Monday, July 20, 2009

Emerson on self reliance

So, I'm getting to be on a first name basis with Mr. Emerson through my class at The Center for Spiritual Living in Ft. Lauderdale. And I can see why his concepts were so powerful especially in his day. The single most important essay he wrote was the one on Self Reliance. I created the cartoon strip above on self reliance to help drive home the point. You can click on the image to see it larger and legible. The situation described is a poignant one, how do you decide what is your genius and what is yourself making excuses for not doing something you don't want to do or maybe it's just a cheap excuse to buck authority?

Well, that's the million dollar self reliance question. I think maybe the acid test is in the results of your decisions and actions. If my inner voice tells me to do something and I follow it and in that following I am able to tap into a power greater than my own, then I know I am in the flow with my divine purpose.

Ralph's essay goes on to say, " Trust thyself." "Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of our own mind." Still he doesn't give us a clue as to what that might look like and how we might tell the difference. He is a big one for non-conformity. He says, "Whoso would be a man (I assume this is true for women as well), must be a nonconformist."

He challenges us to not do something just because it is popular or expected. He asks each one of us to look inside our heart and make our lives from within instead of from without. He also states, "What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think." I've heard that put another way by Wayne Dyer, "What other people think about me is none of my business." (This is very similar to a book published in 1988 by Terry Cole-Whittaker - What You Think of Me is None of My Business). And yet Emerson said it in more emphatic and passionate terms back in 1926 in his essay on self reliance. Some people think his essay is the best way to describe our great Nation and what made it great and how so many great people have risen from nothing to successes, no matter how you measure success.
I only hope I have the courage and inner hearing to know what this means for me, to trust my inner self even if it means non-conformity, to find the strength of character to go beyond worrying about what others think of me and enter my greatness of purpose, even if it isn't socially acceptable. I hope you too my friend can find this as well.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Our words paint a self portrait

I'm reading the Emerson Essays again and there are two things about him that strikes me. He is 1.) wicked smart and has amazing insight into the human spiritual psyche and 2.) extremely inaccessible to mere mortals that don't have a reading vocabulary at the Ph.D level. Okay maybe I exaggerate a little bit but seriously, I have to look up at least 1-2 words per page of content and most folks don't have that much patience. In a world where our President is selected based on out of context soundbites, I can't imagine the average person taking the time to read Emerson.
So I had this idea, if I could somehow reduce the essence of Emerson, or any great spiritual thinker down into a manageable soundbite then I could do a great service to the world. The great thinking inaccessible to many could be delivered over coffee with the Sunday funnies. The only problem I have is that I'm an okay writer but my drawing skills are nil to none. So here's my first attempt at a comic strip sans pictures. Think of it as a strip in search of an artist.
I love the self portrait concept and have always believed this idea that what we say of others we really reveal about ourselves, but I never said it with such eloquence and directness as Emerson, "A man cannot speak but he judges himself...he draws a portrait to the eye of his companion by every word. Every opinion reacts on him who utters it."

I've seen it in my own life time and time again. And the reason this happens is that we typically have something inside ourselves that resonates with the person we are talking about. The more emotional we are, the more resonance.
So for example a thief will suspect everyone of trying to cheat him or steal from him because that is how he thinks about the world, what can I steal or take that isn't mine. And on the positive side, a trusting soul will leave their door and heart open to others because how they are is how they see the world, full of trusting honest people.
The next time you are tempted to go on a tirade about someone or something that is happening, take heed and notice how much more you will be saying about yourself.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

You are the author of your life

During my mid-life crisis years it seems I learned a lot about myself and was able to finally put some perspective on things that had eluded me in my youth. Right around this time of my life I decide to take a pre-retirement (retiring when you are young enough to enjoy your time off) and for a year I traveled and visited places that had significant draw and opportunity for spiritual growth. The places I went to included Hawaii (for about 5 months) studying with a powerful Shaman, Findhorn Foundation Spiritual Center in Scotland for about a month, Integral Yoga Ashram in Yogaville, Virginia (just South of Charlottesville) for about 3 months and Palm Beach Florida for a month to heal my relationship with my Dad. What a blessing to have had that year, to work for a company that offered unpaid sabbaticals and to have the savings to afford me this luxury.

In the Hawaii portion of my journey I worked with about 50 other people who committed to 66 days, 22 at a time to do some very intensive introspection. One of the most powerful takeaways was an exercise we did with an assigned partner over a period of 22 days. Our task was to tell our life story every day but each day we had to change the tone of the story. So one day our assignment was tell our life story as if we were a hero in our life, the next as a victim, the next day as a fairytale, the next as a tragedy, again as a comedy, and then a drama - on and on for 22 days, 22 different stories all based on the same factual basis. We could not change any of the facts of our life, only our interpretation of those facts from these different perspectives.

What did I learn? That my life story is just that, a story. Every single rendition was true. I didn't change any of the facts but what I did change was the spin on those facts. I changed my interpretation of my life events, which is what we do each and every day. We decide each moment how we are going to perceive every event in our life and it is just that, a perception, a judgment, a spin that we put on the facts or reality of our life.

I was so sick of "my story" at the end of 22 days, 22 tellings, 22 renditions that I didn't care if I ever heard or told that story again. That was all it was, a story. Something I made up about the events that happened around me in my life. None of it was true and none of it was false, the facts just were and my story was something in my mind that reflected those facts but did not take their place or become real just because they lived in my mind. Oh but how real that story had become to me and my emotional body, how much I had invested in it, how much unhappiness it caused me, and for what purpose?

It was about as real as the fairy tales I read when I was a child. A fantasy born out of some experience or idea that has little to do with reality. So my lesson was a reinforcement of one of my favorite historical figures most famous quotes, "Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be" by Abraham Lincoln.

So what about your story, is it a drama, comedy, tragedy or a romantic novel? Remember, you are the one that gets to write it and tell it any way you want it to be.