About 7 years ago, I went through one of the most difficult times of my life. You know those life altering events such as selling a business, starting a new job, losing a parent and getting a divorce? I had them happen all in a 6 month period.
Looking back, I wonder how I survived. But that’s the thing about survival mode, you put your head down and power through it. What else are you going to do? Roll over and wallow in self-pity? Well maybe for a day. But the next morning, it’s just time to drag your ass out of bed and get on with it. Try like hell to put a smile on and if that doesn’t work, just try to keep the grimace off. That is when I really started to understand “faking it till you make it”.
By having faith that it would all be ok (what other option was there?) and keep on trudging through, after a while it wasn’t so hard to smile. Before long, you’re singing along to the radio and even have moments where you are truly ecstatic. You savor it more than you ever did because you had the advantage of seeing the contrast.
I was thinking about this with regards to living in the present moment. Around this time in my life, it dawned on me that I wasn’t very self-aware and although I had great kids and a very successful career, I wasn’t living my life from a place of passion. I had no idea what my life path was or even what direction to turn to get on the “path”.
I was trolling for a new novel at the store one day and came across “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. It was absolutlely not in my wheelhouse but something made me buy it. That booked changed my life. It was such a simple concept. Bottom line: pay attention to your life stupid.
I’d always been a “go a million miles a minute” person, with five thousand thoughts going through my head at any given time. The simple act of breathing and being by myself started my shift toward self-awareness. I remember reading that book thinking, I pay attention.
And then when I started paying attention to my not paying attention.
You know, driving home and not remembering the drive because you were re-hashing the business meeting, listening to your kids tell you about their day with your, “uh huh” and “oh good, honey’s” without really hearing a word they had to say.
I realized I really had no idea even how to start being self-aware. So I just started faking it. When I was talking to an employee, I’d move away from my computer and sit across from them and actually try to listen and stay engaged. When I went through a grocery store line, I’d actually make eye contact and engage the cashier in some minor conversation. I quit reading email on the way to work (you know you do it too) and just appreciated the drive.
I read that book 5 times that year and it felt like I was constantly one step forward and two steps back. I’d scream at one of my kids or shoot out a nasty email at work and I’d think, man, am I ever going to get this? But I kept faking it.
A few months ago I realized: I’m not faking it anymore. I still have my moments when I’m stuck in my head but mostly I can become the aware observer and the simple act of paying attention brings me instantly back to center.
Eckhart’s advice is that every situation is what it is and acceptance of that situation is key. When you fight against a situation through irritation, fear, guilt, jealousy, shame, anger, etc., you feed the situation and make it worse. Approach every situation with Acceptance, Joy or Enthusiasm.
Most of the time I’m there. I am the soulful presence that is leaning back from the Ego me. I still watch myself on occasion respond to a situation from a place other than acceptance, joy or enthusiasm, but I observe myself doing it and can even find some humor in my ego’s behaviors. The simple act of observing my non-accepting behavior immediately takes the fuel out of them and I am then the “observing presence”.
And in case you are wondering, there is significant scientific evidence to support “faking it till you make it”. Smiling itself releases endorphins in your brain which instantly make us feel happier (try it!). Talking to someone makes us feel connected and can instantly lighten your mood. Check out this great article by Fr Stephen Wang that discusses “if you want to be happy, pretend” http://bridgesandtangents.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/if-you-want-to-be-happy-pretend/
Whatever path you are on, know that there is validity in “faking it till you make it”.