Last week I wrote about the importance of not-knowing, of hanging out in the mysterious and disorienting space between the person you have been and the person you are becoming.
At times like that it’s essential to wake up to purpose, and I don’t mean the kind of life purpose that we can wear like a top hat and cane as we soft-shoe our way to prosperity. No, I mean the kind of purpose that is emergent, mysterious, utterly our responsibility yet utterly beyond our control.
I believe we are each both garden and gardener in our life, but we are not the garden or the gardener. In other words, while we are each unique participants in the dance of creation, we are also inseparable from every other participant in that dance. Everything I do in the garden of my life affects and is affected by what you do in yours and vice versa. What’s more, somehow there is a collective garden and a collective gardener, though we appear to be light-years away from conscious, let alone skillful, participation at that level.
If this is true, the way we conceive of and conduct business is of the utmost importance for ourselves, our children, our neighborhoods, and our planet. The choices we make each day shape not only our personal legacies, but also our cultural, environmental, and political legacies. Yet too often, I fear, we draw back from this realization and all that it implies because we cannot tolerate the contrast between our responsibility (HUGE) and our control (tiny).
Let’s stop doing that right now. Let’s step up and start tending to the seeds of purpose within our hearts and souls and within the hearts and souls of our communities of interest.
Begin by being response-able
Ask yourself: “In what ways–no matter how small–can I tend the garden that I am and to the garden that I am part of (my community, my relationships, my industry or profession)? Make a list (keep it short), then do one thing every day. Here are some examples:
- Tithe 10% of your income to causes that you really care about. Don’t wait until you have more money, just do it.
- Learn to tell the truth without brutalizing the other party. (Fred Kofman’s Conscious Business audio program will teach you how to do this.)
- Look at your practices and habits, and ask yourself: what kind of reality am I generating by living this way? If you are living on a diet of energy bars (guilty!), perhaps taking time to make a salad or cook some veggies would put you more in touch with the earth, at a cost of 15 minutes a day.
- Love and respect are not feelings; they are actions. If your relationships are under-nourished, decide now to feed them with awareness, attention, and commitment. Review your outstanding commitments (implicit and explicit). Respectfully renegotiate any that you cannot fulfill.
- When doubtful, afraid, or confused, pause. Breathe. Connect to whatever it is that you hold to be of transcendent value. Then ask yourself, “If I truly believed that my action could bring more light to the world, what would I do now?” Don’t be surprised if the answer is small and simple. Just do it.
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of being jaded and ironic. The world doesn’t need more hipness; it needs our loving commitment and wide-awake attention.
- I’ll say it again, tithe. Putting your money where your heart is makes a great antidote to cynicism and invites gratitude. The more you give, the more you will understand how much you have.
- Practice appreciating others. Allow yourself to marvel at the many ways we move in the world. No need to pretend we’re all perfect; while that may be true in the absolute sense, in the manifest realm we’re all really pretty funny. We don’t have to be cynical to laugh.
- Make a list of your chronic complaints–the beliefs you hold about why your life and work can’t be different, that are so ingrained, you hardly even know you hold them. (Tip: ask a co-worker, spouse, or friend to clue you in.) Then look for evidence that you’re mistaken.
Give up magical thinking
Yes, the world needs loving commitment, but we can’t heal or deal effectively by romanticizing ancient wisdom, retreating to suburban Pleasantvilles, or lounging in bubble baths while we burn incense and listen to chanting.
Put magic to work. Unpack the symbols and rituals that speak to you; explore the interpretations and implications of the images you find significant. Journal, dance, draw, and talk about what you discover. Then put your insights to work in the world.
Cultivate a loamy seedbed for yourself (go ahead, have a bubble bath). But if you don’t get out in the sun, the rain, and the wind, you won’t grow. If you seek comfort and avoid discomfort, you’ll stunt your growth. Some ways to cultivate character:
- Walk to work, even in the rain
- Get up 30 minutes early to pray or meditate for the wellbeing of the world.
- Turn off the TV and volunteer five hours a week to the cause of your choice.
- Practice listening thoroughly to others before speaking your point of view.
The point is not to endure discomfort for discomfort’s sake, but for the freedom you gain when comfort is no longer a limiting factor in how you show up or serve.
Tend the soil
[How can] a tiny seed create a huge tree? Seeds do not contain the resources needed to grow a tree. These must come from the medium or environment within which the tree grows.… In a sense, the seed is a gateway through which the future possibility of the living tree emerges. Peter Senge, et al, in Presence, Human Purpose and the Field of the Future.
As Peter Senge and company point out, no matter what kind of seed is growing in you, it can’t grow into a tree without nutrients. Here are some ways to enrich the soil that nourishes the seed of purpose.
- Meditation can turn the garbage in our psyches to compost. (See Holosync – it’s a powerful tool to develop the neurological components of increased awareness. It has made meditation the rule rather than the exception in my daily practice.
- Maybe your physiology could use a shot in the arm (aerobic exercise, anyone? Pilates?).
- Or perhaps what’s most wanting is connection, the exchange of attention, caring, even touch with other human beings. Join a book club. Take meals to the sick. Say hello to the checker in the supermarket.
If you think you don’t have time for these things, consider them spiritual overhead, as essential to your work as paying the rent.
Let yourself shine
In the words of Marianne Williamson,
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small in the world doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
When you catch yourself feeling really good about yourself (and I hope that happens often), pause for a second and imagine that whatever it is that you are feeling good about is not about the little you, but about the big ALL.
When you’re feeling bad about yourself, pause and wonder about the mysterious workings of the world. If somehow your suffering or discomfort or errors were the compost for all of life, could you live with that?
Keep it simple, but don’t over simplify
Gardening, life, work–these are all vast endeavors. Yet in any given moment there is only one weed to pull, one breath to take, one thing to be done.
Anyone of my suggestions could be a perfect fit or utter hogwash depending on your circumstances and how you interpret what I have written. If you’re a working mom or dad getting by on 6 hours of sleep, getting up 30 minutes early to meditate for the good of the planet is probably not the best move. This is not intended to be a one-size-fits-all recipe for enlightened action, but a simple wake-up call, calling you back to what you already know, and calling you forward to what you are pretending you can’t see.
You don’t need to know your purpose to tend to it
Perhaps the most important thing is that you can cultivate and express your purpose without knowing what it is. Will you begin now?
The origins of Shaboom and an invitation to apply for individual coaching
The name of my company, Shaboom, is taken from a tune written and recorded by The Chords in 1954. The refrain, “Life could be a dream” captures the promise and impermanence of dreams. It calls us to be bold, visionary, and creative. It honors intuition and alternate ways of knowing. And it reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously.
It’s exactly what I want for myself and for my clients.
This fall I’m opening up my practice to five new individual clients. This is a rare opportunity to work with me at a deep level to unleash your creativity, hook up your genius, and take bold action to create your dreams. I’m interviewing prospective clients now. To learn more and apply, please click here: mollygordon.com/coaching/