Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Getting Out of the Rat Race and the End of Competition

rat race, path to nowhere, competing, spiritual awakening, bridge
One of the hallmarks of Western Society has been an emphasis on competition. The idea is that competition brings out the best in us. That has hardly been the case. The reality is that competition is immensely wasteful. It triggers people's survival fears to keep them agitated enough to work long hours and attempt to "get ahead" because people don't want to fail, which is associated with being poor, not having enough, and so forth. Ultimately at the root of this is the fear of death.

The enormity of energy that people exert from this fear-based thinking exhausts people and leads to further issues as people try to keep going as hard and fast as society appears to be telling them. This leads to all kinds of substance abuse and addictions for many people. Additionally, this competition causes us to waste resources competing against each other rather than combining resources towards a common goal. Every day, duplicated efforts are performed as businesses, governments, and people compete against each other for some goal--a goal that often isn't very clear.

At other times, the goal is all too clear; it's money. But why people really want and need money is often forgotten or obscured. Furthermore, people get so lost in this rat race that they keep running 'round and 'round the circuit constantly trying to get more of whatever it is they think they should get. But it never ends. They can never feel at rest and are, in truth, quite lost.

And perhaps you may not be in the business world which is what the rat race uses means. Perhaps you are a stay-at-home mom, student, or something else. But you probably are still competing to get ahead in some way. Women are often competing against each other in subtle or not-so-subtle ways to be the prettiest because society tells them that being pretty is important. Or maybe they want to have the "best" kids. Families tries to keep up with the "Joneses," which means if the Joneses get an inground pool then you have to get an inground pool. So, so wasteful, and why? Why are you doing this?

But the rat race and competing against others and yourself will not get you what you want, and today, I'll talk about getting out and finding what it is you are really after.

Realizing the Hamster Wheel You're On

You can't solve an issue that you don't think is a problem. This is the state of many people, and oftentimes, people have spiritual awakenings before they've realized that they have a lot of issues. Competing in the big social rat race we're in is one of them. Being the "best"--whatever that means--has been so thoroughly accepted into people's lives that it just seems nuts to even question it. But this idea IS crazy. As I already said, it is a waste of energy. Competing against each other, we go no where. Despite whatever technological progress has been made in the last century and a half, I am not convinced that humans are any wiser or kinder.

And wisdom and kindness are exceptionally important things to manage the incredible technological tools that we have developed. We are now capable of doing such amazingly wonderful and terribly harmful things to ourselves and everything else.  It's the mindful awareness to use these tools that we need most.

Which is why realizing that you're on a hamster wheel going around and around to Nowheresville is so important. Because when you see that you can win as many awards, get as many pay raises and job promotions, and win all the beauty contests and it doesn't help you to feel more than passing joy or contentment, then you can start to see what a waste this little game is. You start to see that it doesn't have what you really want.

The Search For Joy and Love in the World

Early on in life, we were convinced that what we really want is out there somewhere. We are not entirely sure where at first, but society is quick to give us goals. It tells us stories about dream jobs, amazing vacations, summer homes, fast cars, big awards, fame, soulmates or twin flames, and so much more. The list grows and grows until there is no human way to achieve it all. Which leaves most people feeling constantly overwhelmed or constantly striving. It is exhausting people, which leads to more problems to keep going (sugar, Adderall, caffeine, etc.). These problems lead to greater and greater health issues, which--in my opinion--we've only just begun to see the start of.

But what do these things get you? What does competing so hard to be a winner get you? It gets you a feeling. You feel good. You feel acknowledged and validated. After hours and hours and days and months, you get to feel acknowledged in someway. But just as soon as you've gotten that award, the craving comes back. The moment is gone. And you are deluded into thinking you need to continuing this kind of striving. So you work harder and compete more aggressively to be more pretty, more financially successful, more whatever. It won't work, and it's just a deluded search for love.

Finding True Love

How to find true love is not a difficult journey. It may seem like a leap in logic here to go from the rat race to true love, but this is one of the basic elements of what people are trying to get. The other are resources to survive, but because this ideology is so corrupted, people go way past what they actually need to survive. Many people hoard huge amounts of money when they exceed what then need to meet their basic needs and a little savings. Some of the wealthiest people are examples of the most lost because they forgot what money was even necessary for. The ego starts to build mansions and monopolies to hide from this truth. Lost in ignorance, the wealthy individual will find themselves becoming miserly, hateful, and scared of losing what they have.

The antidote is love. More specifically, the antidote is in allowing yourself your own love in this moment without conditions. The nature of true love is that it is unconditional. It is also always here and now. There is no way to get more. There is no way to lose it, but people can forget that they have it. There is no need to compete for love either. If you didn't know any of this, then this should be the best news you've heard in a lifetime.

Discovering Your Rules Against Love

Part of the lie of competition is that it's creating a whole set of rules against your own love. You do not allow yourself to feel at peace or in the joy of the current moment until you've met your rules. Rules include:
  • Having a 6-figure job
  • Having an amazing figure (figure is a U.S. euphemism for someone's body)
  • Having a long-term romantic partner
  • Having a house
  • Having a family

Then, once someone has met these rules, their rules say that they can feel good. They think its because of having a romantic partner or house or well-paying job, but in truth, they have simply given themselves permission to feel good. That's it. Sure, what other people do for us can feel good, but that's generally still us giving ourselves permission to feel good. Even in sex, if we don't give ourselves permission to be open and feel good, that can make sex feel bad. Sex is awesome! It shouldn't feel bad, yet we can set up rules there to make something sacred and beautiful uncomfortable and unsatisfying.

It is remarkable and empowering how much influence we have over our inner state of affairs. That power is not something that should be glossed over, and for most people, it has been wholly overlooked.

The Way Out of the Rat Race

The way out of the rat race is to stop competing with yourself. Stop worrying about whether you are good enough.

You are enough.

Now, look at the ideas you believe that say you aren't enough. Look at these rules, and start to figure out where they came from. Look at the carrot they are offering to you. A lot of rules say that if you do X, Y, and Z, then you'll get A. But a lot of times this isn't true. A lot of times, you work so hard at your job, and you never really get any kind of reward. You feel like someone else is lying to you, but really, you've been lying to yourself. You've bought into an idea that a job could make you feel happy or secure, but those feelings always lie within you. Aside from present moment threats to your physical safety, most of our upset feelings are completely incorrect responses to life that make us feel scared, sad, or angry right when we need our clarity and calm thinking to see and respond appropriately to life.

The World Keeps Running 'Round and 'Round

But when you get off your inner rat race wheel and stop competing with yourself and others, don't expect others to do so. Society is a creature of habit, and it's going to take a whole lot of us getting off the hamster wheel to shift that momentum. But it can be done, and it is done by one individual at a time doing it.

This may not mean quitting your job, although it could depending on how you feel about your work. It simply means coming to your job with a different attitude. How you engage with your work is everything. Let others at work continue to run in circles, but work on maintaining your center. If you start to lose your center, then notice where you got hooked in to an unhealthy story or rule. That will show you your next level of self work, which should not be confused as a way to improve yourself). This is about letting go into what you already are. You are not adding to you; you cannot add to perfection. You can only let old inner structures melt away like ice into the inner ocean of love that you are.

For some more thoughts about work and the spiritual path, check out these two blog posts:

Sacred Occupations

Working in the World From Your Awakened Self

No Holding Back

Ultimately, you are going to find that things you want most out of life are all inside you. Life cannot make you happy. No amount of competing with yourself or others will get you anywhere. All of those awards and pay raises and so forth will be forgotten. Everything is on its way to its natural conclusion--death. Don't waste all your precious time trying to attain things and competing against people, making potential friends into enemies. Instead, come more deeply into this moment. Take a deep breath and begin to discover how much love has been waiting to arise within you when you no longer have any rules to hold it back.
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