The False Promise of a Better Me

Franklin Taggart is a 61 year old white man with white hair and goatee. This podcast episode discusses the inherent problem of improving a self that isn't more than a TinkerToy structure of thoughts. The podcast is called Franklin Taggart's Virtual Coffee Break and Unconventional Life School.

I've been a self-help, self-improvement, self-development junkie for decades. 

I've spent tens of thousands of dollars on books, programs, curricula, behavior modification, weight loss, smoking cessation, discipleship training, and seeking my vision in the wilderness. If I had invested that money in making more money, I would be comfortably retired by now.

For all the time, money, and effort, I would have hoped for a better result. 

As Jamie Smart says, shouldn't light be streaming from all my orifices by now? But I'm not much, if any, different than I was before all of this. I struggle with the same things, think the same negative thoughts, worry about everything, and don't see the improvement I've been striving for. I use the techniques - mindset shifts, meditation, yoga, nature walks, writing my desires and goals clearly, clarifying my intentions, and doing all the prescribed work - but I'm no better off as a person or in life.

Don't get me wrong, I haven't had anything better to do. 

There are worse ways to spend a life. I've learned a lot about everything along the way, but I've realized that most of my work has been in the wrong direction. I never challenged some important assumptions about the promise of a better me. Until recently, I haven't considered that many of the beliefs I've constructed about myself weren't mine. They came from other people. Another realization I've had is that many of the messages about myself I've bought into were intended to persuade me to buy something. And the king of all assumptions is that there is a "me" in the first place, let alone to make it better.

What if the me that is the object of all the betterment isn't anything more than a bundle of thoughts? 

In other words, it's a construct of the mind. What if all I know myself to be is nothing more than a pile of ill-fitting mental TinkerToys in the playpen of Consciousness, and they have no independent, individual reality? What then? Whether you add more pieces to the structure or take some away, you're still left with a thought construction. 

What if the complete deconstruction of this thought structure is the pathway to the things you always wanted to gain by improving yourself? 

The abiding contentment, peace, and acceptance that has seemed so elusive happens naturally when the self we wish to develop is exposed as a cognitive fabrication. What then? And what if the deconstruction can't be accomplished by this thought structure called me? It just happens as a natural flow of things as the bundle is witnessed and seen for the empty thing it is. What if the thing you're trying to improve can't be made better because it doesn't exist? Even self-love, self-care, and self-acceptance are called into question.

There is definitely some mind-body combination in the space here, and things are happening and thoughts moving through, all contained in a space of awareness. 

But that me, who has been so keen to improve itself, has been flickering like a neon sign with gas that will no longer conduct electricity. And that feels like liberation. A stopping.

There is no prescription here. 

I had to see the futility of my trying and acknowledge my utter powerlessness to change. In the grace of each moment, I'm released into being lived through. The groceries get bought, the family gets fed, and the dishes get done, but there doesn't have to be a "me" in charge of doing them. Learning can still happen, music can be played, and words like this can be written, but there is no longer a sense of personal ownership of the process or the outcome. 

Life is unfolding just as it is - none of it can be avoided or permanent. 

From moment to moment, there is a new experience - triumph, tragedy, high, low, in-between - all radiant, all necessary, all included. And each of us is exactly where we are, as we are, and nothing can be done about it. Any promise of a better you can be set aside and left behind.