I love beginnings.
Not only the splendid turn of time as we start a new year, but the whole concept of “do-overs.” Fortunately for me, as a teacher for almost thirty years, every semester was a new beginning—a fresh start, an opportunity to do better.
Even so, I’d spend the days between Winter Solstice and New Year’s Eve in quiet contemplation of my life—what’s working and what isn’t kind of thing. From that perspective, I’d select a few areas to focus on with goals for the New Year.
Not wanting to spoil the newness of the New Year, I’d also do a ceremony on New Year’s Eve to clear the decks of any negativity so I could “start fresh:”
Writing down every icky thing on my mind—whether it was a mistake I’d made, an unpleasant interaction, whatever. When I completed my list, I’d close my eyes and mentally ask forgiveness from those I’d wronged. I’d also ask for help in forgiving those who wronged me. I’d forgive myself for making mistakes, reminding myself that every choice I made was with the information I had at the time, that everything I did was with the level of spiritual maturity I had at the time. No one starts their day with a mission to make a mistake. To release that stuff, I’d go outside and burn the list.
I don’t do that anymore.
Now I clean up the mess as I make it with a little ritual I developed one day on a bridge (described in the December 29 post, “Releasing & Receiving”). The point is this: if I do the work as it shows up, there isn’t all this bagged angst to carry through the year. Instead, I can tread lightly. Light is better.
But new beginnings aren’t always about clearing emotional clutter or correcting mistakes and bad habits. Sometimes they are about a honking-huge transformation—like the “Marilyn Monroe to Sister Teresa” change a glamorous Vegas entertainer made by leaving her glitzy life in the warm zone and moving to the bitter-cold north to help care for an invalid infant.
For those of us wanting to make our own fresh starts—perhaps to find life purpose and meaning— here’s what I’ve learned so far since I declared my intention with this blog. All you have to do is “pick a lane,” to use an old friend’s expression.
Perhaps a little background is in order, because this isn’t my first time down this road.
Spiritually speaking, I have been on my path since I was a ten-year-old Baptist reading Aldus Huxley and Oliver Wendell Holmes—over fifty years now. My Weltanschauung, my philosophy, was shaped by my family’s religion, but also by metaphysical studies, astrology, Tarot, yoga, I Ching, and the fact that I have been guided all my life by some internal thing.
With that guidance, I never had to face an empty slate before. Nudged here and there, I never had to know or plan anything. I could just show up and respond to whatever felt good—like dropping the calculus that wasn’t fun despite my knack for it and switching to English because it was fun despite my having no aptitude.
With that internal guidance, over a period of forty years I have been an English teacher, professor, massage therapist, psychotherapist, self-empowerment workshop leader, dance and yoga teacher and … Then it stopped. No more nudges to DO.
Not that I’ve been abandoned. Certainly not. The guidance never left me, it’s still available to remind me what I forgot when I’m in the grocery store, to help me choose a different route when something inconvenient lies ahead on the road I’d been on, to show me the empty parking space near the store entrance when it’s icy outside… For that kind of thing, we’re still solid.
But it definitely has cut back on guidance in the “what shall I DO now” department. Sadly for me, “life purpose” is no longer offered, and that’s been true about seven years.
My initial response was, “Fine. I’ll be a tennis bum.” And I was. And I had so much fun!
Now I realize that even that was still guidance, because in that dead period before I chose to pick up my racket, I was faced for the first time with discovering “what I want”–by myself!
So naturally, I developed another ritual to make it more apparent. Throughout the day I would say, “I want to…” about everything I chose to do. “I want to eat breakfast.” “I want to brush my teeth.” I want to take a shower” “I want to get dressed.” You get the idea—simply owning that I never do anything I don‘t want to do.
The result of declaring “I want to” before behaviors I chose to do must have helped to break up the scar tissue in my Choosing Muscle, because in November 2010, I declared that “I want to write.” That was the birth of this blog, from a desire simply to see what it felt like to actually “be a writer”—who is by definition, one who writes regularly as opposed to being one who has written, meaning that once upon a time, yeah, I did that thing.
So when I say that, at least for me, discovering life purpose begins with “pick a lane,” what I mean is that the manifesting rules have changed, and we literally can do whatever we want. All we have to do is choose. We can choose something and see what it feels like, see where it takes us. And the moment we do—as evidenced by the action we’ve taken—whatever you consider way bigger than yourself steps in to show the way, to help make it happen.
As beginners, it doesn’t have to be a commitment for the rest of our life. In my case, filled with trepidation (“can I really DO that?”), I felt compelled to limit the experience (“yes, I can, for maybe a year, till December 21, 2012”). What I’ve experienced in the first two months is akin to “getting my chops” and “finding my stride,” and in the process, discovering what thrills me and what doesn’t.
Because the stuff flows without effort, because time stops when I’m writing, and because I really enjoy doing it, with all due humility, I’m going to assume there’s some kind of gift, chops, shtick, involved and that it’s a part of what I’m supposed to be doing which is yet undetermined. I found my stride, my rhythm, having learned that I’m most comfortable writing a few pages as opposed to a few paragraphs. Bottom line: writing will probably be involved.
Regarding discovering what do I really want?—and one cannot find their bliss until they’ve answered that question— I’ve learned a lot about what I don’t want, and discrimination is the beginning of determining what it is I do want.
I now know with certainty that I have no interest in all that dark side of “what’s gonna happen in 2011-2012” kind of thing, because it conflicts with the cornerstone of my belief system which, quite simply, is that there really are only two choices in life: Love and Fear, and I chose Love ages ago. In computer language, they say “garbage in, garbage out.” So why would I want to fill my head with fear thoughts? It’s so much nicer, at least for me, to remain conscious about what’s going on around me, to quietly notice where the snake lies, but to simply walk around it. Therefore, despite the fact that this blog began with that sort of thing, it ended quickly.
What feels good so far is what I’m doing now: writing about my personal journey to find my life purpose, to discover my single note to add to the great symphony going on around me. That part of the journey is unfolding before me, like the slow-motion opening of a tightly wound rosebud, and it is the most exciting spiritual, self-discovery experience I’ve had since I quit smoking, which perhaps I’ll share with you next time.
Till then, please be kind to everyone you meet, because we’re all just “bozos on the bus” (a loving nod to Ram Das).
[First posted on January 1, 2011. I am posting it again for a new friend on Facebook).