Are you being true to your life and your desires? I have always been pained by the fact that far too many of us live lives below what we are capable of living. We are frustrated in businesses that suck our energy and deprive us of joy. We choose death in the midst of our own living.
Sometimes death-in-life cannot be avoided. Parker J. Palmer author of Healing the Heart of Democracy says that he experienced the death-in-life called depression. However sometimes we can (consciously or unconsciously) choose to remain depressed. He says –
“When I was depressed, nobody expected anything of me, nor did I expect anything of myself. I was exempt from life’s demands and risks. But if I were to find new life, who knows what daunting tasks I might be required to take on?”
He also points out that sometimes we choose death-in-life (as in compulsive over activity, unhealthy relationships, non-stop judgmentalism aimed at self or others, work that compromises our integrity, substance abuse, pervasive cynicism, etc.) because we’re afraid of the challenges that might come if we embraced resurrection-in-life.
Are you feeling what I’m saying? If you want clues as to where you might be settling, look at the thoughts and ideas that you automatically resist. We teach what we most need to learn, and as I was going through a couple books this morning, looking for inspiration, I felt myself resisting some of what I was reading. I wanted to achieve certain things in my life but I was particularly against what I had to do to achieve what I said I wanted to. I seemed to want more of the comfort of keeping myself small so that I wouldn’t have to actually FAIL. That I would do just enough to make some progress but not what I knew in my heart I was capable of because like Palmer suggested – I really wasn’t up for some of the challenges that might surface. I really wasn’t ready to be seen – vulnerability and all!
I read about a girl called Nita in the book ‘Thick Face, Black Heart’ by Chin-Ning Chu. Sometimes settling doesn’t always look like settling because of the story we tell ourselves about why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Nita was born into a first-generation Japanese-American family. Her father, with his traditional Japanese attitudes about life, had placed much more importance on his two sons than his daughter. As a result of this, she had developed an unnaturally strong desire to please her father. Consequently she unconsciously made a decision to gain her father’s acceptance by doing highly respected work that was traditionally performed only by Japanese men. She attended law school. She had no love for law; her real desire was to be a housewife and to have her husband take care of her while she did flower arranging and made ceramics. But she believed that becoming a lawyer would please her father very much. She describes those years, as been “hell-like” – the hardest thing she had ever done. In her words “The whole thing almost killed me.” After doing a personality analysis at law firm where she was being interviewed for a legal position the results showed that being a lawyer was about the worst possible choice she could have made. She ended up choosing another “acceptable” Japanese male profession – the world of insurance. This also served the purpose of pleasing her dad. The conclusion “I spent twenty years of my life trying to please my father.” This awareness made her cry uncontrollably.
I do not believe that it has to be this way.
But you have to be willing to become more spiritually aware. James Arthur Ray, author of ‘Harmonic Wealth’ says
“We’ve taken quantum leaps in our technology but baby steps in our spiritual understanding.”
And he’s right. We pay so much attention to the mechanics of living, how we look, what we wear, what we drive, how others perceive us. You might be impatient like I am, wanting a shorter route, not wanting to do the work necessary but wanting the rewards. Or perhaps thinking like I often think, that I could do some of the steps but I’ll exclude three and four as I don’t like doing THAT.
There are no shortcuts to mastery. If you want to understand this fully then look at the world of music. As a musician I know that the foundation, regardless of the instrument, is in learning the scales. Scales are boring. You have to keep repeating the scales until you can get them right. When I did piano with Naomi Bartholomew, I remember her requesting that I play the scales slowly. I had to have good back posture and hold my fingers in proper position over the keys. I also had to combine that with reading the notes as I played them. The important thing was starting slowly. When you’re learning to play an instrument you start with the scales, then the chords, then you begin to create music. You have to have a 360 degree understanding of the process. You have to practice slowly first and then speed up until you get to playing without error; and then and only then could you begin to improvise. Pat Bishop always used to tell me “Do it right, till you can’t do it wrong!”
Spiritual awareness takes practice. People ask me often “how do I know I’m on the right track?” or “I know I’m on the right track but I’m worried because I have my mortgage to pay, or rent is due, or I’m just worried about money. Am I doing the right thing?” I do believe that we are ALWAYS divinely guided but we need to practice patience. We need to practice listening and finally we need to practice obedience. Often when we DO hear what we need to do next we don’t LIKE it. And so we rationalize and settle. Don’t settle.
Go within before going without. You’re greater than you can ever possibly imagine. This is your chance. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot “Are you willing to go too far just to know how far you can go?” You have the courage. Now is YOUR time!