapse in judgement that occurred at a time of stress and not a true reflection of their feelings. It is also possible that In many cases what was said or done was benign in nature and the offence was entirely imagined.

My point is that when you are not sure, it is best to make a generous assumption. If you make this a habit it will bring a level of freedom and lightness and trust to your interactions with others that will open the doorway to deep and profound connection.

Making generous assumptions may begin as a practice, but in time it will become a way of being that more closely reflects who you really are, who you’ve always been. And the old wounds that stood between you and the gentle graciousness of your true nature will melt away.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

God's eyes

Against my better judgement I have chosen to use the word “God” in the title of this piece, because it sounds cool. I ask the reader to forget that I have used this word. Why? Because it is a heavy word loaded with centuries of connotations and misinterpretation. Humanity has used a plethora of words in a multitude of languages in an attempt to describe that for which words do not exist. In truth, every one of these words or phrases can at best only point toward an aspect or a small range of aspects of the all-that-is. And even then it’s mostly only the manifested aspects of the known physical universe. When it comes to finding words for the unmanifest, we are lost. The first verse of the Tao Te Ching ends, “If it can be named, it is not the Tao”. Yet it is precisely this void of unmanifested pure potential that I wish to explore here using words, so please bare with me.

It is possible to theorise that before the world came into being, there was no means by which the void could know itself, for it was nothing and there was nothing that it was not. The first thought ever to be thought may well have been, “Who am I?”. We could continue to hypothesize that for the all-that-is to know itself, it had to create the illusion of something that was not it. Some aspect of itself, that would graciously agree to forget who it was, and look back upon itself and say, “I see you”.

If this is true, then each one of us has agreed to forget who we truly are so that the all-that-is can look through our eyes at itself, and know itself. We are God’s eyes. We are the lens through which the universe focuses the knowing of itself. People have spent decades or even lifetimes seeking the doorway to awareness, without realising that they are the doorway. More than that, they are awareness.

I understand if this all starts to feel a bit esoteric. In fact, it can even start to feel a bit scary (See my earlier blog post “Embracing the Emptiness” for more on this). It can be shocking the first time you experience the feeling that the only thing you know for sure is that the void is looking through your eyes at itself. This idea may cause you to move through a wide range of emotions from pointlessness to feeling profoundly purposeful. It is a perspective on perspective that can change your entire way of seeing yourself and understanding the essential role you play in life.

Okay, so how does this help me in my everyday life? If I truly am a lens through which the universe focuses the knowing of itself, then I can stop chasing after awareness, for I am awareness. All that there is to be done is to keep my lens as clean and clear as possible, and to point it in the direction of love and light and joy and well-being, so that everything and everyone that is can know itself to be love and light and joy and well-being.