Finding the Present

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I didn’t want temptation. I wanted the road. My questions about life and God diminished when i was biking into new territory. My purpose became where to camp, where to find food, how to avoid angry dogs, on the collapsing distance between myself and Patagonia. There was no time for other confusions.

– Jedidiah Jenkins, To Wake the Sleeping Self

I’ve had this bookmarked for a week. Several times returning to it and another quote a few chapters earlier. Jed watches his spinning tire and wonders if it is going flat, but it’s moving so fast he cannot see the changes. “Too much movement,” he says, “and you can’t see minor changes. Until it’s too late.

I feel like the two go hand in hand.

I don’t like pain. Heck, I don’t think any of us like pain. We just handle it differently. I do my best to avoid it. Frustrated with lack of progress on one project? Start another. Worried I’ll never make it where I want to be in life? Set goals. Make plans. Focus on the future. Get to the daily routine of camping, finding food and avoiding angry dogs to make it through the day without touching the place it hurts. And it works. Sort of. Sometimes, it even gets me somewhere.

I’ve spent a lot of my life fighting for fulfillment. It’s always been just outside of reach. To be found in that special someone to join me on this crazy adventure. Looking for that unknown combination of amazing, and whatever kind of man I need to be to find and keep her. To be found in finally publishing that first book that sets me on my way to a career in writing. Doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, a short story or a children’s book so long as one idea gets through. It will get the ball rolling. To be found in finally singing my own songs on stage before a crowd of fans. It’s my closest and longest held dream. One I’ve never felt good enough for. But get an instrument to the level of my voice and go. Surely I’ll find success and satisfaction then. The whole while I’ve been keeping my wheels spinning. Sometimes, it’s even gotten me somewhere. But the pain is always there, waiting for me to slow down while my goals stay just out of reach.

Fulfillment, however, is not found this way. I’ve been slowly learning this lesson over the past couple years. I believe as a result of divine providence. Recently, the Enneagram and my introduction to contemplative practice have given my transformation clarity and focus. More than anything, it’s slowed me down and inspired me to discover the present. That also means I’ve had to get more cozy with my pain and be honest with my emotions. Not rationalize them. Not explain them away. Not fight with them. Just acknowledge them, sit with them and try to understand where they’re coming from. It’s uncomfortable at times. Very uncomfortable at times. And at others it is amazing because I am beginning to see a world I never knew existed. I’m more aware. I’m no longer flying by at sixty miles an hour wondering if my tire’s going to blow before I get where I am going.

In Riso and Hudson’s Wisdom of the Enneagram, they write:

Fulfillment is not the result of “getting” anything: it is a state of being that arises when we allow the richness of the present moment to touch us.

I can only say in response that for me this has proven true, and I am exceedingly grateful. And there is so much to be grateful for.

 

 

 

A Gift of Grief

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I love those moments when someone gifts me a thought I would never have thought.

In yesterday’s sermon, a friend of mine shared a source of conflict early in his marriage. The root of their fight is easy to summarize. If it weren’t for you, I’d be doing (fill in the blank). Each still held dreams for overseas missions or inner city ministry, and I have no doubt that as singles they would be active and engaged in those pursuits. But they were no longer single. Two had become One, and that flips the script.

Relief came in a single piece of advice. Grieve.

Grieve the life you desire, but can no longer live. Grieve the closed doors. Face your emotions. The pain, the frustration, the anger, the sorrow – feel it all.

In the end, grieving opened the door to healing, and, as my friend put it, opened up space for something new. It opened up room for new dreams. Dreams founded in their identity as a couple.

While I love this concept for marriage, (it’s the ‘thought I would never have thought’) I see its value in life as a whole. Ignored feelings bind us in place. By facing them, by grieving, we open up space for a re-imagined future. It readies us for a new adventure.

Changing

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“The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”

– Nathaniel Branden

The first punch connected with the bag. “Weak”, I thought to myself. I struck again, a quick left jab followed by a right straight. Still unsatisfied I struck again and rolled back feeling my weight shift to my heels. I teetered on the edge of balance. So I took a step back and reset. Something wasn’t right. I thought about it a moment, and rather than settle back into normal, I adjusted. Widen the stance. Don’t get lazy, balance on the balls of the feet. Lean in a little more. It felt far more aggressive than my usual approach, but I threw a punch testing it out. The mount slid back toward the wall with the bag. Don’t be too impressed, it needs more weight. But I quickly followed up with another jab and another, feeling far more control over my body. Balanced, empowered by a strong connection with the floor, and able to quickly move and adjust, I danced around the bag. I felt alive. This was far better.

To bring it to bear on the above quote, I became aware of my balance. In a fighting stance, you never want to roll back on your heels. It puts you in a place of vulnerability. On the edge of balance, if not off balance, and unable to respond to your opponent. I could have missed it, or ignored it, left it as a momentary lapse and gone back to business as usual. Instead, I chose to delve a little deeper and ask why. That why led me to greater awareness. I accepted what I found, responded and powered up as a result.

Awareness is indispensable to growth. Without it, we don’t know we need what we need. Sometimes we see things on our own. Contemplative practice and meditation are tools to help us along the way. Other times we need help. I’m sure a coach would uncover myriad other things to improve my stance and striking. Just as counselors open doors to delve deeper into the mind.

Acceptance is the second necessary step. It requires courage. I don’t like being confronted with my flaws, and knowing them is uncomfortable. It necessitates change, and change will often make us uncomfortable. The more aggressive stance felt unnatural to me, and still does. It will until it doesn’t. But I can’t argue with the results. It gives me greater mobility, power and control over my body.

So, in all areas, I hope that we will strive to be aware. “The first step towards change is awareness.” And then, I pray we will have the courage to accept it, because without acceptance we’ll never be able to move beyond awareness into actual growth.