Human beings exist on at least two levels, and I think we’re happiest and most fulfilled when we stay conscious of both of them. The two levels I’m talking about are:
1. Everything Matters. On one level of reality, lots of things in life matter a lot. You are a body that needs constant care and feeding. It’s extremely important that you succeed in your career, relationships and so on. You have a nearly infinite number of wants and needs.
2. Nothing Matters. At another level, nothing is important. You are not simply a body, because the distinction between “you” and “the rest of the world” is arbitrary and artificial. You are everything that is, and you are changeless and eternal. The idea that you could “need” or “want” anything is meaningless.
Most of Us Live at Level 1
I suspect we’ve all experienced, at one point or another, these two levels of reality. However, most of us feel uneasy acknowledging that Level 2 — where nothing matters — exists, so we shut it out.
After all, if we admitted there’s a sense in which nothing matters, what would that do to our work ethic? Perhaps we’d kick back on the couch with a beer and the remote, and never get up again except to buy more beer. Or maybe we’d take a more “spiritual” tack, and spend the rest of our lives handing out flowers in airports.
There certainly are people who live this way. In many cultures, people who live entirely in the changeless, eternal realm, where nothing matters, are common and accepted.
If you travel in India, you’ll likely see saints who have freely chosen to give up their belongings and live as beggars. Russia has a long tradition of “holy fools” in deep communion with God but incapable of basic daily tasks. Unless you want this kind of existence, living entirely at Level 2 probably isn’t for you.
The Laments of Level 1 Living
On the other hand, going through life as if Level 2 doesn’t exist also has a cost. Spending our whole lives feeling incomplete, constantly wanting this and needing that, keeps us exhausted and fearful.
The most painful part of this way of living is that, because there’s always more we can have, we’re never satisfied. I’m reminded of some wealthy ex-neighbors whose house was under constant remodeling, and whose yard was eternally full of bulldozers and mounds of dirt — yet no amount of landscaping seemed to please them.
It’s All Good
I see my work as meant to help people stay conscious of both levels of reality as they walk through the world. Because most people in the U.S., I think it’s safe to say, are wrapped up in the level where everything is a huge, stressful deal all the time, I tend to focus on helping people acknowledge the level where nothing’s that important.
For instance, if someone feels paralyzed with anxiety each time they sit down to work on an important project, I may invite them to do exercises to get back in touch with the level where nothing, including the project, is important. Perhaps I’ll have them breathe deeply, and sense the pressure of their feet against the ground, and the feeling of stability that sensation can bring.
The paradox is that, when we keep ourselves aware of both levels, we actually function better in the day-to-day, humdrum, routine world. If we see a project as a matter of life and death, it makes sense that working on it will be a scary experience. But if we stay conscious that a mistake or setback in the project won’t destroy us, we find more ease and even joy in our work.
So, yes, there’s a way in which nothing really matters — and I think that’s a wonderful thing.
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