The Relevance of Truth

If the truth is timeless (and it is) then I suggest it’s hanging around somewhere in plain sight, like it always has, just waiting for us to trip over it.

Before our current information age, many believed that there were ancient texts that held our truths and that these ancient texts were the domain and dominion of the ‘keepers of the wisdom’. You know, those scholars and believers who had access to these writings by virtue of rank, wealth, title or theft. These texts and these individuals were considered as ‘authorities’ on various subjects. Knowledge was indeed power, even in the Middle Ages. They kept their cards close to their vests and guarded both access and interpretation diligently.

The printing press began the dissemination of information and the internet is currently its culmination. More people than ever have direct access to rare and treasured books, practices and ideas. Yet more people than ever seem to be struggling to make sense out of their lives or to discover their path to fulfillment and happiness.

We really do seem to have access to all of the ideas we’d ever need. They have been put into and passed down to us through fables, songs, poetry, novels, folklore, sacred texts,  proverbs from the Far East and (need I add?) bumper stickers. Some of these ideas have been codified into religions and other institutions craving certainty and structure. Regardless of where we search for it, however, we must acknowledge the abundance of wisdom that’s available to most of us.

So, I must conclude that it’s not the lack of ideas or insights from those who have come before that has many of us so lost, despondent, lethargic, confused, unfulfilled and unhappy.

It is that these insights, these wisdoms, must somehow become relevant to us in our own day to day lives before we can tap into and experience their meaning and draw from the strength of that truth. Wisdom is not found in the abstract but in the concrete choices and actions that manifests a truth.

Wisdom is not to be found in a book but in the moment of courage to act upon what we know to be true. We grow whenever we do that. We grow in wisdom and strength.

Somehow, we’ve forgotten that by and large. We behave foolishly instead.

Without action, all wisdom is theoretical. It might look good on paper and sound good to the ear. But until we act upon it, it isn’t real.

It isn’t relevant.

 

 

Moveable & Removable Walls

Whether you’ve had some remodeling work done in your own home or have watched one of the many home remodeling shows on the television, it’s likely you’ve had the opportunity to witness an architect or an interior designer walk into a home and “see” how the walls could be moved and the space rearranged.

The first few times I saw someone doing this, I found it fascinating. I had always looked at walls as walls…as simply something to deal with, as something permanent and just the way the house was built. I understand now that the space is permanent and the walls are all moveable, even weight bearing walls.

In a world that encourages us to compartmentalize the various aspects and functions of ourselves, we all put up a lot of walls as we were first building our understandings of ourselves. The placement of these walls were either taken from someone else’s blueprints (plans) or represented our beginner’s ideas of how we thought things should look.

Here are some examples of the usual places we put up dividing walls: between thoughts and feelings; between wants and needs; between spirituality and rationality; between the abstract and the concrete; between the possible and the impossible; between pain and pleasure; between good and bad and, of course, between right and wrong. There are plenty of other partitions or dividers we constructed along our way, but I only wanted to give you the idea of what I’m referring to.

We believe that these walls are necessary and permanent. We believe that we have put them up exactly where they belong. This may have been true at the time we put them up. They may have served a good purpose during our development…when we were younger and less experienced with ourselves. Yet, for many of us, these walls have now boxed us in, blocked our vision and restricted our maturation.

These walls are arbitrary. These walls are moveable. These walls are removable.

Sure, we’ll need a bit of help. We’ll need ideas and suggestions from those who have some experience. That’s no different than when we’re dealing with physical walls. We get help. We follow some suggestions.

In the general awareness arena, the ideas of connection and flow have been rediscovered.

There is a blossoming realization that all growth involves change and that change isn’t a rejection of the past but an expansion upon what has come before with fuller perspectives, fresh lines of sight and an openness that is both natural and healthy.

Yet, some will consider change and growth as somehow being disloyal to what they had been handed down or taking the risk that the whole house might come crashing down.

If all you’re working with is your own ideas and a sledge hammer, that might be possible.

But when you’re open to asking for and using the help that’s available, moving or removing those interior walls that interfere and block ourselves from connecting with ourselves (and others) is neither dangerous nor daunting.

It’s actually freeing and fun.

 

 

 

 

 

Life was never meant to be ‘Safe’

I’ve had many conversations over the years (some quite recently, hence this blog) with parents whose major concern in life was with keeping their children (or child) safe. It’s an issue that is confronting every parent daily and that can transform simple decisions into debilitating quandaries.

As a parent of three, I am no idle spectator in this emotional arena.

These conversations, along with my own personal soul searching, have lead me to conclude and to admit that complete safety is impossible and that even relative safety is more of an act of trust than of an assurance of well being.

This is no easy thing to admit. And this is what leads so many of us to become stuck in fear and anxiety.

Life is simply a risky enterprise. That’s the truth of the matter.

Even if we had unlimited financial resources, the attempt on our part to eliminate all possible opportunities for injury or illness to our children would, in and of itself, be injurious and harmful to their natural and healthy development. Being overly protective does as much damage as does being reckless or negligent.

It is glaringly apparent from our own childhood experiences that we, as human beings, were designed to bump, bruise, bounce and break ourselves quite a bit. And we survived, grew and learned from those experiences…just as our children will. They deserve the chances to fall, to scrape, to cry and to get up and get at it again.

Life in a bubble, life without risks, is like a Nascar race run entirely under the yellow caution flag…staying in line…going in circles…not really a race…not really a life….

Now I know that Nascar, or any sport for that matter, cannot be a perfect analogy, but our craving for ‘safety’ is in contradiction to and defies our own experience; namely, that we feel most alive when the outcome is uncertain, when we have to take a chance, when we push ourselves beyond our comfort and convenience zones.

Sure, we will fail. Sure, we will fall. What we do then is what matters most.

The risks we take may be physical, emotional or intellectual, but we reveal ourselves to ourselves in those types of decision making moments when the outcome is far from certain. In those moments we are unthinkingly and profoundly aware of the raw possibilities that life presents us with.

I could or would no more wish to deprive my children of these experiences under the banner of keeping them safe than I could or would wish to undo my own missteps and batterings that I have experienced along my way.

It’s just life.

 

The Genesis of Corruption

The words corrupt and corruption have been more liberally used in social media and news reports in recent months.  At least it seems that way to me. Events in Brazil, the Panama Papers and the political processes in numerous countries, including America, have stripped away the thin but glitzy façade that those with money or power have any genuine interest in the general welfare of the countries they live in or the citizens they serve.  

It involves corporations, individuals and governments. And it’s everywhere.

There’s no sense in pretending that it’s not.

And there’s no easy fix.  

We didn’t get into this deplorable state of affairs in a single generation and it will require a new level of awareness and accountability over time to root out the rottenness. It has gone deep.

It’s not regime change that I’m talking about. 

The established systems themselves (corporate, financial, institutional, governmental) are now sufficiently perverted that whomever is the nominal face in charge has already been vetted as suitable to continue the maintenance of the status quo. Any real challenger to any given system has been eliminated or neutralized many layers and levels ago. Quietly, easily, effectively.

The people who act with integrity, who care about the truth and who are trying to make a difference are extremely easy to spot. They stand out. They are easy marks because they are trusting. They are easy marks because they genuinely care about other people more than they care about themselves. It’s not that they are unsure in themselves but they take into account the implications and impact their choices will have on the lives of those they love. It is a such a weighty and genuine concern that many a good person lapses into silence in the face of an injustice to another or the misrepresentation of the truth.

The genesis of corruption is in this silence.

There are far more people of integrity and courage in this world than there are those who choose to live in deceit and cowardice. It’s simply that the deceitful and the cowardly have learned to blend in, to not stand out or to brazenly acknowledge what their goals and motivations are. They play it smart.

I believe that it is time for people with integrity to also be smart. I believe that it is time for people to risk exposing into the public domain whatever truth (not a theory, not a hunch) but the truth for which they have some proof, they have discovered and to release that proof in such a way as to not draw any attention to themselves or want any credit for what they did. The truth is out there. (no reference to the X files intended) There are good people who know the truth and do not know what to do with it. Be smart.

What good people want is to be able to shed the light of truth onto the shadowy world of corruption without being punished for it…and without needing to make a profit from it.

In this time of global interconnectedness, when the silent majority understands that remaining silent is to be complicit in our collective demise, we need to find our voices.

We need to be smart.

We need to remember that the truth will set us free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Personally, I blame Thomas Jefferson

It will take me a moment to get to TJ, otherwise known as The Pen of the Revolution, while I set the stage.

Setting the stage is what many of us do with our time. We do what we are doing in our present circumstances with the idea or intention that at some point, down the road of life, we’re going to be able to have all the pieces in place that will allow us to be able to relax and enjoy ourselves. We tell ourselves routinely what needs to be taken care of first before we’ll stop worrying or before we can relax. I call them the ifs and whens of our peace of heart. We put conditions on our circumstances that must be fulfilled prior to our feeling ok… whether it’s a certain type of house, a certain amount of money in the bank, a certain type of relationship, or car or job…we tell ourselves that we’ll feel much better if… or be much happier when

The reality of our lives, however, tells us that these goal posts are extremely moveable. No sooner do we cross (or even begin to get close) to meeting whatever condition it was that we had placed upon our joy, then we’re pushing that goal and ourselves out even further. For many, the goal has now been pushed into retirement. We’ll be able to stop worrying and enjoy when we’ve retired. It’s a dream we still cling on to. But it’s a mirage.

That’s the truth.

This time period of relaxed enjoyment doesn’t really happen when we get the good job (because we could lose it),  or the good relationship partner (because shit happens), or have children (if we want them),  or the nice house or any or all of this. We fooled ourselves into believing that our life would be different if and when, but it wasn’t. We all tend to simply raise the bar or move the goal, keeping our happiness out of reach.

This is where Thomas Jefferson enters the picture. He wrote (with the input of others) the Declaration of Independence. Here’s the beginning of the second paragraph (for those of you who may be unfamiliar):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (underlining mine and NOT in the original text.)

I think that the choice of the word ‘pursuit’ was unfortunate. He could have used any number of other words…the exploration of Happiness, or the fulfillment of Happiness, or the enhancement of Happiness, or the expansion of Happiness.

But no.

He opted for the word ‘pursuit’ and we have been set up for the ‘chase’ ever since…It’s as if our happiness were a wood nymph teasing us in the distance, taunting and daring us to run after it hither and yonder. The idea that he planted and that we’ve accepted is that our happiness is ‘out there’ somewhere and it’s our inalienable right to get on after it. We’ve been chasing it ever since.

But what if that’s incorrect?

What if our happiness is an inside job?

What if there never was a need to postpone our peace of heart and our enjoyment of life until some pre-conditions were satisfied?

What if our happiness isn’t out there somewhere in the future but has always been right here, available to us right now?

Wouldn’t that be worth exploring?

 

 

Centeredness 1

In a recent blog, Center of the Universe, I ended with a line that has brought a few readers to ask a similar question. The line began; “Being centered in the universe…” and I’ve been asked to explain more specifically what that might mean or what that might look like.

I’ll begin with an example of what I consider to be a ‘truth’:

LIFE, itself, wants to continue. It, LIFE, has encoded all of its manifestations and varieties with the same DNA imperative, namely, make more copies of yourself…make as many as you can…don’t worry about making too many…if you need to cooperate with or utilize other forms of life to make more of you possible, go right ahead. I’ve told them the same thing with regards to you. LIFE doesn’t care which version of itself survives. Cockroach, fern, ameba, virus, or mammal…LIFE in some form or fashion is intent–dedicated–obsessed with its continuation.

I’m not really able to speak for any of the other multitudes of life forms but, as for us humans, it’s quite apparent that we take this personally. We absolutely believe that our form of life, above and before all others, should and must be the form that survives. If any form, then us. If any of us, then me.

Life, itself, if it considers our point of view at all, might think this rather ‘cute but would be fully prepared, perhaps with an epidemic or an alien invasion, to see us off without a tear.

That’s just LIFE. Survival of something is the name of its game. We have falsely flattered ourselves when we labeled ourselves as the most important or pinnacle life form. As the life form constructing the friggin chart, who’d you think we’d put at the top?

“Being centered in the universe’ means that I accept this truth about life’s impartiality without objection. It means that I align my actions and my attitudes with the understanding that I am an equal among life’s many variations and not the one in charge. I live respectfully but not fearfully. My death is certain and life is a gift.

As a result, I do not consider myself a victim. If I get sick or in an accident, I’m not being singled out. It’s not happening TO me, it’s simply happening. I can deal with the pain. It’s the suffering I feel when I tell myself that this should not have happened that really damages me.

So, when I am centered in the universe, I know I have a place. I belong. I have a part. I have lots and lots of choices everyday but I do not entertain any illusions about having control. There is far more involved in the processes of my own body and the swirlings of solar systems than I will ever comprehend or command.

When I take the weight of running the known universe off of my shoulders, I am not being irresponsible. I’m only being honest.

I am being centered.

Hope this was helpful.

 

 

Take a Moment

 

We have a saying here in the States, “The cream always rises to the top”. It’s an old saying. It’s not much in use these days but it still gets trotted out every now and then as a truism. I don’t know if it originated with our dairy farmers or was imported (like most everything else) but I’ve always had trouble with it. I’ve watched as milk or cheese is being processed. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff that rises to the top along with the cream that needs to be thrown away.

The underlying thrust of the saying, that the best can and will eventually be found at the top, is the mantra of many CEOs and of every ambitious subordinate.

No matter the institution, organization or industry, the presumption of the people outside those institutions, organizations or industries is: Whomever is at the top, must know what they’re doing.

I would really like to believe that.

It would make for a more orderly world view.

Here’s what is far more true than not: The people at the top are the people who were willing to do whatever was necessary to get them there. The people at the top know how to climb and how to cling once they get there.

That’s not an indictment. That’s the reality.

This means that the notion that there’s a natural order of ascension for the most qualified is false. For the people of genuine competency, integrity and overall wellness, our systems are stacked against them. These individuals were either stunted or sidetracked along their way or they were never interested in advancement to begin with, only in doing their job well.

They’re not angry or bitter. Those aren’t the characteristics of the well grounded, quality person to begin with. They’re simply the people who actually get things done and hold things together.

I want to draw your attention to these people, (we all know who they are and you may be one of them) because they never draw attention to themselves.

We would do well to take a moment and acknowledge them in some, small genuine way. A few words…an anonymous card or note on their desk or windshield…a moment of sincere noticing…

Yes, they’ll likely react by being embarrassed or confused. But it will make a difference.

To both of you.

 

 

In the Audience

The speaker himself kept referring to how his life (and ours too) was far more fluid than he’d initially thought. Whether you considered your rhythms cyclical like seasons (blossoming, producing, declining and reviewing) or more like chapters or stages, our lives were subject to changing conditions that were both unpredictable and uncontrollable. This was one of his primary points, that we each were able to and were responsible for creating a path for ourselves that was fulfilling.

I went to sit in the audience not because he was expressing new or foreign concepts but to witness this aspect of his journey up close, first hand and to gather a sense of how he was being received from the people surrounding him.

He used to be a preacher. It was his calling from early on. He studied, started his ministry, was effective and, by most standards, popularly successful. In that phase or stage of his life, he focused on making the stories or journeys found in the Old and New testament relevant to his congregation. While he was doing that, he also continued to grow in his own awareness of his relationship with and his perception of the message.

Two things happened as he did: 1)His congregation grew so large as to overwhelm his physical ability to minister as personally as he so desperately wanted to and 2) he grew so far spiritually in his understanding of the ultimate message that some in his congregation balked. They wouldn’t follow. The two occurred in proximity and in parallel; he was burning out and people in the congregation (most? some?) were concluding that he had gone too far and had strayed from the truth. Understandably, there was a parting of the ways. It wasn’t especially amicable but it was necessary…if he were to be true to himself.

That was courage.

For him, as he expressed it, it felt like desperation.

It’s funny how that is.

Whenever we find ourselves at that moment of choice when we don’t know what the final outcome might be or what the endgame is but what we do know is that doing nothing or staying where we are would be unbearable, we’ll step out and try something different or new. From the outside, our action has all the indications of courage. Within ourselves, we’re desperate but willing.

These moments, and they occur everyday, do not involve living up to an outside duty or code of honor or someone else’s expectations. These are the moments wherein we step up and step out because we have chosen to be true to ourselves.

I’ve come to understand these moments as grace.

They involve me but they always feels like they’re more than only me. The situation and my life won’t unfold the same way without my participation but making honest, awakening choices and taking action doesn’t involve taking control or knowing the results. There is indeed a fluidity and a flexibility that feels spiritually athletic, graceful…somewhat effortless and still quite focused.

The speaker once a preacher talked about creating a space within ourselves and with one another that would allow and support these moments to be recognized, appreciated and gently explored.

He acknowledged the need for such spaces, the need for connection (he termed it solidarity) and that his intention with these small venue talks was to do his part. He couldn’t say where it would all lead, but he was enthusiastic about the possibilities ahead.

We share that in common.

 

The Set Up

I went to small social mingling. It was a low key, artsy sort of thing. Casual chilling in a large backyard on a beautiful Spring afternoon. The invitation was rather last minute and off the cuff as well. It was one of those, ‘Oh by the way’ mentions that expanded to include me.

Personal bucket lists being personal, I decided to attend and to put a check mark next to this one.

Besides, being surrounded by strangers doesn’t bother me. I’m stranger than most, but still safe to play with, so I just tell myself that I’m among friends I haven’t met yet.

After greeting the hosts and receiving the brief, polite introductions to the few people nearby, I sauntered off to graze and gaze.

Friendly canines wag their tails when they meet a stranger. Friendly people make eye contact, smile ever so slightly and nod.

It wasn’t long before curiosity or sympathy overcame a couple nearby and they walked towards me with all the signs of being nice. Which they were, of course…curious, sympathetic and nice.

The weather, the garden, the food and the generosity of the hosts to pull this all together were all discussed in turn and without incident.

It is at this juncture that someone usually makes the decision to either end the exchange  or to venture further. There are two stock questions when the decision is to talk a little further: 1) So, what brings you here? or 2) So, what do you do?

I love that they both begin with ‘So’. It’s such a clear indication of a transition past the initial phase of civility. It’s like we’re getting down to business.

I do not love, however, either of those two questions, not so much for the questions themselves but for what my honest answers have always been. Answer 1: “I don’t know really. For all I know, it could be to meet you.”  Answer 2: “I try to experience life in all its fullness.”

I never feel awkward in the silence that follows but I can’t say the same for the people who asked the question.

I set them up. I’m still wagging my tell (eye contact, slight smile) but I’m waiting.

My plain honesty set them up with an unexpected opportunity to be spontaneous and genuine. They were given an invitation to get real and a choice. This is not a right or wrong, good or bad choice. This is a ‘what would you like to do?’…step in or step away?

I don’t keep the hard data on these instances but my overall recollection is that this isn’t a coin toss moment. It’s not a 50/50 split in how it goes. It’s about a 75/25 split with the 75% being the people who step in and the 25% being those who step away.

I cannot tell you how heartening that is.

Most people really do want to connect, want to move beyond the sanitized and boring, and into something genuine…this moment, right here.

It’s not a challenge that they’re responding to because this isn’t a fight and there is no winning. It’s an invitation they’re accepting into an exchange that we’re all hungry for…an opportunity to be and to share ourselves.

 

 

The Purpose of Awareness

It has been brought to my attention that there may be some misunderstandings or misperceptions surrounding the subject of self-awareness, if and when the subject might come up. There are some that, without much investigation, have assumed that self-awareness is a New Agey, trendy, West Coast fad sort of thing. There are others who may associate self-awareness with self-indulgence or self-absorption. Indeed, these people may have encountered individuals that were actually practicing the latter two (indulgence and absorption) while professing to be developing the former (actual awareness). This is not unlike when we meet certain religious types that are practicing intolerance and condemnation while professing their charity and love towards all.

It kind of leaves us wondering in a less than positive way.

Every single day, each and every one of us are making lots and lots of choices. There are so many choices involved in each day that we actually form routines or habits around the ones that we have decided to no longer pay attention to, that are trivial or insignificant (in our opinion). Personal habits in hygiene, dressing, how we like our tea/coffee, what route we take to work, and so on and so on. We do these all without noticing.

When I speak of becoming self-aware, I am guiding people first into and with the practice of noticing themselves. The purpose of noticing is to bring our choices into the light of our consciousness. This is the essence of self-awareness.

The purpose of self-awareness is to increase the likelihood that our choices will not be in conflict with what we know to be true…true about ourselves in the present moment and true to the lessons that we have learned from life thus far. This is alignment. When we are not at odds within ourselves, we feel better. We have more energy. We feel healthier and truly we are. Because we are less and less at crossed purposes with ourselves, we are much less stressed or worried. Medically speaking alone, this is much healthier for us.

During this alignment process, there is a certain clarity that develops. We see more and more how the various elements of our life are interconnected. Those aspects of ourselves that used to seem to be disparate or disassociated or compartmentalized, gradually and gently become integrated. We grow and begin to have integrity.

These items, alignment, clarity and integrity, are not accent pieces that we are dressing our personality with so that we can ‘look’ better. These attributes are the benefits of pursuing self-awareness that are actually stripping away the layers of stylish or popular or merely familiar behaviors that we have draped across our real selves…layers that have been weighing us down, layers that have been suffocating us, layers that we didn’t even realize we were wearing.

Self-awareness is liberating. It is not, however, a casual stroll through the candy land of wishful thinking and fancy self projections. It involves the compassionate and yet consistent focus on the nitty gritty, nuts and bolts, aspects of what we are actually saying, doing and feeling in the real world. The more we are willing to make this effort, the more we will find ourselves choosing to be accountable and responsible…to our own self.

This is what is so liberating. We are no longer living up to someone else’s opinion of us.

We will take ownership of our choices. We will live owning ourselves.