Friday, March 24, 2006

03/24/06, The Ten Things

Those of you who read much here have already come across the following, in one form or another. But, here they are, all grouped together like the ten commandments.

The first thing is: Intention not Outcome. Now, we are used to dismissing the importance of intention and emphasizing outcome. “The road to hell,” as you well know, “is paved with good intentions.” And, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Intention, in our book, means meaning to do something. Winning means actually getting it done.

We all know that meaning well doesn’t mean anything. We all know it doesn’t matter what you intend, it matters what you do. We all know you can’t eat intentions. We all would like to live in a world where intention is all you need to get by. Where we could say to our boss, “Oh, I intended to come in to work today, but somehow wound up at the golf course.” But, we do not live in that world, and intention does not rank very high in the world in which we do live.

That’s because in the world in which we do live, doing is everything, and intention is understood exclusively as meaning to get things done without having any necessary connection to actually doing them. So, for me to have any chance with you with the “Intention not Outcome” suggestion, you’re going to have to shift from a doing, achieving, accomplishing, getting things done perspective to a being perspective. Intention, as I am using the word, is not concerned with “what,” but with “how.” It is not about what you mean to do in the world, but how you mean to be.

All your lives long you have been directed toward the what. The question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” isn’t about being at all. It is about doing. The proper answer is “A doctor.” Or, “An airline pilot.” Or, “A teacher.” Or, “An astronaut.” We would never say, “Compassionate. I want to be compassionate when I grow up.” Or, “Kind.” Or, “Just.” Or, “Trustworthy.” Or, “Peaceful.”

All our lives long, we are trained for the “what,” not the “how.” We take courses to prepare us for what we want to do, not for how we want to be. And, too much of the focus on the “what” is about money. What we really want to be when we grow up is wealthy. What we really want to be is financially secure and retired by 45. And, then what? Ah, then we will travel and enjoy spending money.

Our entire orientation is about doing, having, getting, acquiring, amassing, going, achieving, succeeding, conquering, winning. And, we come to college, and pursue graduate degrees, to hone our skills, and master the techniques, of conquest and domination. We will prevail. We are empty, hollow people, armed with the power to prevail. There is nothing more pitiful in all the world. Or appalling.

How can we live all our lives and miss the heart of the whole operation? How can we live all our lives and think life is about the external matters of what we eat, and drink, and put on, and what clubs we belong to and what sailboats and summer homes we own? How can we live all our lives in the service of the “what” and not the “how”? How can we live all our lives and think it is about Doing and not Being?

I’d bet you $20, if I still did that kind of thing, that in all the courses you have taken, from kindergarten to this very day, you have not had one course devoted to connecting you with the heart of life, with your heart, and soul, and self. I know the church hasn’t done it. The church has done everything it can to disconnect you from your heart, soul, and self. The church has told you that you are sinful, and have to disappear, and be born again, and let Jesus run things from here on out, and let someone else tell you what to do.

But, there is a spirit within you that resists the process. There is something within that knows. There is a voice that will not be silent, that will not go away. That protests every shift you make away from the “how” and toward the “what.” There is hope for us all. And, the hope is that we will wake up. And pay attention, And be aware. Aware of what? Aware of the resistance, the protests, the pleas of the voice within. Aware of the orientation, the compass reading, the landmark, the beacon, the direction, the impetus, the organizing principle, the core, the heart, the focus, the determination, the identity around which YOU coalesce. I’m interested in what you mean by, with, and through the life you are living. Who and how do you want to be, intend to be?

Here’s a little exercise for you. If you were going to disappear on us in the next thirty seconds, but wanted to leave behind some symbolic thing or object, something that would capture the essence of you and remain with us as a reminder of who and how you already are and, more importantly, intend to be, what would it be? What would you leave behind as the symbolic, essential you? What pops into mind?

Now, here’s the next part of the exercise. You have to live consciously, deliberately, intentionally in ways which express this symbolic, essential you, which is your essence, your core, your “intention,” throughout your life. What does “this,” whatever you are doing, or being asked to do, or thinking about doing, have to do with “that,” your center, your heart, your YOU? How does your life exhibit your intention? How is your essence, your essential core, exhibited in what you might verbalize as your intentions for your life? How is your intention served by your intentions?

You don’t think successful living—you don’t think a life well lived—is about packing around yourself all the accoutrements of success do you? Wealth, power, possessions, influence? You aren’t thinking that if you look successful enough you will, in fact, be successful, are you? You aren’t here to figure the quickest way to wear the right clothes, and drive the right cars, and be seen with the right people, are you? You haven’t bought into the cultural conviction that if it looks like a successful duck, and walks like a successful duck, and quacks like a successful duck, it IS a successful duck, have you?

Which, luckily enough, leads smoothly into the second thing. Which is the foundation of success. If you get this down, you will have it ever so made. It is absolutely, fundamentally, unquestionably, undoubtedly, indubitably, the single most important thing you can ever do for yourself and others.

The second thing is: Learn the difference between a tool and a prop. Tools express, exhibit, reveal, disclose, unfold, unveil, serve, and make known your YOU in the world. Props merely create an image. Props help you look like a successful duck. You have to know what is a tool and what is a prop, and spend your time with, and your money on, the tools, and let the props go. That’s it. That is all there is to it. That is the key to successful living. It is a tool, or a prop? That’s all you ever have to know. Of course, to know that, you have to know YOU. You have to know your heart, your core, your intention in order to know what tools you need to unfold, express, become YOU in the world.

What do we need to be who we are? We need enough money, to be sure, but don’t think that we need all the money we can acquire. We only need enough money to be who we are. After that, money becomes a trap, a prop, keeping us from serving the cause of heart in the world. What are the tools that enable us to be who we are?

The third thing is: Having it all figured out, having the answers, won’t do anything for you. You still "have to solve your own problems each day for the rest of your life" (Sheldon Knopp). You’re still going to have to get up and do what needs to be done. You cannot design a life worth living. You can only live a life worth living. No one lives a life worth living by design. You can’t draw it up and then step into it. You can only live from your heart one day at a time.

Do you have what it takes to walk the path with heart? Do you have what it takes to pick yourself up and dust yourself off, and get back on the path with heart? Can you do the grub work day in and day out as an expression of who you are, when it doesn’t seem to be paying off, and when it doesn’t seem to matter, and what good is it doing, and what difference does it make, and who cares whether you do it or not? Can you be YOU in the world no matter what? Can you play it out all the way to the end? Without having to make it work for you? Can you understand that the boon, the blessing, the payoff is being you without having to have anything to show for it? Being you whether you have anything to show for it or not?

The fourth thing is: Who knows better than you what is right for you? Who are you going to trust with everything on the line? Who are you going to trust to help you put things back together when you blow it with everything on the line? Where are you going to go to establish and maintain connections with, and reconnect with, heart, and soul and self?

The fifth thing is: Sit with it. Sit with it. Sit with it. We have the idea that we have to solve it. The truth is that we have to sit with it. We have to spend time with it. We have to get to know it. We have to allow it to know us. What’s “it”? Whatever is in your way. Whatever is blocking you. Whatever is keeping you awake nights; making you jittery, anxious, angry, afraid, depressed. Whatever is “not right” about your life. Whatever is making you “out of sorts.” What are the conflicts that are making you crazy, tense, stressed-out? Sit with them; sit with the conflicts. Sit with the questions, the uncertainty, the doubt, the fear, the not-knowing. Sit with the feeling that you have to know and yet don’t know. The feeling that you have to have it figured out by bed time.

Who are you going to marry? Where are you going to live? What will you do to earn a living? How will you afford the life you aspire to? What are you going to do about your parents, or your children, or your spouse, or your heart attack, or your malignancy? What’s gong to happen and what are you going to do in response? All of that, and more, is “it.” Sit with it. Sit with it. Sit with it. BE with it. Make room for it. Spend time with it. Welcome it. Say “hello” to it. Sit with it. BE with it. Let it be, because it is.

The sixth thing is: In the Star Wars’ epic, Yoda is a highly advanced spiritual being who lives in a hole in the ground. If you can understand that, there is very little else that you need to know.

The seventh thing is: We can imagine a better world that we can live in. How well we handle the pain of that discrepancy will go a long way toward determining the character and quality of our life, and the legacy we leave behind.

The eighth thing is: We live to have the advantage, gain the advantage, get the advantage, exploit the advantage, maintain the advantage, parlay the advantage into an ever greater advantage. What’s the real advantage of the advantage? How does living to have the advantage screw everything up? What would it mean to live without having an eye out for the advantage? Or better, perhaps, to know that the true advantage is to be free from having to have the advantages?

The ninth thing is: When we try to gather the boon unto ourselves we miss the point that the gift, the genius, the talent is for everyone. Our genius is not our own. Our genius is for everyone. We live to share the boon.

The tenth thing is: The task is to be true to ourselves AND do right by one another. To be a self in relationship with other selves.

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