Have you got a code you live by? What are the principles or set of values you actively apply in your life?
I try to “do no harm” as much as possible. I wish I always knew what that meant. Things that seem like good ideas at the time may do the most harm in the long run.
I have tried to apply the principle in organizations I belong to, especially churches. I have tried to speak up as kindly as possible when I felt it was necessary. When I am ignored, I quietly disengage myself from such situations and, eventually, organizations. They are then on their own. I am not in the business of making people listen, but I am also no martyr. After I warn of a particular situation, I will take steps to protect myself legally, emotionally, and, especially, financially. I do not take responsibility for others’ behavior.
If I can’t contribute, learn something, or have fun in an organization, it is time to leave.
I listen as closely as possible to what others are saying. Often, if you just listen, you can become almost semi-psychic as to what will happen next. Everyone has free will. Peons recognize this; people in power, not so much. People in charge are usually the last to know anything of real value because of their egos. People on the lower rungs of the ladder carefully edit what they tell the higher-ups, in order to not displease those who can fire/excommunicate them. This guarantees that those at the top generally do not have access to any truly useful information. All of this comes about from an unwillingness to listen to the feelings and concerns of others. People at the bottom simply allow the organization to fade away into obscurity because it only serves the needs of those at the top and is not worthy of any further time and financial investment.
Oftentimes, people have really basic needs that can be met without a huge commitment of time or resources. For example, I have a friend moving out of Michigan. She will need to clear out her house. But first, she needs to take her food to Maryland. Her food is downstairs. I am slowly taking her food from her basement and putting it on her dining room table. This will save her a lot of time. She has a new job down there. When she does come up, she has a lot of loose ends to tie up. What I am doing is small and costs me only the gas money to her house. People’s needs can be so basic. I am not rich. I don’t have a lot of money right now, but I do have time and am local to her Michigan house. And I already have keys.
I try not to create problems. I try to openly address what I see. I protect myself. And I listen.
“He who defines himself can’t know who he really is.” Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 24, Stephen Mitchell translation
I could not agree more, but there are hazards here. One can easily rebel against being defined by others and simply end up creating an opposite definition of oneself.
Leaving church, it would be easy for me to become an atheist, but saying that there is no God is no better than being an evangelist. I would still be pretending to know something I don’t—whether there is a god.
My fundamental issue at this point in my life is that I am not so many things I used to be (like Christian, interested in living in Michigan, conservative, uneducated, etc.) and don’t have anything yet to replace them. I have opened up a void. I am searching and may always be searching forever. I am between lives, hence my title “bardoinbetween.”
I am just as resistant to labeling myself as to being labeled by others. I have no assurance that I will believe in 10 years anything I believe today.
I am awed by the world, its complexity, and its simplicity. Everything is connected. Everyone has choices. Never underestimate people’s awareness. Be good to everyone or it will come back to bite you in the butt. The bigger picture you take into consideration, the better choices you can make. These are my guiding lights, regardless of how I may (or may not) define myself.
I’ve been contemplating simplifying my life. This has been a long journey. I’ve already accomplished a lot, but now I am reaching a new level. What more can I get rid of without creating problems for myself? For example, I got off facebook for a few months. I ended up getting back on, not because I like it, but because many people use it as a primary form of communication, especially when they are out of phone minutes. I want to make room for people, not stuff.
This is complicated because my life revolves around Barry. My life is not just about me. There is only so far I can go before I have a negative impact on him.
This is clearly a time of values clarification.
My friend that is moving to the East Coast has a lot of really nice stuff, including a house that she has invested a great deal of time and energy into. She wants to keep it all. Maybe she will be able to. I don’t know.
What I do know is that, to keep her stuff, she will need to make enough money to pay her current mortgage and rent an efficiency apartment while she settles into her new location. Ouch. She has a great deal of sentimental value in her possessions.
She is inspiring me to further simplify my life even further without knowing it. I don’t want to end up in her position. I will be as supportive as I can be, but I want freedom more than stuff.
My ability to help her comes from the simplicity of my life. All I deal with is my husband. My house is just a house to me. It has no sentimental value. I have literal and metaphorical space in my life that my friend can occupy as she transitions into her new life. The reason I can help her is that I am not like her.
Her house represents security and stability in her mind. The problem is that the status quo of what she is making and the trajectory of Michigan’s economy simply do not allow her to keep her house. She needs a miracle to stay here and keep her house. She had a phone interview yesterday, with a law office in Maine. The security and stability her house represents to her are imaginary. Perhaps they are a necessary illusion, but they are illusory nonetheless.
This is why I am increasing efforts at simplifying my life. Simplicity means flexibility. The less stuff I have, the less I need to insure, fix, find space for now, and eventually haul away. My friend will need one of those gargantuan Mayflower trucks to move all her crap, if she moves. A little U-Haul and I am good to go.
Once basic needs are met, it is difficult for me to imagine that there is such a thing as simplifying my life too much.
“Buddhism is a process of discovery, not a list of principles. There is no book of Buddhist principles. Buddhism is about realization. It is about transformation of consciousness. It means throwing everything out, including Buddhism, and going very deep within yourself to find the foundations of your life. And once you have done that, to learn to live your life out of that which has been realized—not what you’ve been told you should or shouldn’t do.” Wisdom Seeking Wisdom, Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori Roshi, True Dharma Eye, Case 241, Xuansha Hears the Sound of a Swallow
In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 48, Stephen Mitchell Translation
I can tell that my values are being transformed. I now ask myself if something is necessary before I purchase or do it. I don’t need to look it up or automatically indulge. This is a much higher level of consciousness. I feel like I am not groping for things as much. During the holiday season, there is just so much to say no to.
I feel like I am doing less, but accomplishing more. By rejecting most of the values I grew up with, I now live with more integrity and simplicity. The need to please (which was never that strong in me to begin with) is almost gone. I am spinning my wheels less.
I come from a blue-collar family, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth types. I inherited a good work ethic, but, other than that, I am not particularly proud of my background. They would give you the shirt off their back, but were nothing short of horrified that a black man became president. Racism runs deep in my white trash family. Worse, there is no real priority placed upon education, as if people with no skills should be able to easily support a family on one income. That’s the time and place they grew up in. I never had that luxury. I’ve been forced to deal with a changing world from an early age. I have shed off most of the more destructive values.
With fewer and clearer values, my life is much simpler. There are fewer moral dilemmas if one’s primary value is the wholeness and healing of as many in a given situation. Not many values compete with that.
“It’s important to understand what is important to each of us. Expressed further, it is important to know what is most important. Once established, we need to engrave that in our bones, empower ourselves and take individual responsibility and not allow others to frame it for us. It is each of us completely. It is our mind, to its conclusion, within all the vicissitudes of life, all the disasters, all the mediocrities.” “Loving Each Turn” Senior’s Talk by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj, Osho Featured in Mountain Record Vol. 27.4, Summer 2009
It is easy to say what we think is most important to us, but our actions reveal the truth. I have competing values, such as compassion versus paying Sallie Mae back. I don’t want to be a deadbeat and obsessively pay my debts, but I can ignore panhandlers on street corners.
I try very hard not be a hypocrite. I’ve known too many to count, Christians that talk love and forgiveness, but will schism the church over a dispute regarding carpeting or break off a relationship with a left-leaning relative. Talk is cheap. Words are not magical, or even valuable, if not backed up with action.
The challenge is to be true to oneself, regardless of the flak one receives for it. Approval is for children and slaves. If you need someone else’s approval for anything whatsoever, you are in trouble. Be careful regarding debt because the borrower is servant to the lender.
Because I am in my forties, I feel like I need to get my act together. Life is too short to live according to others’ values. When facing midlife or some life-altering experience like cancer, priorities get pushed to the foreground. It’s not always a pretty picture.