Survival is Overrated

saw blade

“This saw blade could cut you.” How do you react? Jump away.

We Are Wired for Survival, It Seems

It appears that survival is our first instinct. We reactively move away from anything that might cause pain. The survival instinct is to always ask, “Is it safe here? Or is it dangerous?”

But that safety instinct assumes that there is something that needs to be protected. An identity. If you’re identified with the body, you have to keep it safe. If you’re identified with an idea, you have to keep it safe.

But does protecting an identity bring you peace or stress? That’s the real question. And is it really necessary?

Survival Is Overrated

When I do The Work, I find that many of the identities I question do not survive. And I am more peaceful without them. I love how The Work kills me.

For example, I used to think I was a nice guy. Boy was that a strain to live up to. When I questioned it, I could stop pretending. I stopped caring whether others thought I was nice or not. I could just be myself instead.

Same with being professional. Survival of my identity as an organized, professional person depended on me doing everything perfectly. No room for error. And lots of stress.

When I noticed the stress and questioned my thoughts, I was free to deliver at 70%, or less. And I could relax. It was very freeing that my professional identity didn’t survive my inquiry.

And It’s True for the Physical Body Too

If I’m obsessed with survival of my body, I’m not free. If I’m obsessed enough, I don’t even leave my house. I live in fear of accidents and disease. But, if I don’t care so much, I’m free to take chances and explore. I’m much more alive.

I used to think I had to be pain-free, fatigue-free, tension-free, etc., before I could start living. But by questioning these beliefs, I am much less attached to the state of my body.

Through inquiry, I find myself not caring so much about how long I will live, or the state of my health, or the state of my finances, or any other state. I’d rather be peaceful instead.

The Work Helps me Find Peace in Two Ways

First, the four questions and turnarounds of The Work invite me to go back and look at any scary situation, where I thought my safety was in danger, and really look. By looking again, through inquiry, I often see that the danger was not real. Once I see that, I can relax again. This helps me see through false danger.

The second way that The Work brings peace for me is when dealing with real dangers. By inviting me to question my attachments. By questioning what I want and what I think I need, I often find that even if there is real danger lurking, it is not scary to me because I’m not afraid of losing anything.

Recently our neighbor’s house was demolished and insurance wouldn’t cover it because the river bank collapsed. Our river bank is slipping too, and we’re living on the edge. But it’s not so scary because I’m not so attached. So what if we lose money? We’ll find a way through it. It’s not a big deal. Even real danger is not scary if I’m not attached.

Thanks to John Sciutto for inviting me to think about this topic today.

Have a great week,

“These questions will gently bring you back to the reality of the life you’re living very well in this moment, without her, even while you’re thinking that you can’t go on without her, that you need her to come back to you. They help you put to rest the childlike thought that your survival is at stake.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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