Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Shared Reality

In the last few years, I've struggled with the unfulfilled hunger for sharing my inner journey with people who understand me. Perhaps I've felt the same way my entire life. I remember being in college and feeling that I had to keep so much of my inner journey to myself, even with the people who seemed to believe as I believed. I was more intense, I felt more, and I understood my life events held the key to greater understanding than it seemed on the surface. I scared people. I didn't find anyone else who processed events the way I did, or who understood the nature of life and being human the way I did.

In the following years, through religion, then various philosophies, Eastern religions, and the wide range of New Age thought, I sought people who were running after life and truth with the same intensity without any luck. People came through my life like they were stuck in a revolving door. Over time, I came to expect this pattern, and so I changed my expectations for individuals. But I never got over the wound from the deep hunger caused by this pattern. Sometimes, the loss of a single person would trigger a grief that was out of proportion to the event, and I would know that I was grieving the wound.

I live a solitary life by nature and by choice. I only have time for reflection and introspection by having time for myself. My personality, my nature, my soul demand this and I'm happy to live a life that facilitates my growth. The lack of social interaction or loss of popular culture experiences seem like no sacrifice to me because they serve a greater good. At the same time, I chose to be alone at times when I could reach out to others because I am leery of the revolving door. I thought it was better to avoid the hurt than to embrace constant change. That is never a good decision, and that pattern caused me much pain, also. But this pain is caused by something I can change. And I am changing it.

In the last year, there is a dramatic change in my life in this area. I can't really say why this pattern is broken. I could list the many life changes that I have experienced that laid a foundation for this. But in the end, what matters is that this has changed. In February, I started to invite strangers to participate in my life. In April, I reached out to another stranger who has become a good friend. In July, it happened again while in Santa Fe. Through my art blog, I'm connecting with wonderful women around the world who have similar life experience and outlooks. It's such a joy to start to find my people. At the same time, I've resumed my participation in various online communities, and through them, I'm also finding new people. I'm finding a group of creative, technical people in my own town with whom I banter. I'm free to be myself, and as I reach out more, I find common grounds for conversation and meaningful interaction with them.

One of the most amazing deep changes in my character over the last decade is my ability to completely share in the joy of other people's success. I love hearing about any success in someone's life. I can feel the energy of their joy and their success spilling over into my life, fueling my own success engine. I can jump up and down with them, laugh with them, and really stand in their shoes. It is such a joy for me. I do still have my moments when I seem to be staring into the face of my own unfulfilled dreams and desires, when I can't find the joy for someone else, or I find myself gulping at their success. Fortunately, these times are infrequent and pass quickly.

As an adjunct, I have also found the ability to stand and see the beauty in the the actions, thoughts, and feelings of almost everyone I meet. With some people, I can see right into their souls, see who they are and who they want to be, and know in that moment that all is right in their world. That's really amazing when it happens as someone is spilling their heart about some sadness they face. It's as if I have learned how to see everyone from a divine perspective. It's the most amazing thing to feel and experience in the moment. I've also found that people are hungry for appreciation and acknowledgment. It has become my pleasure to speak of the beauty and truth I see in them because they appreciate hearing it. It's such a simple thing, coming from a very deep place, and with a profound impact. It humbles me to participate in such a noble course of action.

Through all of these things, my former hunger for shared reality has diminished, and perhaps disappeared. It's not a linear kind of disappearance, it didn't get smaller and smaller until it was too small to notice any more. Rather, it is a shift in perspective. It's like I turned my head, and when I turned back, I had a different vista. Like the hunger exists in another plane of existence or a different dimension, and I've found myself separate from it.

I find myself surrounded with good friends, people who get what I'm about even if they don't completely agree or have harmony with my ideas or world view. They see me with divine eyes, and from that place, we find a common ground for our very different life experiences. I find myself aware of my individuality at the same time I feel myself as part of the ocean of humanity. A self-aware drop of sea water. It's a beautiful thing.

Occasionally, I find myself still feeling like an outsider, or an odd-ball participant. I let it happen. I am learning to embrace my particular geekiness in the spiritual world. I still have moments when I'm vulnerable, but I am able to process those feeling quickly, get to the heart of my pain, and resolve to move forward. I sometimes feel confused and overwhelmed with the amount of change in my life, and long to cling to some aspect of my life that I notice is falling away from me. But I've learned to really observe myself, which quickly leads to laughing at myself because I've caught myself in the act of doing it again. Of forgetting that I'm god having a human experience. Of forgetting that everything is right with the universe and things are unfolding exactly as they should be. Of forgetting that my life is more than my current situation and my visibility into the future.

It seems that I've found my sea legs for living life from my own perspective, and have gotten really good at restoring my assemblage point to where I want it. From this place, I can't wait to find out what more I can do, how I can grow further, and how I can use this as a jumping off place to explore reality even more.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Map is Not The Territory

Last fall, my brother came to visit and brought his GPS. We installed it in my truck and I used it the whole weekend. I was fascinated by the geographical information and its access. In fact, I could hardly keep my eyes off the screen as I drove.

We used it one night while coming back from the northwest valley. Dave wanted to get off the highway to stop and eat, and when we had finished, the GPS gave us a route home. But the route wasn't a return to the highway. It suggested a trip through the heart of some really tough neighborhoods in Phoenix late on a weekend night. I told him that I wasn't going to drive that way, that I was going to return to the highway even if it was longer. He argued with me. He wanted to see the guts of Phoenix and thought I was being ridiculous for not wanting to drive through any street at any hour of the day.

I realized as he spoke that I was reacting to a conditioned fear, something I had been taught to fear rather than something involving my personal experience. I also realized that I was safe anywhere I traveled as long as I felt safe. I insisted on driving the highway, but it gave me some food for thought.

After I processed this revelation, I had another revelation about the nature of using a GPS. I started to wonder how many people blindly follow the instructions on the screen instead of thinking for themselves. I wondered how many people were driving the exact same routes, whether they were good routes or not, because they were being told to drive them. I suddenly saw the GPS as another tool for setting the assemblage point for a large number of people in terms of travel routes.

In the months that followed, I did purchase my own GPS that I use nearly every time I drive my truck. But I almost always take my own route after seeing the suggested route from the unit. Eventually, I had to turn the volume down because of the number of times the unit announces it is "recalculating" because I have taken a preferred street or made a detour for another reason. Even when I take my own route, the unit continues to provide me with an updated arrival time, a feature I find most useful when driving to appointments. I also appreciate that the unit remembers exact locations, where I tend to generalize locations near an intersection, but then forget which direction to turn. Overall, it has helped my driving and saved me time I previously spent turning around or backtracking.

Last night, I was out after dark vising new friends in a part of town with significant road construction. I got seriously lost because I followed the GPS directions. In fact, at one point, I was driving into the black, driving on streets that did not exist in the GPS database. Throughout this trip, even through the frustration, I observed myself using the GPS and felt a renewed zeal for the fact that the map is not the territory.

I know that if I am riding in the car with someone, I don't pay as much attention to the travel route as when I am driving. Even if I'm engaged in a serious conversation, as the driver I remember the travel route. There are times when I'm using the GPS that I feel like I'm a passenger, that I'm not paying attention to the travel route, only the instructions provided to me. I am not as engaged in the activity of driving, and I'm losing the experience of finding my way on a new route. It's a form of shutting down and handing control over to the little box attached to the windshield.

I know there are a class of driving zombies on the road now, people who are following a voice in the box telling them the route to take and when to turn. People who are willingly submitting to the perception of the geographic data and the travel algorithms rather than explore the territory. People who prefer the map to the territory, or even worse, people who don't realize that they have not yet engaged the territory.