April 2015: This I Believe

by Brad on March 31, 2015

   “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to find all the barriers within yourself you have built against it.” – Rumi

17150508As is true for all of us, my upbringing included a lot of lessons. Mine focused on how I should see and think about myself, my life, and the world. No matter what we’re taught, though, our upbringing leaves us with an individualized model of how we’re supposed to be in the world. A lot of miles and many years later, I’ve come face-to-face with that model again, having spent much of the past year caring for my 93-year-old dad. Aside from the obvious challenges of this unplanned life detour, I’ve also experienced it as a time of personal reflection, much of it about how I was taught. In a way, it would be hard not to do this, especially with the “teacher’s presence” so much a part of my daily reality.

I am struck by the huge gap between how I was taught to see and think (then), and how I do see and think (now). Here is a summary of what I heard throughout my formative years (and continuing to this day!). Perhaps it wasn’t intended to be heard just this way, but it’s how my young mind incorporated it as the context of my emerging sense of being.

  • education, status, position, and achievement are measures of being a good person
  • knowing more, trying harder, staying busy, being productive, making no mistakes, and not rocking the boat are measures of being a successful person
  • the world is mechanistic, rational and linear; scientific proof is the only valid way of knowing something.
  • this lifetime is “all there is;” there’s nothing bigger than one’s self to rely on or believe in.
  • emotion detracts from these things, so needs to be denied. Love is therefore conditional, based on “getting it right”

Even as a young boy, I knew the world didn’t work the way I was taught it did. I knew there was more. I knew I was more. I felt lost. I had no framework in which I could “be” what I knew to be so. Although these teachings framed the context of my early adulthood, here’s what my own life experience since then (supported by a whole lot of practice) has taught me as “truth.” This I believe:

  • everything in the universe is connected to everything else; boundaries and separateness are illusion; we are all one
  • “truth” is both context-sensitive and malleable in the presence of conscious thought; there’s no “one truth;” therefore, the way I see and think creates the reality I experience as “life”
  • there are many ways of knowing; “rational” is just one of these, and often the least trustworthy
  • I’m never alone; I am guided, supported and loved – always part of something so much bigger than myself
  • my deepest longing lights my way; I connect with it in the levels of consciousness available to me through quiet reflection, listening and inquiry
  • life is a beautiful mystery, and each day we are offered glimpses into its majesty and wonder
  • I’m lovable just because I’m here; and furthermore, love is all there is, really.

In these past many months, I’ve deepened my connection – with myself, with my dad, with love. I’ve come to appreciate how important it is to consciously choose and live by my personal principles. Doing so creates and enhances the way I experience life. I want my children and grandchildren to know me in this way, too; to know this is what I stood for, to know that they can (must) choose their own truths – based on inquiry, reflection and personal experience, and not the dogma of other people’s thinking. In this way, I will know my life was not irrelevant.

Exercise: Find and live your own truth. It doesn’t matter what you say you believe; it matters how you live. Perhaps the “great work of your life” is to dig into the depths of your own consciousness and discover, firsthand, what matters so deeply to you that you’d not trade it for anything. It’s all inside you, waiting for you to notice. Then, boldly put each belief into practice every day, on purpose – in how you see, think, speak, act. Listen to what your experience tells you; notice the sense of personal freedom and self-confidence that inevitably follow. Honor where that path may lead you.

 

A River Runs Through It [Life lessons offered by nature]

Nature has principles, too. They’re not all written down in some kind of project plan for planet earth, but they’re freely available for the listening, should we choose to do so. I’ve written on this topic before, yet it also seems so appropriate to this month’s article. And it’s not lost on me how closely nature’s way maps to my own. (She helped me along.)

Creativity – The universe, with all its creations, animate and inanimate, is sustained by a singular energy – the process of creative expression. Each thing exists to be its innate creative essence. Possibility, therefore, unfolds from creativity, not from control or from a focus on results, suggesting that life is a journey of creative spirit, not a destination or goal.

Opportunism – Life takes advantage of life’s inherent uncertainty, propagating itself in all directions. This means we create life’s path by walking it, not by having it planned out ahead of time. Awareness, trust, patience and choice offer windows into innovation in a landscape of continual change.

Self-Organization – Creativity & opportunism lead naturally to systems of order, all as a response to feedback, an inherent attribute of every living system. Adopting a personal culture of listening, reflection and inquiry offers a far more effective strategy for creating order than that of command and control; let the process do the work, not your will.

Simultaneity – Nature holds myriad possibilities in each moment, always many “right answers.” Only in selecting one do others disappear from view. Choosing one right answer ahead of time, as in a “goal,” limits future possibility. You can create more by learning to see more.

Rhythm – Cycles are nature’s way to renew and refresh. Underneath life’s surface chaos and complexity are natural order and unity. Nature’s rhythms offer far more meaning than the events comprising them. Peaks, valleys, quiet space between. If there’s no down, there’s no up. If there’s no silence, there’s no void in which new possibility can unfold.

Energy – If there’s a limit to anything in the universe, it’s energy. In nature, energy goes only into what matters. Time is resource, not a constraint. Perhaps the most important step you might take is to achieve clarity of intention – what do you most want to happen, a focal point for where you put your energy?

Community – In nature, survival and sustainability lead to cooperation, the creation of adaptive and resilient systems of order – communities – from galaxies to ecosystems to organisms. This means things occur in relationship, built around a common thread. Holding a shared vision creates energy, where both individual and collective may thrive.

Connectedness – Everything in the universe is inextricably connected to everything else. We’re united by the original energy of its creation; everything is just a manifestation in form of that primordial energy. We are one. Fragmenting our world into pieces as a ‘way of knowing’ robs life of its context, its connectedness, its source of meaning.

 

Openings to New Possibility

Available for you:

  • The Road Not Taken Community, a no-cost subscription that offers you connection, interaction, challenge, and learning. Articles, newsletters and blogs here. I welcome conversation; dialogue is how we all learn together.
  • In Nature’s Image,100 of my nature images, each with a simple message to help experience life’s meaning.
  • The Road Not Taken newsletters (13 years, 156 issues of Purposeful Wanderings) available here as a pdf file.
  • Photo images from my travels available here on fun products – note cards, coffee mugs – great gift ideas.

An invitation to possibility: This (or any) newsletter could be the basis of a focused program of personal coaching. So if you read something that evokes the yearning inside you … and have the courage and determination to challenge conventional thinking so you can live instead with authenticity and freedom, contact me for a conversation that can energize your dream. I will help you reach a level of clarity and perspective – about yourself, others, your life, your work, and the world – that will allow you to live your truth, every day. Trade the way it is for the way it could be.

Book of the month – Make Good Art, by Neil Gaiman. The text of a college commencement speech given by the author; it’s fun, it’s countercultural, it’s deep, it’s “truth.” It challenges you to find the truth inside you, and then to live what you love, no matter the criticism or consequences. That is a life of meaning and purpose. From the book: “The rules on what is possible and impossible were made by people who had not tested the bounds by going beyond them. If you don’t know it’s impossible, it’s easier to do.” (Note: reports say this book doesn’t work on Kindle. It wasn’t intended to. By design, it uses non-traditional page format and style. Some books are meant to be experienced. This is one of them.) … And if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find this book at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons – 508-539-6985.

 

Download April 2015 pdf

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Grace Herron March 31, 2015 at 9:41 am

Hi Brad,
This is the first newsletter I’ve had a chance to read since last fall.
So poignant as I have been care taking for my 95 year old dad. At present I am living here and I am defining for myself the differences between the then and now of my reality. Very enlightening..
As my journey continues I am able to realize many things.
All the best to you
Love Grace

geri March 31, 2015 at 7:45 pm

WOW!!!!!

Sally Glass April 7, 2015 at 9:25 am

Brad, I was SO blown away by this newsletter!!! I had to walk away from it in tears. Your ability with phrases and creative writing … is so deep. “My deepest longing lights my way.” “Life is a journey of creative spirit, not a destination or goal.” Yes Brad, I too believe that everything is connected. You are the beautiful spirited man that you are today BECAUSE of your upbringing of what your father “taught” you. The world is a better place because you just “didn’t get it right”. Thank God for that!

Brad April 11, 2015 at 7:28 pm

Thanks, Cuz.. You da best.

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