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What’s Your Wasteland?

What’s Your Wasteland?

Danang, Vietnam

  • Author: HappyTraveler
  • Date Posted: Oct 4, 2014
  • Category:
  • Address: Danang, Vietnam


I know when my life is not in the center.  I get desirously involved with my relation to some achievement or system that is tangential to the real centering of my life.  And I know when I’m on track – that is, when everything is in a harmonious relationship to what I regard as the best I’ve got in me.  

In the Grail legends, the land of people doing what they think they ought to do or have to do is the wasteland.  What is the wasteland for you?


One of the joys of this journey is the time to read. I’m reading both fiction (just finished The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck; only got through a third of Catcher in the Rye, too whiny for me;  LOVED 100 Year Old Man!) and nonfiction (in particular Campbell and Pema Chodron).  These books all seem to have a common thread: how COULD one live a life?   And I’m picking up a thread from the past year where I really challenged myself to ask Campbell’s questions: what is the wasteland for me? What achievements or systems am I buying into that keep me off center? For most of my life I have made what I thought at the time were good choices, mindful of my roles and responsibilities. I regret little. AND, at the same time,…..along that path I’ve picked up assumptions, and stories, and beliefs and values that no longer serve me.

So I did an exercise last year in the lead up to this journey that I’ll share with you, although at the time I thought it was going to stay private. I wanted to examine all of my assumptions and operating beliefs, no matter how naïve, stupid, awkward or even plain wrong they were. As long as a word or phrase rang true for me, at a core intuitive level, I wrote it down. True in the sense that, yeah, I DO believe that belief, or act that belief out, or fantasize about that belief in a way that creates my reality. I realized yesterday, after reading the Campbell passage, that I was striving to answer the question: What is the wasteland for you?

I asked myself three questions:

  1. I have told myself I am supposed to be ________________
  2. Which of these do I actually want to be?
  3. What ELSE do I actually want to be?

First I meditated and got quiet, real quiet.   I wanted to get quiet so that the filters, stories and rationalizations that typically run through my brain constantly wouldn’t drown out the sometimes whisper of my center.   (Can you tell I’ve lived in Northern California a long time?). Then I just listed to what came to me, never filtering, never disagreeing. Basically I did an individual brainstorm, with the same rules as group brainstorming. And after about 30 minutes, this is the list I came up with:

I have told myself that I am supposed to be:

  • a good manager
  • a great teacher
  • a great organizer
  • a detail oriented guy
  • smart
  • capable
  • clear about my purpose
  • responsible
  • independent
  • self reliant
  • a good guide / coach
  • a business man
  • easy going
  • unflappable
  • knowledgeable about technology, business
  • entrepreneurial
  • mover and shaker
  • wealthy
  • great social networker
  • aging gracefully
  • following in the steady uptrend line of comfort, like my parents
  • a steady providing father
  • great dad
  • capable of taking on ever greater workloads
  • choosing to value intellect over body/sensation
  • always available for others
  • alone / unloved
  • have a stable, comfortable home that my kids and I can call home forever, like my parents
  • should have steady home, not a series of temporary ones
  • remember everything I’ve learned or heard, or at least important facts and commitments
  • have lots of stuff around me to feel proud and safe, like art, furnishings, books
  • should have the same ambition as the young entrepreneurs on FB that flash across my feed
  • financially shrewd
  • capable of earning more than I spend
  • capable of doing anything I set my mind to
  • destined to do amazing, noble things
  • uninterested in craft hobbies
  • incapable of manual skill
  • lone wolf, not needing friends
  • not athletic
  • creative
  • worthy of friends, but preferring to be alone
  • worldly / world traveler
  • independently wealthy
  • independent of others / an island
  • clear that if I spend less money, I’ll have more freedom
  • popular with women
  • sensitive / compassionate / empathetic listener
  • good golfer
  • iconoclastic
  • makes friends easily
  • deep and erudite
  • extroverted
  • good self promoter
  • marketer / sales guy
  • leader

Again, I wanted to get at those assumptions and beliefs that I had taken on over the years, without judgment.   Then I took a breath, and asked the next question.

Which of these do I actually want to be?

  • clear about my purpose
  • easy going
  • aging gracefully
  • makes friends easily
  • good golfer
  • capable of doing anything I set my mind to
  • Financially sustainable
  • Empathetic listener
  • Clearly skilled, through practice, at something that others want/need
  • great dad

For this I just cut and pasted pretty much exactly what was in the first list. No embellishments. (Well, #9 summarized some similar beliefs.)

Then I did a short meditation, and asked the next question.

What ELSE do I actually want to be?

  • Loved
  • Loving of another, others
  • Loving, connected dad
  • Loving connected son, brother
  • Mindful
  • Balance of alone and with people
  • Curious
  • Interested in something meaningful
  • My own boss
  • At ease, low anxiety
  • Have friends to explore with, cheaply
  • In connection with a woman– work, home, experiences, responsibilities, decisions, joys, sorrows,
  • Go with the grain of who I am and like to be
  • Innovative with creating a life
  • Relaxed, confident, proud of myself
  • able to stay calm when others are criticizing me
  • able to surrender to my own annihilation (Hero’s Journey stuff)
  • accepting that everything is in transition, all the time

Campbell answered his question this way: “I know damned well what the wasteland would be for me: the academic approach to my material; or a marriage to someone who had no thoughts or feelings for me or my work. I find working for money to be the wasteland – doing something that somebody else wants instead of the thing that is my next step.”

I will continue to work at my answer to Campbell’s question. For now, my wasteland is where I find myself living in my old beliefs.

What’s your wasteland?



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