Audit, a word that strikes fear into the heart of business people across the world, this is not a article about an Evil empire's taxation enforcement officers, it is instead about the process of inspecting yourself from an independent point of view. It is the ability to assess, appraise, evaluate and analyse your own life situation in the most objective manner possible, a skill which is difficult when you only have your own subjective point of view from which to work from, it is something that we are almost universally bad at doing. Is so much easier to see situations clearly from external point of view, it can almost be a pleasure to listen to other people's problems as it can be so much more obvious where the ways out are, what the range of solutions are and to identify the difference between facts and options.
It is in helping others that we find our first clues as to how to help ourselves, not only do we feel good when we have the opportunity to help other people, it is the best practice for the task of helping ourselves. It is also easier when we are not taking something personally, when we ask what is rather than what should be, it might not be fair that someone has lost their job, have parents who were less than perfect, friends who think of themselves and even the plain bad luck of an illness.
We always ask people what is happening rather than what unfairness are you suffering from, indeed when we are talking to other people there is an explicit assumption that they are suffering because we are suffering. It is strange that everyone knows everyone else is suffering and yet, we are somehow surprised when we suffer not just from external events but from the plain fact that suffering seems to be the default setting of reality. As the woman who told the scientists that the flat world was supported on the back of an elephant, and when asked what supported the elephant, she replied, “it is elephants all the way down.” So it is with suffering, whenever you solve one source of suffering, another source pops up, the name of the game is to live with it rather than fighting it (which causes more suffering) and the most useful way of dealing with it, is not to take it personally.
However not taking your own problems personally is undeniably difficult, though if you can treat yourselves as a friend, it is a pretty good starting point. One the strongest points of stoicism is that instead of giving you answers, it gives you questions which are a starting point for understanding your problems and it also puts a little distance between yourself and them. Is it something that is in your control, is it something only partially in your control, what is an external and an internal factor, what am I trying to achieve, is there another route to the same destination and what I am trying to achieve is the short term mission consistent with my long-term goal?
All good questions, and ones which we would think of asking someone else if they were discussing what issues they were facing. It does not matter whether you have this dialogue in your own mind or whether you write it down, though many people swear by journalling what is on their mind and the issues they want to focus on. Sometimes our thoughts are like hot potatoes we touch on them for brief moment and then decide they are not solvable and drop them back into our subconscious, leaving us with just the sensation of suffering for no purpose. It worth dealing with thoughts as they pop up, if they are negative find the distortion in them, if they are a want, note it, dismiss or write it down, decide if it is consistent with your big wants, for example candy does not go with tight stomachs. It is almost always more efficient to deal with the problem in front of you, so you do not have to come back and start again, and you do that by taking action.
If you notice that you have thought about the same thing three times a day that might be the time to head towards a notepad and actually start putting those thoughts down. This simple act has quite a cleansing feeling to it, it relieves the suffering a little, as suffering is energy, if energy is not used it is stored, when you write something down that energy is transformed into an action, the mind is relieved from the task of circling back to the same thought, as far as the migrants is concerned is being dealt with at least on one level. Though problem might remain even when that single thought has been dealt with, problems will carry on generating r thoughts until it is resolved to your satisfaction, so eventuality action has to take place to deal with it.
After all we all make mistakes, there are past situations that we could have handled better and these can be traps for our mind as we go back repeatedly to our old mistakes, especially if the only conclusion we come to is that we are a bad person for having done that action. The mind unsurprisingly finds this an unsatisfactory situation, and will poke at it like a bear looking for honey bee hive, it will only be happy and stop when it actually finds the honey. It is up to us to find that sweetness in any situation we have faced, the good news is there is always the opportunity to find a nugget of gold in anything we have experienced. As there is always a lesson to be learnt, even in the worse of circumstances, when we have been embarrassed by our poor actions, we can learn to take better ones in the future, when we lose something or someone, we can find gratitude in the time we had with them, for the joy that they had and which we shared, and solace in ourselves for not being perfect.
In the same way our expectations and fear for our future, can come to dominate our thinking if we are not careful. Past and future steals time from now, the only moment that we can actually affect and change is now. Whilst planning is good, worrying is not, uncertainty and impermanence is an integral part of life, its lessons should be that we should focus all our energy on the present moment. It is reassuring to some that the only planning that you really need to do, is where do you want to go (ie, what is the one thing that you want) and what is the smallest action you can take now to get there, any other worry or thought is probably of marginal benefit at best. It might be worth sketching out what the intermediary steps might be, however as the there is one thing that is certain in life however you think you can get there it will probably be different, so it's best to be flexible with your travel plans so that you do not accidentally turned down the wrong route to where you want to be.
And of course, to get somewhere, you have to know where you are, and to do so, we need to have a full awareness of our life situation, both externally, our qualifications, experience, responsibilities, opportunities and internally, our character, strengths, weaknesses, skills, elegance and gracefulness. It is only with an honest and full audit of ourselves are we able to navigate through life, a map is only useful when you have a direction, a compass and a sense of where you are. The last of which should be the easiest to figure out as you are currently there, if you open yourself up to your own awareness with your eyes wide open.