Archive for September, 2010

Seeds

Courtesy BeginningFarmers.org

The soul is a garden.

It’s a very small space, like a tiny farm enveloped by a burgeoning city. Regardless of the hubbub outside its borders, the sowing and reaping are done, just as they always were and forever will be.

Within this sacred property, there is highly fertile soil.

Any idea can grow there.

Space is certainly limited, only a few will sprout, but whatever is planted and nurtured will bear fruit. This microscopic patch of waiting earth is the root of all we see in the world, the intangible cause of tangible effect.

The best things are embedded in us.

We have an instinctive recognition of what reflects beautiful, unmistakable truth. All of us understand these concepts with little in the way of observation or training.

Courage.

Faith.

Love.

From birth to death, these small beginnings are given a fresh opportunity to bloom in the fields of our hearts through the cycles of our lives.

Weeds make every effort to take over.

Unsavory experiences and poor influences scatter spores of negativity across our landscape. These nefarious flowers, being easier to sustain, multiply with little work.

Fear.

Doubt.

Unhappiness.

Life is about the things we allow to blossom.

What gets the sunlight of our attention?

What is fueled by the breath of our thoughts?

What is quenched by the water of our actions?

What are we doing for our seeds?

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The winding path from the cradle to the grave is fraught with challenges.

In one encounter after another, we make choices and evaluate our experiences. As we seek out the meaning behind all of our sufferings and triumphs, we come across a stark truth:

Nobody will ever fully understand us, no matter how hard they try.

Regardless of the force the exerted to pry every door open, it is impossible for someone else to completely step into the space between our ears. Even the most adept of thieves, robbing us of everything that might be taken, will find a steel vault in a dark corner that cannot be opened.

It’s unlikely, then, anyone could ever tell us what to do when we come to a crossroads. They have an idea and may be worth consulting, but ultimately we make our own decisions. (Possibly skewed by the weight we give one opinion or evidence we fail to consider, obviously.)

Stick with what you know.

Hear the forceful whisper echoing from deep within, absorb the unshakable power — and act.

Fall (or leap) when your intuition pushes you.

Go where it leads, regardless of what others may say.

Walk your own way.

It’s still your heart.

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Intention to Detail

I appreciate detail.

The human capacity to reveal and understand the minutiae of the small parts in this “big everything” stirs wonder in my brain and joy in my heart. My voracious appetite for knowledge treats a bookstore like a buffet, piling more on the plate than I can possibly ingest — and growing my library all the time.

My fascination includes the ultra simple and super complex.

I get lost in the intricacy of all sorts of unrelated topics: word choice, theoretical physics, blades of grass. To study the design of a sentence or universe or yard is to peer into another mind, to see for a moment what moves that soul.

There is purity in deep attention.

Intense focus — the kind we engage in when concentrating on the problems we yearn to solve — sifts through the unimportant and uninteresting. The outcome takes center stage, like when a tailor cuts a suit or seamstress sews a dress. Results are conceived of as a reflection of the individual. And, as such, the creation is magnificent — regardless of what anyone else says.

We often forget to account for ourselves in this way.

What matters gets lost in the shuffle of paying the mortgage or making sure we coordinate the calendar. We buzz around attempting to accomplish all we can and are unwilling or unable to infuse life with the richness everyone hopes for with “quiet desperation.”

Thus, we spend years begging to experience what we know is available.

If we’re lucky, we decide to pursue it.

We train our eyes on sharing love and expressing passion, then set about to do it every hour of every day.

For, as the craftsman knows, in works great and small:

Without intention, there is no beauty.

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We chase unnecessary standards.

Much in our world emphasizes qualifications and certifications. We spend over a decade in classrooms gathering up a series of letters or numbers in the hopes we can get into a good college. Another four (or more) years pass in study so we might string another diploma behind and walk into the “real world.”

The education system is such that combinations of initials matter more than they should. Ever met an MD with poor bedside manner while an RN displays tender compassion?

Swimming in alphabet soup, we forget what matters about ourselves and others.

Problems arise when we carry around the weight of misplaced expectations. We operate guided by principles created by someone else, a person or group on a path different than our own.

This is life chasing the popular crowd. Giving our lives over to this uncaring authority leads us everywhere except real happiness.

As a result, we are shackled in a prison far from the truth:

Each of us has unassailable worth.

We must only be willing to pursue the treasure within down dark paths and through frightening turns.

The road is, at times, as lonely as it is tiring.

It is also as powerful as it is unique.

All we’ve got to do is let go of what we think we’ve got to be.

We’d never be good enough anyway.

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Do We Have To or Get To?

Motivation is a tricky thing.

Understanding what pushes us to make a decision or carry out an action is a multi-billion — if not trillion — dollar industry. The line between psychology, advertising and high-level neurophysiology is blurring all the time as a result. Finding the proper mental triggers to pull and correct sequence is the goal of all commercials, everybody acknowledges this on some level.

Moving through life, we gloss over the reasons for our choices a lot — most are so reflexive we hardly even consider them. The way we produce results varies from person to person (and probably task to task), yet I’m confident in any instance the driving force arises from the answer to a simple question:

Is it an obligation or a privilege?

Tuesday night, I contributed to a discussion about the nature of our responsibility to God. A guy in his mid-20s and I both referred to the pressure we feel in living up to that.

“I think of it as an opportunity,” a young woman replied.

I pondered the response intermittently for about 24 hours.

Then, I found an answer. Inspired by the words of a friend, I remembered there are basically two mindsets we can have when approaching anything:

We either “have to” or “get to” — and neither is wrong.

Looking at the phrases, it’s easy to see how opposed they are: the former is weighed down and the latter is unburdened. The implication of desire is almost absent in the first and practically synonymous with the second.

“Have to” is adversarial.

By nature, it lends itself to situations where power comes into play, when one will is matched against another. I recall it used well in sports: we have to keep them from scoring. Athletes understand — even thrive — on it.

However, the statement takes on a life-or-death quality which, when carried over to day-to-day activity, leads to resentment or — in this guy’s case — paralysis. Every situation has heightened importance and making an incorrect choice seems fatal, a recipe for overanalysis and delay.

“Get to” is fortunate.

With a turn of phrase, the effort becomes a mission. The sense of duty is still there, but the tone is different. The stress is gone. And, unlike the other fragment, this can be paired readily with “want to” every single time. It follows, then, passion would accompany the labor–a wonderful development that strengthens commitment.

Either way can be used as a means to the same end.

Some people need to be squeezed.

Others prefer to be unconstrained.

What matters, ultimately, is the assigned purpose being fulfilled.

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I am a serial killer.

Over the course of thirty-plus years, I have sent a wide range of aspirations to an early death.

I corner unsuspecting thoughts and make them disappear.

Silent.

Lethal.

Ruthless.

Before I know it, what might have been is dead.

A fresh concept is cut to pieces by the blunt edge of doubt and crushing force of insecurity at least once or twice a day.

Sometimes, I even witness it.

My other side catches sight of the act late and hurries to intervene. “Hey!” I shout, “Stop! Let that live!”

All too often, I arrive on the scene to draw the chalk outline.

What if I could stop myself?

Imagine all I would accomplish if, for once, the better man would sweep in and rescue the threatened dream.

In fact, I’m fighting the battle right now.

My life is on the line.

The hero is gaining strength.

The villain is sputtering.

An important victory draws near.

Good wins today, then wrestles again with evil tomorrow.

The idea lives another day and that’s what matters.

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What You Hear When You Can’t See

Our brains are wired for sight.

Something on the order of three-quarters of the connections between neurons are built around processing imagery, whether getting it back to the occipital lobe or merging the separate angles and colors into an accurate picture. Even with such dedication, mistakes are made when miscalculations result in poor guesses. We call this an optical illusion.

What happens when we can’t see?

Other senses are heightened to superhuman levels, right?

Wrong.

Blindness allows other inputs unintended attention.

Current thinking holds the elimination of our primary sensation–vision–gives other stimuli free reign in the mind’s playground. Imagine for a moment your workload is suddenly cut back to 25%. Think you could encounter a lot you might have otherwise missed?

This is why every sound seems amplified when you’re walking in the dark.

It’s the same with us when our eyes are closed to purpose.

We are unsighted by either conscious choice or unconscious ignorance. We identify what is proper and avoid it or are flat-out unaware there is anything else. Lacking a central point to navigate by, we are lost and rudderless.

Then, the winds of doubt and fear blow us far off course.

“Do you really think you’re good enough to pull that off?”

“That looks too hard.”

“Maybe you should try something else instead.”

Clouded by the judgment of others and devoid of confidence, we are susceptible to anything that would push us in any direction. We drift from one whim to the next unguided and uninspired, forever tormented by a treasure we know exists and are unable to find. (I have sailed in this manner for longer than I care to admit.)

How can we get back on track?

Some are lucky and stumble upon the reason for our lives.

Most have to work for it.

Intent focus helps us quiet the noise and find a path wherever we are to go.

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