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What Lights Your Path in Life?

Purposeful Wanderings - Bradford L. Glass - June 2024

Newsletter - 6.24
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“Nature does not hurry; yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tsu


Every now and then, I encounter someone who shows up as pure peace, fully present in the moment, quietly self-confident, with an inner sense of knowing, as if they were truly walking “the journey of the soul.” It seems they’ve found, and are living, what matters most to them, from the inside out … leaving little room for the outside world to pull them off center. To me, their energy evokes an image of the Japanese samurai – deeply committed to an inner truth … lived and practiced every day … ready to defend if needed, yet just as committed to not needing to.


Far more often – and several times this past month – I encountered samurai’s opposite … those ready to defend (and sometimes offend), not from inner knowing of what matters, but from anger that they don’t have it. Their “loud confidence” is tough to be around because it often manifests in denying others what they themselves have refused to take responsibility for. The image that comes up for me here is the vampire. As a way to “feel better,” vampires try to make someone else “feel worse” … by robbing their energy. And what easier target than anyone who’s “not like them.” (Watch the news much?)


I’ve always been an observer of things, whether it’s in nature, in an organization, or just “out there in the world.” I don’t “try” to notice; it’s part of who I am. My only intention here, however, is to learn – about why and how things (and people) are the way they are. It’s one of the ways I make sense of my world – first-hand. I’m continually amazed at what would have slid by unnoticed had I been “too busy to be aware.” Although my recent encounters were polar opposites and therefore easy to notice, they show the clear distinction between living one’s potential and being held back from it.  


Here’s why all this matters so much. To me, the life we’ve been given is an invitation … to the limitless potential we are. That potential comes from two sources: 1) a unique-to-you energy that wants to express itself through how you live your life (“the journey of your soul”); and 2) the power of consciousness to manifest it – by choosing your life path. To me, this is what life is about. But we don’t often become what life is about; we become what we learn life is about. And it seems we’re less likely to learn about the journey of the soul or the power of self-trust than we are to absorb our culture’s obsession with doing – that you’re somehow not good enough, that there’s not enough to go around so it’s up to you to get your share, that you must therefore control how things go, and that in order for you to win, someone else has to lose. These lessons create just enough of an illusion of truth that we neither question nor notice how they’re “choosing life for us.” We think we’re thinking, but it’s just replaying an old story. Trapped in illusion, we try to be someone we’re not. That’s the opposite of inner truth!  


Old lessons are easy to spot; they show up (in all of us) as a 24/7 stream of “voices in our heads.” One who walks the path of his/her life’s potential knows the voices are there; but the one who’s lost believes them, thereby creating his own little world, made up (by him!) out of fear … a world he moves into and lives there. Trying to control life as a way to avoid fear creates a hostile world … a world devoid of meaning. (It does give the mind something to do, and offers the illusion of comfort, the illusion of control .... but that usually goes unnoticed, too.) Our all-too-present malaise and stress aren’t from trying to win the rat race, but from running the wrong race!


The path beyond fear, anger, control, judgment and vampire energy is to find life’s meaning. Your life’s meaning is unique to you. It lives inside you, not in the outer world (whether the real outer world or the one you may have made up in your mind). Others may be able to help you with the process of discovery, but the answer is uniquely your own. It takes quiet self-reflection, inquiry, practice. Yes, this takes longer than the quick-fix, impatience-driven, instant-answer approach we’ve been taught. Yet it’s reliable and sustainable (the quick-fix isn’t). The path of personal inquiry invites you to stop doing for long enough to look at what you’re doing, why it matters, and how it’s impacting your living a life you’d love. Awareness alone opens up access to your inner truth.


Exercise: “Be true to self.” Common advice; uncommon wisdom; rarely examined or absorbed. Three very big questions live inside these four simple words. What is “true?” Who is “self?” How does one “be” that?  We live in a world of chronic lack of awareness and attention, often content to adopt sayings as mantras with no clue as to the depth or opportunity they afford. Somehow, we believe simple questions must have simple answers, so we move on. These are “powerful questions.” To me, a powerful question 1) defies easy answer (even though you may have one); 2) invites even deeper questions (even if you ignore them). The “answers” live inside you – in the “journey of your soul” – a choice to make your life an intentional expression of what is uniquely your own.


These questions might frame a process of life-long inquiry and reflection, noting that none of them has a “right answer” (your inquiry is unique to you), an “easy answer” (it’s a reflection, not a math problem), or “final answer” (it’s a life-long reflection). I invite you to tarry a while in these questions, perhaps allowing them to do their work on you, softly and quietly (a decidedly new way to “answer”). Sit quietly for a few hours, and ask yourself:  What does true mean … for me?  Who am I … really?  How can my life be an intentional expression of this, my true self?  It is here, in this ongoing inquiry, that you discover, and are drawn toward, your unique path in life. And it’s ok if you come up empty at first. Again, there are no easy answers, only meaningful ones.




Life Lessons from Nature: The “braided stream” is perhaps nature’s best example of “not just one answer,” an idea we struggle to accept in our own lives, yet, as in nature, is found everywhere. A braided stream is a river, flowing in a broad, flat valley, which causes it to separate into many channels that continually crisscross each other … so it appears as a braid from above. Its beauty (and complexity) come from being both one river and many rivers simultaneously. We are like this too. The rich complexity of our personality is a braided stream – warrior spirit leading the way at one point, our teacher or our healer the next day, the next mile downstream. Yet we are one person. All of life is the same, too: complex interweaving of times, places, events, personalities – all to offer lessons we’re here to learn. So as you (and your various personalities) meander your way downstream, consider how you might accept that life is far more often “both/and” than it is “either/or,” and that all you need to make your life a worthy expression of your truth is contained within your banks. The rest is your choice.




Book of the month: Courageous Dreaming, by Alberto Villoldo.  A beautifully written perspective on the power of our own consciousness to create the world we want to experience. Each of us has levels of consciousness far deeper than the level required to get through an ordinary day, but if we believe we must/can experience only the ordinary, we never tap these more powerful levels. Here, however, is the key to creating the world we imagine. He describes four levels from which to view our life … same life, very different perspectives … offering us a power we didn’t know we had. Given the unconscious slumber our world is in, it’s easy to reject his ideas; but that just ensures the slumber continues. As always, life is a choice, and it’s a choice based in the power of thought – to dream the world into being. My favorite from this book: “You can either have what you want or you can have the reasons why you can't.”




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