Oct 2011: Don’t Settle for the Easy Answers

by Brad on October 1, 2011

“To be human is to become visible while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.” 
—- David Whyte 

Life seems to conspire to demand more and more of us – things to do, people to see, tasks at work, cell phones, TV, Facebook, the news, things to buy, etc. Worse, we’re expected to be like everyone else and keep up with life’s harried pace while we do it all. When (if) we ask ourselves why we continue to run this rat race, we often conclude that we have no choice, that we’d lose out on life if we didn’t, that money buys happiness so we have to work harder, that achieving means everything, that we have to keep up with the competition, etc. To me, these are “easy answers;” they live on the surface and do no more than justify what we’re already doing, despite lack of evidence of their validity.

As always, I invite a deeper look. You might by start looking one level below any of the common answers noted. Can I actually name what I’d lose out on if I failed to comply? Do I have evidence for this loss? Will the path I’m on today really take me where I say I want to go? Do I have evidence this is so? Where do I want to go, anyway? If money did buy happiness, and if I did have enough to buy the happiness I want, what would I do the day after that? What if other people’s opinions and demands were just that – theirs, not mine? If I won the rat race, who would I be – chief rat? These questions invite more thought. Their answers probably carry far more meaning for you than the “because I have to” answers above. The interesting thing about these questions, however, is that just by asking them you become open to the next deeper level, which includes questions such as these, each of which asks for some significant pondering:

  • Whose life am I living today?
  • What would it mean if I chose to live my own life instead?
  • What would “my own life” even look like? And what do I see as stopping me from living my dream?

The world of your potential is a world of energy, where who you are creates reality, not your “score” in the external world. It’s the “you” you’ve lost in the unconscious, yet futile, attempt to go along with the crowd. Being your own person can feel uncertain, so if the perceived safety of the crowd appears more comfortable, that’s a choice, too.

Unlike the things in the material world, “you” are energy, and energy is invisible. We’ve come to rely so heavily on what’s visible that we’ve lost sight of the fact that the source of everything in the material world is the invisible energy that creates it. Because we believe there’s no time to stop and look at the deeper questions, we’re left with the struggle to win the race. You’ve already won. No one can be a better you than you. Find your unique source of energy and allow it to guide your way. Life gets easy, because that fuel is already inside you. The invisible is what’s unique in each of us. Because unique is just what the material world doesn’t want us to be, you won’t get any help from there. Once you know your own authentic story, its energy can guide you for a lifetime; you no longer need to get energy from someone else’s story. In addition, because the energy is all yours, it will support you in times of life’s inevitable challenges and uncertainties, and at times when others inevitably fail you. No other energy source can do that. The external world will always be a powerful deterrent to your claiming your uniqueness. Only you can decide if you want to break from the herd and ask the deeper questions. And all I can do is invite you to do it. OK, I challenge you.

Exercise: Rediscover your source: Visit a place in nature you find peaceful and beautiful. Choose a comfortable place to sit for a couple of hours, and simply experience it. Bring yourself to a complete stop for this time. It may take you a while to slow down, to get past any discomfort with the silence, and to allow your mind to empty. As you calm yourself, begin to notice the natural rhythm and pace of life all around you. Just notice. Now, consciously choose to bring the pace and rhythm of your thoughts and presence into alignment with nature’s pace and rhythm. In effect, you are merging with the energy of your source. Experience the feeling; no need to know, try, do, or control. Just experience. Lastly, take 20 minutes or so and write what you learned about yourself in doing this exercise. If you want to reclaim the energy that powers your authentic life story, do this exercise every week.


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

This past week, as I sat by a river here on Cape Cod, doing the exercise I suggest above, I imagined myself being the water in the river. It’s a familiar theme for me, so you may find similarities with other writings. Nature is like that. So am I. The level of the water had risen since yesterday, a consequence of heavy rainfall in the days before. I noticed the last fleeting drops from the storm dripping off the trees and falling into the water. The river graciously accepted the contribution. In much the same way, it graciously accepted having no contribution for the preceding month, for we’d had no rain at all. So I found myself pondering the relationship between the water and the river’s banks, and what I might learn. Which was the river? Both. What part did each play? In a way, both seemed to take a rather passive role, but I realized how I defined passive differed from our everyday usage. Neither the water nor the riverbanks were trying or struggling to do anything. Both were just being their respective stories. Water wants to find the least-energy path to the sea, where it rejoins the “collective consciousness” of all the earth’s water. The banks want only to accept the flow. And as I’ve written more than once, a striking realization is that rivers hold water without holding onto water. How might my life flow more smoothly, still supporting all I am, yet without effort or struggle? There was no thought of knowing more, trying harder or controlling. The answer was as clear as the sky above. Be the river. Allow my innate energy to flow into and through life, and, like the river, be everything while competing with nothing. It was the beginning of [another] good day. 

Oh yes, if the river were ever ‘done,’ it wouldn’t be a river. What’s up with that? Perhaps a lesson about achieving.


Openings to New Possibility 

My Blog: I’m beginning the process of folding all my writing into my blog, so you’ll have one source for anything I write about. Starting now, I’m adding the newsletter into the blog, too, under the category of “Purposeful Wanderings.” I’ll still send the pdf file by email, and still post it on my website, as I’ve always done. But you can now bookmark or subscribe to my blog, and visit as often as you may like.  

Public Presentation: I’m leading a workshop at the annual conference of the New England Environmental Education Alliance (NEEEA). The conference is October 21-23 at the Prindle Pond Conference Center in Charlton, MA. My program is Saturday morning, October 22, from 9:00 – 10:30 and is entitled “A River Runs Through It – What Nature Teaches Us About Life.” It’s not too late to sign up for the conference. www.neeea.org 

Public Presentation: I’m leading a workshop entitled “The Illusion of Time,” on Sunday, October 16, from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at Franklin (MA) Yoga & Wellness Center. Its focus:  making fundamental changes in how you relate to time so you come to view time as a resource, not a threat. Registration requested. www.franklinyoga.com 

Book of the month Every now and then, I suggest that the best book you can enjoy during the month is the one you write yourself. This month’s article, exercise, and nature story lend themselves well to exploring on your own, so why not write in some depth about all you experience and learn, starting with a blank journal. As much as [I hope] you get from reading my words & ideas each month, the only thing that changes your life is your own felt experience of those ideas. Words alone change nothing. So if you want a truly high-impact way to create a transformative shift in your life or work, you might just consider writing about it. As you write “your story,” you learn about yourself more deeply, from both the content of the story and the way you “spin” it. Your spin comes from your uniqueness; by making that uniqueness conscious, you open yourself to reclaiming the real you. Get unlost, get unplugged from the herd, and step into the freedom and potential of your own authentic truth. You don’t need to create a best seller. You need to sell only one copy – to yourself.  

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