Many self-help and new age books and videos teach us about how to become better, to be more successful, better than what we have been up till this point in time. Probably everybody reading this will have read some such books, watched a related video or listened to a teacher who encouraged them to become something “more”. When we apply such teachings and we get what we want, the mind feels vindicated. It feels that it is developing. It feels like it is going through a time of growth and expansion.
Finally we are getting what we want. We are a success, or at least becoming a success.
But what happens when we do not get what we want? What if the teaching, the program, the book does not work? We might even take sustained action towards certain goals, and put a lot of time and energy into the process. Maybe even years.
But then there you are. You didn’t make the million bucks; you went broke. The relationship didn’t transform; you broke up (and now you are alone). You turned your passion into a business; and it went bust. Nobody bought your stuff. Now you are penniless, loveless and clueless; with no idea how to make things better. You are heartbroken. Without hope. Without faith in the universe to provide for you. How are you ever going to recover? How will you ever be able to start again? How will you ever recover your belief?
Perhaps you are now thinking that this Marcus T Anthony fellow is about to tell me how to get back on top, how to start clawing your way back to the top of the pile. To become somebody again.
But alas, no. I am not Anthony Robbins. My teeth just aren’t big enough.
No. Instead of encouraging you to believe in your dream, I am going to tell you the true gift of failure. For whatever you do, and no matter how successful you are, you will eventually fail. How long can you keep your sexy new figure, the one you acquired from six months of slogging it out in the gym? How long will your new house stand? How long will your book keep selling or your new start-up be the hottest thing in town?
Who knows? But one thing is for sure, it won’t be forever. And therein lies the rub. If we identify with our dreams we will eventually suffer an identity crisis when they evaporate.
Your body will eventually run down. Your house will eventually fall (even though it will probably outlive you). Your new book will eventually stop selling. Your new company might last a decade if you are lucky. But eventually it too will pass. What then will be left of “you” if your sense of self is attached to the world of form?
There’s a very powerful video on YouTube featuring Eckhart Tolle talking about this very subject (you can see it at the end of this post). He tells us that failure is potentially a great gift, for it provides a tiny window of opportunity for the mind to accept its fall from “grace”. Not divine grace, of course; merely the mind’s interpretation of grace.
For the mind, grace entails divine intervention such that it gets what it wants. When you wish upon a star your dreams…
Wherever there is mind, wherever there is thinking about an imagined future, there is inevitably an agenda for power and control. There is an agenda to become something special, more than what you are now.
And wherever there is mind and failure, there is suffering. The greater the perceived failure, the greater the suffering. Look at what I have become! Now I am nothing! All is lost. I am a failure!
But the greater intelligence of life has a different take on things. It is in the “nothingness” that the true gift lies.
Nothingness is the key to everything. If only you will listen.
When the sense of nothingness arises, just allow it to express itself. If it wants to whine and wail and weep, let it do so. Then after it has had its five minutes of air time, bring your attention back to what is before you. By this I mean whatever is in your immediate field of perception: the contents of the room, the trees beside your car, or the grass you are sitting on. Then tell your mind:
“I hear your suffering, and I feel it. But what you are experiencing is not real. It is simply an imagined future that you have lost, and an imagined future self. I just want to tell you that you do not need to become anything or anyone else. You are perfectly beautiful, perfectly magnificent just the way you are. I love you”.
Then just sit where you are and breathe fully into the moment, and into the body. Bring your attention into the world of the real – that which is before you. All the rest is just a story that the mind has attached itself to.
The reason I write about this is because recently I have lost a great deal – at least at the level of mind. I left my well-paid job in Hong Kong a year ago, and have been rejected by countless employers since then (my work at Swinburne University entails only a few days per semester). I watched my savings dwindle and my lifestyle contract to the point where even buying a daily newspaper has become a financial issue. I no longer have my own private residence, having been reduced to sharing accommodation with four other people. To top it off, in my personal life I have recently experienced a major personal loss. I am not going to go into details, but let me just say that it is often listed in the top five of life’s most stressful events.
It couldn’t get much worse. Not on the surface.
In terms of externals and emotional props I have been reduced to almost nothing. My experience of these events has ebbed and flowed, shifting between moments of complete surrender and peace, to times of complete despair.
It was during one of those moments of despair that something became clear to me. The life journey is not about getting what you want every time. Failure (as the mind interprets it) is a doorway which can reveal a deeper truth. But to see it you have to develop the right relationship with the mind, and lovingly challenge its insistence that it is in externals that our true nature is found.
It is not.
You also have to see past the values of the modern consumer society, which is very, very difficult indeed. You must also learn to see past the judgments of others, of those who cannot see what you are seeing, cannot perceive the value that you perceive.
Most importantly, you have to forgive – forgive yourself and others for the refusal to embrace the love of being. You must also forgive the world of money, markets and business folk for the failure of your worldly ventures.
And when you get down to it, you may have to forgive “God”. But it is not actually God that is the object of our anger; it is your projection of God, the belief that there is someone or something out there who is required to give you what you want.
“God” is not interested in the agendas of your mind.
It is in simply being here that we ultimately find ourselves. And when failure arrives, we are often left with nothing on which to prop ourselves.
There is just this. This moment.
In Discover Your Soul Template I invite you (the reader) to follow your bliss and turn your passion into a vocation. I also suggested that whatever you do, that you should ground yourself in presence, and learn to surrender to something greater than yourself. For there is often a price to pay for aligning with your soul purpose. That price may be that you do not find success in a way that the world – and the mind – appreciates. There may be periods where things do not work, where things fail to materialise – and we “fail”.
There may be times when nothing is happening. Nothing.
There’s not much happening for me right now. Who knows what is going to happen next or whether things will ever get “better”? I sure don’t.
Still, all is well.