Restoring the Factory Defaults (#839)

I’ve been struggling to get my computer printer working this week, and finally decided I needed professional help. Given that I’d tried everything I could think of and every little tweak and addition to the system that the online forums had to offer, I was a bit disappointed when the professional’s help was so simple – he told me to click the button marked “Restore to factory default settings”. Sure enough, after a couple of minutes of clicking and whirring, my printer was back online and I was left reflecting on what the equivalent of clicking that button would be for us human beings.

The more I reflected, the more apparent it became to me that so many of the things we strive to achieve in our personal development are actually a part of the “factory settings”:

Factory default setting number one:
Being present

I have a completely untested theory that every ten years or so, someone comes along saying “The present moment is a good thing” in just the right way for society to go “holy cow, this is brilliantly insightful – when we’re not up in our heads all the time, we’re more powerful and enjoy our lives more!”

So we all strive for more now-ness in our lives, using whichever meditation or mindfulness practice is in vogue in our particular world. Yet “being here now” is the default – we have to think our way out of the present moment, and the moment we stop doing it, we’re right back where we started – right where we are sitting now.

Factory default setting number two:
Connectedness

Perhaps the most beautiful feeling available to a human being is the deep connection we can experience with another human being, a beloved pet, or even to the world around us. So this would certainly seem to be worth striving and maybe even struggling to achieve, a fact to which the millions of people who continue to search for true love in spite of the seemingly overwhelming odds of finding it bear witness. But once again, we have it backwards.

In order to want to feel more connected, we first have to separate ourselves out. As anyone with young children knows, this game of individuation starts early, as the borders of the body start to feel more solid and the words “I”, “me”, and “mine” start to take on more and more meaning and importance.

Then, as we get older, we put up more boundaries between us and the whole, defining ourselves as separate not just in terms of our body but also our religion, our nationality, our beliefs, and our values. This active separation is what makes connectedness seem like such a worthy goal.

But the truth is, we are always connected with life, because we are part of the same energy as all living things. Like waves in a cosmic ocean, we appear to be separate without ever once leaving the whole. And since without thought, we couldn’t experience separation, this beautiful feeling of oneness must be a part of our birthright.

Factory default setting number three:
Well-being

Because of the outside-in confusion of our culture, which teaches us that our circumstances are the primary determinant of our feelings, billions of dollars are spent every year in pursuit of the feeling of well-being. Yet one look at a sleeping baby makes it clear that peace and contentment are the default, not the reward for a life well-lived.

As I wrote in Supercoach:

A quick look into a baby’s eyes will reveal that we are born at peace – in tune with the infinite, in touch with our bliss, resting in the well of our being. But even as babies, our very human needs from time to time interfere with our connection with this innate well-being. We experience physical discomfort and because we do not yet understand the source of that discomfort we do the best we can – scream bloody murder! Then, to our delight and amazement, someone comes and ‘makes it better’ – they feed our hunger, dry our bottom, entertain our nascent brains with funny noises and rollercoaster type movements, and before we know it, we are nestled back into the bosom of our innate well-being.

Over time, it is the most natural thing in the world for us to begin to connect and even attribute that return to well-being to the people or activities that seem to be causing it – we are OK because Mummy loves us, we are OK because Daddy protects us, we are OK because the people around us, for the most part, appear to have our well-being at heart. And then one day we do something in our joy that Mummy or Daddy doesn’t like – we splash colours on a wall, or cry when Daddy’s tired, and suddenly the ocean of love we are used to swimming in is filled with sharks and other monsters. Before long, we have bought into the myth of love and well-being being outside us, and the need for a persona is born.

But well-being – happiness, connection, love, peace, spirit – is our essential nature. So all our attempts to capture these feelings from out in the world, no matter how well intended and practically followed, are doomed to fail. Not because happiness and well-being are unattainable, but simply because it is impossible to find what has never been lost.

So if our factory default settings are so wonderful, what’s the equivalent of a reset button for human beings?

A deeper understanding of the nature of the human experience.

A couple of years ago, Nina and I spent our second honeymoon on the islands of Bora Bora. One day, a South African ex-pat was complaining to us that it was difficult to get good help on his vanilla plantation, as the locals had ready access to everything they needed there on the island with no need for money to go out and get it.

In the same way, as we see that so much of what we are striving for is there for the taking, it makes less and less sense to work so hard for what is already ours. When you don’t drink rat poison, you don’t need an antidote. And when planning and remembering your way out of the present moment, separating yourself out from the whole, and thinking your way out of well-being stops seeming like a good idea, you do it less and less.

At some point, the system resets, and you get a fresh start.

Will you get caught up again in the illusion?

Experience promises us no less. But a part of the kindness of the design is that you don’t only get a second chance – you get a third, and a fourth, and a fortieth. And since presence, connectedness, and well-being are a part of the factory default, you’re only ever one insight away from everything you’ve been working so hard to achieve. !

With all my love,
Michael

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