Friday, March 27, 2009

Identity Continued

Posted by Bill Frase -

I believe that asking good questions is an important aspect of living a good life. I have asked some questions in my life that have led me places I never thought I’d go - some of them wonderful and some of them not so great. So, I’m going to ask you a question. Perhaps you have already asked it of yourself. It’s related to my previous post on identity. Take your time with it. Really sit with it when you have some time by yourself.

Who Are You?

Are you really what you tell people you are? Are you really what you think you are - your weaknesses, money, job, relationships, abilities, fears, hopes, the sum of the material circumstances over which you currently exercise stewardship? Are you your circumstances? Are you your memories? Are you your feelings? Are you your intentions? Are you your actions? Is that really the way you are and will always be?

I guess it’s more than one question I’m asking here.

I do not believe that we are any of these things, separately or collectively. At most these are some of the symbols we create for our benefit, whether we realize it or not. All of these things are perfectly designed to help us realize who we really are.

The symbols we create are specifically and perfectly designed to help us look past the images and surface features of our lives. No matter what we have experienced, these shadows beg us to go deeper into ourselves and the Source of our being.

We are so much more than we now realize. There is incredible potential within each of us, and there is nothing about our current circumstances that can or will ever change that truth.

At some point we will perceive the false nature of every apparent limitation. When we allow that to happen, our magnificence will dissolve what appeared to be permanent and immovable. In that moment there will be nothing to keep us from being who we really are. In truth we are each wonders beyond description. No mistake was made in our design. There is nothing wrong with the materials that form our being. We have been made in the invisible image of the Ultimate Power. We are heirs to riches beyond our abilities to reason or imagine, wonderful though those abilities may be.

Unlike people who inherit great wealth upon another’s death, we only receive our full inheritance when we realize that our Source is very much alive - not only alive, but the very Source of All Life. And in that knowing we realize that we have been fully known all along - guided, protected, blessed, loved, and accepted. Always. In all ways.

Monday, March 16, 2009

To Trust or Not to Trust

Posted by Bill Frase -

Is the Game of Life Really Rigged Against Us?

This is not what I originally intended to write today. I was making great progress on an essay on a different subject when I lost it completely. I thought I’d been saving it as I went, but for some reason there was nothing left of it when I tried to recover the document. So instead of trying to recreate that essay, I felt like writing about a different topic related to the loss of my previous article.

When I realized that I had lost the article, I have to admit that I was disappointed. I mean, I was putting my time, creativity, and energy into it. It seemed to be going well. Then I lost the whole thing. I was confused because it felt good to be writing what I was writing. I even thought that what I was writing would benefit the people who would read it. So why did things not go the way I was hoping they would?

In my world nothing happens by accident. Nothing. Everything has a potential purpose, and I believe that one of my main jobs in life is to take circumstances as they come to me (and other people) and do the best I can in that moment to make the most of it (whatever “it” is) .

If you haven’t figured it out, that’s what I’m doing right now. If that other piece I was writing was so important to produce right now, then what happened wouldn’t have happened. It is possible that the former article was supposed to get published today, and that it just needed to be completely rewritten. But since writing this feels better to me right now, I’ll keep plugging away at this one and trust that now was not the time for the other piece I was working on to be published.

Trust is one of the most important aspects to my whole “everything has a potential purpose” idea. This also happens to be something that I am currently working on in my own life. Not surprising, I know. This morning I was thinking about the fact that things often get much, much worse before they get better. We usually assume that if things aren’t going the way we want them to they must be “BAD.”

This kind of thinking denies us the opportunities to maximize the circumstances that we attract into our lives. If you think about anything that happened in your life that you didn’t want to happen, chances are the first thing you did was resist it. In some way you denied it or pushed back against it, thinking “This can’t be happening!” or “I hate this!” or “I wish this would just go away!” or whatever exclamatory phrases occurred to you at the time.

What if, instead of resisting, we assumed that this thing we were not expecting and currently not wanting is actually an opportunity? What if we have actually been waiting for this very moment to take our lives to a whole new level? What if the thing that we wish wasn’t happening is actually the secret doorway to an unbelievably wonderful future?

Don’t we all have stories of things that we thought were terrible that actually turned out to be “blessings in disguise” once we had the benefits of time, experience, or perspective? How about we take that attitude all of the time, regardless of appearances? What do we lose by doing this? What benefit is there to thinking that something is horribly terrible with absolutely no possibility of anything good ever coming from it? Who ever got anywhere worth getting to or did anything meaningful believing that?! Even if you happen to be “right,” in your negative assessment of a situation (not likely), what fun is it to be “right” if you’re miserable because you think there’s no hope?

What I know for sure is that our chances for success are much better if we are open to the possibilities within less-than-desirable events and circumstances. While most of us resist these kinds of events out of habit (I plead guilty.), my hope is that we can all open up a little bit to the possibility that even the worst circumstances and events hold the seeds for real progress for ourselves and for others.

Good farmers plant seeds, trusting that the seed, sun, rain, and soil will do what they are supposed to do. The universe has been rigged for our benefit, whether we get that or not. Perhaps the next time something doesn’t go the way we want it to we can choose to believe that it has a useful purpose, even if we can’t see it. Let’s believe that it may very well be exactly what we need. I humbly submit that that is exactly what it is.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Peril and Power of Identity

Posted by Bill Frase -

I’ve had some experiences lately (I’ll spare you the details) that have helped me to appreciate the double-edged nature of identity. Part of my identity happens to be the belief that I have a gift for interpreting life experiences (my own and others’).

Identity is an important aspect of being human, one that we often take for granted (usually at our peril). But for those who are willing to explore beneath the surface features of their lives, the possibilities are truly extraordinary.

Years ago I attended a presentation on the relationship between identity and human behavior. I don’t remember all of the specifics nor the statistics, but the main thing I took from that event was an increased appreciation for the power of identity.

A sense of identity allows one to feel that she is pretty much the same person she was relative to some other moment in time. This is generally a good thing. Memories and habits allow identity to develop and sustain itself. While these things are common aspects of identity, they can also become traps in an unexamined life.

Consider the case of a person who is not consciously processing memories or examining habits. A person in this situation becomes increasingly programmed to begin to believe that these memories and habits define the possibilities for her existence. While this can give a person a sense of security, continuity and stability, the danger is that one’s life increasingly takes on the characteristics of a carousel ride. One goes around in circles, maybe even moving up and down on a particular horse, but at the end of the ride, a person finds that she is in the same place she started. While there may be perceived benefits in this approach to life, growth is stunted and positive changes usually come very slowly and with much pain and struggle.

In my experience most of us define ourselves largely by our perceived limitations, shortcomings, mistakes, moral failings, addictions, disabilities, challenges, and wounds. Isn’t it often the case that we use words like “can’t,” and “I’m not” when we think about ourselves? Are these things actually true? Or do we say, think, and act upon these kinds of limited and limiting thoughts because we are afraid of what it would mean if they weren’t true?

What if these stories we tell ourselves are actually lies? For the moment, let’s assume that they are. If that's the case, then who are we really? If we base our lives upon lies, will we ever realize even a tiny fraction of the possibilities available to us? Will we even risk the possibility of bumping up against something unknown? What’s the point when we will not pass through the fog of fear and doubt to see what lies beyond?

Identity is part of what helps us make sense of the world. It is part of the foundation that under girds our perceptions and categorizations. But if our sense of self is not strongly linked to real things, we cannot really trust our perceptions. Our perceptions are warped and distorted, making terrors out of trivialities and treasures out of trinkets. Ask yourself, are you living inside a scary snow globe?

Our defense mechanisms do not constitute the real I of our identities. They are temporary attachments to the wonderful I that lies behind the strategies we have developed to protect ourselves from the disappointments and dangers that accompany real living. I know that there are powerful temptations leading us to cling to an imprisoned self in exchange for a false sense of predictability, security, and stability. I wrestle with these demons daily.

As long as we remain unwilling to leave our security systems behind, we will be imprisoned by our past patterns. I encourage you to do something, anything that you can think of that might scare you a bit, but that would also feel good if you were to actually do it. Even taking the smallest step in a new direction can begin the process of expanding your ideas about who you really are. The truth is that none of us have experienced more than a tiny fraction of all that we really are and all that we can really do. By doing this simple exercise, you can begin to experience a world with broader horizons, higher skies, and more of everything that you are longing to give and receive, helping yourself and others to play in a universe of ever-expanding possibilities. This is why we are here, whether we realize it yet or not.