New beginnings don’t have to be big to affect a true change of life’s course. My move to Italy was of the major variety. In no way was it a rash decision, yet, however carefully planned it was, I knew I was throwing the metaphorical dice with the universe, and saying “I’m willing to shake things up.” Boy did I shake things up. As wonderful as the change has been, my reference points (a.k.a. my comfort zone) changed dramatically, and I often find myself grappling to feel grounded and steady on my feet.
If you’re considering a major cultural and geographical change, be prepared for the exhilaration of the newness and “bigness” of the change, and then settle in for a steady stream of new beginnings.
As New Year’s Day approaches, I contemplate the gift the Universe provides us in each moment – the ability to begin again. For me, like many other people, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the beginning of a new year, and the urgings from my inner critic that I’d better shape up. Dutifully I journal my resolutions, and I take some initial steps. Yet, within weeks or days, my resolve falls prey to old conditioning, and I feel as though I’ve once again tricked myself into a cycle of futile self-improvement. Self-recriminations emerge, and I fall into the wheel of Samsara, often called “the wheel of suffering.”
Then, I remember that the ability to begin again does not rest exclusively with the advent of the New Year. And, I don’t have to drag around my stories about the past, and remain imprisoned by an identity crafted by layers upon layers of conditioning. Each moment gives me the opportunity to reorient myself, and start anew.
Everyone’s journey is unique, so I don’t presume to prescribe a “how to” to anyone else. I believe much of the mess the world is already in is due to countless fights and insistence on the right “way”. With that disclaimer I share with you the lessons that seem most relevant to me as I learn to begin again.
Quit trying so hard to find THE answer to enlightenment.
My pesky left brain insists, rather desperately, on nailing the formula for “getting it right” and therefore earning my ticket into the country club of peace and unending good feelings. Ha! I keep falling for this, but I’ve come to realize the following…the more I search, and the more I strive, the more elusive peace and truth is. A prideful, intellectual pursuit of truth has led me, again and again, to a state of supreme frustration. Dare I trust that I can allow truth to come to me?
Krishnamurti said that “truth is a pathless” land, and cautioned again relying on techniques. Not doing something to reach enlightenment seems so counter to everything I’ve ever been taught in my religious upbringing. Simply shining the light of awareness on the activity and contents of my mind might very well be the most helpful thing – and doing so without judgment.
I have a pretty good sense of humor, but when it comes to the state of my soul, I am WAY too serious. When did I start believing that my search for my life’s path and communion with the sacred had to be so heavy? Perhaps it was the 9+ hours in a Southern Baptist church every week growing up. The ministers did a solid job of convincing me I was born marred and with the cards heavily stacked against a sinner like me. I was scared into submission and I adopted some pretty heavy beliefs – which were effective in establishing a inner judge that worked to keep me in line, and to keep my head held in shame.
I’m learning that all this seriousness is simply a story that resides in my head, and I do believe God, the Universe, or whatever you call the supreme force that infuses life, is playful, and wants me to lighten up, and let go.
Trust the still, small voice inside.
I believe this voice isn’t the dialog of our chatty and insistent left brains. All too often I’ve believed if a thought popped into my head, it must be true. In fact, I’m learning most of what presents itself in the form of thought is neurotic and off the mark – again, a story-telling machine that is the product of my conditioning. In fact, I’m still amazed at how often I follow the guidance of my judgmental left brain, only to find out its advice was not only wrong, but severely off the mark. Our non-verbal right brains, which sense things holistically and intuitively, may very well be the still, small voice that is ready to guide us.
Consider this…what in each us tells our hearts to pump, our lungs to breathe, and our wounds to heal? Surely we aren’t consciously commanding our miraculous bodies with our left brains for these functions. Whenever I contemplate this pretty incredible self-sustaining energy, I am heartened to remember that a force is waiting to assist all of us, if we just get out of the way, and trust “it” to do its job. Maybe this is what real faith is about, and not some mental conversation or affirmation that we’re formulaically following.
Live the unique expression of life that you are.
I’ve spent too much time trying to copy some supposedly enlightened spiritual leader or guru. By doing so, I’ve been negating the unique package in which life has chosen to manifest itself. I’ve been a prisoner to an idea of what I’m supposed to do and be in order to be accepted and “safe”. I’ve realized, also, that I’ve been more interested in conforming to established rules and norms, rather than venturing into really being alive, and seeing where that will take me. Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book The Four Agreements, speaks to this quite profoundly:
Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive – the risk to be alive and express what we really are. Just being oneself is the biggest fear of humans. – Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements (available at Amazon.com)
Let go, and let truth come to you.
This continues to be the hardest of lessons for me. I play so many tricks on myself, pretending I’ve surrendered or let go, when in fact my ego has done a sleight of hand, pretending I’m getting out the way. True surrender and true letting go doesn’t insist on an outcome. Oh how I’ve kidded myself in this regard, only to realize I’m still doing something to get something.
When I am most caught up in fear is when I try the hardest to control things. I become deathly afraid that, if I let go and trust the flow of life, I’ll be smacked hard with of good dose of “I told you so.” Yet, I can cite many experiences of how, when I’ve relaxed my stubborn grasp on the steering wheel of life, something loosens up and “things” happen – most often for the better.
If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself stumbling over this lesson, over and over again. Your inner judge will be eager to jump in, and berate you back into submission and to its counsel. Pick yourself up and remember you can begin again. I’ve had a lifetime of conditioning, and it doesn’t let go overnight.
I close with this YouTube Alan Watts video. On days when I feel my trust in life waning, or when I feel in need of encouragement to begin again, I let his words sink in.
I wish you well on your individual journeys.