The Effect of Not Doing
When We Don't Take Action
Life is sculpted on a moment-to-moment basis. Every one of the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we take contributes to the complex quality and character of the universe's unfolding. It simply is not possible to be alive without making an impact on the world that surrounds us. Every action taken affects the whole as greatly as every action not taken. And when it comes to making the world a better place, what we choose not to do can be just as important as what we choose to do.
For example, when we neglect to recycle, speak up, vote, or help somebody in immediate need, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to be an agent for positive change. Instead, we are enabling a particular course to continue unchallenged, picking up speed even as it goes along. By holding the belief that our actions don't make much of a difference, we may find that we often tend to forego opportunities for involvement. Alternatively, if we see ourselves as important participants in an ever-evolving world, we may feel more inspired to contribute our unique perspective and gifts to a situation.
It is wise to be somewhat selective about how and where we are using our energy in order to keep ourselves from becoming scattered. Not every cause or action is appropriate for every person. When a situation catches our attention, however, and speaks to our heart, it is important that we honor our impulse to help and take the action that feels right for us. It may be offering a kind word to a friend, giving resources to people in need, or just taking responsibility for our own behavior. By doing what we can, when we can, we add positive energy to our world. And sometimes, it may be our one contribution that makes all the difference
A Chance to Contribute
Disarming the Know-It-All
Most of us have encountered a person in our lives who can accurately be referred to as a know-it-all. This person seems to know everything about anything that gets brought up and tends to dominate the conversation. They don't take well to being questioned, and they have a hard time ever admitting that they were wrong.
Being around a know-it-all is inevitably tiring because there is no shared energy between the two of you. Rather, you become an audience member to this person's need to be the center of attention. Attention and respect are probably the two things this person most longs for, and at some point in their lives, they learned that knowing it all was the way to get those needs met. Over time, they have become stuck in this pattern, regardless of the fact that it is no longer working. They may feel afraid of the experience of listening, being receptive, or learning something new, because it's so unfamiliar.
On the one hand, when we see the childlike need underneath the know-it-all's mask of confidence, we feel compassion for the person, and we may tolerate their one-sided approach to conversation out of a desire not to hurt their feelings. On the other hand, we may be feeling drained and tempted to avoid this person altogether. In the middle of these two possible ways of feeling, we may actually like this person and wish for a closer relationship. If we come from a place of kindness, we might attempt to bridge the gap that this person's habitual way of relating creates. Simply expressing a desire to be closer may open their heart, and give you a chance to ask for what you need in the relationship—a chance to contribute.
Not Everybody Will Like You
It is not necessarily a pleasant experience, but there will be times in our lives when we come across people who do not like us. As we know, like attracts like, so usually when they don't like us it is because they are not like us. Rather than taking it personally, we can let them be who they are, accepting that each of us is allowed to have different perspectives and opinions. When we give others that freedom, we claim it for ourselves as well, releasing ourselves from the need for their approval so we can devote our energy toward more rewarding pursuits.
While approval from others is a nice feeling, when we come to depend on it we may lose our way on our own path. There are those who will not like us no matter what we do, but that doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with us. Each of us has our own filters built from our experiences over time. They may see in us something that is merely a projection of their understanding, but we have no control over the interpretations of others. The best we can do is to hope that the role we play in the script of their lives is helpful to them, and follow our own inner guidance with integrity.
As we reap the benefits of walking our perfect paths, we grow to appreciate the feeling of fully being ourselves. The need to have everyone like us will be replaced by the exhilaration of discovering that we are attracting like-minded individuals into our lives—people who like us because they understand and appreciate the truth of who we are. We free ourselves from trying to twist into shapes that will fit the spaces provided by others' limited understanding and gain a new sense of freedom, allowing us to expand into becoming exactly who we're meant to be. And in doing what we know to be right for us, we show others that they can do it too. Cocreating our lives with the universe and its energy of pure potential, we transcend limitations and empower ourselves to shine our unique light, fully and freely
Knowing Our Heart's Desire
Jealousy is one of the toughest feelings we come up against in our lives. There is not much worse than this aching sense that somehow life has been unfair to us, while amply rewarding someone else. It's even worse if that someone else is present in our daily lives, making it difficult for us to get the space we need to feel and heal our pain. We may be jealous of a sibling, a dear friend, or even famous personalities. We may even face the challenge of feeling jealous of our spouse, our child, or one of our parents. Whatever the case, we can normalize our experience by understanding that, as painful as it is, jealousy is a common human feeling.
Nevertheless, it is important that we not revel in our jealousy for too long, feeding it with inner talk or gossip with others. If we do, we run the risk of losing ourselves to its negative power. Jealousy has something good to offer us, though, and that is information about our own heart's desire. When we are jealous of certain people, we want what they have, and if we are to be conscious, we must acknowledge that. In this way, we discover what we want for ourselves, which is the first step to getting it. It may be a certain kind of relationship or a career. Whatever it is, it is possible that we could create it for ourselves, in our own lives, if we are able to honor our own desires.
Of course, there are times when we cannot heal our jealousy in this way, and then the lesson may be about acceptance and the understanding that our path is different from the paths of those around us. It may be hard to see now, but perhaps it will eventually be clear why our life has taken its particular path. In the end, the best cure for jealousy is the recognition that the life we have is full of its own meaning and beauty, utterly unique to us—a gift that could never be found in the life of another.
Seeing the Illusion
The Secret of Surrender
Most of us were raised and live in a culture that emphasizes the ideals of independence and control. The general idea is that we are on our own and we don't need any help from anyone else, and if we are really successful it's because we are in complete control. However, true lasting success comes only with surrender, which is the opposite of control. We cannot accomplish anything truly great on our own, without any help, and the idea that we can is an illusion that causes most of us a great deal of suffering. Surrender comes when we see that illusion and let go of trying to attain the impossible. Surrender can then be seen as a great strength rather than a weakness.
Even small moments of surrender are powerful indicators of how different our lives could be if we would only let go. We've all had the experience of extending huge amounts of effort and energy to reach a particular goal only to realize that we can't make it happen after all. At the moment of letting go, realizing that we need to ask for help or simply release our agenda entirely, a profound feeling of relief may rush over us. This warm, open sensation is the essence of surrender, and if we didn't feel that we didn't really let go. But it is never too late to let go, even of things in the past that didn't work out the way we wanted them to, because surrender is always an option in every moment of our lives.
When we finally do surrender, our goals actually become possible, because the act of surrender is, in essence, asking for the help we need. This help may come in the form of other human beings or unseen helpers such as angels or inner guides. It may also come in the form of shifting circumstances, the small miracles that we call grace.
Reviving A Community
Ever since our ancestors could first communicate, we have gathered to share our stories. We have passed along creation tales and tragic stories of love lost. We have repeated accounts of real heroism and simple stories of family history. When our forebears lived closer to the land and to each other, the practice of storytelling was imbued with ritual and occasion. Members of the tribe would often gather around the fire to hear their genealogy recited aloud by an elder or master storyteller. Listeners could track how their own lives, and the lives of their parents, interwove with the lives of the other tribe members, as everyone's ancient relatives once played out similar life dramas together.
As a custom, some cultures' storytellers repeat the same tale over and over because they believe that each time you hear it, you come to the story as a different person and view the plot and characters in a new light. Hearing the story over and over is a way to gauge where you have been and where you are now on your path of personal evolution. It also helps the younger generation learn the stories so that they can pass them to forthcoming generations.
When we hear others tell stories, we can laugh at their humorous adventures, feel the thrill of exciting encounters, see parts of ourselves in them, and learn from the challenges they face. Though most of our formal traditions of storytelling are lost, it does not mean we have to be without. We can begin new practices in our own families of listening to one another, of honoring our own journey, and witnessing the journeys of those around us. We can revive the fireside communal by gathering around the campfire or hearth with family and friends, sharing in stories. By building new practices of storytelling, we give ourselves and the ones we love an opportunity to draw ever closer in our shared human experience.
A Glimpse Of Perfection
Living A Day In Grace
Grace is always with us. It flows like a river through our lives, artfully reminding us that there is magic and power beyond what our eyes can see. At times we catch its subtle beauty, like during chance meetings, near misses, and insights that seem to come from nowhere. Other times we experience grace in all its powerful surety such as when a job or relationship comes to an end. Though we may forget that this is grace at work too, it is indeed influencing our lives, helping us to move forward and take the next step. Grace exists in all situations, in every moment, yet all too often we may overlook its presence.
Imagine how it would feel to live an entire day in grace, to fully appreciate that your day is unfolding in absolute perfection. Whereas usually you might miss the magic in ordinary events and interactions, on this day you would recognize them all as little miracles. Perhaps you could begin with your first deep breaths in the morning, becoming aware that there is an abundant supply of air for you to breathe. Your lungs know just how to carry oxygen to your blood, and your blood knows where to carry it from there. This is grace at work. You might appreciate the brilliant sunshine, the warm summertime rain, or the possibilities for learning that greet you at every turn. You might notice the ease with which you do your job or laugh with a close friend. These things are also grace. Even laying your head down at the end of this day and resting in the stillness of night is grace.
With each opportunity you give yourself to enjoy this current of benevolence, you may discover a deeper peace. Your faith may strengthen and your heart may open. You might begin to wonder if struggle is really all that necessary after all. By living this one day in grace, you might open the door to many more.
Under The Hood
Importance Of Looking Deeper
It's easy to get caught up in examining our actions instead of really deeply examining ourselves. This can be deceiving because our actions may be very spiritual—we meditate, are nice to people, take care of ourselves and others—and yet, we may not be penetrating to the issues below the surface. It's as if we've washed and shined the surface of our car without taking the time to check under the hood. We may appear to be in great shape, but if we aren't engaging in the deep, inner work of self-examination, the chances are good that we are not deeply aware of the real substance of our lives.
We live in a very appearance-oriented, externally focused world, so it makes sense that we place a lot of value on how our lives look, sometimes to the detriment of noticing how our lives really feel. When we get too caught up in what we are doing and lose track of our core, we sometimes begin to feel dissociated, as if we are not fully awake, alive, and grounded. This is a sure sign that it's time to engage in the hard work of going deep within to rediscover the foundation of our lives. Without the substance that comes from looking at ourselves deeply, and working through the difficult things we find, our spiritual lives can start to feel hollow or shallow, as if there's nothing at the center holding it all together.
Of course, the peace that comes with meditation and spiritual practice is an essential part of the whole picture of our development, but it serves us best in conjunction with the less settling, more chaotic work of digging around below the surface to see what needs to be healed, owned, or released. Then our actions are more than just an attempt to keep everything in control, looking pretty and nice. Fueled by the energy of a life in transformation, they become powerful expressions of courage and faith, further inspiring our own inner work and that of those around us.
Breaking Family Ties That Bind
When we really examine our fears about something, we sometimes notice that the fear we have is not based on our own experience. Often, if we trace our fear back to its source, we find that one of our parents may have handed it down to us. For example, your mother or father may have had an intense fear of lack of money, stemming from their own life experiences. If that fear was not resolved by the time you came into the picture, chances are you inherited it. Meanwhile, you may have no actual experience of lacking money, so being fearful doesn't make sense, and it may even block you from doing certain things you want to do.
Keeping in mind that your parents were only trying to protect you, and that most of the errors in judgment they made were made with the best intentions, it might be time to release this fear symbolically. You cannot resolve someone else's fear for them, but you can decide to let go of it on your own behalf. Whether your parents are still alive or not, it is best to do this in a symbolic way, using visualization and, if you like, ritual. One simple visualization involves inviting your parent to sit across from you in your heart space and sharing your desire to move on from this fear, letting them know that you will not carry it anymore. You may be surprised at the response you get, because it's possible they will be proud of you, grateful, and proud of your courage.
The more we do this deep inner work with our fears, the better we will be able to parent our own children without burdening them with fears that don't belong to them. Some of us will do as much of this work as we can before we become parents, while others will be working on this even as our children become adults. Either way, the effects will be felt, because once we break our ties to the fears of the past, our children's ties to those fears are greatly weakened, so it's important to remember that it's never too late.