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.
I was feeling some very sad energy on Saturday and so I sat with it and found myself on a different plane with some other people who were sad because things were starting to shake and they could feel them falling away.
"It's okay," I told them, "The things that are falling down are supposed to fall down. The things that need to stay will still be here when the shaking stops."
"But I don't want this to fall" One of them said. She didn't have to use actual words to tell me, I could feel the intensity of the terror she had over the idea that it might collapse.
"Maybe it won't" I said but we both looked at each other in a way acknowledged how slight that hope was.
"It's the foundation" I noticed looking at the structure, "The foundation is cracked, that's why you are afraid the building will fall. The foundation is the important part."
Then I heard the saying in my head again, Make important what is important. Leave the rest alone.
And I saw houses with their walls like flimsy sheets of cardboard falling over to reveal emptiness inside. The wind blew the cardboard walls away and nothing remained.
That is what makes it so terrifying I realized. There is nothing inside. If your building falls you will believe that you have nothing left at all-- not even yourself. If you lose this one structure you will be nothing-- it will feel like you have stopped existing altogether.
"Do not trade the greater for the lesser" the voiceless voice said, "Do not trade what matters for what doesn't."
"The walls don't matter," I heard myself say, "The foundation matters. The walls are the external form. The foundation is the underlying reason. You can't trade the internal for the external, or the the why for the what because if you do you will lose everything."
Then it came together and started to make sense.
What is important is not the external, it is the internal. It is not the thing but the underlying reason for pursuing the thing in the first place. The why is more important than the what. The external is an outward expression of the internal, its purpose is to serve the internal-- not the other way around. Yet we so often make the mistake of putting all of our effort into the external and even trading the internal for it. It is common to trade what is important for what is not important, but doing this can create a repetitive cycle of fear, stress, victim hood, and devastation.
Let me give you an example. Let's say that you decide you want to have greater financial freedom and security so you get a job. This is great and there is nothing wrong with it. The internal is the financial freedom and security and the external is the job. Ideally they both work in harmony. But if you start to get so stressed about keeping that job that you create fear and restriction in your life then you have started to trade the internal for the external. You have forgotten that the point of the job was to give you freedom and security. In this circumstance you now are keeping the job at the cost of both freedom and security. You have traded the greater for the lesser. The greater are freedom and security. If you focus on freedom and security you can always move to a different job or a different stream of income or a different understanding of what it means to be free and secure. If you do this you can adapt to many circumstances and know that you are capable of feeling free and safe. However, if you focus only on keeping that specific job then you will reduce your freedom and worry about keeping it. You will have that job but lose the experiences you were trying to gain by keeping it.
The idea, I realized is not to focus on the external much at all, but to continually come back to the internal. It doesn't matter if I have that job or that house or that relationship or that notoriety. It matters if...
Well the IF depends on what matters to you... Which is actually the essence of the foundation and a separate but related topic which the next blog will be based around. The foundation is the underlying goal that drives the decision making process, it sounds simple but it can be tricky because most people don't think about what their foundation is and sometimes it can be the opposite of what you think you want it to be. If the underlying decision making mechanism is different from your outside goals then the foundation cracks. This is when the structures become the most unstable and when losing the structure has the potential to bring you the greatest joy or worst pain (or likely a mix of both).