Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wellness Wednesday.... Wisdom

Shortly after I went to Thailand the first time, I recognized how culturally conditioned I'd become. When I made the decision to become a part of Thailand rather than apart from it, a lot of my assumptions came up and bit my behind.

While being called "blue-eyed Thai girl" and all that made me feel all warm and fuzzy since it represented acceptance, I felt ersatz. I wanted to understand the depths and find all the hidden corners. Thousands of years of history and I knew next to nothing about it. I wanted to lift the rug and find out what might be hidden beneath, both good and bad.

I discovered how hard it was to get beyond cultural conditioning. I was raised in an environment where a lot was assumed and I didn't realize how arrogant, how colonialist, I could be until I forced myself to live in another culture as one of its own. I didn't know idealism could be another blind spot. Without realizing it, I was shoving my ideas down everyone else's throat (gee, just like I do on this site! Wow!) , saying and believing I knew what is best for everyone and how they should run their lives individually, their communities or their country.

It was kind of like Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady". Why can't a woman be more like a man? Why couldn't they be more like me?

We get really attached to these things, this conditioning, until we realize it's not quite so wise after all.

One of the problems most of us develop is compulsivity. Obsessiveness. There are so many "shoulds". When you create ideals, they become compulsive and the shoulds start in earnest. Idealism is nice.. but it's not real life. I don't think any of us should give it up but we need to recognize its limitations. The feeling that we always have to be in motion, that we always have to be making things better, that we always have to have more to do, more to be, more to have.

It's not that the shoulds are necessarily wrong. Most shoulds are rooted in truth. Of course we can be nicer, be kinder, be more open, better-natured and so on. If things were perfect, I'd be perfect, too. I would be ideal and my society would be ideal. We would all be perfect. Then there would be nothing more to do. But that's not the way life is.

That is where 'conventional wisdom' begins to fall apart. It sets us up for failure and constant dissatisfaction. It sets us up for constant unhappiness. We set ourselves up to believe something can always be better than this, whatever this is.

Sooner or later, we come to realize that the very things we spend our lives craving are all subject to change and loss. Everything changes and everything eventually ends. Then we suffer.

It seems to me that the better part of wisdom is that recognition.. and knowing that what we have is right now, this moment, and what we have is each other. And that is perfect enough.

~*

22 comments:

Carla said...

"...and what we have is each other. And that is perfect enough." Oh, so true. If only we could hold on to that thought and truly treasure those around us. Thanks for this.

jen said...

i've wrestled lately with accepting change as a common element, surrendering to change. the converse is embracing the moment, honoring others in the moment.

lovely post.

flutter said...

this is it, exactly.

JCK said...

Well said!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Again, the tyranny of our expectations. If we never fully inhabit the individual moments that make up our lives we might as well be fruit flies, skimming over the surface and never lighting anywhere.

Truly, all we have is this present moment, and really, that is quite a lot.

Another very thought-provoking post, Chani.

wheelsonthebus said...

There is a great deal to be said for peace, but it is hard to attain. We want to bend the world, and it takes maturity to realize the world goes its own path.

Amy Y said...

Well said, smart lady.
I'm going to miss you when you go.

Mariposa said...

Perfectly said...

Thailand Musings said...

"Sooner or later, we come to realize that the very things we spend our lives craving are all subject to change and loss. Everything changes and everything eventually ends. Then we suffer."

Sounds as if you are quite deep into the Buddhist philosophy. This sounds just like the words of Siddartha Gautama that led him to the 4 Noble Truths and the 8 Fold Path.

Thanks again for your thought provoking and inspiring writing Chani.

Sober Briquette said...

Thanks for the reminder.

hele said...

I will be back to leave well considered comments soon. Your posts have been so wonderful I want to comment with consideration but oh the university work is piling up.

Janet said...

It's so difficult to break free of the conditioning. Ring a bell and we salivate. I see my children living in the moment and when they invite me to join them, it's heavenly.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

This is something I've been struggling with, too, lately.

Wonderful post.

ewe are here said...

This is a particularly timely post for me. I really like it.

MsLittlePea said...

Oh and I live with so many "shoulds" floating around in my mind. Can't help it but you're so right.

Ian Lidster said...

Ultimately it's all gravity. Mountains and the Taj Mahal must eventually crumble and return to the fundament.

niobe said...

and what we have is each other

But, but, but...every time that seems like enough, it turns out that we don't have each other after all.

slouching mom said...

love, love, love this post.

wise woman, you.

Mary said...

Chani, I think we don't realize what is best for ourselves and what is important in life until we mature...at our age. What we perceived as meaningful in childhood or young adulthood means nothing now. Poo on expectations and acceptance of others. Say Yes to what you feel and know. That's all there is.

crazymumma said...

I think of this as being satisfied in the moment. Satisfied enough so that I can open my eyes and truly see what is around me.

Molly said...

So true. When we fret about the past, or worry about the future, we cannot fully live the present, which will then become the past we fret about.If we valued each other more, and things less, we'd be a lot happier.

storyteller said...

Amen! I’m reminded too of a children’s book entitled HOW TO BE A PERFECT PERSON IN JUST THREE DAYS and how I used to read that each year to 3rd graders over a 3-day period … letting those who wished to follow the suggestions and see what happened. It’s a book I wish had been around when I was little. LOL
Hugs and blessings,