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Pressed:  Taking a Running Leap by Shelley Robinson

2 Sep

Source: Taking a Running Leap by Shelley Robinson

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“I advise you to say your dream is possible and then overcome all inconveniences, ignore all the hassles and take a running leap through the hoop, even if it is in flames.”  Les Brown

Letting Go:  When fear has a death grip on your life to the point that it becomes impossible to breathe, it is time to change.  It often may appear easier to speculate what change might look and feel like by dipping our toes into its frigid cold waters and slowly acclimating to it while clinging to the edge of the dock, than it is to simply take the plunge.  Taking one tentative step after another before submerging into the glorious depths of a new life, often sounds something like this when we are having conversations with people about the “what if’s” that could happen in our lives:

  • “When I get these things finished, I can…”
  • “When I have enough money saved, I will…”
  • “When my partner is ready and available to change, I will…”
  • “When I know exactly what will happen wherever I go, I might…”
  • “When I am feeling really ready, I will try to…”
  • “When I have all of the education and/or qualifications that I will need to be very employable, I will…”
  • “When I sell or rent my home…”
  • “When my children move out…”
  • “When my pets die…”
  • “When I retire and have a pension…”
  • “When I get married…”

Change is terribly frightening, especially when we are sitting on the precipice between the past and the future.  Letting go of a pay cheque; a partner; a way of life filled with a false sense of security and comfort, just seems too impossible because even unsatisfying security is some type of stability never-the-less.  Even when life is life-sucking, soul crunching and/or dysfunctional, it can be more desirable than taking the risk of truly catapulting into a new life where we do not know nor can we control the outcomes.  It is often the devil we know that we will allow to govern our lives, than the one we do not know very well.  In this case, comfort, complacency, security can be the real evil in our lives preventing us from leaping through the fiery hoop to the other side.  The other side could potentially allow us to find our true callings, passions or valuable life experiences.

The Chicken and the Egg Catalyst:  So, what comes first?  The chicken (in this case, ourselves, taking the final steps towards letting go of an old life and embracing the new), or the egg (the promise or guarantee of something to which we can cling onto at the other side)?  Do we just leap without any guarantee of another side (a job, partner, financial security, an education…)?  Should we be reckless as our conservative parents taught us not to be?  Or do we wait for somethinganything to come along and propel us into a new opportunity where we can make a change with some sense of security?  Common sense tells us that it is the latter that is the wiser choice.  We need that little catalyst or motivator.  We will wait for some sign from some source, and follow it because it represents safety within the change we hope to adopt.

However, what if the wisest choice is to let go completely, and search for that which truly inspires us to be our authentic selves?  This would mean not clinging to our old lives, nor grasping for a solid new one; rather, it means leaping with faith.  The faith would be trusting ourselves, knowing that we are capable of thoughtfully discerning what we need as we move forward.  It also means having faith that we have the where-with-all to find a means to support ourselves (either in the solo or in the tandem leap) so that we will be okay in the end.  The trust comes in knowing and believing in our own capacity to land on our feet.

Reaching for the Right Stars:   So the question arises, what do we truly need in our lives?

I need to be creative.  I need to feel efficacy in my own life experience.  I especially need to know that I have voice in relationship to others.  Having self love and respect, and the love and respect for and of others is also paramount to whatever I do from this point forward.  Nature will need to be an essential part of everything I do.  I need to know what the rest of the world looks, feels, sounds, tastes and smells like.  And most importantly, I want to share this with someone special in a long term and committed way.  Therefore, my stars need to shine on those priorities and I need to align my sextant to these stars so that I can find my directions, and get my real life bearings.  The rest…will fall into place because I will be living my truth.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 51: Under-Graduate Milestones

22 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 51: Under-Graduate Milestones.

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Benchmarks for Success:  What is of interest to me is this idea of how we know we are making progress in life.  Are we getting ahead?  This idea that we can get from one point to another while accomplishing things and becoming better people as a result of our efforts, is a Modernist concept.  It relies on this philosophical pillar that there is a greater good to which we can strive and become better for our efforts.

I still buy into this line of reasoning, hoping that all of the “Sturm and Drang” in my life has been for some greater good.  I especially hope that my belief system holds some truth to it due to the fact that I shared this value system with my son who has recently graduated from university with an under-graduate degree in sociology in the Faculty of Arts.

Under-graduate Confusion and Ambivalence:  Undergraduate work can feel under-whelming.  These early academic years (to use an old expression) “separate the men from the boys”.  This milestone of convocating from a university with an undergraduate degree is supposed to symbolize incredible accomplishment where we feel that we have “arrived” somewhere that is significant, leading to somewhere else that will also be significant, and potentially even more important.  From this juncture in the road, we are supposed to have a clear vantage point from which to make choices upon which to base the rest of our life journeys.  In many cases, we catch glimpses of satisfaction and accomplishment, but it can be short-lived.

“Getting off the academic track” can be very unnerving for students.  We have been following so closely the institutional guidelines that tell us how to think and learn; when to do so; and how good we have to be at doing so in order to pass, that when we are relieved of these obligations, we can be left feeling confused and disoriented.  When we graduate, sometimes we are left with a sense of post-academic depression, realizing that all of our grueling efforts got us to a point where we still have more unanswered questions than when we went into the program in the first place. Degrees don’t guarantee jobs or success.  Unlike where we worked hard in the academic world to get a passing grade, life doesn’t hand out grades.  It simply looks at us blankly in the face owing us nothing for our efforts.

Looking Back:  Having gone through the academic world, which is both exciting and disillusioning, the first leg of academic work (the filtering and streaming years) can be a very institutional process that affords us very little “free thinking”.  Instead, we are indoctrinated into becoming good at “it”.  We become programmed to write and say the right things in order to be the best that our mentors believe that we can be within the parameters of the academic protocols.  We are groomed to achieve the status quo of high level critical thinking.  I loved it, but by the end of it, I hated it.  I remember graduating from the University of Calgary (my first time around), and as I packed up my bag of books, I looked back at the building and said boldly, “I will never go back!”

Next Steps:  The first steps after the program are the hardest.  They are like those first wobbly steps of a new born.  We wiggle around from one piece of furniture to another trying to grab onto something–anything that will provide some stability.  We are not secure enough to carry our own weight.  The time to embark out into the world on our own steam, with our own rules, takes incredible courage.  Where do we go next?  How do we afford it?  What matters most…first?  First things first, how can we enjoy the reality of our new found freedom when we are so worried about what comes next?  It is all very anxiety-provoking, but a very important experience, never-the-less.  We cannot grow and become our best selves until we truly are out of our comfort zones.  We need to stumble and fall, and then learn to wait.  We have to avoid that sense of desperation that forces us to grab onto the wrong things.  Instead, we have to be courageous and hold out for the best things that are yet to come.

My Son:  My son’s sociology program forces its students to think out of the box, and yet, when they are truly released into the world to think “out of the box”, it can be quite disconcerting for all of them.  He is truly wondering whether this degree was worth it.  It does not set him on any real practical and immediate track.  Instead, it just got him to think differently than he did before he entered it.  He got to learn that the world is not straight-forward, fair, or even relevant to itself.  He became a bigger thinker, challenged by his teachers, and his student cohort; and from this, he has accomplished a real cognitive milestone–the milestone of being a philosopher of his own learning, and as a result, a potential composer of a richer score of life.

He has the whole world just waiting for him to jump right in, but he needs to first determine who he is, and how to climb thoughtfully up the ladder to look over the edge at the next part of his journey.  Even though he is a little afraid of heights, he needs to climb to the top, set his eyes on the horizon and point outward.  Once he spots a landmark that can hold his gaze with his head, heart and spirit, he can begin moving ahead.  He may get side-tracked as he takes his next tentative steps forward, but our calling is always our calling.  He too will find his true calling through various means. And most importantly, he will begin to accept that he has never really strayed too far from being exactly who he has always been (perhaps a bit worldlier and wiser)…a very good man.

“When you stop living your life based on what others think of you, real life begins. At that moment, you will finally see the door of self acceptance opened.”
Shannon L. Alder

 

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 27: Peering in the Cracks and Finding Words

15 Apr

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 27: Peering in the Cracks and Finding Words.

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Books Speak to Me: As always, when I have questions, all it takes is for me to open a book that I have found inadvertently, and an excerpt will jump out at me as a life lesson. Such was the case today when I opened the book The Wise Heart (Kornfield, 2008) and a story lept out at me:

In a large temple north of Thailand’s ancient capital, Sukotai, there once stood an enormous and ancient clay Buddha. Though not the most handsome or refined work of Thai Buddhist art, it had been cared for over a period of five hundred years and become revered for its sheer longevity. Violent storms, changes of government, invading armies had come and gone, but the Buddha endured.

At one point, however, the monks who tended the temple noticed that the statue had begun to crack and would soon be in need of repair and repainting. After a stretch of particularly hot, dry weather, one of the cracks became so wide that a curious monk took his flashlight and peered inside. What shone back at him was a flash of brilliant gold! Inside this plain old statue, the temple residents discovered one of the largest and most luminous gold images of Buddha ever created in Southeast Asia…

The monks believe that this shining work of art had been covered in plaster and clay to protect it during times of conflict and unrest. In much the same way, each of us has encountered threatening situation that lead us to cover our innate nobility. Just as the people of Sukotai had forgotten about the golden Buddha, we too have forgotten our essential nature. Much of the time we operate from the portective layer. The primary aim of Buddhist psychology is to help us see beneath this armouring and bring our our original goodness, called our Buddha nature. (pp. 11-12)

Operating from the Protective Layer: The unfortunate thing for so many people is that we have been operating from the protective layer for so long, that we forget who we are at a deeper level. Unfortunately, it takes some fundamental shift in our lives to crack the facade, and to allow light into our inner beauty. Otherwise, it can remain tucked away and out of reach.

Sometimes, the difficulty is not in finding our secret goodness, it is knowing what to do with it once it is found.

It takes risk to emancipate ourselves from the clay, and often ourselves or others will not know how to advise us once we know that we need to become reconnected to our inner purpose. People will suggest that we do “THAT” (our passion) in our spare time because we obviously have to make a living. There will be some confusion by those of us who have not taken the time to stop what we are doing to consider our own cultural domestication, and reconsider our value in the short time that we walk the earth.

Therefore, it is incumbent on us to take care to guide ourselves on this journey and to seek out mentorship of others who have made some significant self-discoveries, and through some personal risk and tenacity, acted on them. They are the ones who have the light to guide us whereas, often (not always), our counterparts, will operate from a place of security, darkness, naivete, fear, or ignorance and may steer us back to that with which they are familiar in their own journeys, and of what they have grown comfortable in their relationships with us. They may not know how to support us, nor be unconditional enough to offer what we may need from them.

Original Goodness: I often ask people this essential question: “If you had nothing to fear or risk, what would you most want?” My answer, when I ask myself this very simple question that sweeps the dirt of resistance off my table cloth before I decide to open my mouth to take a big juicy bite out of life: I want to write. That is it. Plain and simple. I can never truly get past how I might logistically do so as much as I would like to do so, but I am now confident that this is my true calling. It is the place that draws me back over and over again. It is the activity where I am always lost in flow. I am nourished by the experience. And, although I often get recognition and communication for my writing because I sometimes like to share it, the simple act of drawing words out of myself into some meaningful form is reward enough.

Someone might suggest that the act of writing does not a personality make. I would disagree that the art of bringing forth words; sharing and connecting the voices of other writers (as I often like to ground my writing in the rich diversity of other authors); and liberating new and old ideas into new new forms, comes from my soul. Therefore, it is the work of my soul and not my personality. Words leap out of me at various times of the day and night, and I am only satisfied when I have done what they ask me to do. My dissertation, (later published as a book, now in multiple countries, much to my surprise–and a little bit overwhelming as the publication itself unfolded in an interesting and unexpected way), captures my sentiments on the act of creative writing, and I am reminded to go back and re-read it: An Autobiography of the Creative Writing Experience (2009). I am reminded that through this academic research, that creative writing is my essential love: http://www.amazon.ca/An-Autobiography-Creative-Writing-Experience/dp/3639150945 It seems lately, that I need to remind myself to stay the course on my true path.

I wondered about the world as a child through words, and now, I need to bring this full circle and spend the latter part of my life in the centre of that type of work (on my own and with other writers). When I write, I draw on my deepest and rawest core, and shed the protective layer. Through writing, I let myself out and other people in. It is my lens to look inwards and outwards. It is my way way to make sense of my life that remains ahead of me, and the world around me in a meaningful and fulfilling way.

Inner Buddha: When I was in Thailand, I found a temple along the River Kwai called the Wat Tham Khaopoon that was built into the cliffs. We could only access it by climbing hundreds of steps to reach it, and then a few dozen more to get inside of it. There is a middle cave containing stalactites and stalagmites and many remarkable Buddha images. In the quiet calm of the inner cave, I appreciated the worship of its inner Buddha that people took the time to seek out and worship. Just as we seek out the Buddhas, Allah’s, Jesus’, Mohammad’s, etc. around the world, so must we seek out our inner Buddhas where we have opportunities to find them.

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 27: Peering in the Cracks and Finding Words

15 Apr

IMG_3267

Books Speak to Me: As always, when I have questions, all it takes is for me to open a book that I have found inadvertently, and an excerpt will jump out at me as a life lesson. Such was the case today when I opened the book The Wise Heart (Kornfield, 2008) and a story lept out at me:

In a large temple north of Thailand’s ancient capital, Sukotai, there once stood an enormous and ancient clay Buddha. Though not the most handsome or refined work of Thai Buddhist art, it had been cared for over a period of five hundred years and become revered for its sheer longevity. Violent storms, changes of government, invading armies had come and gone, but the Buddha endured.

At one point, however, the monks who tended the temple noticed that the statue had begun to crack and would soon be in need of repair and repainting. After a stretch of particularly hot, dry weather, one of the cracks became so wide that a curious monk took his flashlight and peered inside. What shone back at him was a flash of brilliant gold! Inside this plain old statue, the temple residents discovered one of the largest and most luminous gold images of Buddha ever created in Southeast Asia…

The monks believe that this shining work of art had been covered in plaster and clay to protect it during times of conflict and unrest. In much the same way, each of us has encountered threatening situation that lead us to cover our innate nobility. Just as the people of Sukotai had forgotten about the golden Buddha, we too have forgotten our essential nature. Much of the time we operate from the portective layer. The primary aim of Buddhist psychology is to help us see beneath this armouring and bring our our original goodness, called our Buddha nature. (pp. 11-12)

Operating from the Protective Layer: The unfortunate thing for so many people is that we have been operating from the protective layer for so long, that we forget who we are at a deeper level. Unfortunately, it takes some fundamental shift in our lives to crack the facade, and to allow light into our inner beauty. Otherwise, it can remain tucked away and out of reach.

Sometimes, the difficulty is not in finding our secret goodness, it is knowing what to do with it once it is found.

It takes risk to emancipate ourselves from the clay, and often ourselves or others will not know how to advise us once we know that we need to become reconnected to our inner purpose. People will suggest that we do “THAT” (our passion) in our spare time because we obviously have to make a living. There will be some confusion by those of us who have not taken the time to stop what we are doing to consider our own cultural domestication, and reconsider our value in the short time that we walk the earth.

Therefore, it is incumbent on us to take care to guide ourselves on this journey and to seek out mentorship of others who have made some significant self-discoveries, and through some personal risk and tenacity, acted on them. They are the ones who have the light to guide us whereas, often (not always), our counterparts, will operate from a place of security, darkness, naivete, fear, or ignorance and may steer us back to that with which they are familiar in their own journeys, and of what they have grown comfortable in their relationships with us. They may not know how to support us, nor be unconditional enough to offer what we may need from them.

Original Goodness: I often ask people this essential question: “If you had nothing to fear or risk, what would you most want?” My answer, when I ask myself this very simple question that sweeps the dirt of resistance off my table cloth before I decide to open my mouth to take a big juicy bite out of life: I want to write. That is it. Plain and simple. I can never truly get past how I might logistically do so as much as I would like to do so, but I am now confident that this is my true calling. It is the place that draws me back over and over again. It is the activity where I am always lost in flow. I am nourished by the experience. And, although I often get recognition and communication for my writing because I sometimes like to share it, the simple act of drawing words out of myself into some meaningful form is reward enough.

Someone might suggest that the act of writing does not a personality make. I would disagree that the art of bringing forth words; sharing and connecting the voices of other writers (as I often like to ground my writing in the rich diversity of other authors); and liberating new and old ideas into new new forms, comes from my soul. Therefore, it is the work of my soul and not my personality. Words leap out of me at various times of the day and night, and I am only satisfied when I have done what they ask me to do. My dissertation, (later published as a book, now in multiple countries, much to my surprise–and a little bit overwhelming as the publication itself unfolded in an interesting and unexpected way), captures my sentiments on the act of creative writing, and I am reminded to go back and re-read it: An Autobiography of the Creative Writing Experience (2009). I am reminded that through this academic research, that creative writing is my essential love: http://www.amazon.ca/An-Autobiography-Creative-Writing-Experience/dp/3639150945 It seems lately, that I need to remind myself to stay the course on my true path.

I wondered about the world as a child through words, and now, I need to bring this full circle and spend the latter part of my life in the centre of that type of work (on my own and with other writers). When I write, I draw on my deepest and rawest core, and shed the protective layer. Through writing, I let myself out and other people in. It is my lens to look inwards and outwards. It is my way way to make sense of my life that remains ahead of me, and the world around me in a meaningful and fulfilling way.

Inner Buddha: When I was in Thailand, I found a temple along the River Kwai called the Wat Tham Khaopoon that was built into the cliffs. We could only access it by climbing hundreds of steps to reach it, and then a few dozen more to get inside of it. There is a middle cave containing stalactites and stalagmites and many remarkable Buddha images. In the quiet calm of the inner cave, I appreciated the worship of its inner Buddha that people took the time to seek out and worship. Just as we seek out the Buddhas, Allah’s, Jesus’, Mohammad’s, etc. around the world, so must we seek out our inner Buddhas where we have opportunities to find them.

52 Weeks Being Now: Week 25: Happy Endings

25 Mar

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Don’t Tell Me The Ending: How many times has someone told you about a good movie, and you put your hand up and begged them to stop because you didn’t want them to ruin the ending? You simply didn’t want to know until you read the book or watched the movie yourself.

However, why are we then so compelled to know the outcomes of our everyday lives in such rigid and fixed detail? Consider how much time we actually spend in our lives to assure that we do know what the endings will be in our day-to-day, week-to-week, and year-to-year lives. We create plans and regimented schedules at work and for our personal lives that help us anticipate and in some ways guarantee our lives in multiple ways. This organization is seen to be purposeful, and also helps us to be less anxious over unknown outcomes. As we all know, uncertainty can be anxiety provoking. Therefore, we know what will happen to us first thing in the morning, at noon and at 3:00 PM, and then, as well, in the evening. We know where we will go to bed, and are pretty assured that we will awake in the morning at a set time, and will likely repeat much of our previous day, all over again.

How often do we approach fortune tellers asking to know what is going to happen to us. This mysterious, unknown Future both intrigues and disturbs us because we don’t really know what life will deal us or our loved ones. We cocoon ourselves in our daily tasks so that we don’t have to look at the truth of the randomness of the universe in the eye. We attach ourselves to domesticated routines to help us pretend that we can determine our destinies in love, business, finances and other. Why not? If we just do A, B and C, then D will happen. Right? Some people coordinate their lives so carefully, that there is no room for “error”, in their minds. They become quite disappointed or surprised when things don’t happen exactly as they expect that they are supposed to happen. However, life unfolds as it intends to manifest itself, and we sometimes need to be reminded of how little control we truly have over it.

Letting Go: Perhaps we need to embrace this “unknowing” with greater inner abandonment. Just as when we are watching the movie, we don’t want to know the ending until the end, so should we sometimes give things up to chance in the living of our lives. By allowing space in our day for life to breath into us what could or should or might happen, we can allow ourselves some connection to that which pulls at our souls. Perhaps we don’t know where we will eat dinner. Perhaps we sit down in a restaurant with someone new and have a conversation about something else that we might not have considered before. On the weekends, we might allow our time to be flexible, and do things based on how we feel at the time. Perhaps we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and travel or hike or bike somewhere we have never been and invite along new people that push us to think about topics differently. Maybe we travel by ourselves so that we can be truly open to what is just around the corner, and to meet new people that might ask us to think about life in new and exciting ways. Maybe we take time to read literature that we might not normally read, or write letters or emails to people to whom we have been meaning to write. At work, we try new things, or ask for different opportunities. Perhaps we do nothing at all and just meditate so that we have time to breathe deeply. In other words: What compels us to do, think and be things in new and unpredictable ways where we don’t know what the ending will be?

Happy Endings: And what if I told you that everything is going to be okay. You will meet the person that you are meant to be with? You will be secure in your future until you pass away. You will have grandchildren. You will publish your book. Would you then let go of needing to carefully orchestrate your life in an effort to assure that this will, in fact, be the outcome? Now all you have to do is live for the moment because you don’t have to worry about the outcomes. You can just live and enjoy each moment that you encounter. Everything else will take care of itself naturally and through the natural course of things intended by the universe. Perhaps the endings will not be exactly what you were expecting, but maybe that is better. Expectations just have a way of upsetting us anyway. I suggest that you wait to read the book of your life until you get to the end. Enjoy it. Wait to be surprised, and enjoy the unexpected, instead of feeling anxious about it. I will meet you somewhere along your journey of happy endings.