Nothing Really Matters — Anyone Can See | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Nothing Really Matters — Anyone Can See

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.

25 thoughts on
Nothing Really Matters — Anyone Can See

  1. Davina

    Chris,
    Interesting distinction. I find myself considering that when we get into that state of anxiety, we’ve forgotten that we matter. I think that simple exercise where you invite people to breath deeply and get in touch with that “nothing matters” place is excellent. It takes them back to themselves and out of feeling out of control.

  2. Patricia

    I will second what Davina Said….I started many counseling sessions with asking folks what they ate last meal to assist in bringing some of level 2 into their anxiety and worry…if they could not remember even eating – I headed right to grounding. I do think you are correct that many folks spend all their lives in Level 1 – avoiding level 2.

    good ideas, well expressed Thank you…

  3. Evelyn Lim

    Am I right to say that Level 2 is about losing attachments? When we take things less seriously, it appears as if nothing truly matters. It is also about enjoying the ride while we work towards completing our projects or life journeys. I enjoyed your perspective about maintaining a balance by keeping ourselves aware of both levels.

  4. Mark

    Chris,
    Very well stated. Few of us do things that are life and death decisions and even then it is important to remember that you have keep it light. I used to work on nuclear bombs for a living, one would think that is stressful, it wasn’t, not because it did not matter, it wasn’t stressful because I kept it in context. Now that I no longer do that type of work it is easy to see how the things I do in a day really don’t matter all that much.

  5. Chris - Post author

    Hi Davina — yes, I imagine anxiety comes up for some people when they see themselves as not mattering or insignificant relative to other people or things — and then, like you say, getting in touch with the level on which nothing matters at all, and there’s no such thing as “relative mattering,” can help dissipate that anxiety.

  6. Chris - Post author

    Hi Patricia — yes, that sounds useful, to bring people’s attention into what they’re feeling right now — whether it’s hunger or satiation or something else — and out of all of the things they should be doing or shouldn’t have done.

  7. Chris - Post author

    Hi Evelyn — I think that’s a useful way to put it — that, in moments when we’re conscious of our completeness, it’s impossible to be attached to anything, because ultimately we are everything.

  8. Chris - Post author

    Hi Mark — that’s an excellent point, I think — working on nuclear bombs might have been an important task, but as you understood, that doesn’t mean that agonizing and worrying over your work would help you do your job better.

  9. Sara

    Chris — I liked the way you presented these two levels of living.

    I liked what you said about helping people get in touch with Level 2. The exercises are good ideas to bring our Level 1 thinking back into Level 2. It sounds like learning to “let go,” which I believe requires trust and our acceptance that we can’t control everything.

    Great post:~)

  10. Patty - Why Not Start Now?

    Hi Chris – I’m such a believer in “None of this truly matters, in the grand scheme of things.” I go through life saying that, and you’re right, it is a way to center myself and get out of all that level 1 stuff that can be so annoying. And who knows, maybe some part of me would enjoy a life of handing out flowers at the airport! Nah, probably not, but the kicking back and just releasing all of it is very, very appealing. Anyway, it’s a great topic, and I also was inspired to have a listen to Queen as I was writing this comment. I’m reminded again what a great song that is, and the perfect accompaniment to your post.

  11. Wilma Ham

    Oops, Queen, thanks Patty, I thought it was Chris at a fancy dress party, not that that mattered.
    It is funny that I first could NOT get my head around it doesn’t matter. Everything mattered a lot!! I took everything as my doing when things happened or did NOT happen in life. THAT is indeed a heavy responsibility and so not useful.
    How I came to terms with this ‘matter’ was when I realized I am not alone in this life so I can get everything my way. There are 16 billion other people doing their thing, with I do not know how many other planets having a say as well, so within this enormous vastness of influence, I am NOT responsible for how things work out. That helped me to realize that what I want doesn’t always matter. Anyway this loosened me up from a huge responsibility. xox Wilma

  12. Hilary

    Hi Chris .. I can see exactly what you’re saying .. and it now makes so much sense .. but if I’d read this a few years back .. I’d have thought you were cuckoo .. or nearly .. on the other hand now I realise I would have been the one that was cuckoo!

    I’m moving between level 1 and level 2 – I certainly don’t need any more and I’m decluttering furiously .. while I’m learning about level 2 .. and once I’m settled in a few weeks – then I’ll practise level 2 a lot more I hope.

    I love the way you’ve explained it .. it really does make sense and I’m sure your clients appreciate the differentiation and necessity for the both .. I hope they stick with the level two though afterwards .. but I expect you’ve devised some follow-up and exercises for them ..

    Nothing really does matter does it .. we’ll die when we die .. not because we don’t have the latest gadget or wizmo .. Hilary

  13. Chris - Post author

    Hi Sara — yes, I think that’s a great way to put it — recognizing there’s a sense in which we’re eternal and changeless helps us let go of the fear that we’ll fail or be destroyed, and thus actually take more risks and get more done.

  14. Chris - Post author

    Hi Patty — “none of this matters in the grand scheme of things” sounds like a great mantra — when I think about that quote, life takes on a playful quality — which, I think, is what it’s ultimately about — God, or the universe, or whatever you want to call it, playing with different ways to organize energy.

  15. Chris - Post author

    Hi Wilma — I can definitely get how “I need to make everything happen, or else it won’t happen” would create a lot of heaviness — and how that could paradoxically slow you down or keep you fearful. It definitely sounds freeing to let go of some of that responsibility.

  16. Chris - Post author

    Hi Hilary — I like the application of what we’re talking about to “decluttering” — I get the sense that real, lasting decluttering can only come from being willing to feel the sense of emptiness that gives rise to the need for stuff — without trying to fill that need or ignore it. And the more experiences we’re willing to have without running from or fighting against them, I think, the more we’re in touch with “Level 2″ as I’m calling it here.

  17. Farouk

    i have always believed that the more needy a person becomes the less happier he will be and the more weak he will become, thanks for making that clear :)

  18. Chris - Post author

    Hi Farouk — I think that’s a useful way to sum it up — and, if we find ourselves feeling that gaping need, the healthiest way for us to deal with it is to acknowledge that it’s there, and allow it to wash over us and pass away.

  19. Cory Chu-Keenan

    Chris,

    I always thought that you had to choose one or the other. Never ever thought of it this way. I think you just hit on the head exactly what they mean by balance.

    Everything Matters, Nothing Matters

    Brilliant.

  20. Chris - Post author

    Hi Cory — thanks, I’m glad this was helpful to you. I think it’s helpful to tie this into the concept of balance — that balance, when it works, isn’t so much about “me time versus them time,” but about staying aware of the (at least) two levels on which you exist, always, no matter what you’re doing.

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