A Tree Without Leaves Part 3
Note: The title for this post comes from a metaphor which I'm not planning on talking about until the final part in this grouping, but I wanted to the title to be the same for all of these segments.
Foundations are created by the underlying principles that drive our decision making. The walls, the external items that we see in our lives, grow naturally from these underlying principles but they are not themselves the principles, only expressions of them. If you are operating from contradictory principles your foundation will crack and in time the walls will fall over. This is not a punishment, it is actually the opposite. It is freedom and re-birth so that you can align your decision making process to the things you truly value and create something that grows not out of opposing processes but harmonious ones.
What does this mean outside of its metaphor?
It means that we often make decisions without really knowing why we make them. We don't always think about what underlying principle is driving the decisions we make. Sometimes we take the time to think about this and say, "I am doing this because of x,y, and z." On one level that might be true, but what we often don't realize is that there are multiple levels operating simultaneously and on one level the process might appear to be what we want but on another level it is actually contradictory.
I'll give you an example from my life. After I graduated from high school I decided to pursue a degree in social work. On the surface this decision made a lot of sense. I wanted to pursue a career in a field where I could work with the most vulnerable populations in a flexible way to promote growth and alleviate pain. There was nothing wrong with this dream or the reason for it and I still admire social workers a great deal because they do amazing work to help the people who need it most and are often ignored. Here is where my contradiction occurred, I wanted to help people on a deep level because I saw pieces of their souls fragmenting with certain difficult events. I saw people who had once been whole and shiny break and I saw the pain underlying the process. I didn't believe at the time that souls could fragment even though I saw it clearly happening around me, so I didn't think to look into how I could help people with soul growth and soul healing even though that was what I really wanted to do.
I thought I chose social work because of an inner desire to serve but I actually chose it as a compromise between an inner desire to serve and a fear of the way that I wanted to help. Social work was a more socially acceptable way of doing what my heart longed to do. It was a compromise of my truest desire because what I really wanted to do scared me. What I really wanted to do meant that I would have to learn about "the occult" and I believed that was evil and that if I started walking in that direction I would be rejected by everyone around me-- including myself.
The underlying principles that guided my decision to pursue social work were contradictory-- on the one hand love was a driving force. I loved the people around me, I loved people and I believed that there was good in the world and beauty and healing could come out of even the darkest moments. On other hand, though, fear and pride were driving forces. I needed to have a socially acceptable job so that people would see me as good and I was afraid to admit what was clear and real to me-- that the level of healing necessary for the pain I saw had to go beyond physical service and social systems. I wanted to learn how to heal on the soul level because that is where I saw the most frequent and painful breakages. That is where I experienced the worst level of pain and where the creeping sensation of despair appeared from. It was soul pain that I couldn't stand to see and needed to find resolution for-- but I was too scared to look at that.
The result was that I was able to learn a great deal as I learned social work, but I also carried a great amount of anxiety with me because I had a lingering knowledge that I would never actually be a social worker. It didn't matter if I aced my classes or completed my internships-- I had this constant haunting feeling that this career would be taken from me before it even began. I'm never going to be able to do this, I thought but the thought was lodged so deeply in the recess of my mind and I was so terrified of the truth in it that I pushed it away and continued to pursue that career anyway. I was hospitalized twice in the pursuit of a dream that I knew would never come into being because I didn't want to acknowledge the crack in my foundation. While I was in school the walls seemed sturdy-- I put up a front and received "Social Work Highest Honors" was elected vice president of social work club, participated in volunteer and community service-- and the whole time I knew without wanting to admit it that none of it mattered.
Eventually the ground shook and the crack in the foundation swallowed my walls and I was left sitting on the ground thinking, I have absolutely no career at all.
I still don't but I don't really want one any more. That wasn't the only structure that had to fall in order for me to learn that what I really wanted was not a career, or a specific kind of lifestyle, or a family. None of those things are bad and I'm not opposed to any of them-- but what I really truly wanted was to live freely from the beliefs that I had. Every time I tried to build a structure on beliefs that were not my own the crack appeared and brought anxiety because somewhere deep within I knew my building was not solid and it would only be a matter of time until it collapsed again. I also knew even deeper within that it would be worse if it never collapsed.
I saw this most clearly when my grandma was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I thought about what an amazing woman she was and how happily her eyes always sparkled. I thought, how would I feel if I lived to be in my 80s and then looked back at the life I had lived. The thought terrified me. I would be miserable, I realized, even if I had kids and I had that social work career and everyone loved and respected me and I did everything right, I would be absolutely devastated.
Why? Why is that thought terrifying? Why would I be devastated? I asked myself.
Because I realized I would never have actually lived my own life-- not really. I was living everyone else's belief, everyone else's dream-- but I would never actually get to be my own person and that thought shook me to my core.
I got divorced. I dropped out of school. I quit my job.
I don't care-- I realized-- I don't care about any of it. It isn't worth it. I would rather be starving on the street, looked down upon as a menace to society, rejected by everyone and have the chance to be myself than have everything I thought I wanted but never actually LIVE.
Of course the process of learning what it meant to actually live and how to be honest about who I was and what I wanted (as well as what I considered real and important) took many years after that-- but that realization led me to the path and person who could teach me what I needed to learn to become the person I have always been. And at this point I am on a tangent so I will get back to the point.
The point is that sometimes we know even when we deny it, that our foundation is cracked. Sometimes we know even if we deny it that we are trading the inner thing of great importance for the outer thing of less importance, and when we do this it is actually love and mercy that tears down our walls. The tearing might hurt and it might feel like there is nothing left-- but it is done because the walls have become a prison and the truly important thing is locked inside waiting to be freed.
What is the truly important thing?
It is the underlying principle.
And what is the underlying principle?
It is the spark of life that is you. It is the truest expression of who you are and all the beauty that comes with standing in the fullness of yourself to reach your potential. It can take as many different forms as there are people but it is always the life within the person that is important-- far more important than the appearance of life created by achievements, goals, security, relationships,or appearance. And yes you can have both, but make the important part important so that the achievements, goals, security, relationships and appearance reflect and serve the inner life force and not the other way around. Then the outer things that need to stay will stay and those that need to leave will leave and the inner force of life will dance around and create a life in harmony with itself. Then there is peace and joy and love that does not depend on circumstances because it is constantly created and renewed from within the force of life itself. It is that life force and the freedom of its expression and purity of its love that is important (at least for me it is).
All external things-- even those in harmony with the life force-- will fall away eventually. Nothing is permanent, but it's okay because the dance of life can be so happy and freeing that you enjoy each thing while it is present and honor and release it when the time comes to say good bye, then there is beauty and love in every interaction and every emotion (even the hard ones) and life becomes saturated with so much color that fear fades away and the dance continues.