Happy Monday all! I am back from the wonderful woods and still digesting the beauty of the week. Instead of rushing and posting my immediate impressions, I am going to let them marinate a few more days and see what comes out through the week. So for today I am posting a portion of a note I sent out as an email circular last year. It somehow felt like the right moment to revisit it. If applied, there is some valuable practical wisdom below which can change your life for the better, or at least help you to see that it needed no changing, aside from your perspective. Enjoy!
What we think we know, what we are certain of, is already passed away. We have passed through it. It needs no maintenance. Certainty is a hollow construction. We can let it go and continue growing. Nothing is lost. The unknown is the home of the real. The deepest truth is found, unspoken, in the empty tension between the poles of paradox. Contradiction is balance, albeit broad – a balance beyond perception, perhaps; but by exercising faith in life, we can see this balance at work everywhere – all around and within us. By acknowledging this balance, and by living this faith, we can grow in courage, wisdom and willingness, resting only long enough to gather breath for the next step – deeper into the mystery, forward toward the source.
Every outward journey is an inward journey. All movement is toward our home, a blinding abyss of transcendent stillness. If we are uncomfortable in this space it is due only to our conditioning, our habituation. The beauty of life is that we can consciously free ourselves from these limiting attitudes. We can transform ourselves. We all have the gift of consciousness and the freedom to choose. We are aware enough now to see that life has filled us with so many limiting conditions and habits, and we are strong and wise enough to recondition ourselves with more beneficial principles. We can choose to embrace the mystery of life and free ourselves from the need to know. This is when we are granted real sight, far beyond our eyes or the horizon. Herein we find another paradox, as always, in perfect balance; the more we surrender, the more we are granted.
But don’t expect a moment. It’s a process – full of moments. Ultimately, there is only the one; now is forever – and we can never hold on to it. “Ok, James,” I can hear you thinking, “thanks for your philosophizing, but what am I supposed to do with this?” Well, I am with you – philosophy can’t do anything. I am not all that interested in philosophy – not as I once was. What I am most interested in now is the practical application of living wisdom – in regular, old (though ever-new) daily life.
So how do we use the power of our word? How do we use our intention? Although we have discovered that unconscious forces govern our thoughts, feelings and behaviours much of the time, we don’t need to feel bad about this, nor frightened. Instead, we can be grateful for our awareness that we have an unconscious. Express that gratitude, out loud or in your own silent dialogue. We can do it right now. This is exercising our gift of consciousness – with intention. Furthermore, we can catch ourselves upholding limiting beliefs through unconscious self-talk: “Oh, I can’t do that…I’m not _____ enough.” We say it, and we make it true; the power of our word, fencing us in, blindly. But our awareness weakens these old patterns; it is in the nature of a mistake to disappear once discovered. Why not try flipping that story around, consciously? “I am strong enough to accomplish anything.” Say it again.
What is this but another expression of the placebo effect? It is a well-tested and documented phenomenon and yet it seems that few explore the depths of the mechanism beneath, which allows it to function. Consciousness. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? We decide. In the simplest terms possible, this is the gift of life: we are free to choose. In truth, the glass is both half-full and half-empty, and we have the power to create our experience of reality. The real gift cannot be seen with our eyes, and it has nothing to do with the glass nor whatever it may be half-empty or half-full of.
The nature of our consciousness is malleable, infinitely creative and highly suggestible. Try telling yourself you love yourself. Do it now. It may feel funny. At first, it may not even feel completely true. But do it every day for a month. Many times. Write it down. Repeat it. Drill it into yourself. Feel the change in your life. Continue playing with this power and watch your confidence soar – fake it until you make it. Tell yourself, ‘the search is over’. This is powerful. One day it will be true for you – I promise. Feel gratitude for this gift. Exercise it. Be grateful for your self-awareness and watch it grow. IT WORKS! Anyone can do it and it’s completely free! Your mind will try to tell you that this is not working, that you’re not cut out for this, that it’s a waste of time – but this is merely a defensive reaction to its loosening grip over you, the mind fighting for control the only way it can. Eventually you will recognize these moments as nothing more than echoes of former ways of thinking. Exercise patience and persistence – what have you really got to lose? This is a failure-free experiment.
We can take control of our lives, and no longer be swayed by the myriad voices of the world. Of course, this can only be taken as far as the inner voice, still and silent, when the time comes to surrender once again. But now surrender is intentional. Informed. The paradox here is that total control leads eventually back to total surrender. Always in balance. But one step at a time is all we need to manage – slowly, slowly – gradual expansion and patient integration. There is, of course, no obligation to do any of this work, but we can choose to consciously join the trajectory of evolution – also known as life. It’s happening with or without our active participation.
Now that we are aware of this ‘river of life’, we can choose to: a) swim against the current; b) grope for branches on the banks; c) let go and roll with it; or d) even swim with the current, at times, when we can sense its course. But we must continue to live in awareness. The wild and lazy mind desperately wants to find some rule of life to apply as a blanket solution to every situation – to simply ‘set it and forget it’. But life is not a Ronco product. Every moment is unprecedented and calls for new and different responses. An appropriate response in one instance could be wildly inappropriate (and potentially dangerous) ten minutes later in a slightly different context. Much of this is common sense, of course, but the further we journey, the more we develop, our faculty for finer discernment needs sharpening. This takes discipline.
And the more discipline we exercise, the more freedom we can enjoy. Balance. But only inner discipline counts here. In every action we perform, we can ask ourselves what our intention is. To impress? Do we want credit? What for? Is there anything that any one of us can take full credit for? Investigate. We can examine ourselves and discover all we will ever need to see. Do we work harder in front of others, or alone at home? Are we more interested in expressing ourselves or being heard? Which is more important? There is a subtle but vital distinction here. Consider it.
Ideas are inert. Knowledge itself is limp. Imposing stories upon people is ultimately useless. But we can activate our understanding, with love and expanding compassion, allowing the power of our word – the very force of life itself – to ripen into living wisdom. Consider the relationship between belief and behaviour – it’s a two-way street. We can chip away at either side; our work is open to two paths of approach, both headed for the centre. We need not try to transform others. We can simply do our work and display whatever treasures life grants us. With purity of heart, clarity of mind, and strength of will, we can humbly shine.
So be a beacon. Be the star you are – a conduit channelling light into the world. But always remember: the work starts on the inside – fruit is not grown from the skin inward. And it can be sloppy at times. So be forgiving, with yourself and everyone else. We may appear a mess once in a while, but this is the nature of growth – the nature of healing – and we are complete at every point, in process. Embrace it.
Although some of this seems complicated, I assure you it arises from and returns to perfect simplicity. Life is indeed a beautiful gift – more colossal, more intricate, and more interconnected than the mind will ever fathom. There is nothing we need to figure out. It’s all taken care of. So if any of this feels too far out of reach, don’t worry, just breathe. And pay attention. Oscar Wilde very wisely said that “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.” Although I care deeply for life, and explore it meticulously, I realize that taking it, or ourselves, too seriously is most definitely a mistake. Please save yourself the trouble. This may be the best lesson I am learning.