22 Mar

Your Courtesy Wake-up Call

Imagine you are startled out of a sound sleep by the most annoying, shrieking alarm you’ve ever heard.  You hit the snooze button but the shrieking continues, even louder than before.  So you hit the off button, but still it rings.  You have to get up, yank the cord out of the electrical socket and throw the alarm against the wall.  Got the picture?  Well that’s how most of us are awakened out of the dream state that we call life.  We go through most of our day on autopilot.  Very rarely are our thoughts on the task before us. Not until something goes haywire to get our attention like that annoying shrieking alarm do we realize that we’ve been asleep.

We remember the past and project into the future.  The only thoughts we have about the present are in terms of what we did or didn’t do in the past, what we should have done, the consequences of mistakes we’ve made, how it will affect our future, what we wished we would have done, or how we would like the future to turn out.  The daily grind gets boring so we fantasize about the vacation we’re going to take six months from now.  We watch a lot of television or play video games. We gossip. 

And then life takes a turn for the worse.  Our world turns upside down calling into question all of our beliefs, hopes, and expectations.  We don’t get the raise we’d hoped for or worse yet, we lose our job.  We lose our house or at least are in fear of losing it.  Someone we trusted and relied upon abandons or cheats on us.  We don’t get the respect and admiration we feel we deserve.  All we do is complain about our present situation.  Our pain turns to suffering.  We become frustrated, sad, depressed, angry, disenfranchised with life.  Our nerves are frazzled.  We pray for an end to our misery with no resolution.  Our suffering intensifies.  We ask God, what did I do to deserve this? What did I do wrong?  Why are you punishing me like this?  We sink deep into what’s referred to as a dark night of the soul.

Well, at least that was my experience.  Only when I realized that I had placed all of my hopes, dreams, and expectations in a world that can only offer me change, uncertainty, and a pendulum that swings between good and bad, happiness and sadness did I begin to understand why I suffered.  Only when I realized that my emotional attachments (addictions really) to people, things, and expected outcomes revealed that I had given away my power.  I made others and external experiences responsible for happiness, sadness, and sense of self.   When I realize that I had the power to choose happiness regardless of my situation and that I am loved no matter what, did the light bulb go off as well as that annoying alarm clock ringing in my head.  At that moment I knew I never had to suffer and that I had the power and the strength to live through anything, even being homeless three times, the loss of the love of my life more than once, and an illness that could have ended my life. 

Are you living life unconsciously?  Do you go through your day on autopilot rarely focusing on the task before you?  Do you watch a lot of TV or play video games till late in the night?  Do you think about the past or the future because you’re bored with or regret your present situation?  If your world hasn’t turned completely upside down than consider this your courtesy wake-up call.  Don’t wait until that crazy clock starts shrieking in your ear and nothing you do turns it off.  Wake up.  Take your power back.  Choose happiness and don’t let others and external experiences control your state of being.  There are a lot of techniques that you can use to help wake you up gently, some of which you will find in previous posts here at The Peak.

8 Feb

127 Hours

As portrayed in the movie, 127 Hours is the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s remarkable adventure to save himself after a fallen boulder crushed his arm and trapped him in an isolated canyon in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.  In April 2003, while he was on a hiking trip in Blue John Canyon (near Moab, Utah), a boulder became dislodged, crushing his right forearm and pinning it against the canyon wall. Ralston had not told anyone of his hiking plans and knew no one would be searching for him. Assuming that he would die, he spent five days slowly sipping his small amount of remaining water while trying to extricate his arm. His efforts were futile as he could not dislodge his arm. He eventually ran out of water, carved his name, date of birth and presumed date of death into the sandstone canyon wall, and videotaped his last goodbyes to his family.

After five days of trying to lift and break the boulder, the dehydrated and delirious Ralston amputated his trapped right arm below the elbow. After freeing himself, he was still seventeen miles from his vehicle, and he had no mobile phone. He had to rappel down a 65-foot sheer wall, then hike out of the canyon in the hot midday sun. While hiking out, he encountered a couple and their son who gave him water and then alerted the authorities. He was ultimately rescued by a helicopter search team six hours after amputating his arm.

Very few of us will ever have to make the choices Aron Ralston did.  We will never be trapped underneath a boulder and have to sever a limb to escape.  But for many of us, our emotional attachments to things, people, and experiences limit our freedom and are just as life-threatening as the boulder that trapped Aron Ralston.

Emotions are chemical compounds created in the brain and then released into the body under specific conditions.  There are specific chemical compounds for each emotional state: anger, love, sadness, depression, and so on.  Heroin uses the same neural-mechanisms that our emotions use.  So, if we can be addicted to heroin we can be addicted to emotions.  If you can’t control something you are addicted to it.

Drug users cannot control their dependency on drugs because they are addicted to the feelings that occur under the influence of the drug.  If you cannot control your emotions in specific situations then you are addicted to the chemical rush that occurs when in that situation.  You can be addicted to love, happiness, joy, anger, sadness, depression, and so on.  If you can’t control your emotional responses, good or bad, you are addicted to the chemicals released into your bloodstream when in that situation.

Part of self-mastery is the ability to control those emotions that restrict our experiences of happiness, love, joy, and the ability to experience life to the fullest.  The choice that Aron Ralston made to detach his right arm to release himself from his wilderness hell was not easy nor the actions he took to free himself.  The decision of addicts and the actions they take to detach themselves from their chemically induced hell and the actions they take to transform their lives are no less challenging or heroic.  The same is true for anyone whose emotional addiction to people, experiences, and situations that create suffering.  The decision and actions required to release yourself from your self-imposed hell is challenging and heroic if you can stay the course.

It may not be easy.  Overcoming any addiction can be difficult and you may fall back into old habits more than just a few times, but the freedom you’ll experience when you no longer are addicted to suffering cannot be described.  Just ask Aron Ralston.  Just ask any former (recovering) addict.  Just ask anyone who had the courage to overcome their emotional attachments and addictions.   Learn from Aron Ralston’s heroing adventure as told in 127 Hours and free yourself from all attachments and emotional addicitons that restrict your freedom and threaten your life.

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