During a recent conversation that I had with a friend, she asked whether my current situation of leaving the area in order to attend to my father’s needs for the entire summer would derail or postpone some of the new writing projects that I’d hoped to embark upon while on break from teaching preschool.
My response to her was a resounding: “No!” and the reason why is because everyone’s task is unique, and, for me personally, it is done so with a greater purpose in mind.
I’m a firm believer that when we choose to act in alignment with our core values, no matter what the task at hand, every experience that presents itself is an opportunity to not only learn more about those we might be engaging with or assisting in some capacity, and it’s also a mirror of sorts, allowing us to view ourselves in action.
Toltec spiritualist don Miguel Ruiz, author of the worldwide bestseller “The Four Agreements,” captures this sentiment so perfectly when he states: “There are thousands of agreements you have made with yourself, with other people, with your dream of life, with God, with society, with your parents, with your spouse, with your children. But the most important agreements are the ones you made with yourself. In these agreements you tell yourself who you are, what you feel, what you believe, and how to behave.”
When we think about it, how often have we said to ourselves that “if only this particular thing was in place, then I’ll be ready to follow through on these plans and make a change?” Or better yet — “Once this person decides to step-down or leave, then the circumstances will allow me to act accordingly.”
My guess, if you are anything like me, is that this has happened more than a few times, resulting in a continuous replay loop that never seems to move forward. That “inner critic” that we all possess tries to convince us that what we’ve already created should be sufficient, so why bother at all?
Of course this is our ego speaking — wanting to grab hold of the reins, especially when it comes to exploring the unknown or seeking further growth with regards to fulfilling our personal tasks. It’s not uncommon that many folks find safety and comfort in maintaining the status quo, so when a circumstance arises that requires us to act, it has often been our custom to avoid such risk. This is the ego’s way of maintaining its hold on our conscious-awareness, preventing us from recognizing our true Being.
American Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck uses the analogy of a storm to make a similar point: “We constantly seek a safe little haven in the middle of the hurricane of life. There is no such place. Life is really about simply living and enjoying whatever comes up. Because we have ego-centered minds, however, we think that life is about protecting ourselves. And that keeps us entrapped.”
Often when I find myself in need of some objective validation, one of the methods that I’ve come to rely upon is a simple mantra, which I repeat while at the water’s edge during a walking meditation: “Is what I’m contemplating in complete alignment with my core values and beliefs?”
In nearly all cases, the response has been in the affirmative, and for those times in which it hasn’t, I sit with it for a while and explore my motivations. Subsequently, the answers that emerge provide further insight into who I am and what I hope to learn from the experience.
“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life,” wrote Viktor Frankl, the World War II concentration camp survivor, in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” “Everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”
Indeed, these are the words of my personal agreement that I live by every day.