I recently had an important phone conversation with a friend and teacher that I first met 27 years ago. We’ve traveled the journey of personal growth together during that time, and I have admired and respected him on many levels. Long have I known that we also disagree on many policies and views of politics and approaches to a host of issues. Still, I always learn from him and am left with a lot to ponder each time we get into a dialogue.
For some number of years I have chosen a word at the beginning of the calendar year to represent the energy that I wish to step into. My word came rather quickly this year, as I am on the same roller coaster as so many others around the world, feeling deep polarity, aggressiveness, and an unwillingness by many to engage in an adult manner to understand other perspectives. My word for 2020 is “understanding”. I recognize how I am quick to pull the trigger of judgment on those who think differently than I do, and though I am reluctant to admit it, there are many times when I have my mind already made up when someone begins to speak. This is not the man I want to be.
So the conversation with my friend left me with several points on the spectrum of growth. I learned a long time ago that the first step to growth is confusion. The remaining steps are an ascension towards recognizing and dealing with the issue and resolving it with the piece of growth desired. So those six steps to growth are: confusion, exploration, incubation, illumination, action and celebration.
Without a doubt I found myself in confusion, exploration, incubation and illumination immediately after the conversation, and all at once. My original reason for phoning him was to attempt to understand how this man could support policies that seem skewed towards certain classes of people, when indeed he has taught and espoused win/win objectives for decades. Friend’s parting words were to focus on the action that I can take as an individual, looking to see where the fire in the belly lives.
If I reflect on the lives of some who I admire, such as Ghandi and Mother Theresa, I am reminded that their actions in changing the world were never an attempt to make massive change by enlisting the masses, but rather to look within and see what they could do as individuals. Mother Theresa was willing to go out into the streets of Calcutta and help one homeless person at a time. It was her acts of generosity and charity that inspired so many others to step into the fray as well.
I find myself these days at any given moment in joy, despair, confusion, connection, isolation, anger and deep sadness. It would be oh, so easy to step totally out of awareness and into my own little world. And, as an elder who is ever striving to understand, especially what I am to do with my remaining days on this planet, I know that all of these feelings are valid and important. An important teaching is that feelings are neither right nor wrong, and that they are a gift to us. They are simply there to help tell us when we are walking the path in a good way, or when we are about to step off the path and into the muck.
There is work to do and I will continue to look within to seek that flickering flame.
Steve Aman, The Wandering Bobcat