A Field Guide to Life – The Big Picture of Life

by Brad on October 23, 2012

Whenever I’ve been confronted with a challenge or an obstacle in my life, I find I’m always drawn to asking the same question: “What would nature do here?” My love for nature goes back to my earliest memories, where in the midst of stern messages about knowing more, trying harder and getting it all right, I found peace, solace and acceptance … in my own backyard. Over the course of my life, the world of nature has been not only a compassionate listener to my most pressing questions, but also a quiet teacher for life’s (and my own) great mysteries; in short, a life-long companion.

As a way to guide my clients toward living with more authenticity and freedom, I now draw on these lessons to help them define a new framework, or context, for their lives. I don’t ask anyone to become a nature lover (although it couldn’t hurt), but rather to allow nature’s truths to help you reframe your own truths.

To share this archetypal model with those of you who may find it inspiring, I introduce a series of posts on how you might learn what nature freely offers us, and how you might find a greater sense of authenticity, freedom, peace, balance and resilience … all by living “in nature’s image.”  Thoreau once said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” So if you prefer to be awake and alive for the journey, I trust this series will evoke something deeper inside you. 

My big assumption here, supported by years of personal experience (in business, in living my life, and in helping others live theirs) is that we’re lost … lost in the wilderness of our own limited thinking. We got lost by believing in a very specific map of how life is supposed to work. The problem is that this map depicts no real place on earth; it’s constructed from assumptions made up by others. Only our desperate, unquestioning, yet futile, attempt to follow this map has left us without a compass. Finding our way, it turns out, is no more difficult than creating and following a map that actually matches the territory in which we live. Nature’s principles underlie every aspect of the adventure we call life, and are at work whether we agree with them or not, whether we live in accordance with them or try to fight them.

I look forward to sharing these perspectives with you, and hope you will share with me experiences from your own journey. Let’s set out for new territory and explore together. 

The “Big Picture” of Life

We live in a world of complexity, uncertainty and chaos. While we blame these things for our struggles, deeper inquiry suggests life is not the source of our stress, but rather the way we look at life. Our planet’s original cultures lived in reverent and reciprocal relationship with nature, which offered them congruence in way of life and system of faith. What might they teach us today, could they speak to the dilemma in which we find ourselves?

  • the universe, animate and inanimate, is defined by remarkable and natural order: “all is one”
  • how nature works is the expression of that order here on Earth; it’s just below the surface chaos we experience as life: “as above, so below”
  • we are part of that order; only unconsciously held assumptions and beliefs give us the illusion of separateness, when in fact, none exists
  • life isn’t the problem we believe it to be; the way we see life has gotten us lost … following a map that exists only as an artifact of the mind.  It’s the only map we know, so we question neither its existence nor validity
  • we’re constrained by a map of the past, not the future, a map designed to protect us from our limitations, not to inspire us toward our potential
  • the periphery of our map is the western worldview, rooted in classical science, telling us life needs to be objective, predictable and proven
  • science is not the world, but a process to help us understand the world
  • life doesn’t work the way science works; it works the way nature works
  • each of us is an ecosystem; the energy fueling our ecosystem is thinking; life-constraining thinking inhibits the sustainability of our ecosystem
  • we need a worldview/map that accurately describes the territory of our lives, that encompasses the full breadth and depth of subjective human experience
  • this map is personal; we need to create it consciously and individually, based on what’s true for us: this demands commitment and awareness
  • life is practice; we become what we practice; if we are to become our authentic truth, we must live the practice of that truth, getting to know the territory of our own ways of seeing, thinking and speaking.

In their book, The Art of Possibility, Ben & Roz Zander say, “Draw a different frame around the same set of circumstances and new pathways come into view. Find the right framework and extraordinary accomplishment becomes an everyday experience.” This journey is about creating that frame.

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If you’re joining this blog thread (e-book – A Field Guide to Life) somewhere after the beginning, click here to see the series of posts, so you can return to the first article and read them in sequence. Also, if you prefer to see the entire book at once, rather than in free, weekly blog installments, you may purchase the book for $20 here, as a pdf-format download.

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