It can be tough to decide to live differently from mainstream society. Part of this is the pressure of society to conform in a certain way. But it can also be we are overwhelmed with the options.
Mainstream society has one principal way to have a relationship and one principle way to live our lives. But if you decide not to follow this path, it means you can have any sort of relationship you want and any sort of life.
Any sort of life. This is a lot of options.
Deciding to be different from society is both a great gift and a great curse. The gift is to choose whatever we want to be unhindered by the precepts of society. And a curse because we do not know what we want, and from an infinite number of options, the challenge of deciding the best life for us.
The alternative lifestyle is a choice. But even within this, there are so many options and so many choices. Many people who decided on this path had this drive and knowledge that they wanted to live in a different way to what mainstream society dictated. And why would each person then decide to conform to one limited approach? Instead, they decide to choose the life that is best suited to them, leading to many wonderful and different ways to live the alternative lifestyle.
So how does one go about finding out what is best for them?
We are Explorers
I like to think about life as a journey on a winding path that takes us over mountains, deserts, forests, and into the seas and oceans.
But we often this path in darkness, and we do not know what is ahead of us, or even in which direction to head. Sometimes we can see a small step in front of us, but there are times that the pathway can be so dark that we can only see where we are standing.
When faced with the choice of genuinely wanting to live differently, we can find ourselves in this darkness because we cannot see the path ahead. And often, if we only think about what we want, the darkness does not change, and our pathway can remain unseen. And faced with the darkness, we can become incapacitated in knowing how to move forward.
But instead of staring out into the darkness, we can stare down to the ground beneath our feet that are in the light. And we can examine and understand this. And often, this little bit of light allows us to make small choices to move a little further or widen the field of light. We take a small step forward and then reflect again, and another step. Slowly through these small steps, we can move a great distance, and through time, the choice of what we want becomes clear.
The first step is to realise that only thinking about what lifestyle one wants is not enough. One must have experiences and reflect on those experiences. And through each experience, you can learn. What did you like? What did you dislike? And what did you love?
The experiences inform you and help you upon a path to find out what it is that you really want.
So think about what experiences you can have to help move you along the path.
The idea of experiences can still feel too large, so another frame I like to use is the idea of an experiment. Think about experiences as experiments. What is the smallest experiment you can run to find out more information?
As an example: Right now, as I am writing this, I have been invited to someone for a week, who is very interested in me in living an alternative lifestyle. I am not sure if I am ready for a relationship yet, and I feel very paralysed by the size of the decision.
But if I change this to one visit to see them with no expectation from either of us that it is anything more than a visit - that feels like a much smaller and safer decision. I am no longer making a large decision. Instead, I am meeting them once to decide if I would like to meet them again - the experience in being with them will allow me to know if I want to see them again.
Reflect and Learn
What is vital is after you had these experiences and experiments is to reflect and learn. It is through reflecting and learning that you decide what your next experiment is. And it is the reflecting and learning from many experiences and experiments that allows you to find out what you genuinely are looking for.
When you do this, allow your assumptions to be challenged. Perhaps you start this journey wanting one thing, but through experiences you start to realise it is something else.
Joy is an emotion we can easily miss. Out of all of the emotions, it is one of the most short-lived. When we feel emotions such as sadness or fear, we usually are aware that we are feeling them, and that we experience these emotions, we can feel them for a long time. But joy is fleeting and quick emotion.
This means that unless we are mindful, we might not notice when we are feeling joy.
Just stop a moment and read that last sentence again. It is a strange concept and statement. That as human beings, we are often not aware that we are feeling joy.
As we have these experiences and experiments, we should be very mindful of when we feel joy. Joy is an informer of when we are on the right path. And a lack of joy is when we are on the wrong path. So regardless of the assumptions we have made of what we think we need from our non-mainstream life, joy points us in the way of what we actually need from our non-mainstream life.
So when reflecting and learning, always be on the lookout for joy and to really notice these moments. They are lighthouses and beacons to help you find your way on your journey and path.
Enjoy the exploring
For most people, this is not a quick process, and what is as important is to enjoy the experience of exploring and experimenting by making sure this is joyful in itself. Many people can fall into the trap of just wanting to get to the end of the process and find the authentic lifestyle they want. But this can be a long experience, and even when you find the lifestyle, you will be exploring and discovering that authentic life.
Make sure you explore and journey in a way that means you enjoy the journey itself of exploration and discovery. If you are not enjoying the journey or always wanting to get to the end of the journey, you are missing life itself. Try to live in every moment of the exploration and, and in doing so, live and full and deep life.
Find your authentic life
So by exploring and experimenting - both through large and small experiences, through reflection and learning, and through a mindfulness to joy, you can move from not knowing what non-mainstream life you want to finding the true and authentic life for yourself.
And in doing so, make sure you enjoy the journey itself and so live fully and truly.