In a time and place that offers unprecedented choice in how nearly every aspect of our lives is organized, we've also arrived at an era of personal responsibility that is truly fascinating. We have fewer norms telling us how to structure our lives than at any time in recorded history. We currently have nearly endless options in: our methods of creative expression and the audience with whom it's shared; the kinds of work we do, where in the world we do it, and who we do it for; our belief systems about how a meaningful life might be lived; the kinds of relationships we fill our lives with, and the inspirations, purposes, agreements and structures that define and inform them; and how we're going to conduct ourselves and treat others amidst all of these shifts.
As many of the previously ubiquitous models for "how we do things around here" (i.e. avenues to learning and mastery, career paths, marriage and partnership, friendships, institutional religions, gender, consumption and waste, manners, money management) are either under renovation, just beginning to disintegrate or writhing in their final death throes, some real space has opened up. The canvas has been stretched to vast and it's sitting here, right in front of us, mostly empty. How do we respond to all this space, this great freedom?
Do we sigh with relief and spread out a bit, as we feel curiously into this new spaciousness? Do we close down and ball up, frozen in the grip of existential terror? Do we hop up, palette and brush in hand, eager to see what we can make?
Do we become overwhelmed at the prospect of having to choose something? Do we feel unprepared or inadequate as we realize just how many decisions we now must make for ourselves? Do we feel thrilled, enlivened by the possibilities?
Do we feel wholly unfixed, adrift, and unable even to dream a little dream of what could be? Do we feel that probably all this spaciousness and choice is wrong, misguided, or evil? Do we hold hard to the old ways, refusing all forms of change, our hands, arms and hearts growing rigid and fatigued? Do we wish that someone else would just tell us where to go, what to do, what to think and who to be?
There are many ways of responding and reacting to the shifting reality that we are living in! One human's excitement is another human's dread. In addition to the work of dreaming, molding and forming these lives we are living, we face ever-increasing demands upon our ability to understand, accept and allow others' differences. If we have greater freedom to create and they have greater freedom to choose, and at the same time we've eschewed many of the guidelines that used to direct our connections, our points of mutual contact and agreement may become fewer and smaller as the whole picture becomes larger, richer, messier and more colorful. If we're in uncharted territory, and the old maps cannot give us the lay of this new land, what can help us navigate as we grow into our future?
We can learn to listen to our inner guidance, and commit to mastering this skill.
The decline of old structures and the increase in new options means the volume of ideas, information, opinions and voices is going to expand. It's gonna be a big and noisy place, folks! If you're not already in solid touch with the subtle turnings of your internal guidance, if you can't easily tell the difference between the voice of your busy mind and your wise inner guide, the time to meditate is now! If you're already meditating, keeping your practice solid and steady will serve you well going forward.
We can place a high value on continuous learning, exploration and "failure".
We'll need to try something and then make adjustments and try something else and adapt it and then try again. In exploratory spaces, it helps to drop the idea that we know how it's all going to play out, and it also helps to realize that we don't really need to. The truth is, the "guaranteed outcome" theory promised by the old systems was both story and belief, not impeccable formula or rock solid fact. Here we are now, experimenters, who know ourselves to be experimenting! There's clarity and power in that realization. And, if we really embrace it, there's also a release from our previous notions of failure. Everything we experience is useful - It's all helping us to grow and refine our skills. Maybe we can even seek to celebrate our failures, both as little freedoms and as rich learning grounds from which we grow wiser and more skillful.
We can be curious, kind and tolerant.
We can go ahead and give up the idea of being right in any ultimate way, and certainly regarding the choices of others. We can be more patient and kind. Probably we can be more often quiet, too! Others will be learning and experimenting and "failing", just as we are, and our own opinions and intuitions serve best when they serve us. At the same time, an erosion of manners and civility doesn't generally serve the harmonious co-existence of the masses. We can increase our efforts to treat others well, and we can value the beauty that kindness, curiosity and civility bring to our interactions and our communities.
We can enjoy where we are.
Can we consider it all an experiment, start playing with ideas that excite us, and watch excitedly to see where they take us? Can we see ourselves, and this moment, as the ultimate dream of countless generations before us? Can we hold a balance between the wonder of this gift and the new demands it makes upon us? This life and this time are a precious gift - can we allow ourselves to really appreciate it?
Dana Wyss Healing Arts
Breathe deeply, practice often, be well.