The Big Problem with Preferences!
I am looking at the most beautiful view this morning. I live by the lake in Toronto, right beside the lake. I am looking at the sun rising, the water swelling and the pink spreading through the sky. I can see a couple of marina’s, clanging with boats, its docks misty grey resting patiently on the water with small diamond-like lights letting us know they are there. It is beautiful.
And yet, I don’t want to live here.
I prefer downtown. I enjoy the hustle, the sounds and sights of the core.
When I go downtown to an event or on an errand, I feel differently than I do when I am running around out here. Out here is known as the west end. We use our cars for everything. Honestly, I will drive down one block and across the street to the grocery store because I find the walk not to my taste. Crazy.
I am writing about this because it is a great example of what Michael Singer calls living by “preferences” in his book The Untethered Soul.
My not wanting to live in this paradise and my wanting to live downtown, those wants are preferences. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the beauty. It’s not that I don’t feel grateful for the space.
The condo apartments out here are three times the size of downtown. It’s not even that I don’t understand how perfect it is for my husband and the work he does.
I understand all of that.
I just can’t seem to accept it. And that’s the rub here. I can’t accept it based on what? My preferences?
What are preferences anyway?
Preferences are all the things we think need to happen, the way the world should be and the way it needs to be according to us in order to make us happy.
Preferences are our likes and dislikes that keep us in battle with what is actually happening.
Preferences are our attempt to control life rather than accepting it. Argh!
They get in the way of spiritual surrender. They get in the way of spiritual enlightenment. And they completely get in the way of our own happiness.
Living by our preferences, is not spiritual living. Spiritual living is a life of acceptance and allowing, not fighting and resisting.
And so, living by our preferences, letting them be the ruler of us, it’s gotta go to keep growing on the spiritual path.
Admittedly, learning not to be driven by preferences is hard.
In all the years of personal development I’ve engaged in, connecting to one’s thoughts and feelings about what we want and don’t want and then making decisions based on them has been primary.
As a coach, how many times have I asked a client, “What do you really want?”
Without basing my own life on preferences, I am not sure how to make decisions, which direction to follow, what to base my choices on and mostly, how to be happy.
Yet, I do have a strong sense that basing my life on my personal preferences is keeping me limited and attached to the material aspect of life.
Michael Singer would agree.
Allowing life to happen, without trying to control it with our preferences, that’s the goal. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have thoughts and feelings about it, I do have thoughts and feelings about living here or downtown. It’s about letting those thoughts and feeling flow through me, not taking them so seriously, like my happiness depended on them.
Singer writes that choosing the path of unconditional happiness is the highest spiritual path of all.
It means my small self, the little “I” has to get out of the way for the bigger Self, the “I am.”
It’s all about letting go of personal preferences and instead, keeping our heart open no matter what.
It’s about disciplining our mind enough to say, I choose happiness itself instead of the things I think will make me happy.
It’s really a challenge. I am so conditioned to think that my happiness is dependent on the good things that happen to me and my upset is caused by the bad things. Those bad things take my happiness away.
Singer says, all those things, good or bad are just events, stuff that is happening while we’re sitting here, on a planet spinning in space.
He writes, “the purpose of your life is to enjoy and learn from your experiences.” (p143)
He makes it sound so easy. For example, just yesterday, I took my husband for his second vaccination and there was a long line, even though he had an appointment. And I got upset. I just blurted out to him that this was wrong. It shouldn’t be like this. You should walk right in.” Blah Blah Blah!
Yes, I was really cranky because the 13.5 billion year old universe was not unfolding as I preferred.
Hah. Luckily, I was reading Singer while I waited and did a lot of breathing and releasing. And of course, even with the line up, my husband got in at the time scheduled and came out 20 minutes later.
Singer says, to be happy, we need to let go of our melodrama. Oh brother. Ain’t’ that the truth. I am very attached to my melodrama.
Oh well. But that’s conditional happiness and that means there will always be things that could make me unhappy.
Here’s what I think after all this writing.
I like the whole idea of letting go of preferences and choosing unconditional happiness as my path. I love the idea that I can connect with an inner source of joy that is not at all dependent on the goings on around me and in my life.
And I will keep trying to relax and release every time my small self gets cranky and bent out of shape because I don’t like what’s going on in the universe.
Letting go of melodrama, relaxing and releasing the inner disturbance caused by my preferences, and keeping my heart open. There it is. That’s my spiritual practise.
Talk to you later,
And by the way, here’s the view.
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