Thursday, March 20, 2008

Living it up

German poet and author Goethe wrote, "Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least."

Recently, I read a story about a woman in Hawaii who had never travelled from the island upon which she had lived all her life. When asked, but don't you want to see the world? She replied, "Why? Everything I need and love is right here. I catch fish, grow taro, sit in the sun, swim in the ocean, play with the grandkids, dance the hula. All the tourists work all year to spend two weeks doing what I do for free everyday."

My western mind immediately jumped to the thought, "But there must be more? More to living than just swimming in the ocean and dancing the hula."


Because I'm conditionned to believe it.

Everyday I work with people who have nothing and believe nothing is all they deserve. Most want something different, but are too afraid, or too wounded, or too tired too lost to look at what they can do differently.

Take Bill*. He's a gifted photographer. Quiet. Kind. Always has a smile. He walks around with his satchel filled with camera equipment and a laptop computer, taking photographs of the world around him. He's been at the shelter for several years. It's a 'comfortable' place for him because he knows the environment, and he has not yet had the compelling desire to let go of the alcoholism that keeps him there. But he wants to make a success of his photography. I asked him the other day if he wanted me to connect him with a photographer friend to give him some advice about how to market his photographs online. "I'm not ready," he replied.

I wonder if Bill will ever be ready. And then I realize, my ready time is not his ready time.

Awhile ago a professor of Social Work told a class I'd been invited into for a presentation, "One of your greatest challenges will be to allow clients to go at their own pace. To not leap over the table and want to shake them because they're just not 'getting it' at the pace you think they should."

Contentment in this moment often escapes me when I let go of where I'm at and focus on where I'd rather be. The art of zen in living now is to embrace where I'm at because it is a reflection of the life of my dreams that I've created now. When I am not living on purpose, not writing, not being all I'm meant to be, a fissure of unease, distress, discord ripples through my being. When I am avoiding doing what I know I want to do because I am allowing fear to hold me back, then I am not living the life of my dreams -- and I am not living on purpose.

It's up to me.

Bill may never get to ready -- I can judge his progress, judge his life, or... I can acknowledge he's doing what he's doing because that's where he's at -- and then, continue to live my life on purpose, demonstrating through my example that life is meant to be lived without fear. Life is the adventure of my lifetime. It's up to me to live it up.

The question is: Are you living it up, or living your fears?

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