What drives us in the world is our attempt to move from loneliness to connection, from loneliness to loving.
~ Marc Gafni, Soulprints: Your Path to Fulfillment
In these tough economic times, the heaviness in the air is palpable. A few weeks ago The Seattle Times featured an article in which various experts were asked to define an economic Depression, ostensibly to diagnose if we were there yet! The dire reports of another stock market crash and the collective worry of global uncertainty can suck the life out of you if you let it. It isn't hard in these times to slide into a personal depression. There is a more life-affirming alternative.
As painful as it is, I believe the difficult changes we are experiencing have the potential to move us forward. We are inherently flexible and adaptable creatures, especially when we remember we have each other to help us through. Our relationships with one another, our ability to connect and come together, is our true gold.
How do human beings respond when disaster strikes? September 11th showed us that in times of collective tragedy, our humanity is touched. We realize we need each other, which, if we're open to it, will lead us to connect with and care for one another in a deeper, more satisfying way. Like no other experience, deep loss can reunite us with what really matters. Isn't authentic connection what most of us really want anyway?
Just as we can use tough times to deepen our relationships, we can similarly connect with our situation in new ways. In my experience, my life always changes for the better when I switch my camera lens and wake up to see the same circumstances from a new view. If you can "fly above" your life and experience the bigger picture, you create some distance that can be very freeing. Fresh opportunities and hidden possibilities surface when you see your life with new eyes.
This is also a good time to look at our motivation -- why we do the work we do, for example. I love the words of spiritual leader and best-selling author, Neal Donald Walsh, calling us to recognize a higher purpose for being. "Live your life for a new reason," he writes. "Understand that [your life's] purpose has nothing to do with what you get out of it, and everything to do with what you put into it." It is true that we reap what we sow.
My mom indoctrinated my sisters and I with similar wisdom. Complaining didn't go over well with her. She always encouraged us to make the best of any disappointing situation. She taught me that if I wasn't having fun, it was because I wasn't adding fun to whatever we were doing. The responsibility for whether I made lemonade out of lemons was all mine.
All of this is to say, I think we need a global attitude adjustment -- a shift in focus to what we can give rather than the current focus on what we're not getting. I can fall prey to the "woe is me" victim mentality as easily as anyone. Sometimes I adjust my attitude several times a day! Simply taking in a deep cleansing breath can do it. And then something triggers a worry and I remember to take another breath. There's a reason we call breathing a "practice." We are all truly learning a new way to live.
I do not mean to minimize the devastating loss of a job or the traumatic shock of seeing the value of your IRA drop to new lows. I am saying that such losses create fertile ground for awakening to a deeper and infinitely more satisfying purpose for living. If we can no longer count on the "American dream" as we have envisioned it coming to fruition, it is time to vision a new dream.
One of the best things about cultivating a new dream is that it puts you in a whole new place. You become an adventurous traveler journeying to a never-before-seen destination. You need deep anchors to help ground and support you as you grow into the person who will inhabit your chosen destination. One way to feel more rooted is to begin to tap into the power of internal qualities: your generosity, creativity, and your natural ability to love and receive love ... to connect more from the heart with others and with life.
Years ago, I was in the process of visioning a new dream for my work. While soul-searching for a new career based on my passions, I had a spiritual awakening. I noticed how much I lit up when I received a compliment from a store clerk. It struck me powerfully that an act so "small" could make my day.
I realized then that no matter what form my work took, my true purpose was to reflect back to others their unique beauty, gifts and talents. I made a pact with myself to let others know when I noticed something special about them. Reflecting others' unique strengths back to them became a "new reason" to live my life - a new facet of my life purpose. And the truth is, I love seeing how my own small gesture can help bring someone else alive.
If you were going to take your focus off your worries or uncertainty and put it elsewhere, what shift would you make? What might be your new reason for living?
How would your life be different if, upon awakening each morning you asked yourself, "How can I make someone's day?"