Some infinities are bigger than others...
Happy New Year! Now’s the time when we’re inclined to think about all the things we want to do, achieve, become. When we start to see more possibilities.
Except, maybe, this year. 2020 was a time of unprecedented and severe limitation, and 2021 isn’t going to simply spring back to normal, so even as we might be thinking about goals and resolutions, we’re still contending with a dramatically diminished array of options.
When it feels like possibilities are dwindling, that your options are being limited — well, probably they are. As I age I notice it a little more every year. But even if your body doesn’t feel like it did at 16, you can still become a little stronger, a little more flexible, than you are today. And you can always learn new things.
Even with limited choices, you still have infinite choices. Even within limitation, there is expansion. There is always room for growth.
It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s a mathematical truth that some infinities are bigger than other infinities. There are infinite natural, counting numbers, but there’s also an infinite set of decimal numbers just between 1 and 2.*
Even within limited choices, you still have infinite choices.
But you don't have any options that you don't believe you have. It’s hard to allow yourself to see all the choices available — you have more options than you’ll ever be able to imagine, but you'll only ever have the options that you can imagine. Seeing possibilities you’ve never seen before requires creativity and fresh perspective, but it’s our nature to settle into habitual patterns of thought, and even to dwell on the limits. There's no easy way around it.
There’s no magic bullet, except the one thing that’s the answer to almost everything: Notice. Mindfulness enables you to notice your thoughts, and maybe notice your habits of thought. Just by noticing, you gain a slightly broader perspective. You start to see the space around your thoughts, and the space beyond what you thought were the limits. And it’s only by noticing that you give yourself the chance to do something different.
*And actually, that’s the bigger infinity. It’s true.