Purposeful Wanderings - Bradford L.Glass - November 2022
“Start where you are; use what you have; do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe
“Start where you are; use what you have; do what you can.” This message offers a beautiful recipe for finding peace and freedom in each moment of every day … if we would just chose to follow it.
The reality here is obvious: You can’t start where you’re not! You can’t use what you don’t have! And you can’t do what you’re incapable of doing! Yet how often do we greet each day, not from what’s true in this moment, but from old stories of the past (guilt, resentment, upset) … or from a future that hasn’t happened yet (anxiety, dread, expectation) … or from a place we wish we were or think we should be … or by pretending we can fix everything, change others, reverse history … or believing our opinions alone can make life turn out our way? Although we continue to blame life, others or circumstances for our struggle, it’s this thinking that creates the stress, anxiety and overwhelm we so often experience in life.
Agreed, this moment may well hold uncertainty, complexity or inconvenience. But when we fight it rather than see it for what it [already] is, we not only create stress, but we miss entirely (and thereby squander) the amazing potential we have – right now – to bring our innate creative genius to the possibility this moment also holds! The missing ingredient in this shift in perspective – from fight to acceptance: awareness. Here’s some fuel for growing your awareness, and for the exercise that follows. What might it take for you to find this peace?
Here is what you can control, in each moment … regardless of circumstances. In addition, no one else on the planet will do these for you, or perhaps even help you. Note: it’s a short list!
· your thoughts and feelings (includes non-judgmental clarity and acceptance of what is so, what is possible)
· how you show up in the world – thinking “manifested” into action (optimism, compassion, creative genius, vision of your potential, gratitude … as opposed to their opposites)
· self-care (including your self-worth, self-trust)
Here’s what you can’t control, (influence, maybe, but not control) … again, regardless of circumstances. In addition, the more you believe you can control the uncontrollable – whether by fighting, trying, blaming or complaining – the more stress you create, and the less you can bring your creative genius to the fore.
· other people (their beliefs, thinking, perception, words and actions … even if it’s toward you!)
· the outside world (weather, stores, traffic, society, current events)
· changing the past; worrying the future into being; having all the answers
· the mystery life is; the unfolding of the cosmos; the great unknowns
The reason the weather and the behavior of others are in the same category? They respond equally well to your efforts to change them! It’s unlikely you’ll find any of this as new information, or even as something you’d argue about. (If you do, give me a call!) Yet the curious thing is how often we behave (consciously or not) as if we could control all of these things (yes, even the weather if it’s a weekend or a vacation), and that’s it’s “our job” to do so.
Our behaviors are generally so ingrained that it’s easy to ignore this perspective and just go back to doing things as we’ve always done. And if you like your stress, anxiety and blaming, perhaps you’ll do just that. And even if you don’t like the stress, it will take purposeful, regular practice to extract yourself from the grasp of your acculturated behaviors. Note that just one of those acculturated ways of behaving is to listen to that little voice inside you that tells you to dismiss the point of this article – that your stress is caused by your thinking, not by life’s circumstances. If you listen to that voice, that’s just what will happen, and old behaviors will once again have kept you in line!
Exercise: Think of a situation you find yourself in today that causes stress, anxiety or dissatisfaction (shouldn’t be hard to find, right?) Ponder each of these questions (ponder means hang out with the question for a while, allowing the reflection to give you he answers, rather than you “figuring it out.”) Then see if you can frame each question by this month’s message. The purpose here is not to prove yourself right, but to find places where you may just be [unknowingly] fighting with life. You might want to repeat this with any number of situations in which you’re currently a participant. Allow the pondering to teach you.
Separate from your opinion or judgment of the situation, what is already true, right now? Describe the situation from a perspective of being in the audience, watching a movie of “what is.” Just tell the story, without opinion, drama, judgment.
What power do you know you have to control, change or affect (3 questions) what’s going on here?
What power do you wish you had (but, in fact, know you don’t have) to control, change or affect (3 questions) what’s going on here?
What opening for your own innate creative genius is right there in front of you, waiting to be discovered?
Life Lessons from Nature: In 1992, Hurricane Iniki ravaged the Hawaiian island of Kauai, causing unbearable damage to homes, resorts, the communities supporting them, and natural wonders. Among the man-made losses was my favorite place to stay on Kauai, the Poipu Beach Hotel, which was essentially leveled by the relentless and powerful winds. Among nature’s losses was an amazingly beautiful tree tunnel on the road from Koloa town to Poipu. Made up of giant rainbow eucalyptus trees on both sides of the road, it created a gorgeous archway that framed a mile or more of this road. Most of the trees sustained a fair amount of damage, some were completely felled. As a frequent visitor, I would have put my money on the hotels and businesses coming back long before the tree tunnel regenerated itself.
And it would have been a bad bet. Nature responds to crises by doing what she has always done (whether there’s a crisis or not!): regenerate, renew and refresh … without levying judgment, blame or criticism on the forces that had done such damage. To think that a natural process (without project plan or schedule) could regenerate trees before resort owners could resolve their petty arguments, blaming, criticism, judgments, litigation and politics is truly amazing.
The way I see it, nature couldn’t even imagine this month’s quote, as she always … starts where she is, uses what she has, and does what she can. Somehow the resort people didn’t get this.
Book of the month:First You Have to Row a Little Boat: Reflections on Life & Living, by Richard Bode. A bit of a different choice this time, as this is a story, a story about reflection, learning and wisdom, about choices and change. Even if you’re not into boats, it’s a beautiful perspective on how life teaches us what matters most … if we can listen … and learn. It’s a great accompaniment to the idea of this month’s article: start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.And if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find this book at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons; 508-539-6985.