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Should, could, must. Isn't, wasn't, won't. Argh!

Humans are miraculously creative beings. In fact, we are living breathing entities of potential, so of course we spout the above words and concepts to review, refine, dream, strive, critique, organise, plan, create, grow, cultivate, explore, improve, build, repair etc.

My God, can humans be great do-ers.

I love engaging in the world of not yet but could be. That's what creativity is, and by the way in this respect anyone who says they're not creative is lying. Without creativity we're still grunting Neandertals.

But, and wow, what a HUGE BUT it is!

Can you imagine how the thoughts in the title might ever hinder, depress or freeze you? How the same concepts best used for the cultivation of joy become inverted and cause pain and frustration?

Do you ever have ideal images of the future which you can't seem to live up to?

Does life, or getting things done ever feel like swimming against a strong current?

Do you ever feel like life is 'against' you?

Look at this poor guy trying to swim against the flow of the river:

"Should...must...achieve...against...all...odds!" Image from 'Living in the Tao' by Chia and Wei

Phew. How long can he go on doing this before he collapses with exhaustion and the river sweeps him along in the opposite direction? Might make a darkly entertaining reality TV show, but I'd hate to be him.

So what's the alternative?

Stop the chattering mind from using the "could, should" etc. in relation to "me and what I should be doing". If you exist in this state of should, then by definition you are not. You're frozen, and are cutting off the natural flow of life. That is to say, the inescapable NOW! See Call off the search! I'm just trying to say exactly the same thing, but each time in a different way. Once you've got it, you've got it. Words can't touch it!

Now, in this state of inner spaciousness you still have the potential for the 'could' to arise in you in the form of creativity (in fact this ability will be greatly enhanced), but do not identify with the thoughts. What you (the mental concept of 'me and my past') have achieved in your life does not belong to you. It belongs to the universe.

A tree is totally in harmony with its environment, and is a beautiful expression of creativity. To be as healthy as a healthy tree you have to surrender to nature. Think you're better than a tree? The tree'll kick your ass. The sea will drown you. Lightning will strike you. You will die. Nature means life; life means nature; life means creativity. Stop resisting. That is honestly the most beautiful and profound step to make in your existence on this Earth.

Stop resisting and go with the cosmic flow:

"Beautiful. Thank you, life!" Image from 'Living in the Tao' by Chia and Wei

ARRRGGGGHHH, scary! Where's the river going?? What will I achieve then??

Warning: I'm about to quote Jesus again

If you had a vaguely Christian upbringing like me you'll know the Lord's Prayer, but maybe not have a clue what it means. Mid way through comes this:

"Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"

Matthew 6:10

Your will be done/ your will be done/ your will be done. Eh? Feels like one of those interminable discussions between an actor and director on how to intonate a phrase, and what the hell it means anyway. Firstly, Your = God. God's 'will' = God's intention. Not my intention, God's intention. Earth = illusion of matter. Heaven = reality behind matter = God.

"Do not worry, saying, "what shall we eat?" or "what shall we drink?" or "what shall we wear?" [...] but seek first [God's] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself."

Matthew 6:31-34

Replace the "what shall we [insert object of potential anxiety-inducing not-having here]" with whatever the involuntary, needy thoughts in your head are. God's Kingdom = presence/the space of no-thought/the Now. The Now = The River. The River = grace.

Get it?

Just trust the river to give you what you need, even if at first it feels dangerous. Enter the mysterious realm of not-knowing, the most exhilarating place to be. Ultimately you don't have an option anyway.

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