Purposeful Wanderings - Bradford L. Glass - February 2022
If you don’t want so much from life, you don’t have so far to go.
Personal freedom and inner peace. A deep longing voiced often by clients (family and friends, too), yet one also seen as unattainable, or elusive at best. The path to get there is not difficult, and the rewards significant (freedom and peace, right?), yet few seem willing to commit to the journey. Perhaps it’s because you can’t see the end point ahead of time. As a way to make it more approachable, I’ve framed the path as five steps. A risk here is that the idea of steps makes it sound like you just do them. Here, steps are something you become, not something you do. Perhaps that scares people. Yet, if the experience of freedom and peace draws you, come on along for a short ride. And if you have comments, struggles or even arguments, let me know. I’ll help; my own journey lights my way.
Let’s first go to the “end,” to that experience of freedom & peace, then trace steps backward to see what’s needed. Although the journey along the path is uniquely your own, the steps are shared:
· If you want freedom, peace & joy in your life … you need to be in a place of self-trust, where your inner truth lights your path rather than what happens in the outer world. Here, the external world no longer bothers you.
· If you want to experience self-trust … you need to be in a place of personal clarity, about yourself, others, your place in the world and what’s going around you. Here, you see “what is,” clearly and without judgment.
· If you want to enjoy personal clarity … you need to nurture it with consciousness attention and awareness, so you get to know your own mind, your own thoughts, your own truth.
· If you want to nurture attention and awareness, you need to do it purposely, with regular practice of silence.
With this as perspective, now let’s view the path from beginning to end, the way you would “become” it:
· Silence: Setting aside time each day for personal silence connects you with the natural silence deep within you. By being present in this moment, you re-find yourself each day. When you learn to identify your true self with this silence and not with life’s noise, the doorway to peace begins to open. (Note to the fearful: this does not mean you need to live your life in silence, only that you slow down enough to know who’s driving the car!)
· Attention & Awareness: A practice of silence is an opening to your thoughts, feelings, deepest longing, inner guidance, nature’s wisdom. You see how your experience is a result of your perception and perspective, not a rigid thing. Choosing to approach everything in life with a viewpoint of curiosity rather than one of judgment clarifies your perception and expandsyour perspective.
· Personal Clarity: With awareness, truth emerges – about yourself, others, life and the cosmos. Truth just is, so judgment falls away … naturally. You discover that inner energy to which you are continually drawn. You experience more, simply because you see more. Personal clarity lets you shift the “reference point” for how life is going from one that depends on the external world to one that depends wholly on your internal truth.
· Self-Trust: Everything you need to embody freedom and peace is inside the felt experience of being your truth. Doing so unites rational and emotional energy, which creates meaning. Messages from the outside world begin to fade away. With belief in yourself, the world is no longer a scary place. Your life becomes your own.
· Freedom, Peace & Joy: Self-trust loosens your unnatural grasp on self and life. With no artificial boundaries, the reasons for judgment and separateness dissolve. Taking full responsibility for how your life goes becomes a source of freedom. Peace grows; life has meaning and purpose. You live in gratitude/reverence/reciprocity with life, deeply connected with both your uniqueness – or soul, and your oneness with all of life – or spirit.
Exercise: This month’s article offers a framework for a life-long daily practice of personal reflection that leads you to sustainable experience of freedom and peace. Here’s one way to guide some of your pondering as you negotiate the steps outlined above. Open the window to your world just a bit wider. Changing your viewpoint shifts your perspective of what’s possible. I suggest this literally and figuratively. Literally open your windows: connect more deeply with the outdoor world around you. Not only is the view refreshing, but nature might offer you some beautiful lessons. Figuratively open your windows: ask bigger questions, of yourself, and of life. Big questions open big possibilities. Big questions result from deep personal inquiry and reflection, both have become so uncommon in our society that it’s no wonder we don’t experience the underlying order in our lives. Dare to go deep. Here are a few questions for your reflective time that might take you to new places:
What if my mind weren’t already made up about things? What might I discover then? (openness)
What more could be possible if I stopped fighting with life, and didn’t need to impose my will? (acceptance)
What if I trusted my own inner voice to guide me instead of my age-old thought patterns? (awareness)
What if I didn’t have to know how it would all work out, but rather know that it would all work out? (trust)
What if there really were an underlying order to life? Am I willing to step into its experience? (courage)
What if I allowed wisdom to show up when conditions allow, not when I force it with my will? (patience)
What if I could really live with these questions, every day, as a new way of being? (practice)
Pondering these questions offers a start to breaking down unconscious barriers to peace. The difference between wanting peace and experiencing peace is action … and yes, silent awareness and reflection are “actions.”
Life Lessons from Nature: Nature approaches each situation through a lens of the opportunity offered. Creativity in the presence of uncertainty allows her to sustain life on earth. Her creations come and go, but the process that creates them is sustained. Uncertainty offers continual opportunity; creativity offers continual manifestation. When things are going smoothly, nature creates more of what works – replication (there’s never been a shortage of mosquitoes). In uncertain times, nature takes advantage of continual chance mutations, adapting the changes so manifested to fill new niches – evolution (brown bears with lighter fur and longer noses “adapted” to Arctic conditions … the result over many generations – polar bears). In times of turmoil, nature calls for something new – innovation (volcanoes, hurricanes, the explosion of new species in the Cambrian period 540 million years ago). This same process causes loss, too, when life cannot adapt (wooly mammoth, dinosaurs, giant horsetails). In none of these – creation or extinction – is there judgment. If it works, it continues. If it doesn’t work, it stops.
Book of the month: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari. A sobering yet hopeful survey of huge challenges facing humanity and planet, viewed through lenses of both history and deep clarity. You’d think that with clarity like his, answers would emerge. Yet what shows up instead is the sheer impossibility of “right answers.” Because challenges are both outrageously complex and global, and because our thinking and judgments are both flawed and self-centered, he suggests adopting humility and curiosity about all we don’t know would be a better path than today’s prevailing divisiveness and arrogance about what we think we do know. Eye-opening.