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:
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:
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?
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?
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?