Defining Your Destination (2014)

Define Your DestinationHow does one “Re-Write the Story of Their Life?” This is the last in a three-part series I wrote in 2012 for The Spirited Woman. In this part I discuss transition.

By Andrea Chilcote

Being “in transition” implies you have left one place (physically, mentally or emotionally) and have not yet arrived in another. And one of the more daunting challenges associated with transition is not knowing where you are going. I don’t know about you, but while I am enjoying the journey, I want to have a destination on the horizon.

The process of defining a destination, an intended outcome sounds simple – though we can make it into a complex science project.

I’ve never cared for mind benders, those frustrating puzzles that make your brain hurt. Yet I’ve spent a good portion of my life puzzling over so-called universal principles that feel just like mind benders. I’m referring to profound revelations uttered by philosophers and gurus that you just know are The Truth, yet are paradoxical and seem hard to live by in practical terms.

One such head scratcher is the concept of detachment. According to this gem of wisdom, we must set a clear and compelling vision, then…let it go. The idea is that with attachment, our fears and obsessions will muddy the pure intent, contriving all manner of disaster and plotting contingencies to prevent such. This focus on the details can be exacerbated when one is in transition, because it feels as though all we control is the minutiae.

Does this “law of detachment” mean we should stop wanting what we say we want? No, no—and therein sits the conundrum. The problem often lies in defining what we want. Often what we say we want is just a means of getting to some higher-level, often unexpressed, goal. What we get attached to is the mechanism — this house, this job, this relationship – and we miss all of the beautiful opportunities that show up along the way.

In your heart of hearts, what do you know you truly want? And, what will having that bring you? The answer to the second question is, in all likelihood, what you truly desire. The rest is just method or means, the detailed how-to that your clever mind has calculated. These instructions we issue to the universe squelch our creative wisdom and limit the innate potential available to all. Most of the time, we’re not in charge of the how-to’s anyway. Have you ever looked back after some miraculous achievement and wondered how it all came together? W.H. Murray’s famous statement says it all: ”The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.”

So look forward. Craft your vision, paint a picture of your heart’s desire. See it, feel it, imagine it come to life. Then let it be. Go about your day, enjoying each precious and fleeting moment. You might be surprised at what happens next.

Read all three parts on The Spirited Woman site.

Take It Easy

by Andrea Chilcote

This week, I’m having an adverse reaction to things that are “hard,” and so I’m practicing ease. This encore post seems appropriate today. It appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where I’m a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

I’m struck by how many of my friends and colleagues have been touched by my resolve to not look back. We all know it’s an obviously sensible ambition to remain present and move forward moment by moment – there’s nothing that can change the past – but so many of you have said “It’s hard.”

“Hard” is a concept, a familiar state of being we’ve conditioned our minds to believe. Oh, I get it … in fact, a dear friend commented on one of my recent posts saying,  “See how easy it is …” and I immediately wanted to reply: “That was not at all easy! In fact getting to that realization was very hard!”

But I realized that “hard” can be a mental concept focused on the presumed future vs. the moment (“It will be difficult to remain present when my husband’s children visit.”) or it can be literally true (“This jar is hard to open.”)

What we need are tools for escaping from the mental concept of “hard” when it bears down, eclipsing the beauty of right now.

So how do we make being present “easy?” Many before me have written of and taught tools and techniques. I offer you mine in simple form.

Breathe. Attention to the breath brings attention to the body. When we focus on (or obsess on) what happened before, we are literally out of our physical bodies and in our mental bodies. Practical tool: When you feel fear, anxiety, or guilt – take a breath, then another. Notice it. The result? Your attention will re-focus on now, if even for a second.

Empathize. This one works if you can’t get clear on how you yourself are feeling in this very moment. How is a significant other experiencing it right now? Caution – it’s against the rules to consider what he or she thought or felt moments or days before. This is about now.

Focus. I know this may be the hardest one…oops! There’s that word again. But really, it is the most liberating thing we can do. Stop right now and focus – ask yourself, “What is true now?” and really pay attention. I’m betting it’s not as bad as your mind might have conjured up. If it’s not, enjoy the break. If it is, then you just got a dose of reality to use to take remedial action. Now.

Do what you can (not what you can’t). A friend reminded me of this piece of wisdom she learned in a workshop many years ago. I had told her that while I know that not looking back is a practice we all can manage, I do not know how to advise those who have suffered tragic losses. Who am I to suggest that they leave the past behind, if the past contained love and life that is literally not here today? What I realized is this. When one practices presence in small ways (staying focused amidst life’s small irritations, for example), the “big” things become easier because of habit, not because we worked on them specifically. We never lose the memories but we care for ourselves by experiencing them in the context of this very moment.

Think about the ways in which you work to stay present in your daily lives. What do you do when “showing up” here and now is essential? If you have a practice for times like that, it can work at all times.