Who wrote your life script?

Hollywood scriptwriters are paid well to write movies we want to see.

We don’t get paid as well as those people who come with the great story and great lines, and we don’t get invited to parties with Brad, George and Angelina, but we’ve all written at least one script — the movie of our life.

And, just like the Academy Award winners, we have a lot of help with the script, often people we don’t acknowledge.

Parents, teachers, friends, relatives told us how we should behave, what we should do, who we should be. They suggested labels and beliefs that we wrote into the storyline.

Our script sets the direction of our life and tells us what we can or can’t do. It’s marked up, edited and re-written as we decided what we should do, what we couldn’t do and what we wouldn’t do. And some things we thought we could do, tried, failed and decided we would never do again.

Our grand epic — whether drama, comedy or tragedy — is still being filmed, but the script was written long ago. Every decision, every act, every choice changes us, but slight changes over 20 or 30 years can add up to a big transformation.

At 40, 50, 60, or 70, we’re not the same character we were at 20, yet many of us are playing who we used to be.

“The script of life that you are living builds on and draws its strength from certain cornerstones called fixed beliefs,” Dr. Phil McGraw writes in Self Matters. “Your fixed beliefs tell you what role you are playing. You have practised your script so much and for so long that the beliefs you have about you, about your possibilities, about your responsibilities, do in fact become fixed. They become set in stone.”

If we don’t rewrite the script, there’s little chance of growth because we already know what will happen, even if it’s unconsciously. If we have know we can’t do this, and aren’t good at that, we don’t even bother to try.

We choose a role, a method of thinking and acting, never considering playing against type.

We choose to typecast ourselves.

The body-mind is a feedback loop. A thought produces a reaction in the brain, which releases chemical signals that are transmitted to the body as thoughts. They produce chemicals in the body that allows our body to feel the way we’re thinking.

And around and around it goes, and where it stops, who know?

But if we have the same thoughts every day with the same reaction, we become human versions of a show that is always in syndication — nothing ever changes.

“It takes awareness and effort to break the cycle of a thinking process that has become unconscious,” writes Dr. Joe Dispenza in Evolve Your Brain. “First, we need to step out of our routine so we can look at our life, through contemplation and self-reflection we can become aware of our unconscious scripts.

“Then, we must observe these thoughts without responding to them, so that they no longer initiate the automatic chemical responses that produce habitual behaviours.”

We’re so accustomed to living from the script — even if we don’t know have one — that we’re uncomfortable if we’re forced to ad lib or improvise. We would never have accepted a guest spot on Drew Carey’s old show, What My Line Anyway?

Too scary.

Even when we have the opportunity to play a bigger role, we question our ability, skill and worth and are afraid to stretch. Granted, it’s not much fun being booed for what some consider a bad performance, but that’s how we learn.

Henry Fonda still suffered from stage fright at 75 and threw up before each performance, but he didn’t let his fear hold him back. He won an Oscar and is considered one of the greatest actors of all time.

Can we toss away the script and jump in the flow of life?

If we can’t, we can at least re-write the script and, instead of playing second banana, move up to a starring role; stop playing the straight man and go for the laughs. Dean Martin shone brighter after leaving Jerry Lewis’s shadow.

“Mind is cause, and experience is effect; and so long as your mind remains unchanged, it will continue to produce just those effects or experiences of which you are anxious to be rid,” wrote Matthew Fox.

“If you do not like the experience or the effect that you are getting, the obvious remedy is to alter the cause and then the effect will naturally alter, too.”

Quantum physics says everything, is possibility until we make a choice. As many philosophers, priest and pundits have proclaimed, all we have to do to change our life right now is change our mind – and our script — and keep it changed.

A life lived consciously will have problems and pain, but that’s a better than playing a minor role until the director yells cut and wondering, as did a character in an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent: “What happened to my life?”


Planting in the garden of life

This is a weekend for the beach, the golf course and the garden — to be in nature. After what seems like a long, hard winter and a so-so spring, finally, wonderful weather.

As nature awakens, even the world-weary cannot help but be thrilled with the buttercup and the butterfly, the hyacinth and the hawk, the spider and the sparrow.

We marvel at the multiplicity of life, but just as amazing is its tenacity and resilience. During the Great Die-off 250 million years ago when a large meteor slammed into Antarctica, almost all life was wiped out.

Then, 65 million years ago, another meteor — a much smaller one — splashed down just off Mexico. It caused the eradication of the dinosaurs and allowed our ancestors to grow, flourish and evolve into someone out in the garden this weekend celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday.

Life blooms and bursts forth all around us as we putter and pot. The mind slows as we dig, plant and replant. Gardening allows us to listen to a sermon in stone, to engage spider consciousness and follow the way of the butterfly, to feel the web that connects all things.

“Listening not to me, but to the Logos (the way of things), it is wise to agree that all things are one,” Heraclitus wrote almost 2,500 years ago.

Gardening allows life-enhancing thoughts to bloom, rather than the negative ones, the mental weeds: what we shouldn’t have done yesterday and what we’re going to do tomorrow. As we plant our knees on terra firma and plunge our hands into nature’s entrails, we’re reminded that life is an inward-outward process.

Away from the garden, we like to think things happen outside us. We project our concepts of the world outward and proclaim them real. Thought precedes action, but if we don’t like what happens, we try to fix the result, rather than change the thought.

“There is really nothing external, so I must spin my thread from my own bowels,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote.

Gardening gives us the time to contemplate the big questions — not what we’re going to have for dinner or whether we should go for a run — of purpose, life and death. While we’re at the office, in traffic or paying the bills, we forget the magnificence of life and the wonder of it all.

But as we watch buds unfolding, flowers reaching toward the sun, an ant dragging its prey toward the nest, or a spider munching on a fly, it grounds us in the now and reminds us life isn’t static, that it fills atoms, molecules, cells, planets, stars, galaxies, universe, multiverse and beyond.

We — this collection of virtues, vices, memories and aching, arthritic  bones — are only here for awhile. But we’re also infinity in a bag and when the bag breaks, the energy is released back from whence it came. The essence of who we are moves on.

Thousands of books have been written, numerous sermons delivered, countless points argued about the first cause, but we don’t know whether the primeval particle that banged 13.8 billion years ago was ignited by something or was just one in an endless series of big bangs. And how it happened doesn’t matter how we live today.

But in the garden, there are numerous examples of how to live written more plainly than any book and more convincing and insightful than any Sunday sermon. Nature has its lessons to teach.

We could learn from the Monarch as it dipsy doodles by. It started as an egg; as a caterpillar it shed its skin — and ate it — a few times before creating a chrysalis out of itself. When the time was ripe, without any help — because help would kill it — it emerged as a butterfly and then headed for a place it had never seen.

Two generations die on the journey, but yet the Monarch flies, mates, re-produces and dies so life can keep going.

In the garden, it all makes sense — this faith, this commitment, this dedication, this longing.

“The first, essential step in becoming a butterfly is to recognize that we can’t make it as a worm,” wrote Zen master Joko Beck. “We have to see through our pursuit of the false god of comfort and pleasure.

“We have to recognize that we cannot manipulate life to satisfy ourselves, and that finding fault with ourselves or others is not an effective way of helping anyone. We slowly abandon our basic arrogance.”

Unlike the butterfly, we have a choice in how we live and who we will become. While certain physical imperatives drive us, we choose how we act in the process. Each day, we emerge anew and can decide how we will behave.

“Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill,” Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor who was also a philosopher, wrote in Meditations.

“I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together.”

In the garden, not of good and evil, not of duality, not of separation, we can see through the delusion into what is real and what we should honour about ourselves, others and life itself.

“There is no need of struggles, convulsions, and despairs, of the wringing of hands and the gnashing of the teeth; that we miscreate our own evils,” Emerson wrote in Spiritual Laws. “We interfere with the optimism of nature.”

That’s a thought worth planting in the garden of our life.

You wear the mask

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.”
Paul Laurence Dunbar

Most of us have forgotten that we wear a mask, that the persona we concocted for public consumption isn’t who we are.

We started hammering out our facial armour on the anvil of our disappointments when we were too young to know what we were doing or what the long-term consequences would be.

We learned the world was not our playpen the first time our parents told us no or smacked us because we didn’t live up to their expectations, when our friends played with someone else, when we didn’t make the school play or the hockey team.

Each time, we forged more steel into our mask to hide our hurt and confusion; with each embarrassment, each rejection, we added more layers until by the time we were adults, our real face was hidden even from ourselves.

By the time we stumbled though university, marriage, mortgages and children, we didn’t particularly care who we were as long as we could get enough sleep and pay the next bill. The mask had become us.

It slipped sometimes, when we had one too many glasses of wine or in a moment of accidental reflection wondered who was behind the eyes staring back from the mirror.

Even if the questions keep us awake, just before dawn, as our body tightens and readies for the assault of another day, the mask locks into place. As the radio alarm clicks on and the all too-perky DJ marshals us for the day’s battles, we check our face shield to make sure we are ready for what lies ahead.

When — and if — we remember we wear a mask, contemplating taking it off is akin to Aesop’s fable of who will bell the cat. The task is daunting, but we don’t risk much; the most we will lose is an inauthentic life.

It is a creation of our fear — and we’re all afraid of something, even if it’s just fear. We are, however, so accustomed to the fear that we rarely notice the tightness around the chest, the knots in the stomach, the clenched teeth, and sphincter.

This dis-ease has become normal, one of the reasons some of us become ill on vacations. We hold ourselves together by will power and habit, and when we relax, there’s the universe waiting with a sickness — a warning that we can’t keep living like this.

ut instead of paying attention to life’s, or our psyche’s, warning, we take some pills and soldier on.

We can hide our fear behind our mask and suppress it, but it usually shows up, like a beach ball pushed underwater; the force we use to hold it down will be the power with which it comes up.

Eventually, we have to confront our perceived ugliness and emptiness and realize we aren’t any different than our neighbour. We like to think that the successful, the rich, the powerful and the famous are exempt from what troubles us, but the stories out of Hollywood and the sports meccas tell us differently.

At the core, we are the same, all connected. Daily, we breathe in the atoms that Lao Tse, Buddha, Jesus and everyone who ever lived exhaled. We are all atoms in the organism called humanity. There are different atoms — one with a nucleus of one proton and others with many more — but they all perform a vital function.

Atoms don’t — and can’t — judge. A hydrogen atom, No. 1 on the periodic table, doesn’t think it isn’t as good as one that has 68 protons and 68 neutrons.

We do judge, which is why we wear the mask. We think we aren’t good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, that we are empty as an atom, which is 99 per cent nothing.

We aren’t honest enough to admit we are afraid, but the amount of money spent on anti-depressants and alcohol suggest otherwise.

We can start taking off mast by accepting right now. If our luggage goes to Spain while we’re on our way to Mexico, the dry cleaner ruins our best dress and someone spills coffee into our computer before our big presentation, we can have a temper tantrum or we can smile graciously and deal with the problem.

The truly fearless and wise are open to what is. One definition of enlightenment is the acceptance of what is. When the fear, the anger or the panic hit, we don’t have to go into a rage or pretend it isn’t there, we can cradle it in our awareness and breathe it away.

It takes courage and patience to overcome ingrained beliefs, and leaving the mask on might seem safer than taking it off. We don’t have to go cold turkey. When it becomes too frightening we can always put it back on until we learn to appreciate the openness.

Like the coming of spring after a long, hard winter; the wind and the sun feel good on the exposed face.

“We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
     We wear the mask!”

— Paul Laurence Dunbar


You're really it!

There are many definitions of enlightenment, but the one that makes the most sense today is acceptance.

Acceptance of self and the world.

People who accept themselves and life — whether modern mystic in the marketplace or spiritual seekers in a monastery or cave — without complaint give off a different energy than the ones who rarely have a day without giving an Oscar-award-winning imitation of Chicken Little.

How many of us know ourselves, like ourselves and are committed to being our own best friend?

How often do we sail the ocean of self looking for that undiscovered country? Of the daring souls who do, how many slink back to port when the seas get a little stormy?

By not trying, or giving up too soon, we miss reality, and our own sheer wonder. In all creation there has never been anyone like us, and there never will be.

Never again will there be a chromosome cocktail stirred, or shaken, quite like us — or like our spouse, our children, our neighbour, or the paperboy. 

In the movie, Matrix, Neo only come into his own power — become whole — when he accepted the fact he was the one. Not many of us face life-or-death decisions in our every-day life or fight a system that enslaves humanity, but we do face demons of our own creation — the fear, dread, anxiety and stress we summons from our private hells.

Yet, once we align ourselves with life and get into the flow, we won’t have to cast out those devils, they’ll disappear like the phantoms they are.

We create our own matrix with what we believe about ourselves and the world. The result is different if we believe we are separate from everything than if we believe we are aligned and woven into the tapestry of life.

One belief creates artificial boundaries and one opens us up to our own greater good.

We are all the chosen ones, every one of us; we all choose who we are and who we would become. We are here because we were there, a logical consequence of the steps we have taken.

And the steps we take now will lead us ever on.

“We are already one and we imagine we are not,” said Catholic monk and mystic Thomas Merton. “And what we have to recover is our original unity. Whatever we have to be is what we are.”

When we withhold the gift of us from ourselves, we hide our light and deprive humanity of our uniqueness. Many males secretly see themselves as John Wayne figures — strong, resolute, the good guy righting wrongs — but most of are more like Woody Allen or Pee Wee Herman — dithering, indecisive and anxious.

And it is at this point where we have to work on acceptance; accepting that we are wonderful in spite of not being who we think we should be.

“You can’t change your shortcomings until you accept yourself despite them,” said Dr. Bernie Siegel.

We could do worse than follow the advice from Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose essential teaching was belief in self. That essay has been on the nightstand of many a great man and woman.

It had a profound influence on author Wayne Dyer, who read it at 17 while waiting in the principal’s office for not being respectful enough of authority.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies with us,” wrote Emerson, who, considering what had happened to him — wife and son died, no job, at odds with his society — was probably shoring up his own belief system, talking to himself as much as the reader.

Most of us are disconnected from self and don’t trust ourselves enough to buck the perceived wisdom of society. We pay so much attention to others that we don’t recognize our own innate wisdom.

Anyone who has ever watched trivia shows on TV – Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader — know the answers often come to us in a flash of insight, but we dismiss them because we don’t think we should know.

Yet, no matter how many times we find out we were initially correct, we still consider it coincidence.

Emerson made that point quite clearly in Self Reliance: “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.

“Yet, he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts, they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”

Like Emerson, most great spiritual leaders have stressed the uniqueness of self, of the need to go inside, into our silence. There we learn the great lessons, there we tap into the wisdom of the ages.

“The greatest religion is to be true to your own nature. Have faith in yourselves,” said Vivekananda, the Hindu religious leader. (The great seers) are signposts on the way. That is all they are. They say, ‘Onward, brothers!’

“We cling to them; we never want to move. We do not want to think; we want others to think for us. The messengers fulfil their mission. A hundred years later, we cling to the message and go to sleep.”

It’s much easier to let someone else tell us what to do, what to believe because accepting responsibility for ourselves, our actions, our beliefs is scary. But when we do, we miss our life.

We strive to be true to others, to meet our obligations to organizations such as banks and the electrical company and gas company, but can’t be bothered to be true to ourselves, to be impeccable with our word to ourselves.

If we did, we’d be slimmer, non-smoking, calmer, serene version of the person who pounds the steering wheel while stuck in traffic.

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string,” Emerson wrote. “Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events.

"Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the Eternal was stirring at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being.”

We can re-establish that intuitive connection that the birds and the bees still have with the Eternal. We can emulate the butterfly, which allows itself to be transformed and then answers the call of a place it has never been.

Butterflies and mystics see into the essence of Big R Reality.

“All the talents of God are within you,” wrote Hafiz, the 14th century Sufi poet.

“How could this be otherwise when your soul is derived from his genes. God disguised in myriad things and playing a game of tag has kissed you and said,‘You’re it — I mean, you’re Really it!”

More Transitions articles

About the Author

Ross Freake, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, has worked at 11 newspapers from St. John's to Kamloops. He is the author of three books and the editor and ghost writer of many others.

He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories