Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? ~Mary Oliver
So many people ask, why am I here? What is my purpose? I hear it asked over and over with such heartache. Having asked myself those questions many years ago, I understand. As a social scientist, I live and love in those questions. I am compelled to see the big picture, to notice the systems in which we navigate and to embrace the dance of life. As I've pondered these questions, personally and professionally, I realize I'm just curious and have learned to let go of any attachment to an answer or an outcome.
I notice human beings' tenacious hunger to have answers to those two big questions (as well as others) yet I observe their relentless unwillingness to step outside their comfort zones to uncover the possibilities. They ask the questions while thinking they can control the answers, avoiding the need to push the play button. The play button starts your one wild and precious life. Having the courage to push the play button means your small, conditioned self is no longer in control and the mysteries of who you are and why you're here can be revealed.
As most of us are born into the lives of our parents or caregivers, we quickly learn the rules of their game in order to survive. Through trial and error, we learn what is expected, what is acceptable, what has value and what beliefs are 'right'. If we venture outside of that framework, we are corrected one way or another. Resistance, dissent and disobedience are rarely tolerated. We become conditioned human beings, just as our parents were, finding ways to manipulate the system, losing more and more of our essential self.
For many of us, there is no concept of a play button. We are just thrown into the pre-recorded movie reel. The projector is humming in the background with our conditioned life unfolding before us as if we are on autopilot, with someone or something else in charge. Do we really have any choice? If we attempt to exercise that choice outside of the conditioned framework, we are met with disapproval or even punishment. We wonder what if... and then pull ourselves back together. We must fit in, we must be liked, we must fall into line... No wonder we don't know there is a play button for us to push.
Of course, for some life becomes about resistance, defiance and revenge. They must rebel against the conditioning, frameworks and systems in order to have any sense of self. They completely lose their essential self to the game of making everything into which they were born wrong. Since there is no play button available to them, they must push the reject button.
For some, like myself, curiosity has been my main lifeline. I have come to discover that very few people approach life with curiosity as I do. They are content with what is told to them, with falling into line and with making everyone else who sees differently, wrong. They want to know the rules and follow them. It allows for some sense of security or control. If they can strategize and maneuver in their conditioned world, it gives them some sense of accomplishment. They're saying, "This is my box, please let me stay in it, I know how to survive, it is comfortable and familiar and I'm too afraid to take risks." In fact, they believe they will be completely alone and die outside the box. Even when some venture out of the box, they take all their preconceived notions and apply them to the world outside, not allowing for the new and different to be revealed. I understand. It is a basic human need to feel safe, secure and stable, to belong. However, they pay a huge price for their fear and ignorance: loss of the essential self and an inability to discover the mysteries of the questions. They lose the essential human experience of transforming from surviving to thriving.
In the search for answers, there are two important universal truths that cannot be ignored. First, change is constant - there is no stasis. Second, we don't know what we don't know.
What I have discovered with curiosity as my rudder is that change is easier when you accept it rather than resist it and refusing to know more keeps us small. How does not knowing serve anyone or anything, most of all yourself? I've also learned that knowing there is a play button and taking the risk to push it is the courageous action of the heart, not the head. It is risky pushing play and letting your heart be your guide - you take full responsibility for your life and there's no one to blame. In addition, the heart is not rational, you can't make sense of it or figure it out. Your head fights hard against your heart with doubt, self-loathing and fear of rejection. When you choose against the wisdom of your heart, your sacred play button, you discover an amazing human ability to rationalize, justify and explain away your authenticity. As author Sue Monk Kidd has described it, "It was easier and simpler to please the culture and the family that shaped me than to uncover and tell my own truth."
For many, it is easiest to stay in the movie of the culture and family that conditioned you rather than push your own play button and discover your own truth. However, the world needs your truth, your gifts, your uniqueness.
So go ahead, push the play button. You have nothing to lose and everything, including your essential self, to gain. You will have to leave some people, places and beliefs behind. As you let go, the abundance of the new will be more than your small self could ever imagine.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong. ~David Whyte
Copyright Maureen Pelton 2011