There can be stretches of time in life that leave us feeling deeply disconnected from life itself.
We might feel a little empty inside, a little lifeless. As though our inner springs have been washed dry and now we sit alone sulking in the dust.
Something just doesn’t feel right anymore.
Our candlelight flickers. It weeps, calling upon the spirit of rejuvenation. Our spark hides timidly behind the grey clouds of thought. Our once firey passions have now become barren unfamiliar spaces.
Ambition? It’s there–it’s always there–raging in the deep, but now it dwells in the land of the lost, seeking a path of clarity to latch its two paws onto.
I know this feeling.
Perhaps you do too.
It had been nibbling from my springs for some time recently, and it left me feeling tired and overwhelmed, desperately searching for the warmth of the sun.
But a few weeks ago, on a wet Sunday afternoon, at twilight, I stood alone by the window sill and listened to the soft sound of rainfall drizzling upon the treetops of our neighbourhood. Out ahead, beyond the city lights, the ocean raged with the wind, sending wave upon wave back to shore.
The sky stood still, perhaps taking a moment to bid farewell to the last dash of sunlight. The thick clouds moved freely, perhaps ploying their next downpour, while birds flew low, spreading their feathered wings, dancing with the rains.
I’m not sure what, how or why, but I presume it was the stillness of this moment that drew me back to reality and made me realize that there’s an entire universe unfolding before my eyes.
A cosmos of magnificence that’s constantly there.
But while my eyes had long been open, my mind had been too blind to see, too fixated on nonsense, my heart too barred to feel or notice.
I’m not sure what, how or why, but I presume it was the stillness of this very moment that compelled me to utter a few words that suddenly brought the scent of peace back upon the shores of my soul:
“All I need is around me, right here, within me.”
You’re in an Ocean, Searching For Water
There’s a story of Sunny, a curious little fish desperately searching for something so vast, bountiful, and beautiful.
He had been told that this mystical place was known as the ocean. So Sunny swam miles and miles ahead, obsessed with finding this ocean.
Along his travels, he’d meet other fish–some younger, some older, some wiser. He’d ask the fish if anyone knew where one could find this majestic ocean, but all his efforts were fruitless; no one seemed to know where this ocean was.
One day, Sunny swims to an older fish and asks: “Please, will you help me. I’ve travelled across distant lands trying to find this thing they call the ocean. Do you know where I can find the ocean?”
“The ocean?” says the older fish, “ah yes, the ocean is so vast, bountiful, and beautiful. And you’re very lucky, little fish. This is the ocean. It’s where you are. It’s all around you.”
The spark in Sunny’s eyes drains itself of the final glint of hope.
He swims away disappointedly, sulking deeper into the stench of spiritlessness.
“This is not the ocean. This is only water… What I want is the ocean.”
Everything You’re Chasing Will Constantly Elude You
Creative souls are seekers; there’s no doubt about that. We’re constantly searching for a greater sense of inspiration, meaning, and understanding.
Sometimes, however, our ambitions can get the best of us and drag us down the path of external validation. We seek less, but we chase more—the next big milestone, the next big career move, the next big project launch. “One more domino and everything will fall into place,” is how we begin to think.
But notice how all those pursuits emphasize the future and not the present? Notice how they’re drawing your attention toward what you lack instead of drenching it in the glory of all that you already have.
Isn’t that the guile work of the ego?
The ego which equates “having” with Being:
I have, therefore I am, and the more I have, the more I am.
And as you continue to identify with your ego, you will continue to want more and thus completely lose yourself in that chase for more.
Why? Because the ego repeatedly creates an attachment to an external sense of identity, an attachment that transforms itself into a destructive blind obsession where “more” becomes your only sense of worth and measure of progress.
“More” becomes the only universe you see.
But when you chase something external to feel at peace within yourself, you’ll fail miserably time and time again. You’re now playing a game without an end: As soon as you arrive at what you had always wanted, it dawns on you that you’re still miles behind what you want next.
It dawns on you that whatever you chase will constantly elude you.
As this cycle persists onward, so does the void of inner discontentment continue to grow. And as our obsession with this behavioural pattern gradually festers and spreads into the roots of who we think we are, we slowly begin to feel disconnected from our soul and life itself.
And here’s what happens next:
The very essence of the creative practice—meditative, experimental, experiential, transcendental—what was once a constant liberating stream of nourishment to our soul now becomes imprisonment for it.
What was once a ritual of joy now becomes a burden-bearing obsession of doing more, needing more, and having more.
We become so submerged within this ocean of our quest that we fail to recognize that what we are so desperately seeking—a series of moments that are meditative, experimental, experiential, transcendental—is already all around us.
We become so submerged within the ocean of our quest that we fail to recognize that we’re already swimming in that water. We fail to recognize that all we need and seek is already around us, right here, within us.
Hence, we lapse into compulsive goal-setting, playing a mindless game of fetch, instead of leaning into the present to appreciate exactly where we are, marvel at how far we’ve journeyed, and water our faith in how far we will go.
The truth is, we can keep swimming across the ocean one thousand times over, searching for all those things that will make our life complete, only to arrive at the realization that everything we ever wanted was already buried deep within us, revealed in plain sight all around us, all along… Or we can opt-out of such nonsense and allow ourselves to feel that completeness today.
Isn’t that what Wabi-Sabi has always taught us? That all things, including us and life itself, are impermanent, incomplete, and imperfect? All we can do then is appreciate the beauty of all things, especially the great beauty that hides beneath the surface of what seems to be broken.