How to Make a Fresh Start in Life
ED: Hello. I'm Dr. Ellen Dickstein, and I'm here with best-selling inner life author, Guy Finley. Today we're going to talk about making a fresh start in life.
Guy, most of us have made drastic changes trying to make a fresh start in life, and yet no matter what we do, we always end up feeling the same way. The outer conditions may be different, but inside we're still the same. So we know that changing the outside condition isn't really going to give us the fresh start we want. Where does a genuine fresh start begin?
GF: It's a good question. We could break down the idea of making a fresh start into four separate and yet united ideas -- the first, and perhaps the most important, being the knowledge that it's possible to make a fresh start and the simultaneous discovery of what it is that is prohibiting making a fresh start. Everybody wants to make a fresh start. We can do it right now, by the way, sitting here. At home you can actually make a fresh start, just sitting there. And if you don't understand that, you will by the time we're done talking. The knowledge that it's possible, coupled with understanding what prohibits it -- let's start there, and then we'll go on to the other steps.
First, so many of us -- as you were accurate in saying -- have tried so many ways to make a fresh start: get rid of the relationship that is dragging me down, find a more fulfilling career path, move to a different part of the country, change my body in any one of the zillion ways in which a person can do that today, travel… and eventually, every one of the paths we take that we plan from the beginning very carefully what we're going to do, prove themselves to be incapable of producing what we imagined we would have when we achieved what we had envisioned.
So there's a good beginning, the first fact that we need to understand, because it runs completely contrary to our idea of starting over: you can't plan to do it.
ED: Because then you're just bringing your old self into what you think is going to be new.
GF: That's right. If I plan a new start, then in my mind I've envisioned this new position, this new power, this new possession by which I will have a sense of newness to myself. But what I can't see is that everything that I imagine is a part of my past. The more I think about what I want to do with my life, I can only think through what I wish to do or become according to variations on a theme of past experiences. This didn't work out so I'm going to change it and it will become different in my future. But everything that the mind projects, it pulls from its past, and anything that I pull from my past is not a fresh start, but a reconfiguration of a self and a life that didn't produce what the new start was. So that's the first thing, and it throws people off. Because you think, "Well, if I can't plan a fresh start, what do I do? Just sit here and be stupid?" So there is what prohibits a fresh start: we have in our minds a certain feature that tells us what it means to be a new human being.
Let's now equate a fresh start with what we're really after, which is a sense of myself that isn't burdened by my own life. When we really examine it, when I talk about making a fresh start, I get this wonderful feeling, don't I? "Yahoo!" I can feel all that new energy pumping through me based on just this wonderful idea of a fresh start. Because when I'm really starting to think about this, it's not in conflict yet. It hasn't run into the obstacles. It's not being punished by what didn't work out according to the plan. It's just a stream of what seems to be new energy that gives me the energy to set out on this path to the new life.
The fact is, Ellen, this new life (which is really what we're after in a fresh start) doesn't belong to a person. It's not a possession. Anything that we possess in our mind, by the very nature of having first created the idea, the image, and then getting our hands on it by manifesting it in life, eventually turns out to be part of a past for us, part of a problem for us. Not that the thing itself is a problem, but that it ceases to provide us what we originally envisioned it would give us, what we originally felt it would give us.
So the whole idea of a new life really has its root inside of understanding a completely different relationship with life itself -- and now to the point -- that relationship is not to be a planner of it but a participant in it. Look out on a spring day and you know that everything is changing. There is nothing that is not continually renewing itself, but that constant renewal is out of the ground of what no longer is. So you've got this flowering taking place, and this flowering is newness itself. In the end and in the beginning -- one thing continually taking place. And if we want to make a fresh start in life, we have to put ourselves where a fresh start actually takes place, and it doesn't take place in our minds.
ED: So, we can't give ourselves a fresh start. What happens is that we enter into the place where fresh starts are happening every moment.
GF: Yes, and how do we do that?
ED: To do that, we have to drop away, we have to lose everything that is holding us back in our old life.
GF: I can see this great gulf that exists for human beings between this idealized life that we would have -- which is filled with fresh starts, becoming a new person -- and our present life in which we are already borrowers. We've already taken something when we imagine a fresh start. We're already borrowers. And how do you explain to an individual that inside him or her there is a nature that never borrows anything but that rather is a constant participant in something? Then if you could explain that, what do you say is that nature that is the participant in this broader life? All we can do is approximate.
For instance, who hasn't been outside on a day when maybe it's rainy and cloudy, and then for some reason the weather pattern shifts, and here comes the first streak of sunlight, the clouds break, and suddenly there are little balls of water hanging on everything, and it's glorious outside. You don't need anything more than that in that moment. It is filling to be a participant in this fresh moment. What is it in us that participates in that fresh moment? My awareness of it. The fact that I can actually look out in a split second and see something that is so breath-taking, so beautiful, that for that instant, my mind and its usual operation is suspended. I'm not thinking about a way to become new, making my plans to change this or control that. I've actually entered into newness itself as it is dawning through my awareness of it.
When I speak of the necessity of a relationship that is different in life -- not as a planner but as a participant -- this is what I'm talking about. But the leap, the gulf, is this gradual change that has to take place within us in what we give our attention to, because presently our attention is commanded by every passing thought and feeling that is either in allegiance with the plan, that is working towards it, or that feels that the plan is breaking down and now I've got to go and re-imagine myself.
ED: So we're constantly being distracted from the present moment.
GF: Constantly being taken out of that moment in which everything is new already. God's life is newness itself. It is changeless in its newness, even though all these changes are taking place in it. And it's only here, now (regardless of whether I'm aware of it or not), but my relationship with it is what has to be understood. And before I can have that relationship with being in the present moment, I really have to understand that unattended, my mind gives itself to every vagrant image and its object that passes through it.
ED: Which promises that it's going to give us a fresh start.
GF: Which promises the fresh start. So it isn't the object -- the new job, the new relationship, the new person -- that is the illusion, because we can obtain those. The illusion is the freshness and the newness in it, and it's "I," this part of me that attributes this, and that continues to find out that wasn't it.
At a certain point -- which brings us to what would be the next step in how do we really make a fresh start -- is the idea that a person gradually has to have a real wish for that. A real wish. Now I'll translate that: I see the necessity for it. See, there's a big difference between the desire for a new start vs. the necessity to be a new man. The desire for a fresh start -- I'm like bumble bees lining up on my cherry tree to get into the blossom. I've got one desire after another, and each desire gives me the feeling of a fresh start, a new beginning, only to find out that I'm chained to a nature whose very existence depends upon this chain. Now I don't want that anymore, so this necessity to become present to myself is critical.
ED: I have to want real newness in which I can't find myself, and want that more than my idea of what may be new.
GF: I think that's a fair way of saying it: a newness in which I can't find myself. See, when we go back to that former illustration, did I need to find myself in that moment where I saw that beautiful change in the day? Did I need to find myself? Was I looking for myself?
ED: No. You just felt completely part of the moment. You were fulfilled without any thought of yourself.
GF: So that's the next point, that this fulfillment exists independent of the self that seeks it. This fulfillment that we're looking for, this fresh start, exists independent of the self that seeks it. It's one of these great drive-you-crazy paradoxes in the spiritual life. People say, "Wait a minute! How am I supposed to find it if I don't seek it?" We find our place in this eternal fresh spring of life by gradually understanding that we are taking ourselves out of it. So I don't need to create it; I simply need to cease bringing myself away from its presence inside of myself. That's the necessity part.
How many times are you going to get depressed? How many times are you going to sit in your house, wherever you are, and feel that wave of sadness come over you, and let it produce in you the same thing it always produces? When the negative state passes into you, can you see that the very presence of it produces in you the sudden wish for a fresh start? What is it that then guides you to this fresh start other than trying to get away from whatever it is that is defining you in that moment that seems so dark?
ED: Right. So it already has a negative beginning.
GF: Negativity seeds itself, and I sit there and say, "Oh yummy. Let me plant this," believing that I can continue to plant the seeds that come from not wanting my life at the moment, and by not wanting it, coming up with the life that I will. Eventually one has to see that this goes nowhere. Now if that means that I have to go nowhere relative to my idea of a fresh start, then that's what I'm going to do. It becomes a necessity at that point when I see that all I do is re-incarnate, repeat myself, and that's all I do. Every time the state appears in me, it brings with it that which it says will bring an end to itself, and now I see -- even though I don't get it yet (but one day you will if you work hard enough) -- I can't produce the change I'm seeking.
ED: But then of course, as soon as we say we're not going to go along with the old, our old mind comes in and warns us: "If you don't go the way I'm telling you to go, you'll really be in trouble."
GF: Which brings us to the next step in this process of truly starting fresh. We said new knowledge and the understanding of what prohibits it, then the real wish (which is the necessity), and now the willingness to risk. Risk what? Here I am and my mind is telling me that if I don't think along the lines it is handing me (which is really nothing but a noose), something terrible is going to happen to me. There is a pit! "My God. Look at the size of this pit. You're going to go into this void. You're going to disappear forever if you don't take some immediate action to give yourself a fresh start." And you go there, and every time you say, "OK. I was just kidding." Then you do one of two things: you either sit in the depression, in this unsolvable miasma of thought, or you start to think about how to get out of the condition you're in and what caused it.
At a certain point, the Light and your own work has made it evident to you: I'm not going to do anything in this moment other than become a participant in it, in watching it. That's all I'm going to do. Why? Because the fresh start that I long for cannot be produced by the pain that is producing that longing. The fresh start is not the extension of that pain. It is the entrance into that moment of thinking "I'm nothing without my plan, without this fresh idea. What's going to happen to me?" It's the entrance into what we call nothingness. It's not nothing, but the part of us that only knows itself by what it perceives as being a new pleasure and a new beginning, looks at this idea of not producing more of ourselves, and it says: "Look at this emptiness. My God, it's a bottomless pit. If you don't do something, something is going to happen to you." So there is a willingness to risk what your own thoughts and feelings are doing to you. And the more you're willing to watch this, you'll see, "Why would I want to do anything that my present nature is telling me?" It's obviously trying to seed itself into further suffering.
ED: OK. So we take the leap of faith?
GF: It is a bit of a leap of faith, but when we've seen the fact of what we're talking about, there is really no choice in it, and I'm willing to take this risk to see what happens. Then comes the last of these steps, which is the interior resolve to persist. We're a spiritual fast food world today. Whatever it is, I want my gratification, and that nature that seeks gratification always seeks it in something that it creates in its own image without knowing it. At a certain point, we have to be willing to cease this ridiculous kind of continual gratifying of ourselves through what appears to be empty food, meaning empty life. So the resolve to persist. I can tell you that moment in which you refuse to participate in a false start, the new start that has just taken place isn't going to feel to you like a new start.
ED: It's going to feel very empty.
GF: But you see, the awareness that allows you that is fullness itself. And this is where we go back to the beginning, where we talk about this shift in our attention. To what do I give myself? Gradually as we work like that, the whole process of time as we've known it -- the whole idea of "I'm here, I need to get there, I need to become that" -- begins to finally collapse in on itself, because awareness allows the recognition of what is real and what is not. Out of that a person has born in them through the willingness to give themselves up, not a fresh start in life, but they become part of a life that is always fresh.
ED: The opportunity for that is always there, and we must do it moment to moment to moment.
GF: All the time. We're sitting in it. We're breathing it. It allows us to talk to each other. The understanding of that leads to a fearless life, because if I don't have to protect a plan that I've made, what do I have to be afraid of relative to its loss or trying to enlarge it? I don't. I'm free.
ED: I can just drop whatever the past moment has been, and start over and over again.
GF: Yes. Yes. But one must be an example unto oneself. This is not about other people seeing you do something. This is about you. Right in the root of that moment of life, seeing it clearly, and then taking the action that you know is true.
ED: Thank you, Guy.
You've been watching a Fireside Chat with best-selling inner life author, Guy Finley. I'm Dr. Ellen Dickstein. Thanks for joining us.