June 2012: Living the Dream … Your Dream

by Brad on May 31, 2012

“The world is his who can see through its pretension. See it to be a lie, and you have already dealt it its mortal blow.    — Ralph Waldo Emerson


There was a time when the American Dream promised freedom of spirit – the right to self-determination, choosing to live life from your own deepest truth. Somewhere along the way, society traded dreams on us, and unknowingly, we complied. Today’s version is more nightmare than dream – that if we devote our lives to accepting the dogma of other people’s thinking, we’ll somehow find the meaning and joy we seek. That’s not the dream I learned; this one carries an empty promise. Worse, we’re so trapped in this story that we can’t/don’t stop long enough to question it.

If you find yourself striving for more, trying to measure up to the demands of others, stressed with the workload, or insanely busy for no apparent reason, maybe it’s time to stop and ask some new questions. What is your personal dream? Are you living that dream today? If not, whose dream are you living? Name the obstacles you believe stand in the way of being who you really are. Unlike many of life’s little tasks, this one is not just a 5-minute effort.

In every case where I’ve had this conversation with a client, a similar picture emerges. “The pressures of life made me believe my personal dream was impossible, so I gave it up. Only now do I realize I’ve been living “their” dream instead (employer, spouse, family, society, etc.). I kept going so I wouldn’t fall behind, never thinking to stop and examine what I was doing. What blows me away now is that the “way it was” was something that lived only in my head, yet I didn’t know that. It’s as if I’d been seeing life through a cloud, but I was the one who created the cloud.” Emerson saw this over 150 years ago (see quote), and offered the same simple solution. Today, Wayne Dyer says it this way: “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

Yet most of our society remains trapped in the nightmare of other people’s thinking. Why so? All our lives, we’ve been taught to listen to others, to gain their approval, to measure up to external success criteria, to find happiness “out there” somewhere (in money, position or possessions). In the process, we’ve forgotten how to think for ourselves. In trying harder and harder, we’ve made life so busy that we don’t know we’re not thinking for ourselves. If any of this describes you, consider the exercise below as an opening to a new world. It won’t happen overnight; you’ve had years of practice at being someone other than the real you, yet the potential for transformational change is huge.

Exercise: Who am I … really? If you’re not consciously aware of your thinking, it’s nearly certain life is driven by an incessant flow of unconscious, outdated messages you think is thinking. Only by interrupting this flow can you get to know your own truth. The practice: Observe your thoughts. Create 20-30 minutes of quiet time each day, time to be alone with your thoughts. (Today’s world says not to allow this, so you may find the most difficult part is stepping up to the challenge.) During your quiet time, just listen to your thoughts – nothing more. Just listen consciously, without judging or trying to change anything. Hear what your thoughts have to tell you about yourself, perhaps for the first time. That’s it; simple. Become a serious student of your own thinking. Through regular practice of noticing your thinking, you will (1) come to know your true self, the one who lives underneath the incessant chatter in your mind, (2) see that only your thoughts determine how you experience reality, (3) distinguish life’s events from the story about those events you make up in your mind, (4) see life from a broader perspective, thereby creating a bigger world, (5) make new choices naturally and easily (simply because you now can).

Some people find it scary to discover that the assumptions fueling their lives are false, scary enough that many refuse to look. And once (if) you do start to examine what’s underneath, you realize that the certainty and predictability you thought you’d find (and thought you needed in life) simply are not there. However, you finally realize that it’s only in the messiness of life’s chaos and uncertainty that your truth can come and play, offering you the meaning and joy you’ve always wanted. What a sense of freedom you’ll no doubt feel when you see that life was never the problem, but only the way you were seeing life that caused all the stress and striving.

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

The big “nature news” story here on Cape Cod this week involved multiple sightings of a black bear in the town of Barnstable. As of today, reports say he’s “heading east” along the cape, and was recently sighted in Yarmouth. Now, bears haven’t been residents here since colonial times, so it is rather “newsworthy” from that perspective. But the thing that I found so curious was the way in which it was reported. First, you’d think it was the only thing that happened in New England that entire day, based on the “drama” underlying the report on Boston’s TV stations. Second was the conjecture about how he got there. Bears are known to be great swimmers, so some kind of “water approach” seems likely. But the debate was rather funny as to whether the bear had swum the canal (possible in times of slower currents), swum Cape Cod Bay (possible anytime), or “walked the bridge along with the tourist traffic” (uh, right).

Third, and the most entertaining part of the report, were the inevitable interviews with those who’d seen the critter. One guy told the newscaster he’d stayed up all night to protect the horses on his farm. Hmmm. They chose not to interview the guy next door, whose blackberry patch was probably in far more danger with a black bear than even a single horse could have been. But that wouldn’t have the same drama associated with it, so it never made the news.

Why does all this matter? Well, aside from restarting the debate about the sorry state of our news media, I see this as a striking example of how nature just goes on doing what nature does, our attempts to dramatize, humanize, or categorize all of it notwithstanding. Emerson might have also commented 150 years ago on the lack of pretension in nature. His contemporary Thoreau almost certainly did. There’s simply no attempt in nature to cover up what’s false. Hey, wait a minute, there is nothing in nature that’s false. So herein lies a distinction that may lend support for this month’s article. Of all the known species on earth, humans are the only ones who choose a life course other than the one embedded in their DNA and souls, and we do it by making the false to appear real, and the real to appear false.

For those of you who do not regularly enjoy nature’s riches, consider a change of circumstances. For those of you who do, take the time to experience things even a bit more deeply. Sit quietly for an hour this week in a place of natural beauty near your home. Consciously scan for nature’s relationship to pretension. Wonder for a while about how nature, in the complete absence of pretension, can create, eon after eon, the mystery we experience as life, and the beauty we experience in her presence. For the week or so following, ponder how you might experience more of the mystery and beauty life offers, just by relaxing the stranglehold you may have on your weeks, days, or moments.


Openings to New Possibility


An invitation to bold possibility: While I love to write about life-changing possibility, I realize that most people will not, all on their own, integrate the perspectives offered here into their lives. To do this could be a rich program of individual coaching. Having a “guide for unexplored personal territory” can be as important as it is to have a guide for a journey into nature’s wilderness. I’m here to help. I’ll meet you wherever you may be on your path. Together we’ll challenge the thinking that holds you back, discover what matters most to you, and chart a course into the territory of your potential. Contact me, and begin to shift forever your view of what’s possible.

The Road Not Taken website: Visit my website, www.RoadNotTaken.com. You can now gain access to more articles, blogs, and newsletters, so you’ll find “new stuff” on a regular basis. This newsletter is found as a blog entry (under the category Purposeful Wanderings), along with several back issues. I welcome comment on anything you read; this kind of dialogue is an example of how we may all learn together. Coming in June: The Road Not Taken Community, a subscription offering free of charge, giving you the opportunity to stay connected, to be challenged, to interact, to learn and to grow. Also coming in June: my first book, A Field Guide to Life, to be offered as an e-book as well as a series of blog articles you can subscribe to.

“Book” of the month I Am, a movie by Tom Shadyac. I recently saw the movie, I Am, and it’s so worth watching. Not a “theater production,” and very divergent from Shadyac’s Hollywood hits, it asks some of the world’s profound thinkers two questions: “What’s wrong with our world, and what can we do about it?” It’s a beautiful opening into the ideas found in this month’s article. In the process of investigating what’s “wrong” with our world, he found much about what’s “right” with our world, too. All inspiration.

 Download June 2012 pdf


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