Am I the hands of Jesus, the heart of Mother Teresa, the mind of Ayn Rand?
Am I unique? Am I a speck? Am I you?
At a recent retreat in Stone Valley, on a cool October night, my students and I prepare for a ceremony under a full moon. Say what you like, there is nothing quite like it--nature in her rawness and humans in their vulnerability. I know I couldn't recreate it in my public speaking classroom at 220 Thomas Building!
We stand in a circle, listening to night insects, looking into each others shadowed faces. We wait for the directions from the ceremony leader. "In preparation for tomorrow's water ceremony down at the lake, please take an ice cube from the tray, and replace it with your nature artifact. This represents your uniqueness--your individuality. Now put the ice cube in the bowl."
Twenty-four people wait our turn and then place a cone, a blade of grass, a pebble, a weed, into the tray. We do this witnessing each other and seeing each other, in silence, under moon glow.
The next day of course, when we go for the bowl, to take it to the lake for our water ceremony, the cubes are all melted.
The student leaders hold the bowl then say, "All streams lead to the ocean." And they pour the water into the lake. We become one. Did we? Are we?
How are we connected to others?
My students and I were on retreat to consider our personal connection to nature. We were asked to consider our role in the degradation of the earth. We talked about the 4 elements of nature--fire, water, earth and air. And, the 5th element--humans. What is ours to do? For whom? And why?
The question of Well Being is, "How do I feel about my self and my life? " Author and philosopher Ayn Rand says that happiness comes from the achievement of living ones values. Those values could differ as each of us are different.
How do you feel about your connection to others? Is this a high value? To connect? Or even to serve others? If so, by Rand's definition of happiness, a state of well being could be attained partly, at least, through ongoing connection and/or service.
For our own well being, it's worth asking--what is my connection to others?
I love this question so much.
For one thing, it is so hard to answer. For another, it is beyond exciting.
This is the question that ignites our passions, tickles our imagination, and breaks up marriages. I will get to the marriage thing a bit later. My marriage is in tact, so it’s not necessarily a given.
The other side of the coin is that asking ourselves what we really want scares us silly. AND, it bumps headlong into certain Christian “training” one might have had as a child. “Don’t be selfish, think about others”, and all that nonsense. I call it nonsense, not because we shouldn’t think of others, OF COURSE we must. But, what our early training fell short on was how to identify and develop our God given gifts, and stick to our guns about it! Once that is accomplished we will then naturally want to share THAT with others.
I remember that when I was in college, I was confused by this idea of “wanting.” I even told my boyfriend at the time. “I don’t want anything.” I was going along with the “program.” Nothing seemed out of my reach, and I was pleasing everyone along the way, my parents, my friends, and even myself.
There was a nagging question however, “What do I REALLY want?” I just didn’t know. But, I now realize that my 21 year old self was simply afraid of the answer.
As long as I did what was expected, I was comfortable but as soon as I got “wild ideas” like moving to California, or New York to become an actress, or move to Vermont to become a ski bum. Then, I got panicky.
So it was all about others, what they thought, how I was perceived and whether I was smart, talented, or gutsy enough to do something that “maybe” I wanted.
There is a long story in between the 21 year old wannabe actress and the 67 year old wannabe completely myself that I am today. I’ll save that saga for my memoir.
Suffice it to say, I now ask this question on a daily basis. What do I want TODAY? How do I want to feel? What do I want?
In answering this “call.” I am listening to my soul. The soft, still voice inside that knows--knows everything. And now, thank Goddess, that voice even knows when I act as if I don’t want it, but actually I am just plain scared. And now, that voice knows that the very best thing is to simply say, “It’s alright, you’re scared, but you are a big girl now--go after it! Go after anything you WANT!
PS Back to the breaking up of marriages over what you want. Personally, I think some marriages fail because one spouse feels unsupported by the other in what they truly want. They blame, curse and fight with the “other.” when actually time better spent would be in just noticing that it isn’t the spouse who doesn’t support--it’s probably you not supporting yourself.. Anyway, that’s what happened with me. So now I can love him because he reminds me to support my own damn self.:) And, I say that fiercely and lovingly.