Monday, October 22, 2007

Tools, Craftsmanship, and Perspective

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to learn to use many different tools for self awareness. Some of them I have learned from teachers, some I have observed from a distance, and others I have stumbled across in the journey. With each tool, I've set out to master its use, and have done so with differing degrees of success.

When I use the word tool, I am referring to a wide range of items and practices. One physical tool may have many different uses or components, making it a tool set by itself. For example, two of the tools include yoga and meditation, which I link together because I often use them together. But they are both tool sets because there are many types of meditation I have used, and several yoga activities I've used (within the same school of yoga). Sometimes I practice them together, other times I practice them separately. The variation and combination create multiple tools, multiple ways to use these tool sets. Other tools include aromatherapy, dream interpretation, gardening, feng shui, homeopathy, and writing.

With each tool, I listen to what other practitioners have to say, I follow their guidance (especially when starting out), and I often do some research to get a perspective on how other people (including people in other places and at other times), have used the tool. The most important source of my information and the most helpful method for developing my craftsmanship with the tool, however, is to listen to what the practice teaches me. I trust my inner guidance when I get an idea to try something. I pay attention to how I feel while using the tool, especially when I feel more connected or when I feel that I'm done for a session. All of these things inform me along my journey, and with time and practice, I develop my craftsmanship with each tool. I begin to experiment with the tool, use it in new ways, and develop confidence about when and how and why to use it.

With this body of knowledge, and with my experience using the tool, I find that I connect with the tool in a deeper way. With several of the tools, I feel that I have connected with the essence of the tool as it has been used across the ages and that I have joined my experience into the collective wisdom of tool users. These are the tools that become mine, tools that become a regular and powerful presence in my toolbox for living.

There are plenty of other tools where my journey stops before I reach that point. I do not know if my journey ends because I stopped the practice or if the tool is not a natural fit for my soul or journey. I used to ask these types of questions, but I no longer ask them.

As much as I have a commitment to develop my craftsmanship with each tool, I also have another commitment to set aside tools. When a tool is new, I am trying it on. In spite of my intention to learn it for myself, I am influenced by the tool source. When the source is one or more people who touch my life, I realize that using the tool creates a connection between me and them. In the beginning, I've always found that connection to be useful, but as I travel my journey, it becomes a limitation because at some level, it is me learning to use someone else's tool.

When I first discovered this fact, I realized that a person who no longer participated in my life was still influencing me because I continued to use a set of tools I learned from him. I sensed my connection to him still because I used these tools. I wasn't sure if I used them because they were truly mine or if they facilitated keeping that connection. The only way I saw to resolve this issue was to set aside the tools for a time. I was inspired in part by this truth: "If you love something, set it free. If it returns to you, it is yours. If it does not, it never was." I knew that allowing the tools to cool, to give myself some time to breathe without using them, would show me which tools were truly mine, and which ones had been sticking to me because of the energy attached to them. At that point, I couldn't know if I was the one who attached the energy, or if the source had attached the energy, or if it was simply the nature of tools that they create a connection. And in truth, I discovered that the answer didn't matter. What mattered was that I was being ruthless (in a good way) about removing things from my life that shifted my assemblage point without my awareness of the shift.

Before I continue my point, let me say that I do not naively believe that I can eliminate all things from my life that influence my assemblage point. Everything I share with my culture and the people around me influences me and thus my assemblage point. What was important to me about these tools is the nature of spiritual tools. These are the things that I trust most in my journey, and for that reason, I want these things to be as clean as possible. Setting aside my tools was a way for me to assess the cleanness of the tools and to decide if the tool would remain in my life. I do not want to use tools out of habit. I want to use my tools out of choice. I want to trust the power of the tools I use in the most intimate part of my life, in my actions I choose to take along my journey.

Over the years, I have picked up and set aside many, many tools. I have the ability to move forward and not cling to the past, so many times I truly forget about the tools I've set aside. It's always interesting when I remember a set aside tool, or when something along my path reminds me of a set aside tool. I've discovered that when I return to a tool, some of them feel like reuniting with an old friend. Some of them are friendships I'm happy to continue, and the tools returns to my toolbox. Others cause me to remember an earlier time in my journey, I reflect on the lessons learned during that time, and I return to the present moment without the tool.

My experience has shown me different results over time. A few times, a set aside tool has reappeared more than once in my journey. Sometimes, the outcome of the second appearance is that I pick up the tool again, but sometimes not. I can't see any patterns or larger reasons for any of these outcomes, but I trust my guidance in the moment to pick up a tool or leave it set aside for now. Other times, I have encountered a situation where I knew the tool I needed to use, and even when I had set it aside, I immediately picked it back up.

What is most important to me is the actions I take to take responsibility for my path. I would rather loose the use of a tool because I was unsure of its cleanness and influence than continue to trust a tool that sticks to me only because of my energy connection to its source.

As I am thinking about this entry, as I'm reflecting on what I've just written, I'm struck by a few things, a few points of self awareness. First, I see with real clarity the amount of intention along my path. I certainly don't think I have any control over my journey, but I do strive to take full responsibility for my actions and choices along the way. This makes me feel strong, and reminds me that even though I question myself at times and I doubt my mastery of things, I have made large strides to really be the person I want to me. At the same moment, I realize all over again why so many people leave my life after a short time with me. I've taken a fairly intense stand on things, and even though I don't share these thoughts with others, the effect of them radiates from my being. I think that most people are not nearly as intentional as I am, that they float more than swim, and they don't want to participate as actively in their journey. I realize that my life is about the inner journey in a way that most people would never choose for themselves. I find great satisfaction in my path, and I realize it isn't a well-traveled path of life.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Synthesis and Discovery

Recent events have encouraged me to return to this blog, review my work here, and look at my current life events from a different perspective. When I started this blog, the construct of the assemblage point was the most useful tool in my awareness. In the weeks and months since then, I have drifted into using other tools and as a result, my thoughts about the assemblage point have temporarily stopped.

As I stand back in this space, and look through this lens at the recent years of my life, I'm almost giddy with anticipation because I feel the powerful presence of this tool. There is an excitement about my recent projects that exceeds the excitement they generate on their own. It's the thrill of gestalt, the feeling of the pieces coming together... of suddenly realizing that my life is even larger than I have been aware. As I stand in the edge of this feeling, I feel the pulse of an expansion that has already started and is already pulling me into a new and larger space with a great sense of awareness. I love my journey, all of the moments, but these moments of pure expansion are among the best moments because they stand out as milestones in the moment.

I cannot summarize my journey since my last entry, so I'll ramble a bit and capture the highlights I see now. I found myself eager to embrace my physical life and the physical environment in a new way. I began a walking route through my neighborhood in the foothills of North Mountain and began tracking my progress on a map as if I were walking to the Pacific Coast. I committed to establishing a healthy lifestyle, which also included a shifting of my priorities so walking and cooking and other personal care tasks were the most important ones in my daily schedule, and they became the greatest source of my feelings of abundance and wealth. I was truly creating a daily life that felt rich and rewarding. My increased focus in my physical form had other benefits as I found myself in better shape that I had been since high school.

After 20 months of profound changes, daily riches, and real happiness, I suddenly found myself sick and alone, and discovered the strength of my desire to live in the midst of pain, fear and denial. I was 12 hours from death when I arrived in the emergency room in the arms of an acquaintance. During the recovery period, I found myself questioning my beliefs and doubting decades of learning. It was a dark night of the soul. I've arrived on the other side with a deeper appreciation of my beliefs and what I've learned, and a new understanding of how they integrate with living of my physical life. I had reached the end of myself in a very real sense, and turned around to re-embrace my life and my journey to my center.

A seed was planted during this time, and like that seed, I also set roots. After nearly 25 years of gypsy living, I purchased a home and began the dual processes of feathering my nest and streamlining my life, processes that were often at odds. Doing them together provided a shifting perspective on my physical life much like the sun transversing the sky illuminates polar sides of objects. This process was interrupted by the sudden and extended illness and then death of my father. His care was more than the family could bear alone, and I spent weeks each month with him and giving my family time to rest. My issues with my father were long ago healed, and I was free to really offer him my love during this time. I consider this opportunity the greatest gift he ever gave me. I am so grateful to have the chance to show my parent some of the unconditional love I received as a child, even if I gave back the unconditional love he only wanted to give me. Afterward, I stayed with mom to help her adjust to her new single life, and my relationship with her and the rest of the family was changed forever.

When I finally returned to my home and its recent move-in disarray, I was overwhelmed with my loss grief and the unresolved grief from my illness. Since moving into this house four years ago, I virtually stopped walking and soon realized I was hiding in the shadows of the clutter of my physical world. I knew I had to find my way out of this desert. Searching for a tool that would heal my heart, I found solice in a song that became my anthem for self-healing. My grief rolled out of me and left my fallow heart and mind ploughed deeply and ready for new growth. I've written extensively about this song and the grief process in another blog.

A year ago, I spent an entire week sorting and resolving the one part of my clutter that caused me the most pain and shame, and established tools so I can maintain this new order. In the last week, I finished a second phase of this project, a phase that I could not have imagined a year ago, and one that makes me very proud of my willingness to face and strengthen my weakest character flaws. As I found myself willing to do this work, and as the success grew, it provided momentum for many of the smaller projects I was working on. I suddenly find that my clutter is almost removed, and I'm living in a beautiful home with new furnishings. I'm almost shocked that in the last weeks so many longstanding projects have finalized and I'm living my vision in this home. My best self is living in my vision for my life.

I have many things to explore through this lens of assemblage point, and will start that work in the next entry. I've laid this foundation of history so I can remember my journey and locate the true milestones, the ones that appear after time. I can see now the bones of how these discoveries will play out because I feel the strength of these truths in the time I've spent reflecting here. I can't wait to get started doing this work.