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.

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