I think a servant of the Enemy would look fairer and feel fouler. ~ Frodo Baggins describing Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I sometimes wonder if life is like one of those Indonesian puppet shows, where the action that enthrals the audience is really just a series of shadows thrown on a screen. It seems like we often get so caught up in our stories, in events and plans and action and things, that we lose our connection to the reality behind the story.
It’s as if there is a double life going on all the time.
On one side, we have our stories, complete with heroes and villains, sidekicks, plot twists, and changes of scenery. I call this “form.” It’s all the things that show up in our physical world: our bodies, our jobs, our relationships, our possessions, etc.
And on the other side, the part of us that is eternal, that—yes—lives this life, but also lives beyond and past this particular life, these particular forms. I think of this as “energy,” but you could also say “spirit.”
The problem is that usually “form” gets almost all of our attention, and “energy” very little, when it should be the other way around. I often say this to people I coach (and to myself) because it seems so counter-intuitive. Form is the thing that seems solid and real and worthy of our attention.
But that’s just because we’ve formed the habit of looking at and valuing form over energy. In reality, energy is the only thing that matters, which you can easily prove to yourself. We all know people who have everything going for them in the way of form – money, success, beauty, youth – who are nevertheless unhappy. And also people with almost nothing, as far as form goes, who are radiantly happy. (Watch the documentary Happy for some striking examples of this.)
Form by itself has no ability to impart happiness, but energy certainly does.
The great thing is that once you start concentrating on (becoming aware of and valuing) your energy, you’ll find that it’s every bit as real and tangible and easy to track as form is. More, even, because form changes and passes away, while energy (as we learned in 5th grade science) can be transformed but never destroyed.
So how do you learn to do it?
- Just start putting your attention there. Remind yourself that forms don’t really matter that much (even if society says they do). Instead, ask yourself how you feel. Ask it about everything and everyone in your life. Ask it about yourself, and about everything you do. What does it feel like?
- Steer by those feelings. Value and prioritize the things and people that feel good, not the ones that just look good (sometimes they’re the same, but that’s just gravy). The next level is to really start identifying yourself, and everyone else, as an energetic body. That’s what we actually are: just a bunch of electrons, protons and neutrons surrounded by a whole lot of space. Your electrons even switch places with the electrons in your chair – did you know that???
Energy is what the world of form is actually made up of, so let’s just skip right to the stuff that matters.