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I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying that goes something along the lines of:
“Sometimes even the best-laid plans can go up in flames.”
Usually, this is the Universe’s way of delivering you a message.
Sometimes the Universe is subtle and delicate and other times it likes to give you a swift smack in the head to make its point.
As I entered the new year, I was pumped to hit the ground running — energized to get started on all my “perfectly” crafted intentions and clearly outlined goals that I spent hours working during the weeks prior.
I was hyper-focused.
Gung-ho to make shit happen!
I was riding high from all the countless new ideas, habits, and projects I wanted to tackle.
“Write 500 words a day.”
“Publish a new video on YouTube every day.”
“Read 2 chapters of a book every night.”
Start that new workout program.”
I was so amped to begin the first work week of 2021 — going to bed that Sunday night excited to get going on these goals. I was the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed kindergartner ready for his first day.
And then …
Monday morning comes and the Universe had other ideas…
It gave me that swift smack in the head telling me “hold on there fella, not so fast, we have other plans for you right now.”
And those other plans came in the form of being sick with COVID.
While dealing with the barrage of what seemed like endless symptoms was rough, the true challenge I learned was accepting this change of plans to my immediate future.
But with all unforeseen and unpleasant occurrences in life, there is something to be learned.
In my case, the Universe was reminding me that control is an illusion, serving me a lesson in acceptance and letting go.
The first few days of having COVID, concentrating on anything for more than a few minutes was exhausting as most days my head was either on fire or pounding. Reading was difficult. Writing made my head hurt more. Even distracting myself by watching Netflix didn’t last long. Just sitting and “being” with nowhere to go and nothing to do was the order of the many days to follow.
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash
But doing nothing is hard and I felt my resistance boiling over.
My mind would flood with all the things I wish I was doing and all my plans that went awry because I was sick. But I had no choice — the Universe was forcing me to accept what was in front of me.
Letting-go and acceptance was my only option.
But why was literally doing nothing such a challenge for me?
As I examined further, I noticed a pattern of behavior before getting COVID in which every free moment I had needed to be filled with doing something towards my goals and business.
Looking back at the previous 6 months, I was spending so much time and energy pushing towards my goals — whether it was planning, working on them, or just thinking about them.
And I always felt like I needed to be doing more.
I was obsessed with being productive.
This led to my first self-insight — I was caught in the doing trap.
Some might chalk this up as good ol’ fashion ambition, motivation, and determination.
Or better yet, it’s that “white, hot burning desire” needed to achieve your goals that Napoleon Hill talks about in his classic Think and Grow Rich.
But digging deeper I came to another realization — I was obsessed with working on my goals to the point I started to mistaken them for who I really am.
This is best explained in this tidbit of wisdom I heard in a webinar shared by Srikumar Rao:
“The fundamental mistake we make that is responsible for all our sorrows is thinking we are a particular body, mind, intellect complex.”
He furthered, “if you identify with the actor you’re gold. If you identify with the character you’re screwed.”
All Rao was getting at was how everything we do in our lives we are simply playing a role. Specifically when it comes to our work, projects, and goals.
Meaning, you’re not a business owner, CEO, or entrepreneur, instead, you’re playing a role.
You’re not a writer, a doctor, an artist, a teacher, or a software developer. You’re playing a role.
You’re not the dude at the gym benching 250 pounds.
You’re not even the philanthropist trying to solve world hunger.
You’re not [insert your chosen profession/trade/identity here]. All just roles.
Everything in life we are caught up in, we are just playing a role.
Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash
Rao further explained not only is there nothing wrong with playing the “actor” in these different roles, but we should enjoy it and play them with full gusto and spirit.
It’s only when we start to think this is our identity is when we cause problems for ourselves. When we begin to believe it’s who we really are, we get caught up in the matrix.
And I was drinking the kool-aid.
This was first my aha moment.
Srikumar Rao’s point started to take hold. I went back to a recording of that same webinar and listened as he emphasized his point:
“You are the underlying entity, the reality that is ever-present, ever blissful, never-ending. All the desires we have are just a pale reflection of that awareness—because what we see when we look deep inside ourselves is that all we want is to be happy. Permanently.”
The message the Universe was sending me was clear:
I am not my goals. My daily routine. My work. My business. Any of my desires. Even my body or mind.
Such a basic truth that’s easy to lose sight of especially while you’re amid the daily grind.
But now I went deeper and began to explore why did I become obsessed with my goals?
As I think back to how I felt the first days of going through COVID, it was like there was a whole great, exciting world going on and I was stuck lying on the couch day after day.
We live in a world of busyness, wired to always take action, and constantly seeking the next thing to do or consume. We desperately always want to feel connected, to be in the know, and feel like we are actively participating in life. This is FOMO at its finest.
However, when we fall ill in which we have to break from our daily routine even if it’s just for a single day, it can seem like we are completely disconnected from the world.
And for me, COVID was the ultimate disconnect from my regular life. It felt like I went to bed one night and slipped into a new reality the next morning.
It was day after day of feeling lousy, no routine, and doing nothing.
I desperately wanted my routine.
Early on, I even found myself at times resisting the nothingness by trying to convince myself to take some kind of action — which then ensued the onslaught of mental chatter:
“I should really be working on that task I promised a client.”
“Maybe I try to write at least a few paragraphs today.”
“I’m going to fall so far behind.”
“There goes all the progress I made.”
All this did was expend precious energy that my body needed to use in healing.
As I examined my resistance further this was more than just FOMO. Not only was I afraid of missing out but I was scared of was falling behind on all my goals and that my progress would be sabotaged.
But at the heart of this was just a fear of failure — which was really the cause of my anxiety and resistance.
Our daily routine gives us a sense of control and predictability. And without this, we feel helpless.
So back to my initial insights that COVID brought to my attention:
All of this was driven by the fear of failure.
My daily routine, my work, and chasing my goals all were just cogs in the wheel spinning my illusion of control
And getting COVID was merely just the illusion breaking down.
My next aha moment which ironically echoes another Srikumar Rao teaching:
A few days into COVID having been reminded of this wisdom, a calming acceptance of my situation came over me. I started to think:
What if this is my new reality? Meaning, what if I didn’t have my goals or my work?
Does that mean life is over? Or I can’t lead a meaningful life? Can I still be happy?
Of course I can.
I found refuge in gratitude for simply being alive, getting to have this human experience, and having the privilege to pursue whatever my heart desires.
Yes, it’s a privilege to have goals outside your basic survival and safety.
And I realized I can surrender all my goals and desires to the Universe and let it sort it out.
I thought of the Sanskrit mantra “Om Namo Narayani” — which translates to:
Gratitude For The Human Body
Falling into a state of gratitude for life itself caused me to put my attention on my body.
I started to think that before COVID, I couldn’t remember the last time I was sick, and whenever I did get sick I was accustomed to just going to the doctor to get a prescription for an antibiotic that would return me to normal in 48 hours.
Getting sick for me always meant rushing to the doctor’s office as quickly as possible so I can down a drug to get this illness over with as quickly as possible.
With COVID there’s no quick fix medicine. It’s the waiting game using some good ol’ fashion rest, hydration, and clean nutrition. Allowing the body to recover on its own sometimes is the only option to feeling better.
I had to remind myself that when there is an invader, the human body has a powerful ability to reallocate its resources to deal with the ailment. And it sure as shit doesn’t have the desire or energy to think about productivity and getting things done. I had to tell myself to just let go and allow it to do its magic.
Our bodies truly are miraculous — it’s sophistication and intelligence to heal and recover is remarkable. At one point while in the height of my sickness:
“My body is fighting this virus inside me right now. It’s waging a war. And it’s all going on beyond my conscious awareness. Pretty fucking amazing!”
This was my final reminder from the Universe.
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