Saturday, 14 November 2015

Start Close In...With the First Step...

I woke up the other morning with the following thoughts singing in my heart and soul…

"Some say that freedom comes from seeking your own answers to the questions of the day; to the questions that others asks you. I am not so sure that this is real freedom.

Who decides the questions? Who says that these are the questions that you should even be asking yourself?

What are the questions that your own heart, your own soul, asks?

Finding your own voice is not about only finding your own answers, but also about asking the questions your own soul demands of you, your own heart asks you.

That said it is not enough to merely ask the questions that your heart desires. I am learning that to truly join in the courageous conversation requires me to follow my bliss...

It begins right here, right now, it begins close in, close at heart, with the first step...It begins by asking my heart, what my heart desires to know and not what someone else's heart desires..."

Now where that came from is the great mystery...Where does anything come from?

I think that the thoughts were influenced by a poem I had been listening to by David Whyte. The poem being “Start Close In”. Below is a clip from YouTube of him reciting his own poem followed it in written form...

"Start Close In"

Start close in,
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don't want to take.
Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.
Start with your own
give up on other
people's questions,
don't let them
smother something
To find
another's voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.
Start right
take a small step
you can call your own
don't follow
someone else's
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don't mistake
that other
for your own.
Start close in,
don't take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don't want to take.

I love the challenge of this poem. It’s really about engaging in what Whyte calls the courageous conversation, which he says is about how we live authentically listening to our own hearts desires and truly living from our own souls. It’s about not being swayed by others too much and simply following their leads. Instead it’s about listening to that still small voice within and following its call and then beginning the journey “close in, with the first step. Not the second or third, but close in with the first step.” And how does this begin? He says “Start with your own question, give up on other people’s questions. Don’t let them smother something simple”

It is so easy to become swayed off course by others. I know I can be swayed of course by the questions and opinions of others. Less so these days as I have learnt to trust that still small voice within. That said I wonder how many times indecision has grown in me because I have been too easily swayed by the opinions of others. Opinions I have not even asked for by the way. How often in life do people give us unasked for advice? How often does this advice breed uncertainty about our paths within us? How often does it complicate something that was so simple?

Now there is another difficulty with beginning journeys of change, being too focused on a perceived goal. If we face ahead, looking purely at our perceived goal, we will not really experience all that is around us. In so doing we fail to hear that still small voice present in all life. I suspect being too single minded eventually leads to failure, because it is impossible to sustain.

This is the danger I have had to pay close attention to these last few months as I have radically altered my lifestyle and lost almost 6 stones, or 82 pounds in weight. I suspect that if I had focused purely on the end result I would have eventually failed. Instead I started close in. I began with the first step, with the ground at my feet. I made a beginning and have experienced every aspect of my ever changing life these last few months. It truly has been amazing as I have connected and opened in new and wonderful ways. I began shyly, nervously and with little confidence, but I began and as the journey has continued it has become nothing but bliss. And of course to top it all I have lost a phenomenal amount of weight and have enjoyed the journey at the same time.

Why? You may well ask. Well because I have fully experienced it. In so doing I have “followed my bliss”

Now “Following your bliss” comes from the teaching of the mythologist Joseph Campbell. He described “bliss” as that intuitive, deep-down way of knowing what is right for us, what is good for us, what makes us “truly happy”, that un-commonsense that can only be found deep down in the marrow of our souls. Campbell emphasised something that is known at an intuitive level, that we will never know real contentment, we will never feel truly fulfilled, unless we are “following our bliss”, unless we are doing with our lives what our hearts truly desire us to be doing, being who we truly ought to be and living by the values that we know in our souls are our ultimate values.

So why don’t we all “follow our bliss”? Well one reason is that it is shot through with uncertainty and danger, it is a step out into the unknown. To “follow our bliss” is to take the “Hero’s Journey” that Campbell also spoke of. Such a journey is riddled with danger. In the ancient myths these dangers would be deep dark forests and dragons and all kinds of other beasts. These are metaphors for the dangers we face in life today such as anxiety, dread and life sucking emptiness. There is also the danger of need to seek the approval of others. These dangers can press in on us so tightly that they stop us following what our hearts and souls truly desire. How many of us fail to hear the voice deep down within us, because we are too busy listening to fears and so called rationales of those around us?

Now of course there is always a price to pay for “following our bliss”. Such a price may seem too much for many of us. We may have to lose some things that we claim we hold so dear, that make us feel safe and secure in order to truly “follow our bliss”. A wonderful example of this is found in Mark's Gospel chapter 10, which depicts an encounter between Jesus and a “Rich Young Man”. The rich young man meets Jesus just as he has sets out on a journey – Jesus is an archetype of someone “following their bliss”- he kneels before him and asks what he must do in order to follow him. Jesus tells him that he must give up everything he owns and give all his money away to the poor. This the man cannot do, for him it was too much of a price to pay and so he walked away in shock and grief for he had many possessions. The rich young man could not “follow his bliss” because he could not sacrifice these things in his life in order to be free, to follow what his heart truly desired. How many of us are held back from being truly free by the things that we think make us who we are? I’m not merely talking about material things here, it could just as easily be status, ideas and or beliefs.

Now David Whyte is someone who took the courageous step, who was able to “follow his bliss”. He gave up a career in corporate America and became a poet and writer and eventually a deeply inspirational speaker. Much of his work is about finding "a work" a meaning in life. He himself began close in, with the first courageous step and experienced every ounce of meaning along the way. This was not easy. But he always followed what his heart and soul called him to do. It began for him when he stopped asking himself the questions others were asking him and began instead asking himself his own questions. The questions his own heart and soul asked of him.

Now this all seems a bit drastic for most us and I’m not suggesting that we follow his lead and give up our lives and responsibilities and go off and become poets. We do not have to do this to live authentically, to “follow our bliss”, I very much doubt it would be ours to do in any case. No what I am suggesting is that we find ways to truly listen to our own hearts and not become distracted by what others demand of us. What I am suggesting is that we learn to tune into that still small voice within each of us and begin close in, with the first step. Perhaps it could begin by asking ourselves what the questions our own hearts and souls are asking us rather than answering other people’s question. Maybe this is how we start close in, with the first step. Perhaps this is how we begin to live authentically, perhaps this is how we begin to “follow our bliss”.


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