Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A lesson in alchemy...

I used to spend more time praying for things to go “my way.” I prayed for abundance. I prayed for promotions. I prayed for things to appear, to happen, and to go away.

Maybe it stemmed from my early “ask-and-ye-shall-receive” delusions I got from watching “I Dream of Jeanie” to where a scantily clad beauty could simply blink and nod away the undesired or perhaps conjure up the coveted object. Where was my babe in a bottle?

At times I used to believe prayer made me lazy. I felt if I “whined” enough, or perhaps asked and then did not receive, I could “blame” my circumstances on something or someone and just casually go back to what I was doing, professing that “it just wasn’t in the cards for me” then. The opposite of what I asked for being more of a punishment–penance.

So then I tried achievement, accomplishment, and aggressive grasping at that which I sought. Maybe if it were to be mine, I had to go get it. I saw a goal, went for it, and expected it to eventually happen. Many times it did, when it didn’t, I would blurt out a few token prayers, situations would change, and I would be back to the same empty hand–the cards in my hand worthy of nothing but folding.

Many times, and I mean many times I fell short of a desired goal. Many times “Santa” did not bring what I wanted for Christmas. Many opportunities fell short of my expectation and many times did I resort to feeling cheated, victimized, hated, forsaken, violated, and bitter. Life became cruel

Oh yes I would receive some things–just not what I asked for! The nerve...

In awakening to the principle of life’s lesson in alchemy, my experiences started to transform.

Many have heard of the sought after ability to transform lead into gold – the perceived power of the early alchemists. I believe that this is more of a metaphorical skill that one can possess with the right training. How often have we been presented with the raw material we needed to transform our lives into one of blessed abundance? How many times have we tossed it aside as if useless?

I see how alchemy is the ability to transform.

It is the ability to shift our perception of a potentially negative situation and position it as one of value. What are we to learn? What are we to gain? To whom are we to share this with? To whom are we to serve?

In retrospect, whenever I see a point when I decided to change from the position of one of loss to the receiver, I begin to see how the once declared “disaster” in front of me is simply a lump of “lead”–the raw material needed to use the alchemists craft to forge precious gold.

It is easier for me to see the blessing knowing that I at least have the ingredients for that I wish to create in my hands; I just need to start working out the recipe. Like the fledgling chef preparing a new dish for his loved ones, when the intention behind the application of skill is a gesture of love and providing for the greater good of those I serve, I rarely have my deeds fall upon unappreciative receivers. They can feast even though more skill is needed.

The beauty of alchemy is simply the ability to reframe our perspective. We are able to shift our vision to be able to see the presence of that which we ask we currently have–simply in it’s not yet altered form.

As an alchemist, if I am able to take a less-than-desirable event that has happened to me, and save another from treading down the same path or at least from treading on it as long, I have started the transformation.

If I am able to see the strength, wisdom, fortitude, and courage I have gained in spite of the adversary, I am that much more prepared for future conflict. Forethought in the ability to avoid repeating danger is gold in and of itself.

If I am able to simply get cut to the point where the “scar tissue” is a reminder to avoid the same situation again at all costs, and to help others abstain as well, I have validated the incident.

So when life hands you heavy lumps of dull gray lead matter, worthless in appearance and burdensome to carry the load–remember this:

Alchemy is learning. Alchemy is growing. Alchemy is mysterious and transformative. Alchemy can be the initiative of gratitude, and when shared with others–alchemy is love, and love is golden.

Will you practice this skill?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This concept freedom...

I remember I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I wanted to break out of my Bastille and roam a free man unencumbered by the dictums and doctrine of those who confined me. Okay, that was a bit dramatic. I was a youngster dreaming of being out of my parent’s home. I wanted freedom.

I wanted simply the right to “be on my own,” to “be my own man,” to come and go as I pleased and do what I wanted. Man I would kill to be under the care my parents provided for me: “three hots and a cot”, continual and unconditional love, direction, a soft place to fall. Sometimes we mistake our “chains that bind” instead of being what they are: the loving arms restraining us from running into traffic.

As I reflect, I see many of us always seem to look beyond where we are. We seek that nirvana of our “freedom”–the concept of: “there” is better than “here.”

Is it not paradoxical that if we continually focus on something or someplace beyond our current grasp, that the space between actually becomes our jailor? How can we feel free? We become trapped by our longing...

Someday we will get to someplace at some time to receive something from someone somehow. How many people live life in these shackles?

I see so often around me (and at times in my own life) the bondage that people create by the feeling of being trapped: in jobs, in relationships, by their schedules, their finances, their limitations, and their “status”. Is it truly “freedom” we need? Are we bound? By what or whom?

I wanted freedom from a career and received unemployment. I wanted freedom from relationships and received loneliness. I wanted freedom from pain and received intoxication. I wanted freedom from a schedule and received boredom. I wanted freedom from reality and found it wouldn’t leave. Which is more binding?

Now I do indeed realize that people are held beyond their will. I clearly empathize with those whose circumstances were imposed upon them creating insurmountable odds and dire consequences. Many are held in prisons far beyond their deserving and not led there by a jury of their peers. Their flesh mortified and their souls trampled, yet...some...are still...free?!

I offer you this taken as an excerpt from Viktor Frankl's - Man's Search for Meaning:

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I see how restraining my chosen perspective on things has been to me in the past. I see how my internal dialogue leveraged my inability to see the true gold from the pyrite. How often do I now humbly desire for one more chance to be confined within the walls of the spaces I wished to break free from. Sometimes only momentarily...

As I see it now, freedom is an odd concept. Like a monkey swinging from vine to vine, he is only truly “free” in the air in the moments between grasping the next vine. If he remains in that space he flails and falls. It is the clinging and swinging that offers progression and security. Perhaps at times we don’t truly desire the freedom of the freefall, but simply need the next new vine. Swing on and be free my friends!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to get in a "Really good place"...

A few days shy of my chosen month-long break, I find myself returning here inspired. After recently closing my business and handling the related financial and legal circumstances, I return to you not lesser of a man, but more so.

Being currently “in-between” jobs (P.C. vernacular for “unemployed”) I find that I have a bit more “flex-time” without the urgency of having to dart off to unlock doors, turn on lights, and heat up curling irons to prepare for my day. (I was a hairdresser in a past life.) This leaves me a few extra minutes to browse my email, web sites, news, and social networks. Although my domestic duties have expanded exponentially, as they should, I do not currently have an appointment book to dictate my pace of cleaning, groceries, cooking, and errands.

Today’s social network reading led me to stumble upon a couple friends exchanging pleasantries and one mentioned being “in a really good place.” Inspiration to write ensued...

I wondered, “What do we have to endure to get into a really good place?” Is it by comparison? Is it by fortune? Is it divinely bestowed upon us? What do we do to deserve it?

I also reflected that as I glance over my shoulder to my own past, what did I consider the “really good places?”

I found that it was often after the storms have passed.

I found that it was after taking a personal inventory of what I was surrounded with and those I loved.

I realized that I was not as bad off as what I perceived.

I realized I was still, at my worst, more fortunate that a large percentage of the planet.

I also realized I had a lot of ownership in the timing of when I realized most of this.

I also realized I can be in a really good place a lot sooner than I expected.

What we focus on is what we see. If we only choose to focus on what we are lacking, we are distracted away from the blessings we currently have. Often it is these blessings that will be the life preservers that keep us afloat in the torrents to come.

When we feel that things are most bleak, I find that a simple emotional detour is to take a moment to reflect on the things I have now that were once goals–some of them once perceived as lofty or unobtainable. At one time I could never picture owning a home, being in a partnership with a beautiful caring wife, and being the father of two loving kids. I have traveled; I have and have had toys. I’ve done stuff that I never thought I could at one time.

So I lost a business. Okay it sucks, but at least I had one to lose and it taught me a lot. The memories both good and bad are priceless. They also allowed me opportunities I would never have been able to achieve without it. I gained more than I lost. (Not financially)

I have battled addiction, estrangement, financial disappointment, conflict, illness, family cancer, challenges of faith, and damn have they made me stronger, wiser, more compassionate, and respectful of others to a degree that I would never have had not going through them. God sent me to college.

We must endure the sweat and pain to get the buff body. We must endure the knife, to remove that which ails us. We take a punch to know how to keep our guard up. We must lose to know the value of that which we hold. Love must sometimes leave our presence for us to realize the preciousness of its gift when we have it.

We can choose the frame we put around our life’s picture. We can choose our perspective. As I reflect, I see that the times I said I was in “a good place” were only as a result of the chasms I had crossed to get there. I see every, yes every challenge I have had, has eventually paid off in either wisdom, appreciation, thankfulness, and gratitude for where I end up. In seeing this, it allows me to say a humble “thank you” for every situation, no matter how perceptively challenging at the present, as a step on the journey to my eventual benefit. And yes I do fight this at times...

Sparing the details of a current situation that many would consider “devastating”, I find that where I am now is a “really good place.” I have decided to study the alchemy of turning a bad situation into a blessing. It will be. I just have to be patient. Although I may not be at my chosen destination, I can stick my head out the window, breeze in my hair, as I travel the road from one “really good place” to the next. Care to join me?

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