When 'Plan A' Doesn't Work

'Plan A' is spontaneous. You don't have to think and work to get the girl/guy of your dreams but somehow it all just works out. Yeah, in your dreams.

Why we all love 'Plan A'

We all learned long ago that 'you can't always get what you want'. Life just isn't like that. There are lots of things that you have to work hard for, and hard work is, well ... hard. Who wants it. There is something in us that rebels at this fact, no matter how realistic we are in our minds. You still feel, why can't it all just flow a bit more? Why do I have to keep pushing against resistance?

Even though we know this general lesson, somehow we forget it when it comes to the quest for love. Surely, if there's one arena of life where things should flow it's love, right? Don't we call it 'falling' in love? Shouldn't it be as easy as 'falling off a log'? Isn't it supposed to be one thing where you can let spontaneity take its course?

This is why our dreams continually lead us back to 'Plan A'. This is why the dream of romance is so appealing. This is also why our visions of heaven are all about happiness, ease, beauty and celebration. This is why tombstones say 'Rest in Peace'. The two things we get too little of in this life - rest, and peace!

Rebelling against 'Plan B'

Something in us rebels at the idea that we should have to work for love. In truth, there's nothing wrong with feeling this way. The world should have been like that. Things should just flow, peace should prevail, and everyone should always do the right thing. Love should just flow naturally. So even though in our minds we know that things didn't work out that way, our feelings still contain the recognition that 'Plan A' should have prevailed.

It is important to recognise this, otherwise we could fall into either of two different errors. The first is to become hard and even moralistic. This is portrayed as 'realism'. You know, when the going gets tough the tough get going. That sort of thing. Taking pride in toughing it out in a tough world, even though you have no hope for anything better. Telling others to stop dreaming and wake up to themselves. Being a stoic.

The second error is to become resentful. I didn't get what I feel I was owed, so I'm taking my bat and ball and going home. The world owes me. It's not me who owes anything, so I'll go with the flow, such as it is, even if it goes downhill. Don't blame me if things don't work out. Don't ask me to take responsibility for the situation - I just work here.

Accepting 'Plan B'

Isn't that all getting a bit cosmic? We started out talking about trying to get a guy/girl and all of a sudden we're talking about the meaning of life, the hereafter and everything? Well actually, finding that special love is about the meaning of life, the hereafter and everything. The struggles we have trying to find that special love are not just youthful follies and misadventures. They provide a key to understanding everything.

How is that? Well firstly, they involve an intensity of feeling. This is not something that should be just brushed off as a side effect of youthful immaturity. This intensity is not a psychological problem or a chemical imbalance, but an indicator that something of great significance is going on. Why would you be blasé about what is probably the biggest decision you will ever make in your life?

Secondly, youth involves what seems like a deficit of understanding and wisdom. There is an old saying, 'youth is wasted on the young'. As people get older they wonder more about what seems to be a design flaw in the universe. Why do we only ever learn things too late? When we're young we have the energy but not the wisdom. When we're old we have the wisdom (hopefully) but not the energy. Why is it that we have to make the most momentous decision of our lives when we have the least going for us?

But here's the thing. This intensity and this deficit are signs that 'Plan A' is still something real as a dimension of this world, even though it is obscured and weakened.

Rediscovering 'Plan A'

The first part of rediscovering 'Plan A' is to accept that the intensity of feeling is something good. Sure, we might often wish that we could just cruise through rather than have to fight our way through a thorny thicket, that we wouldn't feel like we were on an emotional roller-coaster. But do we really want to be blasé about something so amazing and momentous as finding the love of our lives?

Now I'm sure we would all gladly accept the intensity of feeling if it was all ecstatic happiness. No problem. We'd have no trouble accepting that this was something good. The hard part is the intensity of the negative feelings. How are they something good?

The second part of rediscovering 'Plan A' is to accept that the lack of knowledge is also something good. So, if lack of knowledge is so great, why am I writing all this stuff trying to help you understand more about all this? We'll get to that in a minute. First we need to ask - what is the goal of learning? Is it the accumulation of knowledge? No, not really. The essential purpose of learning is to become more through an expansion in our capacity to receive being. OK, that's a bit cryptic. Please explain.

An Expansion of Being

An increase in understanding is something that occurs within our consciousness. It is an interior expansion of who we are that makes it possible for us to receive more of another person into ourselves. This does not mean that I have accumulated a lot more facts about someone. The facts are only a means to an end. The end is to deepen the communion between two persons. So after such an increase in understanding we don't essentially 'know' more in the usual sense, but we 'know' the person more.

But this increase in our capacity to receive another person into ourselves is not ultimately expressible in words. Even though we can use words to say something about it, the essence of the understanding itself is inexpressible. This is why feelings are so important. We feel the meaning of who the other person is. Does that make sense?

To Know Another Person

Think of a couple who have been married for 50 years and are very happy together. You would say that they 'know' each other vastly more than they did when they got married. But what is the essence of what they have come to 'understand' so deeply about each other? How much of it needs to be expressed in words? They might use words as tokens to communicate this loving connection they feel between them, but what they really share is a silent peace and happiness of deep, wordless communion of being. They would simply describe it as 'love'.

What does all this have to do with being young and clueless? The beginning reveals the end. In a sense the old couple don't 'know' any more than the young. But what has changed is their capacity to receive the being of the other into themselves. What you are experiencing is not really 'cluelessness' but the potential that feeling has to communicate meaning. And if the meaning you are communicating is 'love', the accumulation of knowledge is not the crucial thing. If the heart is genuine then the meaning of the feeling is love.

An Intensity of Feeling

So why am I writing all this stuff to try and help you understand more? This is where the question of the intensity of feeling and the meaningfulness of feeling come together. We need understanding to open up the feeling to the meaning. The intensity of feeling comes from the fact that so much meaningfulness is condensed in it.

This intensity at the beginning is the same thing as the peace at the end. The only difference is that by the end the feeling has been 'opened up', it has become permeated with awareness, it has a spaciousness in which the other can be at ease 'within' you, and vice versa.

When you are young and everything is more intense, it is like two tightly packed balls of yarn. You wish you could connect by just pushing the two balls of yarn together. But they can only connect if you unroll the strands of each ball and weave them together. It takes a lot of patient effort to gradually tease out the strands of each so that they can start to interweave their different strands together. We get impatient and frustrated. Why does it have to be so slow? Why can't we immediately convert this intensity into spacious peace? Well, it's because there is just so much within you. You are a person, a spiritual being, and 'who you are' simply can't be opened up quickly. And a lot of the struggle comes from this impatience.

Now we can see that the recovery of 'Plan A' is about a learned spontaneity. What required work now has more 'flow' to it. You do not have to merely resign yourself to a 'Plan B' of endless toil with no reward. What we wanted in the beginning was to just 'fall' into love. What we found is that we had to 'work' our way into love. Yet the fruit of that work is that you can become the kind of person that another can fall into, and to 'fall into' you easily anew each day, because by then it has become easy, or at least easier. You have become opened up to who the other person is. It becomes a mutual opening. This is not to say that this process is ever complete in this life. But it is possible to experience a substantive measure of it.

What was that all about?

I realise we have come a long way from what started out as talking about trying to find that special someone. And I realise that some of you reading this might have been looking for something a lot simpler. That's OK. You might like to revisit this down the track a bit. Or talk about it with a friend. Maybe you have at least got an inkling of what I'm talking about. That might be all you need right now.