The idea that “life is one damn thing after another” has been attributed to Winston Churchill, Arnold Toynbee, and Edna St Vincent Millay. No matter who said it, when we allow our ego to guide us, life can indeed seem tedious.
Thinking makes life tedious, not life itself. Let me give you an example.
My family uses prepaid cellular service by Tracfone. No, I am not a Luddite; but there are four cellphone users in my family and for less than a total bill of $30 a month we can call and text as needed. We can put the several hundred dollars a month we are saving on smart phone cellular service to better use. And as a bonus, I’ve learned that calling TracFone customer service can be a relaxing experience—if I allow it to be.
Calling TracFone customer service, I almost always talk to someone with a heavy accent. Their method of troubleshooting usually requires me to use the cell phone’s “code entry mode” and, following the instructions of the customer service representative, enter long series of numbers. If I lose my focus and enter a wrong digit, I have to start again. If I get impatient or become irritated at the service rep’s heavy accent—in other words, if I engage the thoughts of my ego—I am doomed to an unpleasant experience.
But for me, calling TracFone customer service has been a spiritual experience because it forces me to stay in the present moment. I can choose to work shoulder-to-shoulder with a person in a developing country and be united by our common purpose to troubleshoot a cell phone problem. The world is small when you call TracFone customer service; I actually feel uplifted every time I call them. And yes, I feel this way even when a service call goes on for an hour or several calls are needed to resolve the problem.
The feeling I experience when calling TracFone customer service is not much different than the feelings I have after vigorously exercising or teaching a class at my university.
Am I nuts? Many people do not enjoy calling TracFone customer service. This fact offers a clue—it is not the circumstances that are generating my feelings or your feelings. Our feelings are generated by our thinking about our experiences. For me, calling TracFone, exercising, and teaching have one common denominator—I choose to drop extraneous thinking and focus completely on the moment.
Calling Tracfone customer service has taught me that it literally impossible to be unhappy, to experience life as tedious, or to be upset without the thoughts that generate those feelings.
To be sure, I have trouble generalizing my Tracfone lesson. For example, staying in the customer service realm, I have been putting off making a phone call to our oil company. I need to get quotes for pre-buying oil for the winter season. Previous phone conversations with this oil company have led to a frustrating comedy of errors. Notice what is going on over here: I am putting off calling the oil company because even before I have called the oil company, I have added extraneous, distracting thoughts that are taking me from the present. These extraneous, distracting thoughts are causing me anxiety, and I haven’t even made the phone call yet!
We can apply my Tracfone lesson to anything. What went right with my call to Tracfone? I didn’t add my own thinking on to life, so an ordinary encounter that could have been “another damn thing” became effortlessly wonderful. In its essence, a phone call can be full of promise and of redemption. I had an opportunity to chose to be present; and in the present moment, all was well.
A Course in Miracles puts it this way: “… nothing outside yourself can save you; nothing outside yourself can give you peace … nothing outside yourself can hurt you, or disturb your peace or upset you in any way.”
Many years ago an anonymous author said “I am grateful for what God has given me though you.” In truth, we are always part of the larger fabric of life. There is no need to claw our way back to peace; we just release our thinking, and we are free. Our thinking doesn’t have a hold on us; we have a hold on our thinking. Redemption is never more than one thought away when we stop having our extraneous thinking shape our experience of life.