People have so often been a delightful mystery for me. What makes them tick, what fires them, what gets them going in the morning, how they speak to each other.. Such an incredible diversity & richness of attitudes, opinions, habits, decisions, actions, turns of phrase.. I have often found myself (while wondering about a particular person) leaning toward them. I even check-in with myself during conversations sometimes, and see my body actually tilted in their direction. Like the tree above, standing in solitude yet leaning in the direction of the prevailing wind, I see the mirror of my own fascination & curiosity: while feeling independent & self-contained, my interest in that which is around me is out of balance with the nature of myself – with my interest in that particular self that I inhabit. Why is the grass always greener? Why is the last uncharted area of wilderness on our planet the Self? Our actual home. Are we hard-wired to stick our nose in everyone else’s business, before acknowledging and seeing our own: before acknowledging our own beauty & gifts?
So, the mystery continues.. The Catholic mystic, writer & great proponent of interfaith understanding, Thomas Merton, says this:
“Our real journey in life is interior: it is a matter of growth, deepening, and of an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts.”
I think the key here is surrender. Surrender isn’t necessarily about giving up, giving in: it’s about finding peace at last, by letting go of all restriction, constriction & ill-at-ease thoughts. Finding where home is… And where do these thoughts come from? From judgement of what is going on around us: from those relationships in which we are engaged, whether physical, emotional or mental. What right have I to judge anyone? None, of course. Yet it happens, often as a knee-jerk, reactive response – until I pick up on it.
“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” –Jiddu Krishnamurti
By learning, teaching ourselves time and time again, not to evaluate or judge another’s words or behaviour, we extend that freedom to ourselves. And as we free ourselves, we free others around us of course.
Freedom is unknown to many. Why, in this outwardly peaceful, civilised climate in the Western world, do we trap ourselves by leaning toward the drama of others’ lives & actions about whom we know nothing, and with whom we have no direct experience in relationship? Not only lean, but also resist, pulling the other way too: creating tsunami waves of malcontent in our precious inner world of peace & serenity. The very waves we are creating more of, inside, establish themselves yet more deeply in the world on the outside. By leaning this way, or that, there is constant imbalance. Yet this is only a learning experience: balance calls us, from those profound depths within, by it’s very absence.
“So divinely is the world organized that every one of us, in our place and time, is in balance with everything else.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Because balance, as Goethe points out, is the nature of Life itself: it is in our nature. Here is Thomas Merton again:
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”
Another way of putting it is this: when we lose ourselves in the distractions & drama of the world, we lose touch with our true nature. (Distraction & drama is simply an advanced form of procrastination: true-self avoidance, I call it!) And it certainly isn’t the way of personal happiness, joy, fulfillment & meaning either. As we deny that for ourselves, we deny it for others around us also. The world becomes what we see it is, each and every day.
Have you ever noticed how bad it feels inside to protest against, or to resist, something? No matter how worthy the cause may seem to be. When all of your friends, co-workers, and everyone else is doing it? It doesn’t feel good deep down; but so many people can’t be wrong, surely? Edith Wharton says: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Whenever we choose a particular direction, or roll in life, it is intimately connected – and balanced – with it’s opposite. And we are made to face this opposite externally, because it mirrors the relationship we have set up internally. So, when we choose balance, we remove the need for this duality in our inner world, and thus from the world around us. (If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself!) This is the nature of harmony. Being at peace with all of existence, acknowledging the Universal balance: treading lightly in this world.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” –Steve Jobs
I believe, with every fibre of my own being, that we are here – all of us – to bring our individual & astounding gifts into the world. We each have something SO great and worthy to offer: not, perhaps, in terms of the world’s reckoning of greatness, but in our own terms, yes, very much so. And in order to do this, we first need to find that balance that works perfectly for us (while it may well not work for another), between self-awareness & outer perception. It may be a moveable feast at times, but I personally find balance is re-invented with every step, as my own self-understanding expands: as if the tight rope is forever changing it’s thickness, texture & elasticity!… as I surrender to the the creative action of love and grace in my heart. Once this relationship is mastered, we can get on with the task of what our inner being is urging us, gently yet unstintingly, to unfold. Without distraction, without drama, without trumpet fanfares: simply, gracefully, beautifully & with humility. Humility, because there is so much greatness all around; and as we release ours, it reflects back on us with it’s true splendour.
Bring your love & hearts into the world, my brothers & sisters!