The constant urge to improve

by Christian Kurmann

When we are perfectly free inwardly, we feel safe, secure, inspired, at ease and serene.

 

 

We now have this incredible opportunity to learn how to learn differently.
This is the idea that the Bon Tibetans call purposelessness which is indeed meant as a grand compliment. It is a bit like ‘drifting away in deliberation’ while recalling a moment of comfort and ease, or simply ‘living in moments of absence’ with no particular purpose in mind. These are moments of purposelessness. Moments of getting lost in music or dance – these too are moments of purposelessness. It is absolutely the same with our life, business, pursuits and trades. To live we must have faith – have purposelessness. But unfortunately, the opposite is drummed into us – that we must have a purpose for all that we do.
I believe the life we choose is always just that – a choice. For whatever reason, things are meant to be. I am saying this to make people aware that we choose where we are. But that does not mean that things ought never change. Not at all.


The fundamental question I am frequently asked is how can we, as human beings, transform our minds? Is there any way that one’s mind can be transformed at all? And if so, how? Or is this desire for transformation just a vicious circle?


Often, I challenge CEOs and friends, anyone who writes to me, about what they are looking for when they come to listen to me. Would it be presumptuous to disclose that all are looking for help, guidance and assistance, hoping to hear something valuable and suitable that will bring them ‘further and higher’ and allow them to see the world a bit better, a bit differently? Is that of relevance to one who is in a world of intense difficulties and uncertainties? This is a world beset with complex problems, any one of which would be bad enough alone, but when we add together all political, social, cultural, ecological, economic and intimate difficulties, it’s truly appalling!
The simple reason why most people are in a mess is not because of our systems. It is because most of us follow the wrong people and trust the wrong people. And this is, quite frankly, because most of us are self-seeking, lacking in wisdom, lacking in profundity, lacking in insight and lacking in courage. We do not have clarity. We are afraid of death and afraid of pain, unwilling to be compassionate and cooperate with those who see the world a bit differently, unwilling to be open to others at all.


So, we are absorbed with ourselves, moaning that ‘it is me who is always wrong’ and ‘if only I could improve and be better than others, my world would look right again, and I could be the right person’. So, if this mentor, this guru, this teacher could give me even a tiny hint, a nudge in the direction of living differently, then I will be back on track to improve myself. Then I will be a more appreciated and creative human being.
When the ordinary quest for pleasure becomes a drag, we generally turn to the arts – literature, poetry, music or philosophy – to ‘find’ ourselves in those pleasures. But soon enough, we find these aren’t the answers either. So, we move on to religion, psychoanalysis, astrology, future-telling, even cults, hoping to attain the ‘ultimate fulfilment’. Yet, once again, it soon becomes clear that this is also another futile quest.
So life must be something deeper, something much deeper and more intensive. Eventually one reaches out to spirituality, taking courses and reading books and following self-proclaimed gurus, but that quest between the material and the spiritual is no different: it is the same old story. 


Today I observe that many people have this urgent feeling to present themselves as perfect, impeccable and superb, constantly striving to impress others to gain acknowledgement and recognition. This becomes increasingly questionable and superficial, flinging us fast to hell. Why, then, do we want to improve ourselves all the time, so desperately yet futilely? The truth of the matter is that the reason why we want to be better, is because we aren’t. We aren’t better because we want to be, even if we are walking down by paved roads of good intentions.


Point blank: ‘do-gooders’ are trouble makers. How in the world does one know what people’s needs truly are if we don’t even know what our own needs are? Doing ‘good’ for others can be terribly destructive because it is full of conceit. Again, how do we know what is good for others? How do we know what is good for ourselves? If we are so bent on changing and improve ourselves, then we presumably already know what is to be improved. But how do we really know? Most don’t. Too often we seek to compare, to expect and to over-analyse and become followers. If we do improve, it is because we simply listen to others and follow them. We do not really know how to interfere with how the world is today.


But when we come out with our individual views, our own opinions, our different skills, our unique talents and our different experiences, we emit virtues that make us who we are. And we become aware of our inner workings. We soon realise there is nothing or little we can change to improve ourselves individually, and the same goes for societally. Surely we want to change society, feeling tremendous enthusiasm for each new revolution. But has any revolution ever set anything right, regardless of whether it is liberal or conservative?


But if we look at things differently, if we realise that we can’t do anything, if we see we are stuck with it – which probably would be the worst thing to think, especially in Western society such as the USA and Europe where anything at any given time desperately needs to be improved within a short period of time – wouldn’t that be the worst case for many, because any culture that is driven to self-improvement ought to be good, and yet we question this?  


The fact is that all this commercialised ‘self-improvement’ is a hoax and a self-destructive bluff, because even with it, we continue seek to be better. This is certainly not what life is about. So, what happens if we know that we can’t improve ourselves? Or don’t want to improve ourselves?  For some it might be a relief; for others the end. If we realise that we can’t improve anymore, and then accept such, it might come as a breather so that we can simply watch what happens. We rarely do this: watching our thoughts; listening to our feelings, our anxieties and anger, our emotions, our impulses; observing our attitudes and our aptitudes; suspending our judgement, comparison and expectation.


It all sounds terribly simply, as if it is not even worth doing, but if we watch ourselves internally we will see how we react by what we are doing – not being in a hurry; knowing what is; knowing how to constantly improve. The real world is not material and it is not spiritual: it is what we feel day-by-day. Couldn’t we look at things and accept them and comprehend them and trust ourselves and others better?
If we give ourselves a chance to be free from endless self-improvement, our nature will begin to flourish, regenerate, take care of itself. We will no longer be getting in the way of ourselves. We find out, in that moment when we release control, that the great things in life are really happening. Because we don’t have to make up our mind about what our nerves cells will do – it happens purposelessly.


When we are perfectly free inwardly, we feel safe, secure, inspired, at ease and serene. We can better comprehend and hence trust ourselves and others.

 

 
Edvinas Grisinas