Monday, October 11, 2010

You Are Here


What are your most basic questions? My first question has always been “What’s going on here?” Then “What’s really going on here?” Sometimes not easy questions to answer, but important to whatever comes next.

Don’t you love the maps found in large shopping malls or office complexes? The first thing you see is the circle with the X inside it saying “You are here.”

“Oh,” you say, “This is where I am, so now I know which direction to turn to get to where I want to be.”

Without the knowledge of where you are, you can’t know how close or far away you are from your destination. Just so, it’s important to know where you are in the great scheme of things in life. This question presupposes that you know something about the big picture and something about your destination (destiny).

And within these questions: “Who am I?”

My mother always told me, “Just be yourself, and you’ll be fine.” But who is that self? And how do you find out?

Questions, questions. When you’re searching for truth, what you often find first are questions to be explored if not answered definitively. Your answers may change and grow from time to time.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates. And behind that statement?

Well, that assumes you have a life to begin with. That means you have to live life first in order to examine it. If it is true that the unexamined life is not worth living, then it follows that the unlived life is also not worth examining.

Aspiring writers and actors are often told, “First, you have to live.” You have to have something to write about and experiences to draw upon.

Thoughtful and juicy questions may be one of the best ways to explore and examine your life to allow you to fully live and appreciate the life you have here and now, rather than wishing for some other place or some other life. This is what you have. Now is what you have. Here is what you have. Work with what you have.

If you’re in the here and now, just look about you. Be here. Be now. Describe what you see, feel, smell, taste, hear, touch. You’ll soon enough find plenty to think about and write about, plenty to ponder.

Formal writing prompts and jump-start quotations can also be brilliant food for thought. And why do they appeal to you? Because they’ve acted as an entrance into your own inner life. Something within you resonated with what you found in someone else’s experience.

Reading biographies, memoirs, autobiographies, and fiction can help you to explore your own life stories, both old and new. Can help you re-interpret your past stories to use them as building blocks for your new paths.

You learn that you are not alone in all the world. You no longer have to remain “a stranger in a strange land.” You can find at least one other story that is remarkably like your own. You learn that others have faced and surmounted the same challenges that you do. “The way is thoroughly known,” wrote Joseph Campbell. You are not the first to tread this path, to make this journey.

And those who have gone before you have left maps. They have pointed out the rocks, crevasses, mountains, dangerous swamps and quicksand. They can inspire you to a new level of living. By showing you what peace and happiness they have attained. They can teach you if you will read, listen, and be open to learning.

Be teachable.

Practice beginner’s mind at whatever stage you find yourself, and you may find that one or more “maps” buried in your library, bookstore, or Internet sites will both show you the big picture and say to you, “You are here.”

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