Thursday, January 6, 2011

What to Do? (Part Three)

It seems that we have placed a high value on independence and self-reliance in our society.  But just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean that you HAVE to, and by trying to do everything ourselves, I believe that we are missing out.  For the most part, I have done my own decorating in my home by simply relying on my personal preferences and, again, for the most part, I am happy with my home.  I recently had a consultation with an interior designer and it was a very powerful experience. I saw things differently. I was surprised at how many areas of my house I simply had stopped seeing. The decorator not only helped me to see but she also had endless resources and ideas and, perhaps most importantly, enthusiasm for what was possible.
Another powerful benefit to relying on other’s expertise is the sense of community that one can create and the gift of allowing each individual to express their true gifts and talents. By allowing other’s to use their talents, we also free ourselves to focus on those things that are most important to us.
4.         DREAM BIG.
One of my teachers, Alberto Villoldo, taught us about dreaming and living. “We dream ourselves into being.”  I had to hear this many times before I could begin to understand the power of the words. We can only be or become who we think we can be or become. Villoldo encouraged us to create epic dreams.  It is vitally important to bring our beliefs about who we are to consciousness so that we can choose. We must create our own standards for living and our own priorities. Living according to what has been handed down to us through our culture, education, religion, etc. can only create a sense of disappointment, unless and until we make it our own. We choose.

“Don’t just do something. Sit there!”
Instead of placing such value on activity, I think it’s time for us to honor what is truly valuable. I think that it’s time to be still and quiet enough to hear our own Soul’s calling and to do this with enough frequency that we actually are in the habit of paying attention.  Only after this deep inner awareness do we act. Once we align our activity, our doing, with our truest selves, joy becomes not only possible but most probable.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What To Do? (Part Two)

In our Western society, we don’t generally pay much attention to the process of perception.  We simply perceive. For the most part, we rely on our physical senses and, while we sometimes acknowledge our intuition – ‘I just knew in my gut’ – for the most part, we are unconscious about the energy, or non-physical information, we are perceiving.  In the Shamanic tradition, perception is actually broken down into four separate perceptual states that can be consciously accessed.  Each has an animal archetype to assist in the conscious accessibility of the specific level of perception. The Shaman lives in the awareness that how we perceive directly affects our experience.

The Shaman’s Perspective: Four Perceptual States:
1.         The first level of perception is on the physical plane, which is generally the information we gather with our five senses.  The animal archetype is the Serpent.  The Serpent sheds her skin, even her eyes, reminding us to release the past and all of our beliefs that we hold about the world around us so that we can receive new information clearly and without bias. Serpent is connected to the Earth and reminds us to stay grounded and connected to Mother Earth and Nature.
2.         The next level of perception is the mental and emotional levels which are combined in the Shamanic tradition.  The animal archetype is the Jaguar.  In our Western culture, our minds and emotions have almost supreme power. We spend most of our focus and attention in the mental and emotional realms. Jaguar helps us to face our fears and encourages us to acknowledge the death that stalks us. Death, in this context, includes the end of our lives and death of our physical bodies and the daily “deaths” that we must be willing to experience in order for life to evolve. We sometimes cling to our beliefs about how things are supposed to be instead of allowing life to simply be as it is.  Our clinging creates unnecessary stress and loss of peace of mind. 
3.         Hummingbird is the animal archetype associated with hearing our soul’s call. The next level of perception invites us to recognize the wisdom of our hearts, which is distinctly different from the workings of our minds.  Hummingbird reminds us to search for and find beauty and sweetness and to drink deeply from beauty and sweetness, to take the time to recognize what each of us deems beautiful, sweet and nurturing.  It is a very personal and individual awareness that only comes from time and self-inquiry.
4.         The final level of perception is that of Spirit, in which we recognize our one-ness with God.  The animal archetype is the Eagle who allows herself to be carried by the winds of Spirit.  Less a level of active perception, the level of Spirit is a vitally important reminder of who we are in Truth. Eagle reminds us to see the big picture and to find the place of effortless effort, which becomes possible when one is resting in God.

By limiting our perception in acknowledging only the first two levels – the physical and mental/emotional – as is common to our experience in Western cultures - we place severe limits on the depth of our experiences and the potential for greater fulfillment.  When we have the added dimension of Eagle, with the ability to see the big picture, we can sometimes recognize the meaning in our activities that have gone unacknowledged in the past.  For example, much of the day-to-day activity of parenting and maintaining a household can be tedious and seeking meaning in cooking, laundry and dishes can feel quite elusive.  However, by shifting into Eagle consciousness and the level of Spirit, one may see that the day-to-day tedium is actually laying a secure foundation for our individual family members to thrive and become their Truest and most creative selves, which is for the betterment of our individual families and also for society at large.  One can sometimes feel insignificant and unimportant.  I recently helped to finish a large and complex jigsaw puzzle, only to find that one piece had been lost in the process. It was a tiny piece but left a gaping sense of incompleteness.
Paradoxically, it is important to notice the moment-to-moment details of our activities as well.  If our doing is exclusively for some future benefit or the result of an apparent “should”, our level of personal satisfaction will be minimal, if any, and could instead engender growing frustration. The most productive feeling from which to create is one of joy.  In the book “Born to Run”, Christopher McDougal spent time with a Mexican Tribe of natural ultra-marathoners.  He made many discoveries which he describes wonderfully in his book. One of the observations he made in observing several members of the tribe in a 75 to 100 mile race is that they were entirely relaxed and joyful throughout the run. They were running with smiles on their faces and were willing to stop to help fellow competitors along the way.  Joy and compassion, it seems, are powerfully energizing! Ideally we can find a balance between the big picture and ultimate result of what we’re doing and the moment-to-moment sheer enjoyment.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What To Do? (Part One)

“Don’t just sit there. Do something!”

In our society, activity is highly valued. We set goals and create resolutions, personally and professionally.  We make plans. Sometimes we create special rewards for ourselves for when we make the goal – a new outfit once 20 pounds have been dropped. (I heard it’s better to say dropped than lost, which implies a need to search for and find). At any given moment, most of us could come up with a list of things we’d like to accomplish, a list of personal “shoulds”. Many of us take time to consider this list of “shoulds”. Many of us actually write them down and feel a sense of accomplishment when we scratch something we’ve successfully completed off the list.
I’m not sure that many of us spend time considering the ultimate merit of some of our own “shoulds” and whether our own goal is in true alignment with our very personal life priorities. What is truly important? What gives richness and meaning to life? What makes an individual’s heart sing? What is the legacy that I am leaving? How will I be remembered? When I am lying in my final moments of this lifetime, what are the memories for which I will be most grateful?
My sense is that I will not thank the Lord that I maintained my goal weight. Nor will I be expressing gratitude for my net worth, or the level of my garage’s tidiness.   Here are a few things to consider:

1.         KNOW YOURSELF.
So before running off to do one’s “to do’s”, I believe that it’s fundamentally important to first become clear about true priorities. Why do we do the things we do?  Are my priorities truly mine, or are they beliefs and ideas that I picked up from my family environment, my culture, my society?  What standard are we using to assess ourselves and our own accomplishments?  There seems to be a growing malaise in our society. Perhaps we’ve lost touch with our own hearts and souls.
In order to come back into balance, both individually and as a society, I believe that we must deepen our sense of self, our inner-knowing.
In order to truly know ourselves, it is vitally important to set aside time. It seems like an odd question to even ask: Do you know yourself? That is the fundamental starting point, followed by: Are you comfortable with yourself? Could you spend a pleasant day completely alone?  Quiet times of contemplation are not necessarily encouraged in our society.  Again, we have placed great value on doing, producing, creating, on having something to show for our efforts. At the end of a quiet, contemplative day, we may be closer to our own hearts being at peace, something of immeasurable value.
I remember years ago when my daughters were five and seven years old and I was working hard to build my law practice. I had a series of meetings scheduled in Atlanta and for various reasons ended up with a completely free day. I woke up that morning and remember feeling completely lost. It had been so many years since I had only myself to take care of that I had forgotten how to do that.  It was extremely disconcerting and actually inspired me to make many changes in my life.