“It’s not the what, it’s the how.” This phrase is mentioned throughout various books by Cheri Huber, a Zen spiritual and awareness practice teacher. It was discussed extensively in her book “How To Get From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be.”
I have to admit, that phrase threw me for a loop and sent my brain into a whirl. “What the heck does that meeeeean?” my brain screamed and lamented.
After contemplating and meditating on that phrase for a long time here’s what I have come to understand. (Disclaimer: I am not implying that my understanding is any kind of “right” answer or anything, this is simply my current understanding.)
For seekers who are looking for peace, the way to find it is to notice how we keep ourselves from it. Each of us has our own special formula for how we do things and if we can notice HOW we do what we do, we can perhaps gently choose to course-correct so that we actually find peace rather than keep ourselves from peace.
Okay, now, notice the pronouns in that last paragraph? I said “how we keep ourselves from it” and “Each of us has our own special formula”…”how we do things”…”we can perhaps gently course-correct” — after a lot of contemplating I realized I didn’t really understand who specifically were these beings who needed to notice HOW they were being nor did I understand what WHAT was or what HOW was.
Therefore, in order to understand, “It’s not the what, it’s the how,” I came up with three questions:
- What specifically is “WHAT”?
- What specifically is the “HOW?” and
- “WHO” is doing the “HOW”?
Before I continue, I know this topic is a huge one and I already feel like I’m not doing this topic any kind of justice, however, I just wanted to capture my current state of thinking because perhaps when I (the Enlightened Future Lleslle) looks back on this post, Future Lleslle will either think that Past Lleslle really understood things or Future Lleslle may think that Past Lleslle had no clue what she was talking about. Only time will tell what Enlightened Future Lleslle thinks. 🙂
So, to answer the question, “What specifically is the ‘WHAT’?”
The WHAT is any subject or object. “Whats” are things like money, relationships, career, happiness, a specific person, place, or thing, etc. This question and answer seemed pretty straight-forward.
Next question: “What specifically is the “HOW?”
This question was a bit more difficult to answer, but I think I eventually got it. The HOW is our approach and/or our process for how we interact with the “what” (i.e. subject or object). The HOW is our attitude, what we are believing, the actions we are taking, the mood by which we are engaging, our facial expression, the tone of voice we are using, the words we are using, etc. We each have a special formula for how all these things come together to make up our “HOW.”
Last question: “WHO is doing the HOW?”
Now this question really put a twist on my brain. This question is what led me to ask, “Who am ‘I’ really?” Here’s why this question was so hard.
There are a few parts to the being that is doing the HOW.
There is a human body that is doing the physical parts such as facial expression, body stance, and tone of voice. There is a part of the human that is reacting to the WHAT. There is a part of the human that is observing and noticing the part that is reacting. There is a part of the human that has beliefs. There is a part of the human that has emotions. — See how come this is confusing??
Who are all these parts anyway?
Okay, here’s what I’ve come to learn.
The human body is simply a physical shell that houses the “beings” that participate in the HOW.
The being that reacts to the WHAT is typically our ego which is our conditioned, false self whose main purpose is to survive. This self is the part of us that typically acts compulsively and on auto-pilot because it believes a lot of things (most of which are limiting) that keeps us stuck in undesireable behavior patterns.
The being that observes, notices, and experiences what specifically the reactionary ego and the physical body are doing is actually our true, authentic, Self. This particular being is our Soul, our essence, our life force, to just use a few labels to try to refer to this being.
So, bottom line, “I” is really the being that observes, notices, and experiences. So when I asked the question, “Who am ‘I’ really?” I was able to discover that I am really a Soul, an essence, a life force that currently lives inside a human body and that has an ego that it can observe.
Well, I don’t know about you, but all the above jibber-jabber was helpful to me and since it took me a long time to learn I wanted to capture it before I forgot. (Who is the “I” though that would forget? — Ahhh, there goes the ego again, getting all worried and fretting!) 😀
Anyway, hopefully this post made some sort of sense, but even if it didn’t make total sense, hopefully it gets your brain juices flowing to ponder these amazing and profound questions.
I’d like to recommend that you (I’m speaking to your Soul, the observer in you), start to notice how you (the parts of you that act out whatever it is you are acting out) do what you do.
Here are some fun scenarios to notice how the actor is behaving:
- When you don’t get your way.
- When you are experiencing something you don’t want.
- When you are experiencing something you do want.
- When you want something that you don’t have.
Just have fun with this practice and do your best to not get caught up in whatever crazy stories your ego-self may be telling you. Remember, your true Self is the Soul that observes, notices, and experiences. That’s who you really are.
For some good reads on this topic, check out:
Gary van Warmerdam’s “MindWorks”
Rick Carson’s “Taming Your Gremlin” and
Cheri Huber’s books “There’s Nothing Wrong With You,” “I Don’t Want To, I Don’t Feel Like It,” and “How To Get From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be”
Happy Learning, You Soul You!