Note: I am honored to have a guest post published today on Robin Easton’s blog, Naked in Eden, called, “Are Your Maps Holding You Back?” Feel free to stop by and visit!
“Let your life speak.”
“If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”
~Dogen, Zen master
One of the most important questions we can ever ask ourselves is, “What do I want?” In my role as a therapist, I often ask this question of people when I first meet them. The most common response? “I never thought about it.”
Here we are, with the moments of this precious life ticking away. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to stop and consider, “What do I really want?”
The Fallout from Not Asking
We all know what happens when we evade this question. We go along blindly, pleasing others, constructing a life that matches what we were taught to want or what we think we should want.
Until we contemplate what it is that we actually want, we bump along, patching things together, hoping the anxiety and discontent we feel will somehow dissipate.
I recently undertook an exercise in which I made a chronological list of all the events in my life having to do with my career, and the list was long. I moved from one position to another, quitting without a plan, secretly longing for the time when I would have enough money to stop working altogether.
As I looked at the list, the reason why was obvious. I had moved from fear, from views I developed from my past, from my identities – but I had not moved from my heart or my soul. I never stopped to ask myself, “What do I really want?” It was quite a revelation.
Needless to say, my approach has shifted dramatically. I have exposed the beliefs that were limiting me and befriended the ghosts of my past. I absolutely refuse to make a move unless I am clear that it is guided by clarity and truth, no matter what the consequences. My inner fire is roaring right now, and I have no idea what the future will bring.
Life is Expressed in our Actions
If we are not living according to what we really want, what are we doing? Gandhi said, “My life is my message.” If your life is your message, what is it expressing?
All we need to do is take a look at how we spend our time to determine what we actually value, what we choose to express in any moment. Try tracking where your attention goes for the next few days.
- What do you spend your time thinking about?
- What actions do you take over the course of a day?
- How do you treat other people and yourself?
When you consider what you really want and what you are actually expressing, how does it look? Are your actions aligned with fear and maintaining the status quo or with love and inner knowing?
Say you want to relate with kindness, but you find yourself snapping and stonewalling. Maybe you want freedom from a habit or addiction, but you keep doing it over and over. Perhaps you want to be at ease with yourself, yet your thoughts are incessantly critical.
Maybe you find that your actions do express your deepest heart’s desire.
Even though I longed to be fulfilled in my work, for many years, my choices were driven by fear and misconception. What occurred was far from a disaster, but it left me frustrated and dissatisfied. What I was expressing was a fraction of what I know I am capable of.
The Ultimate Commitment
As we take the courageous step into radical honesty and ask ourselves what we really want, may we be tender and forgiving. Every second of our past has brought us to this moment. We would not be here, open and willing, on the precipice of greatness, if any of it had been different.
We can play the “if only” game forever, or we can hold everything in love and commit to truth from now on. If our life is to be our message, we can:
- Become aware of fear so it doesn’t divert us;
- Identify roles and patterns that aren’t serving;
- Listen to our deepest yearnings;
- Make decisions with full awareness; and
- Follow what brings us happiness, joy, love, and true fulfillment.
This is the path that I choose. Care to join me?