Fool’s errand

 

the-fools-jester.gif“The arc of the moral universe is a long one but it bends towards justice,” is a quote used by any number of people, the most notable of which was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in one of his speeches. The quote was from a mid-nineteenth century Transcendentalist, Theodor Parker.

But this arc that bends won’t just happen, it has never bent on its own. It has always taken active “benders” to move it towards justice.

Peace and Passive are two words that have often been linked to each other even though Peace requires Active not Passive participation. Peace doesn’t just happen and when it does, it doesn’t come from fear or the need to dominate and control, it comes from positive resolve and intention.

Justice requires positive activism, an activism that promotes a context of positive connection between people and ideas.

I’m using the attribute modifier ‘Positive’ for a reason because both negative and positive create context i.e. the ambient condition in which things exist. Positive and negative motivations can coexist within either context, in fact they can inform each other. But the type of overall context tends to bend things toward one or the other way of being.

This tendency is why some efforts to bring about positive change are frequently thwarted because of negative subtext. For example, when a desire to change something is layered onto an unspoken negative such as a feeling of helplessness (at a loss for what will really work), cynical thoughts (‘they’ could change but probably won’t), or manipulation (if I can get them to change I will benefit e.g. will no longer be in fear or I will get my way) it is doomed to fail at some point.

When I use the word “resolve” I’m referring to the power of intention. As Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Our intention creates our reality.”

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The typical game of world peace , oops I mean whack-a-mole

I’m suggesting that we stop focusing on the problem and start shifting our attention to what it is we want to create (the ground of being or context for what exists). Tackling problems without addressing the context is like playing “whack-a-mole” at the arcade, it’s a forever exercise with no end goal other than each whack has a momentary and terminal feeling of satisfaction attached.

When you have honestly and truthfully defined what it is that you want for the world you live in and resolve to do what is wanted and needed to create that, the action needed will reveal itself as will the obstacles to achieving it. Do you think the iPhone just suddenly appeared fully functional and ready to transform the world of communication? Obstacles become markers along the road to success when they are included as a necessary part of an intentional context. Great inventors know this as do effective social activists.

Intention toward a context will literally change ones consciousness. For example, if you were to have as your intention to change your negative responses to others, or to events, by actively replacing such things as anger, impatience, or fear with compassion, understanding of differing needs, and calmness/centeredness, your experience of the person or event would shift.

Once the personal context has shifted then one can see the action necessary to shift the overall context.

In short, to focus all our energies on solving individual problems as they pop up without addressing the context in which they are created and sustained is a fool’s errand.

A conversation with an Elm

 

IMG_3348.JPGSitting in the shade of an old Elm and reading some most interesting books I conjured three experiences expressed in the form of poems with each coming from a different place within me.  The first comes from a break in my reading when my wife came out to share the late afternoon sun.

 

 

“I wonder what the tree is thinking, said she.

The tree doesn’t think, it experiences, said I.

That’s you thinking too much said she.

No, that’s my experience of the tree, said I.

That’s you thinking about your experience, said she.

That’s me sharing the experience, said I.

Again, with the last word, said she.

We both smiled, looked up into the meandering branches, and became

lost within its raining foliage rustling in the breeze.”

 

–RJ Cole

 

The sublime world of the subjective imagination energizes like nothing else. Experiencing reality without objectifying it is a rare treat of grace. It’s like a conversation with God– in a place where there’s no need for words. There’s more than one way of shutting down the judgmental voice in our heads. Peace is what follows.

Have a great morning, or evening, wherever you may be.

Epic tales, epic symbolism

 

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The Battle between Good and evil –by Robert Adelman found on Deviant Art

 

 

As a boy I was fascinated by the tales of Middle Earth as told by J.R.R. Tolkien. I also knew that if one fought bravely enough that good could eventually triumph over evil.

As I grew older I became aware of the Northern Norse mythology that Tolkien used as the foundational source material for his work. But unlike his stories I learned that the most striking feature of this mythology was that all was hopeless, that the apocalyptic battle at Rognarök was humanity’s doom, and that no matter how bravely the hero fought the monsters and giants would defeat humanity and the gods of Asgard.

But I also learned that for the gods and heroes and heroines of the North loss in battle gave meaning and mettle to the warrior who courageously stood their ground and fought on regardless of the fact that all was hopeless.

What’s this? I was dismayed that these epic battles would ultimately end with evil triumphing over good. How could this be? The purity of courage be damned I thought, it needed to be rewarded and besides winning and defeating was the goal of all good and evil confrontations or so I thought. Oh yes and by winning of course was meant that “good” would always prevail.

It wasn’t until years later that I achieved some insight into these wonderful tales from the North.

From the writings of Carl Jung I was introduced to the concept of the Conflict of Opposites and the effect of either ignoring or battling the shadow i.e. evil aspects of our personal or collective nature. In this context. either ignoring or actively suppressing the shadow one gives it power, diminishes their own power, and leads to their being overwhelmed by it.

I surmised that if Jung were right, then the hopelessness and defeat so often celebrated in the Northern myths becomes an allegorical warning to mankind regarding its relationship with the shadow aspects of its personality. Is it possible that when one resists or denies the shadow either in themselves or the society in which they live that its power over us becomes paramount in that our violent response only adds to the violence of the shadow and increases its power and makes impossible to overcome? Oh I won’t deny that some battles can be won but ultimately the shadow keeps returning ever more powerfully. Will we never defeat it and have a permanent peace?

We are both good and evil. So what does this say about a God in whose image we are created? If then God is also both, to resist this would seem futile and self-defeating.

I remember that in a long ago Judo class the teacher talked about not meeting force with force to overcome ones opponent but by using the opponent’s own energy to defeat them. To me now this simple strategy seems a  useful metaphor for dealing with the shadow forces of our nature. If we allow ourselves to become the shadow by denying it we will be defeated no matter how glorious or courageous our actions but if we learn to accept this darker aspect as part of ourselves and turn its energy toward good it can add to our own best intentions and we can prevail.

 

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More Barriers to love and the spirit within: The seeds of our own destruction

 

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Not too long ago my wife and I presented a Cornerstone class on conflict resolution at our granddaughter’s elementary school. Project Cornerstone first came to the school district as an anti-bullying program. But over time the use, or over use, of the word “bully” to identify a certain type of behavior has hardened into a type of person rather than a type of behavior i.e. they “are” a bully instead of them “behaving” like one.

When “bully” becomes a label instead of a description of a behavior it leaves little room for the person displaying the behavior to change or even to defend themselves because the use of the word sets them in concrete. The label then becomes a way of excluding someone. Most of us do that with the word “evil”. Once we’ve hung that around someone’s neck they’re no longer a human and they are open to all kinds of abuse.

This isn’t unusual behavior on our part in that we humans often tend to paint each other with a broad paintbrush. It’s easier to do this and doesn’t require much higher-order thinking. This becomes especially noticeable when we are caught up in our fear of something that we don’t understand and begins to escalate radically as the more helpless and fearful we become.

Tribally we humans tend to reject outsiders and behaviors that we don’t understand and when those so-called outsiders seem to be of a particular tribe we tend to paint them all with one color. Even the best of us sometimes fall into this trap as when we condemn a race of people for the actions of some of that race or when we condemn an entire religious group for the horrific behaviors of a certain subgroup.

In recent years we have witnessed the horrific behaviors of a religious subgroup and have rightly labeled their actions as evil, but some people out of their own fear and ignorance have branded all of that religious group as being evil. This is of course a big mistake and totally unhelpful to the cause of peace and our ability to detect what it is that needs to be done to contain the evil behavior and how to lessen the number of those who fall prey to the lure of this subgroup.

While we hold people accountable for their behaviors and while we do what is necessary to end and/or contain the evil we must look at what conditions are enflaming and enabling it and do what is necessary to end those as well.

Yes, we need to fight this, but we need to fight it intelligently and not do it in a way that throws gasoline on the fire thus spreading its damage over a greater area. We need to respond to the presence and actions of evil and not just react.

Reacting is a “lizard brain” action where no thought is required just instinctive animal reactivity. God gave us so much more to work with that lies above the reactionary archaic brain stem and we need to resist the tendency to label everything we’re afraid of or don’t understand as being evil and thus subject to our wrath. We need to stop acting like a frightened snake striking whatever moves and more like the intelligent thinking sons and daughters of a loving God we are.

Simply put, we cannot push back the darkness of evil by simply pouring on more and more darkness– we need to add some light to it. WE (you and I) need to come up with some ways to 1) rein in our own lizard brains and 2) find ways to end the spread of evil and once accomplished deal appropriately with the root causes of it. To do anything else will only perpetuate the evil i.e. you can bloody the land with more killing and that may subdue the evil but only temporarily.

History is rife with lessons on how we humans take the wrong paths toward peace. That’s because we react out of fear instead of responding to it and using it as a motivator to change, a change necessary because we have failed to do what is needed to treat others with the respect we would want for ourselves.

Now, that is not to say that we can end all evil. There will always be those who have been sickened by their own minds and will seek solace from that pain by attempting to dominate and control those outside themselves as though it’s the outsider who causes their sickness. There will always be egos that want to feel bigger and more important and will attempt to subjugate the world around them.

Compassionate Containment may be what is wanted and needed in these cases at least until science can find a successful means of healing them. But each of us who are healthy has the means for controlling our own negative and reactive behaviors. We need to get serious about learning what those means are and start actualizing them.

We need to embrace the real meaning of enlightened civilization and grow beyond our reactive tribal mentality. Currently we seem hell-bent on sewing the seeds of our own destruction.

Learning how to love ourselves: First step in loving others

 

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Q: So how does one learn to love oneself?

A: I’ve found the following to be useful:

 

  • Through serving others
  • Through friendship (unconditional)
  • Through patience
  • Through a giving relationship (non-competitive relationship–the spirit of relationship)
  • Through the loving and caring for nature
  • Through the act of loving even when you’re not feeling it
  • Through the act of forgiveness
  • Through opening your heart

 

Notice that all of these require that a person get outside their self that is, outside their narrow little ego-self, so as to include the “other.” This in effect expands the image of self to something greater than the ego and it’s the ego that contains the idea of being less-than.

Giving reverence to something much bigger than yourself takes you out of the confined space of the personality and opens the door to the infinite space of the divine. Love is no longer about you (as in getting or feeling love) in that you literally ‘become’ love i.e. you are its expression.

Note that all require increased consciousness as well. In order to see the reality around you, you have to be willing to let go of the reality you have. Loosen your expectations of others (and yourself) and allow what’s there to filter through. The act of forgiveness is a really effective tool in this process. Holding someone or some event in blame, censure, or punishment becomes a locked prison cell for the person doing the holding as well as creating unnecessary resistance in the other person. Note that blaming, censuring and punishment rarely affects positive change in people. Typically people just learn to avoid the blamer/punisher.

Love and caring cannot exist in a condition of animosity, blame, rancor, revenge, impatience, and aversion. And its loss isn’t just local to the person or event that’s unforgiven, it creates a ripple effect that spreads out across all of ones reality. Forgiveness is one of the most freeing experiences one can ever have. It what opens the heart and allows all the rest to come into your world. It literally opens you up to the Grace of God.

“I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart.”

–Rumi

Lastly, you might have noticed that all the useful suggestions for opening yourself to the love of self require that you sacrifice, your point-of-view and your need for control. Points-of-view keep you locked in place, it narrows your reality to a myopic view of what’s actually there. Love is so big that it cannot be seen through the peephole of your limited point-of-view. There is nothing more limiting than a point-of-view. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one, just don’t be wedded to it.

Have you noticed how little in control you actually are? We do things to control the actions of the other so that we might feel safer, or more important. But this is a never-ending battle and we never really feel safer, or more important. Thinking that we have control of anything other than ourselves is a distraction. And we can’t have control over ourselves until we know who and what we are, which brings us back to the need for increased consciousness.

So how do we get this increased consciousness?

  • Through serving others
  • Through friendship (unconditional)
  • Through patience
  • Through a giving relationship (non-competitive relationship–the spirit of relationship)
  • Through the loving and caring for nature
  • Through the act of loving even when you’re not feeling it
  • Through the act of forgiveness
  • Through opening your heart

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It’s our souls that suffer.

 

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 In order to survive the planet has learned to nurture symbiotic relationships.                                           Pic By– http://www.terrypond.com

 

“Man’s Capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”

Rheinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (1944)

 

In order to live with one another in any kind of peace requires that each man be willing to give up some portion of his self-interest to the society. Though the soul of man yearns to be free– to be what it is, this yearning is what drives him to create societies that will extricate him from tyranny.

No man can ever hope to be complete and whole without the relationship of all other humans. But it’s that societal relationship that also threatens his autonomy– the very freedom he yearns for. But by his very nature and the nature of all things, both selfish and unselfish impulses struggle with one another for dominance.

What we see in most societies is a back and forth war between self-interest and social interest that often weakens the social agreement and that self-centered justification is then transformed into some collective moral justification that allows him to brutalize his fellow man. With moral justification he can then hide the true character of his collective self.

This back and forth struggle keeps humankind in a constant state of flux careening rapidly between justice and injustice, self-interest and collective interest, and selfishness and selflessness. And here for me is the crux of the problem, societies i.e. nations are basically selfish whereas the individual has within it a kernel of selflessness. It is this selflessness in balance with our selfishness that we each need to nurture. In short, we cannot expect nations to change until we do and we cannot change until we’re ready to give up our need to dominate everything– religiously, geologically, politically, and psychologically.

Right now we the collective people of this Earth in the name of self-righteousness, politically and religiously, are imposing our will above the will of every one else, attempting to change, to bend, reality toward our selfish needs and in the process ignoring what really needs to be changed– our fear-based penchant to dominate in thought and by physicality. When we make our own egos paramount we create the oligarchs, despots, and dictators of this world, we erode our ability to be free, and it is our souls that suffer.

Be the change you seek. Don’t expect it from your religionists or politicians they’ll only change when you do. And don’t use your religion to self-righteously control the hearts of others, use it to find the beauty in your own heart.

 

“God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed, courage
to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

–Reinhold Niebuhr (1942)

So what gets between us and our divinity? There are consequences for letting fear run our lives.

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In today’s news media we hear about all kinds of mayhem i.e. murder, war, oppression, financial meltdown, high unemployment, ethnic strife, and extreme political partisanship. I’ve also noticed that the more I read, the more anxious and fearful I become and I grow more defensive.

What, I wondered, was causing the seemingly escalating chaos? Could it be something as simple as unchecked fear and was this fear then feeding upon itself? As human beings attempt to deal with their fears, they show up as images in their dreams that sometimes morph into dark and frightening chimera–nightmares. In the Archipelago of Dreams Robert is constantly reacting to his fears and doesn’t know how to effectively deal with them as they come fast and furious and threaten to overwhelm him.

Alas, our typical human response for dealing with that which scares us is to shove it down into the hidden realms of our subconscious mind. In the short run this seems to work and allows us to get through yet another day, but over the long haul the fears become too large to hide and too difficult to manage and we begin to function through our fears as though they were real.

When people operate out of fear their ability to see reality becomes compromised–everything becomes a threat. For those who live in fear, defense–self-protection–becomes the overriding theme of their lives. This posture then fuels their response to their medical needs, leadership, virtually every aspect of public safety, and sometimes even dictates what foods are eaten.

Fear comes from thinking that you are vulnerable to your circumstances and to the events of your life. It is spawned from the animal part of us that reacts instinctively and without thought–the little archaic lizard, or reptilian, brain that hides at the base of the skull. In humans it is incorporated into the ego-self, a construct that imagines itself to be small and isolated and thus vulnerable to the world. The reality is anything but–we are immensely bigger than our image of ourselves.

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However, in a world where the inhabitants are blind to their reality, they build walls around themselves and “things” become important to their defense. How many things and of what kind becomes a preoccupation. As the inhabitants strive to gather more and more things so as to feel safe and secure they themselves become a thing as well and separate themselves even further from each other. And the separation results in each person exploiting the others for what they think will be their personal gain–what they think will quiet the fear.

When you are separated and alone you begin to feel vulnerable and helpless and the fear grows. It is out of that fear that dictators are born, that institutional and religious dogma is created to control the hoards of unpredictable “others,” and where people create points-of-view designed to protect their selves against what is not them. What was born powerful becomes fragile.

In The Archipelago of Dreams Robert leaves behind the fragile ego of his being world and discovers that he is something much more than he ever dreamed of. As he confronts the real cause of his fears, an awareness grows regarding the cost of self-protection–greed, pride, usury, hate, anger, lust, envy, and the ubiquitous self-righteous points-of-view and all of this resulting in overwhelming disruption in both the personal and collective order. The land is raped of its abundant resources and people become objects toward self-centered ends as the bankers, moneylenders, merchants and political leaders use them for their personal lust for safety.

Eventually the scale that is the world tips too far and everything slides off leaving bankrupt institutions and philosophies, wars, political gridlock, and oppression. And the people rail, and wail, and blame, and build their walls even higher. The walls become so high and fortified that the people lose sight of the soul of the world, what the great American Psychologist, James Hillman called the Anima Mundi, and their own soul as well.

It is from this dysfunctional world that Robert comes to the bigger world of the Spirit that we all come from and will all return to. It is in this world that Robert has been tasked to aid in the reconciliation that must take place within a human being in order for mankind to reunite with his soul and his bigger Self, his Spirit Self.

We were meant to be the light of the world and yet we embraced much too much of the shadow. Robert must find a way to reconnect his lost self, our lost selves. But as he learns all too quickly, this will not be easy and much evil conspires to maintain the status quo and to protect the separation. He had to find something within him that he was sure didn’t exist, and he had to find it fast because time was not a friend there, and it didn’t flow in only one direction.

Causes of world unrest: Thinking that only your point-of-view is the right one.

 

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There seems to be so much unrest in the world and intolerance of each others points-of-interest appears to be at an all time high.

Some of my dreams express my own intolerance, points-of-view, and how resistant I can be sometimes to those points-of-view that don’t agree with mine (of course there is a remote possibility that I’m right).

First a few definitions might be in order before we dive into the factors that may be energizing the world’s current unrest.

Self-questioning

noun

  1. examination of one’s own actions and motives, self-contemplation, self-examination, self-questioning, self-reflection, soul-searching.

Intolerance

noun

  1. unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own. “a struggle against religious intolerance” Bigotry, narrow-mindedness, prejudice, bias, partiality, inequality, partisan

Literalism:

noun

  1. adherence to the explicit substance of an idea or expression. Adherence to the exact letter or the literal sense, as in translation or interpretation: as in biblical or religious literalism.

 

Intolerance leads to contraction (vs. growth), insularity (vs. openness), imbalance (unbalanced point-of-view, unbalanced behavior, psychological disturbance) and death. Basically, the soul embraces diversity and the ego does not.

Literalism can cause intolerance and intolerance can sustain literalism and that cuts off any further development and over time leads to a diversion from reality. When this diversion becomes too severe it becomes a psychosis, defined loosely as an “abnormal condition of the soul” characterized by a loss of contact with reality and exhibiting thought disorder. Some who show psychotic behavior exhibit an extraordinary belief in something that just isn’t true, that the facts will not support e.g. women are weak, men are strong therefor men must control and protect women for their own good.

What usually keeps a false belief (or bias) in place is that the mind that has it has been conditioned to not explore the truth or inner motivations and causations behind the belief. Literalism, again, trumps inner or outer questioning and the false belief remains entrenched. Anyone who begins to question thus becomes a danger to the prevailing dogma and has to be either brought back into the system or expunged from it. Many extremists and militants can be said to exhibit delusional qualities even though they themselves can’t recognize it.

So who’s reality are we talking about? Is the mystic psychotic? Is the fundamentalist psychotic? Is the zealot psychotic? How delusional does one have to be to qualify and when does the imbalance become a danger to themselves and/or others? Usually one needs to exhibit the symptoms over an extended period of time and to a great degree. When the delusions take on paranoid qualities and the person begins to act on or against them they can be injurious to others as well as themselves.

Some people experience momentary breaks with material reality when going through an epiphany or have been under prolonged stress or deprivation while some show only mild forms of delusion due to environmental and cultural influences. These don’t usually trigger the diagnosis of psychosis.

Some of the symptoms of psychoses, especially that of delusions, seem to reflect in those having a mystical experience. However, these are temporary. There’s a shift in awareness that persists over time but the disconnect from reality that the psychotic experiences is only temporary in the mystic. The mystic learns to work with the reality of the everyday through the shifted point-of-view whereas a person with psychosis becomes broadly, if not permanently if no intervention is available, delusional and unable to reliably work with reality in a balanced way.

Also under the right circumstances the psychosis of a few can generate a contagious reaction amongst the many and is usually reinforced and maintained through external psychological and sociocultural influences e.g. religious interpretation, regional cultural beliefs.

As I’ve suggested before reality is an expression of our level of consciousness, what we see is a reflection of our inner development or lack thereof i.e. if you only perceive variations of negative, guess where that’s coming from? And until we come to grips with that realization reality will run us ragged with fears and hatreds and resentments and harden our hearts and minds.

Essentially reality will support our level of development e.g. if we are prejudiced, intolerant, fearful and exclusive, the universe, aka reality, will present us with all kinds of experiences along these lines. In other words, if we say “fuck you” to the world the world will return it in kind– put out negative energy and that’s what you’ll get in return– often the energy is not out there it is within yourself. Without self-examination one is doomed to frequent failure (not total failure because even a broken clock is right twice a day).

 

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

–Socrates

 

Socrates’ statement here might be a little over the top. But he was suggesting that each of us in order to be fully human need to be self-examining otherwise we don’t rise above the level of the animals. I wouldn’t suggest that those who don’t internally question life shouldn’t continue to live or aren’t worth as much as might be implied by such a statement as Socrates’.

But life becomes so much richer and so much less fearful when one examines life while they’re living it. Being free to question life liberates the soul and keeps people balanced while an unexamined and unquestioned life restricts a person’s soul and creates imbalance. As I said at the beginning of this post, “The soul embraces diversity the ego does not.“ Another way of saying that is what rejects diversity is not of the soul, not of the divine that is boundless, but of the small bound-up “skin encapsulated ego” *.

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* A phrase attributed to Alan Watts (theologian and philosopher– 1915 to 1973, though some might say he was an Eastern Mystic in an Englishman’s body). I am suggesting that this socially conditioned “skin encapsulated ego” is the ultimate definition of separateness e.g. what is ‘me’ and what is ‘not me’ and is therefore the foundation for all exclusion, prejudice, intolerance, fear and bigotry.

 

 

To share or not to share

 

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Authenticity: To be real without pretentions. It’s hard to be authentic when you’re doing what you do for acceptance or trying to meet someone else’s expectations. The ego has to be right, look good, be acceptable, and avoid rejection all of which are barriers to authenticity. This need for acceptance might breed pretentiousness and create masks that are worn to give the impression of authenticity.

We have to dare to be our real selves no matter how scary that may be.

When we allow ourselves to be defined by our past it becomes a barrier to being in the present that I believe is the only place that authenticity can happen.

Some believe it’s all about nonconformity but I believe it’s about choice, the choice to conform or not to conform based on what is necessary in the moment. Choice can only happen authentically if one can accept either the positive or negative and then “choose” what is best for the moment and situation.

It’s about allowing our true selves to be seen. But what is your true self? Is it someone who bullies to get his or her way? Is it someone who bends over backwards to please in order to be accepted by others? Is it someone who uses their charm to get his or her way? I believe that these behaviors are of the ego-self and not the deeper self, the spirit that motivates.

True belonging, one of the basic human needs, I believe requires being yourself ego warts and all. To present a fraudulent self separates others from you and affects the real sense of belonging. Should you be accepted as a person with a mask of acceptability, it’s only the mask they love, not you.

To be real means to be vulnerable. This is the birthplace for belonging and for love, courage and creativity. When my goal becomes about safety I can’t be vulnerable and miss out on most of the joy that’s available in truly belonging. When my goal is about seeking approval it is forever empty for seeking outside oneself is an insatiable quest. This is because people give or withhold approval based on their own mood and not as a reflection of who you’re being or who you are.

Every year at our church around New Year’s there’s a basket full of stars with a word printed on each and each of us is encouraged to dip into this basket and take a star and it’s word to contemplate for the rest of the year. My word for the year is “Share”. Try as I might I couldn’t really get excited about this word, after all I already share my butt off. For six weeks I’ve been staring at this word with nothing but emptiness or some contrivance or another so that I could claim some meaningful contemplation. Only none of it has been meaningful. Then a reading group that I belong to came up against the word “Authenticity”. The discussion led to what did this word actually mean for each of us and this lead me to see my word for the year in a whole new light. Perhaps I need to “share” my true self even the self who is pretentious, self-righteous, biased, sometimes prejudiced, sometimes needy, and often self-critical. Perhaps I need to share my struggle to overcome these barriers to expressing who I really am. Perhaps I need to share in order to be real.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you share all your opinions, chances are you’ll be liked by no one after that. What I’m suggesting is that you share who you are and believe it or not you are not your opinions, you have them, but you are much more than them.

 

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Do whatever you do for the sheer joy of it

 

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Do whatever you do for the sheer joy of it and to honor, that which gave you the life to do it.

I had a dream the once where I was watching a small airplane struggling to gain altitude, to free itself from the gravity restraints of the Earth below. The engine sputtered and it looked as though it was going to crash into the side of a bridge. At the last moment it pulled up sharply, did a backward barrel roll, and barely missed the ground as it pulled out. I thought him a fool until I could see the pilot grinning as he turned the plane into a corkscrew roll, climbed and dove again, oblivious to the danger of failure and screaming with joy. Then I understood and grinned with him.

The dream reminded me of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach*. Jonathan was a seagull who lived to fly. He practiced impossible dives and rolls for the shear joy of the flight. The other gulls frowned in disgust and judgment because that wasn’t appropriate behavior for a seagull, but that didn’t affect Jonathan, because he wasn’t doing what he was doing for the approval of others–Jonathan was doing it for his own soul.

Sometimes I find myself dismayed at how few people show interest in my work with dreams. I keep looking at my blog, book, and website statistics to validate that I’m succeeding. But the real truth for myself is that I do what I do because of the sheer joy of doing it–I do it to free my soul and to let it soar. When I allow the judgments of others to define me, there’s no freedom to soar, much struggle, and no joy.

Yes, it’s nice to get acknowledgment for who you are and what you’re doing, but engineering your life so as to gain acceptance is a trap with no joy in it. Yes, you may need to work toward acceptance in order to advance or maintain a career, that’s a good strategy sometimes, but notice that the people who are flying high sometimes take risks as well and nearly hit the ground time and again. Like Jonathan it is in their nature to soar. Deep down I believe that it is in all our natures to break free of our self-imposed restraints and do a barrel-roll through the clouds.

Deep down beneath our cultural, social, ego-bound, and well-trained personae there is a soul struggling to be free of the gravity of our restraints. The first thing to do is to acknowledge that you have such a soul, such a desire, such a need to be free– to fly as your self and not as someone else’s image of what you should be.

 

“He spoke of very simple things- that it is right for a gull to fly, that freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form.

 “Set aside,” came a voice from the multitude, “even if it be the Law of the Flock?”

 “The only true law is that which leads to freedom,” Jonathan said. “There is no other.”

Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

 

It won’t be easy, even Jonathan crashed a few times before he got the hang of it, but that gnawing void in him kept pushing to be free.

Practice being free, a little at first until you begin to master its technique. Accept that there might be failures and that from them you’ll learn.

Dedicate everything you do to something bigger than yourself. Over time this will free you from your worry-filled ego-self that wants to be accepted, to blend, and not look too weird. Jonathan may have looked as though he was doing what he was doing just for his own pleasure, but in reality he was honoring the creator who never intended that we should constrain ourselves and become servant to our limited images.

Give thanks to your own wings, your own gifts, and the time you’ve been given on Earth to learn to soar.

 

“You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way”.”

Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

 

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*Bach, Richard, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story”, Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc., N.Y., 1970