That is where the danger lies, it leads to a fading respect for the true source. When you cultivate the interest of kings, that other interest which is fundamental to the spiritual life becomes a stranger to you. The more you proceed down the path of kings, the more that direction where the Beloved dwells becomes lost.Excerpt from Fihi Ma Fihi, The Discourses of Rumi
I’m standing in the middle of a vast, open field. Everywhere I look, in every direction, the whole 360 degrees, there’s nothing. Just nothing. The field just stretches on and on. I squint, desperately trying to spot something in the distance. A forest, a lake, a mountain, a stack of smoke, something to run towards, something to hope for. But I see nothing. I feel nothing. If I just knew which direction to go, if I could figure out which direction I truly want to go, then I might be able to make progress. I can get anything I want if I work hard enough. But what do I want? Where do I go? Gahhh!
I came up with this metaphor while leaving a voicemail for my older sister. This is how I feel when I try to think of what to do with my life. I don’t feel a pull in any direction, I don’t see any sparkling opportunities, and I have no idea what I want.
“I just want to be happy. I just want to be successful,” I said to her. And an hour or two later, she replied, “This might be terrible advice, but I think you should choose something knowing full well it might turn out to be not awesome. Forget about being successful. Just go out and fail. Yeah. Do it! Go out and fail!”
Forget about being successful? That’s crazy. That’s like saying forget about getting a good job. Forget about raking in six figures. Forget about getting a mortgage. Forget about starting a family while you’re young. Forget about all the arbitrary goals and stuff that stresses you out and just… live. Just live life. Huh. Maybe that’s not such crazy advice.
Perception rarely lines up with reality. It can be painful when our invented reality is shattered by true reality. Sometimes, when our perception of reality is too strong, or true reality is too foreign, we want to turn back the clock. We long for the bliss of illusion.
But you can’t truly go back. You can try, but it won’t work. Because how can you piece together the million shards of a broken window? So you are left with two choices: either embrace reality for what it is or stand in place. But know that even if you’re standing still, everything and everyone keeps moving. If you don’t choose to embrace reality and move forward, you will have lost not only your illusion, but your life.
There is no safety in illusion. There is certainly safety in routine, but not in illusion. What makes the shattering of an illusion so painful is having to adjust. You have to live in uncertainty and discomfort while you discover new boundaries, new limits, new rules – and also new freedoms. The unknown is known to be terrifying.