Woke up again today with a feeling of urgency, worried that I’m still not getting up early enough, worried I’m moving too slowly, frittering away good writing time on tasks that could wait until later, worried that I’m worrying so much—the usual tiresome slog.
The Bhagavad Gita, 2:49, says, “Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do.” Yep.
Krishna goes on to use the words “selfish” “vain” “ego,” making the BG sound WAY too much like the Bible for my comfort level. But verse 49 captures the point and is a timely reminder that all of this commitment urgency I’ve been feeling is engendered, primarily, by attachment to outcome.
I am feverishly, ferociously attached to outcome. That’s what being good is all about – reward. Be a good girl so your parents won’t get upset with you; be a good girl so your teachers will like you; be a good girl so God will think you’re extra-special.
That drive to be good is a barbed, ingrown thorn in my brain; I’m so used to it that it only hurts when I try to remove it—and who knows what it might damage on its way out?
It’s always a good idea to start with awareness and trust that behavioral change will follow. So, what outcomes drive me? Here’s a list of what I want and expect from…
Meditation: peace, calm, wisdom, enhanced psychic ability, physical healing, spiritual growth, better relationships, greater social ease, strong back (from sitting up straight)
Yoga: strength and flexibility, the excitement of being able to do difficult poses, the admiration of others, a sense superiority/difference from the average person, a beautifully lithe and fit body, the mental and emotional empowerment that physical power can bring, groundedness, calm, release of physical, emotional, and mental tension
Writing: evidence for myself and others that I’m smart and creative, connection with readers, a better understanding of myself, cheap therapy (overcoming anxiety by expressing it over and over and over again, in different ways), feeling good enough, feeling as good as other writers, helping others who face similar doubts/questions/struggles, helping readers see the world in a new way
Singing: the admiration of others, greater confidence in myself, ability to use my voice powerfully and expressively, the pleasure and satisfaction of witnessing my own improvement
From all of these things together? I want and expect to feel the daily relief and calm of doing what feels right. I want and expect to like myself more.
Krishna and maybe Buddhists, too, wouldn’t distinguish good from bad, intrinsic from extrinsic motivation—all motivation is attachment-driven. Desiring peace is just as selfish as desiring admiration.
Both of these things will probably come as natural consequences of what I’m doing, but if I’m doing things out of desire for outcome, any reward will be compromised. What I thought would be enough will no longer feel like enough. A little bit of peace will pale in comparison to a lot of peace (and woe to any who would dare to compromise that peace!). Admiration from a few will seem trivial—I’ll want to attract thousands!
Also, what happens when the rewards I expect and want don’t appear? A sense of abject failure, a desire to give up, a deep and active rage toward the uncooperative Universe that’s not playing by the rules.
The main problem with giving up attachment is that it’s easy to say ,‘what’s the point, then?’. If I’m not going to get anything from my pursuits, why bother at all? Is life, as my husband says, just about finding ways to pass time? Is life, as my mother says, about being happy? Is life, as the Bible says, about building a relationship with God?
Even if all three of things are true, I’m still left with the question of what to do. What will make me happiest? What will make me the most spiritual? What will pass the most time? Which leads me right back to caring about outcomes, oh vicious loop.
Let’s just say that I want to press forward—focusing on meditation, yoga, writing, and singing. If I look at these things as ways to pass time, to enjoy that time, and, in that contentment, feel a deeper connection to God/the Universe, what would that look like, in practice?
I can conceptualize the question but not the answer. The brain-thorn grips; it touches on nerves that trigger the self-doubt and self-disgust that led me to make commitments in the first place. It touches on nerves that tell me I can’t be trusted to do anything—much less do it well—without being driven by outcome. It tells me that detaching from outcome is impossible anyway, that it will just lead me back into the mild depression I’ve let rule me for so many years. It’s better to be fearful and urgent than depressed and lethargic, right?
But letting that brain-thorn determine my path is a failure of imagination on my part. Can I at least imagine what it might be like to live without fear or hope of outcome? Can I imagine going about my days with lightness? Can I imagine enjoying my work for the process itself, for the moments I can find stillness and absorption in it? Can I imagine not caring about how anyone, including myself, judges the results? Can I imagine liking myself, regardless of the outcomes I produce?
I’ll keep you posted. So far, I can say that what the brain-thorn is doing most effectively is making sure I don't write about anything BUT anxiety.