- Just “be as is.”
- Be aware in the moment.
- Be the empty vessel, especially with “others”
- Do the thing for the thing itSelf
- Know you can’t step into the river in the same place twice
Mom always said you can be anything you want to be. This isn’t true. And in fact creates a lot of pain and suffering in your life. You take a germ of an idea. You grow it. You make it your own. You think, this is what I was born to do. And in engaging with it you find that there’s still something missing. You move on to the next germ of an idea.
Mom probably wanted me to be a surgeon. She told me I could be Prime Minister. Those were her dreams not mine. But being told I could be anything I wanted created a huge number of wild goose chases. Sometimes I’d succeed. In fact, I’m usually good at everything I do. But I’ve never been excellent at one thing. Somewhere deep inside me I always envied those kids who stuck to one path and succeeded. I had to be and know everything.
Mom was wrong. In fact you can only be who you really are — who you are at the point before and after time. Seeing life this way recontexts the journey. The “search” is different. It, in and of itself, becomes the one path.
Nothing is real. Not intention. Not identity. Not belief. Not behaviour. It is all made up. It’s the world of labels; of the need for the creation of meaning and definitions.
We can move through life, like rain falling. Like water thawing. We sit, we only sit.
Breathe like a river in a desert full of rain.
December 29, 2013
It is amazing how quickly we can take ourselves away, sometimes consciously but mostly unconsciously, from who we are and who we believe we can be. A job, working for someone else or for another organization, can have the power to do this. In my case it was a four year position with an organization involved in economic and labour market forecasting in a specific economic sector in Canada.
Since 2002, I have tried to engage my life in a way that recognizes the complete and total responsibility I possess for all my choices, actions and consequences. It means looking at the world from a different perspective. It means recognizing that I am the only one in control of my life and that my life, ME, is inter-related and connected to a much larger ME that is the universe. Comments from others become feedback I offer mySelf. Disagreements, arguments and conflict become opportunities to explore the unknown, the other, and offer a chance to grow and learn. The love I give and receive is a reflection of the power of me. It is a fundamental knowing that I am everything and everything is me.
Once you know this about yourself you can never not know it. Yet, however strong I hold these perceptual beliefs you can lose them. They can deteriorate. Just like muscles developed through weightlifting, when the workouts stop muscle strength disappears. During the four years I was working on forecasting future labour markets I chose to let the job slowly mask over the larger identity I had become because I forgot to work the muscle.
The external rewards of the job were rather good. A chance to travel, often in Business Class; a title; external recognition from peers; the chance to play the “expert” and the opportunity to work at a level I thought appropriate to my skills and abilities. I let these “external” factors accentuate and grow the dualistic conditioned self I thought I had left behind.
It’s not that who I had become since my authentic journey started in 2002 had completely disappeared. That identity did allow me to “control” and “manage” my situation with others who were stuck on the surface and unwilling to dive deeply into themselves. It allowed me to move through the role somewhat effortlessly. Those years were fun and useful and perhaps necessary in my development of who I am now.
And sometimes I think maybe I needed to do that for a while to realize where home truly is.
In Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha the main character, a Brahmin, starts as a student of the enlightenment, renouncing the trappings of civil life for the life of education in realization. After a meeting with the Buddha, who’s Way he rejects, Sid wanders and eventually settles in a town of earthly pleasures where he becomes a rich and powerful merchant. For many years, he enjoys this role, until one day, he realizes it is the sham, an empty game. He leaves the town and returns to the river where his deeper, more authentic Self emerges in the many voices emanating from the waters. He lives out the rest of his life as an enlightened ferryman.
I’m feeling a little bit like Sid after playtime in the game of earthly delights. It is only now I have realized what was covered, what was subsumed. In gifting myself some space, openness and freedom during the last few months, a familiar feel of body as energy has re-emerged to conscious play.
(originally written August 19, 2013)
I once read that motivation is a key underlying belief in realizing your potential. Perhaps because of a proclivity to procrastination; the value of “getting motivated” is significant to me. In Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us he offers an algebraic basis of motivation called the “asymptote.” It is a curved line that approaches a straight one, but never quite reaches it. Both straight and curved lines travel into infinity never meeting. For me, the relationship between the two lines is asymptotic. If the straight line is your goal, purpose, mission you can, on your curved line, approach it and get really close to it, but you can never reach it. It is impossible to fully realize.
Pink notes professional athletes are asymptotes — always striving to have a better game than the last. There’s a certain frustration to this kind of existence too. As Pink notes: “Why reach for something you can never fully attain? But it’s also a source of allure. The joy is in the pursuit more than the realization. In the end, mastery attracts precisely because mastery eludes.”
Each of us possesses, deep inside us a spark of original authenticity that contexts our life. It can often be called life’s purpose, our intention, the mission of our life. As children we knew this intention, although we didn’t have the skills or ability to recognize or verbalize it. We lived it. We were it. Then, as we grew older, the “conditions” of our culture and society, like the sands of a desert, blew over us, covered us, buried that intention deep and out of sight, until it no longer was seen. But like some ancient mythical city, we still held the legend inside of us. We yearned to wipe the sands of time away and behold the treasure.
For many of us it is in our 40s and 50s that the desire and need to uncover the intention grows and foments in us. Since 2002, in and out of programs, I have been attempting to “discover my intention.” And for me that intention is expressed in the term: “elusively seeking.” It was a realization I would always be seeking and journeying towards the intention the universe held for me but would never really be able to find or grasp it, as it was so elusive. Ironic, eh? The only conclusion and course of action I draw from this, however, is brilliantly simple, that: undertaking the journey is my highest purpose.
Well, I never thought I would find a mathematical formula for an intention statement!
What I find interesting is that the straight line never meets the curve. They travel to infinity. That’s a concept I’ve been playing a lot with over the last decade. It means there is no END. And I’ve noticed recently that my motivation to act on something always gets sucked out of the air by thinking about the “end” or the “meaning” or the “reward”. It’s the frustration Pink talks about. If it’s all about the end and the end is way too far in the future, then that really requires way too much action. And that in a nutshell bogs me down.
So the solution and what I have re-discovered is instead of worrying about deadlines, end products, outcomes, results … if I stay in the moment, not consciously considering or choosing a future, a goal, an intention or purpose, I get into action, stay motivated, and things just get done.
And I intend to do just that, play in the present for a while. And I can’t say I’m feeling an angst, fear, need or desire about next steps. They’ll happen as they happen. There is a “settling into,” a deeper deepness, I can feel physically manifest in my body. And that is new … and an old feeling, remembered from an earlier time.
(originally drafted August 20, 2013)
Even when we think we’re free, when we believe we have discovered our deep, inescapable truth, our ultimate reality where we can live from a place of sacred authenticity … it is only a place of illusion, not real …. And yet, it is the starting point for the next journey.
I have been contemplating some deeper insights arising out of a viewing of the second Matrix movie, titled Reloaded, recently.
In it, our hero, Neo, exhibiting very superman-like qualities, does battle in the machine-created, virtual reality, Matrix. After lots of kung fu and shoot ‘em up action Neo meets The Architect, the Sigmund Freud lookalike “father” and creator of the matrix. During their conversation, daddy points out that Neo is the sixth incarnation of the aberrant programming error that makes him the “One,” that the free city of Zion will be destroyed by the machines and Neo will chose a few number of surviving humans to start again. That is the way of things. That is his destiny as the One. Of course, Neo chooses not to follow his predestined path instead choosing to save his one true love, Trinity and sets us up for the third movie installment, Revolutions.
In the first movie, Morpheus frees Neo from the wires and connections of machine world (a world which “grows” humans in huge hive cities to harvest their energy) and in doing so, frees Neo’s mind from the Matrix. By the end of the first movie he has become a human that operates in the matrix but is not part of the Matrix.
But what if Neo never escaped the Matrix? We all assume he did in the first movie. And yet in the second, the Architect suggests that Neo’s destiny, the city of Zion and the “reloading” of reality every so often is pre-determined and that ultimately he has created and guided it. At the end of the movie Neo, in the underground tunnels comes face to face with real-time machines and is able, using his superman powers, stop them dead in their tracks. This suggests that the reality that Morpheus, Trinity, Neo and the rest of humanity that lives in Zion believe is “real” is not. It is still within the Matrix.
The Matrix movies are great metaphors for the journey towards one’s deeper, personal understanding of the Self. My own personal journey has seen its share of fights and shoot’em up moments as I’ve battled with the conflicting, and sometimes violent, forces and fears that make me tick.
And it feels now, after a night of reflection on Neo’s and Zion’s journey, that I stand on a precipice asking the question: what is truly real? And the answer that comes, rising like a strong wind, is: nothing. Nothing is real. It is all illusion.
Is Neo’s “awakening” in the first movie simply just another form of illusion created by the machine for the purpose of control? Is my awakening to the deeper Self that I am simply an illusion created by my controlling Ego?
Walking back to the office with the first coffee of the morning I notice a young girl standing at the bus-stop.
She stood there, intensely reading from a hand-held tablet computer with small bug-like earphones connected to her phone’s mpeg player. She never raised her head to look at who was passing by, to listen to the bustle of the street, see the occasional bird flying over, or just admire the blueness of the sky. I see this more and more when I’m downtown walking around.
What struck me most was her complete obliviousness to her surroundings. And in observing her, I wonder what gets missed in my life when I choose to tune out? What gets lost when I choose to cut mySelf off from my surroundings? And, how by doing this, am I cutting myself off from mySelf?
If you hold even the smallest notion that we, as individual humans, are connected with a larger energetic field or are parts of the system we call our environment then artificially cutting ourselves off from it seems counterproductive. I think it goes much further.
After all, everything that I am came from this Earth. I am a child of this planet, made of material which has been recycled again and again and again, for more than five billion years. Some might point to the uniqueness of every individual on the planet, and I would agree with them, I am a unique individual. And yet, we are all connected through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, the birth we undergo, and the death that awaits us.
And on a quantum level, I am no different from you or the air, the water, the food, my birth and death. In the end we, individual humans, are simply energy – our own little bubbles of reality as Stephen Hawking would say — self-created in a form that allows interaction and communication with everything else that is “Me.”
Whether you believe that or not, what is important is that this perspective allows me to view my world differently, through a different perceptual filter. And when I do I come to a conclusion that I am more than just my flesh and bones, and in fact, I am connected to everything around me. In fact, I am everything around me.
If I cut myself off from the environment around me — from the sensory experiences that make up my day — that would take me away from mySelf. And when I do that it puts me into my Intellect, which can be a very useful place to be, but off times are huge amounts of confusing and un-useful self-conversation. It takes me out of the intelligence that this very Moment can offer. It tunes me out from the Present, the chance to breathe deeply into myself, and sit in my own awareness.
And just to note, I don’t think the young girl was doing anything wrong. She was doing what was most useful for her in that moment. My hope for her was she was doing it with all the intention and attention living in the present offers. Her gift to me (my gift to mySelf) was to create doubt and questions that allow me to bring my attention and intention more directly into my awareness.
These last few months I have found myself in a place I would label “betwixt and between.” And, at times, it has left me playing at being victim even as I move deeper into the understanding of who I am and who I can become.
In indigenous wisdom circles, betwixt and between takes on particular meanings with respect to particular rites of passage such as vision quests. Not really of this world, and not really of the “other.” In the vision quest setting, and for boys, it is the in-between time between childhood and full adulthood, the place between the earlier woman’s world and the entry into warrior’s world.
Since last July, our office has been under the spectre of layoff and shutdown. We will be in operation only until March 31, 2013. Living this “reality” for months now, with its inherent uncertainty and not-knowing what the future might bring, is a unique experience. In fact it’s a gift. It has led to crushing periods of inactivity and moments of pure brilliance and insight.
It’s not always a pleasant feeling AND it is necessary for life and growth.
What seems to be growing in me right now is an understanding that my life is best lived and sourced on the knife’s edge — the tipping point. The power comes from the effective ability to be the “dance on the edge,” the moment in-between the not-boiling water and the boiling water, where all possibilities exist.