So my top five favorite movies of all time are: The Big Lebowski, The Wizard of Oz, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, The Empire Strikes Back, Mary Poppins, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Groundhog Day, in no particular order.
Ok, so there are at least 8 movies in my top 5. And the scary thing is that Facebook knew all 8 and suggested to me that I “like” them. Kinda freaked me out a little bit. #bigbrotheriswatching.
Stay with me for a moment. We are going to talk about Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day as a metaphor for enlightenment. That’s right. The movie is pretty deep, for serials.
If you remember, Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, an ego-centric-asshole weatherman who lands in the small town of Punxsutawney to cover the Groundhog Day festivities, which he perceives as beneath him. He goes through the motions and completes his news coverage only to awaken the next morning to the exact same day all over again. Despite all of his attempts to change things, he soon realizes he is doomed to repeat the same events and circumstances over and over again. Even killing himself won’t get him out of it.
Whoa, sounds kinda like karma. In other words, have you ever noticed that we tend to attract similar circumstances and dramas into our lives over and over again? Maybe the characters and exact circumstances change somewhat, but do you ever notice yourself living out similar stories time and time again? If you haven’t yet noticed it with yourself, have you noticed this phenomenon in someone you know? Maybe a co-worker who always seems to talk about the same dramas with her husband and kids? Or your relative who never seems to learn from past mistakes and always fails to take your advice? Sometimes it easier to perceive in others than in ourselves. I’ve noticed that I tend to attract similar circumstances over and over again. I’ve also noticed that, despite my best efforts and zen-like awareness of this fact (eyebrow raise), I can’t keep it from happening.
I feel just like Phil Connors.
What did he do? Well first he chased after his desires. Remember? He robbed a Brinks truck, took out the hot lady on a date, and almost wooed his serious love interest, Rita (played by Andie MacDowell), through a series of trial-and-error dates. He tried to control reality. He still found himself unsatisfied and his desires ultimately unfulfilled. It was only after he realized there was nothing else to do that he started being himself. He acknowledged who he was and the nightmare he was living.
He “came clean” about his fate with Rita. He followed Rita’s advice by surrendering and embracing his life situation; by making the best of it. He started to work on himself. He read french poetry. He learned to play piano and ice sculpt. He stopped trying to force things (like a relationship with Rita). He really listened to and got to know all of the people in the town. He helped them with their problems just by being himself. He developed compassion. He let go and surrendered. He started to be the best Phil he could be.
And then guess what happened? He broke free of the dream. Once he completely surrendered to his fate and made the most of it, the karma let go of him. He woke up to a new day and the realization of his desires.
The movie teaches us that the realization of desires and breaking through of the karmic dream cycle comes only through a letting go and working on oneself. As the voice of Yoda in my head would say, usually we are:
“Always outward blaming, never inward looking”
And then this guru showed up in my Facebook feed this morning. He looks a little like Yoda, and he says the same thing:
If we start looking inward (i.e. the yogic practice of pratyahara) and ask ourselves questions like: why do I attract these circumstances? What am I to learn from them? And if we listen,really listen for the answers, then we can start to break free from our own karmic dream.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
So why not ask for what we want, for the answers we seek? It couldn’t hurt, could it? And only when we have listened for the answers and broken through ourselves do we really have anything to offer anyone else. We strive to be the highest version of ourselves: the best mother, best lawyer, best poker player, best yogi-Jedi-Knight, etc. But we can never really be those things until we work through our shit and raise our own level of awareness.
Favorite-yogi-of-mine, Ram Dass, wrote a blog about working on ourselves entitled, “Doing Your Own Being.” In it, he says:
The only thing you have to offer another human being, ever, is your own state of being.
Ram Dass says that all we can really ever do for anyone else is to work on ourselves, and that working on ourselves is the secret to being the best we can be. He says,
You realize that the only thing you have to do for other human beings is to keep yourself really straight, and then do whatever it is you do.
That’s what happened to Phil Connors in Groundhog day. He went to work on his own damn self. He “kept himself really straight, and then did whatever it was he does” (to paraphrase Ram Dass) and finally broke through of the dream.
In practical terms, I think its good to start to notice our own personal “Groundhog Day” dramas; in other words, we can start to notice those similar circumstances and situations we tend to attract again and again. They are clues that show us where we need to work on ourselves. We can ask ourselves what our personal dramas are here to teach us, and then we can do our best to learn from them. Before we place blame outwardly for our circumstances, we can look inward for answers. We don’t have to lament our circumstances or try to change our drama (or dharma!) in order to accomplish this. In so doing, we are practicing “pratyahara” and we can begin to awaken from our personal karmic dream.
And most of all, WE
Ever. Don’t do it. Remember WWPCD.