The Is and the Isn’t

November 12, 2018

For many of us, daily routines – interrupted by specific outstanding events – form how our weeks, months and years look alike. Time can pass without any specific difference of experience, except of the order of our repetitive tasks and the topics we discuss in our minds.

This creates a sensation of dullness, monotony and repetition and often comes with the effect of having a fixed point of reference towards life – ideas of what can be expected from life and how life treats us. For some, moments of clarity and awareness create an experience of richness and being more engaged with life. Those moments offer a glimpse to what is possible and what is in our potential. These two different states of being I refer to as the Isn’t and the Is.

Clearly, our bodies are always in the Is. There is no alternative than reality for the physical things to be. However, when most of our lives consist of repetition, many tasks are performed in an automatic way – we no longer need to interact, engage and adapt to what is happening because most of it we already seem to have lived or have planned in advance. Our attention then also moves in such automatic ways to specific topics we discuss in our mind. While those topics vary among individuals, a common theme is centered on the image of the self. By maintaining and allowing this kind of repetitive talking in our head, we create a split reality — which massively shapes our experience. Staying in this state of mind prevents us from engaging with life as it Is because our attention is trapped elsewhere.

Often, these two different states of being are not experienced exclusively. Instead, short moments of noticing what is are redeemed by excursions in our mind. This mixture of experience creates an illusion of being fully in life, while at the same time this illusion is part of the Isn’t. As a result, life is experienced as being shallow, not surprising and as something which is not happening fully yet. That there must be more to it than what is perceived.

Doing things automatically gives power to the Isn’t. Performing tasks with attention creates space to perceive reality. By noticing how we are trapped in an automatic routine, we already create more awareness to what is. From this state of being, we have the option to stop the autopilot – either by deciding for something else or by just being attentive while doing. This act of stopping can happen on all levels of our lives. From the way we wake up in the morning, to deciding on the food we eat, to the type of encounters we have with people or to what we want for the next years of our life.

By drawing our attention to the automatic routines in our thinking, in our acting and in how we are holding our bodies and stopping them, we have the possibility to actively choose life. To choose to live more in the Is and to engage with life at its unfolding.