Patience and Tranquility

It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Right action for right action’s sake – righteousness – is the central goal of truly generative living. Righteousness is not strictly a mental exercise, neither is it solely a matter of the heart. It comes as body, mind and heart are unified in purpose and function.

Aligning body, mind and heart is much simpler than you might imagine. To realign these three elements that make up what you have to express who you are, you must first cultivate in yourself an often overlooked, frequently misunderstood and regularly discounted quality of being: patience.

Patience relates primarily to your physical nature. Patience is an active state of abiding, not a passive state where you are holding back, twiddling your thumbs or biting your tongue. To be patient in this sense, you must deliberately focus on the beauty in the physical world around you while remaining unmoved by the misapplications in the world around you.

Once you’ve begun aligning your physical nature, you can move to bring your mental nature into alignment through the spirit of tranquility. Tranquility is not a reactive or a reflective state produced from the inside-out, rather, like patience tranquility is a radiant stance.

Tranquility is known when your feathers are no longer ruffled by outer circumstance, not because you steel yourself to them or live in denial, but because your mind is centered on the       wonderful one within – the real you. When you maintain this mental centering and alignment over time, you come to the point where the vicissitudes of life no longer consume your thoughts.

Right action for the sake of right action is within your reach. You need not withdraw from the world to be righteous, in fact, you need the world around you to ground the positive charge moving out from you. You have everything you need to get started here and now, so don’t delay!

Take your time, have fun with it, don’t beat yourself up and relax! You have something tremendously valuable to deliver to the world but you cannot manufacture it according to concepts about what would be right or good. Your gift will find expression as you gather yourself – your body, mind and heart – into one accord and one place. 

It’s a matter of attention

Each person has inside a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a person to listen to his own good.” – Pablo Casals

Each person is composed of a human shell – a mind, heart and body – which surrounds and is designed to be permeated by the being at his core. That being, or soul as it is commonly referred to, is perfect.

If, in the living of life, your attention is consumed by the outer details of circumstance, you will forever be putting out fires and being led around by that which is outside of you. If, on the other hand, you make the space to listen to and build up the courage to act on the goodness which is present within you always, you will begin to extend control from a balanced place where you were previously controlled by the capricious details of outer circumstance.

Your soul, your being, does not need to learn; it is already perfect. The learning required is strictly a matter of training your “human” capacities of body, mind and heart to accommodate the expression of the decency and goodness  – the light – within you.

I agree with Sr. Casal’s assertion that it isn’t complicated, but it does require courage. It takes courage to focus attention in places that have long been ignored by practical men who have convinced themselves that they must vanquish the devil in the details in human strength.

Never wrestle with or react to the devil in the details. Look instead to bring the light of understanding to bear on the details from within outward. In so doing you will find that you  treat even the most tense and convoluted circumstances you face with grace and ease.

Whenever you are anxious, stressed or reactive, you have stopped listening to and or acting on the goodness and decency within you. It is that simple: unnatural tension results whenever attention is misplaced.

 

Truth Incarnate

When calculating the prospects of a young man, and the likelihood of his being able to go through life without being taken off his feet, I always want to know whether he stands for anything in particular. A written sentence may be mere words or it may mean something. So a young man may be only a mixture of body and soul or he may mean something: that combination of body and soul may stand as the expression of an idea. He may be some truth incarnate, so that when you meet him you feel that you are encountering that truth, and when he talks to you you have somehow the notion that truth is addressing you and arguing itself out with you. We none of us have to look far to find such men. There may be a certain stringency and aggressiveness about them some times that makes them uncomfortable, a kind of directness about them that makes them inevitable, but there is no mistaking their meaning. They are an idea become flesh — a doctrine, a theory, dressed in human apparel. The feature in the case of interest to us just now is that a man so conditioned is not likely to lose his way nor to founder. The point is not that he has mastered the idea, but that the idea has mastered him and in that way counteracts the influences operating to pull him in other ways.” – Charles H. Parkhurst

To live a meaningful life, you must at a minimum devote yourself to the elaboration of an idea. Such devotion tests your resolve and requires that you overcome the gravitational pull of mediocrity, that insidious force which transmutes inherent potential into frustrating meaninglessness.

To live an extraordinary life, you must mature beyond the devotion to an outer ideal and learn to live solely in the expression of your inner purpose, your raison d’ȇtre. This is the means by which the invisible, eternal and omnipresent principles of truth are made flesh.

The truth in abstract is of no value until it is expressed, made incarnate, just as your soul is meaningless at this level of creation until it is made flesh, given expression through your body, mind and heart. Personal meaning, personal value is established exclusively from the inside out.

The Friction of Memories

It’s not the work which kills people, it’s the worry. It’s not the revolution that destroys machinery it’s the friction.” – Henry Ward Beecher

Memory is a double-edged sword. It affords us the ability to learn from our mistakes, so that when we fail, we can then fail better. Conversely, it holds us back, causing friction in what would otherwise be an easy undertaking were we fully present.

The process of thinking – of truly accurate thinking – occurs at the narrowly defined intersection of the temporal (past, present, future) and the eternal. “Wisdom,” as the Apache say “sits in places.” Consideration of the past, present and future must be weighted appropriately, for any imbalance will result in in unnecessary and deleterious friction between the cogs in the living machinery that you have, that is, your body, mind and heart.

Most importantly, however, is your connection to the eternal. You are a plumb-bob suspended from the eternal in the midst of the temporal. If the forces of past, present and future are properly balanced, your living will be plumb. If, however, you allow the past to exert a greater pull than the present or future, your life will no longer be plumb and you will feel, or others will notice, the wobble in your expression.

This is the very reason why so many people fail to do what is right, even when they know deep down that it is the right thing to do. Their connection to the eternal calls them in one direction, but their attention wanders. If it remains fixed in relation to the past, then the friction of memories will grind their progress to a halt. If it oscillates between past, present and future erratically or frenetically, frenzy will result and forward movement will stop.

Remember your connection to the eternal – to the core of your central purpose – and you will always be present in relation to that which you undertake. When that connection is clear and strong, you will be serenely suspended amidst the tempting and tempestuous forces of past, present and future.

 

Energy, Discipline, Spirit

Managing people, like training horses or parenting, is all about harnessing energy and teaching discipline, while preserving spirit. The best managers, like the best trainers, possess a remarkable capacity for empathy and their high expectations are never lowered by sympathy.

I have no doubt that there is a marvelous spirit resident within each and every person on earth, a spirit that must be properly clothed to highlight its finer qualities. The connection to spirit (not the spirit itself!) can be broken by overly severe discipline or conversely, by the absence of discipline.

A broken man, like a broken horse, has lost the connection to the spirit that animates him. The spirit is still there, as is the form until death, but the flow of life, energy and passion between the two is reduced to a trickle.

Nurturing or restoring that connection is my life’s work. Whether working with people or horses, my great hope is that the spirit of the one with whom I am privileged to associate at any given point in time is allowed to be magnified into dignified expression. Dignity requires control and restraint, both of which are the product of discipline.

The uncontrolled expression of spirit is doomed to burn out its vehicle expression. The overly-controlled expression of spirit is muted and impotent, dull and uninspiring. There is a golden mean in expression, a flowing state in which body, mind and heart are aligned and poised to give birth to brilliance. And that mean is available to every single person on earth.

Whether I’m managing, riding or simply being a father, inspiring that brilliance is one of my central concerns.

What about you? What concerns do you fill your heart with before you look into the eyes and thereby the soul of another, regardless of their individual story, of your history with them or with how you feel at the moment?

Big Decisions

My sons, aged 5 and 6, had an interesting conversation at breakfast the other day. They got on the topic of thinking and feeling somehow (I came in part way through) and my youngest made the declaration “Daddy, feeling is definitely more important than thinking!” My oldest, who is as siblings often are wired completely differently than his little brother, looked at him quizzically and countered with “Seriously? Daddy, thinking is definitely more important than feeling.”

I had to laugh as I often do when listening to my little rascals pontificating on the deeper questions in life and I must admit I was a impressed with how sure each was of his own opinion on the matter. When they turned to me for confirmation of their respective beliefs, I did my best to explain in 5 and 6 year old terms that thinking and feeling are two complementary parts of a larger whole. In other words, both were important to effectively handling the decisions – both small and large – that we all face in life.

Decisions are best made when your heart is untroubled and your mind is at peace. Decisions have a funny way of driving a wedge between heart and mind or of disturbing one or the other or both. The larger the decision, it seems, the greater the potential for upset.

Those who have achieved mastery in self-expression have learned to keep both mind and heart at peace no matter how high the stakes or complicated the decision at hand. Those who have yet to become masters in this way (note to self: this is not an exclusive club…both “intellectuals” and “feeling” people can attain mastery) tend to struggle mentally or wrestle with their feelings as they approach the forks in the road of life. “Struggling with” always implies “subjection to” and such subjection invariably leads to a loss in perspective.

Everyone desires an optimal outcome but effective decision-making is hampered when heart and mind are troubled or impaired by unrelieved tension. Optimal outcomes are sometimes achieved when heart and mind are under duress, but only by means of dumb luck.

More often than not I’ve found that unrelieved tension seeps into and begins to restrict heart or mind when decisions are squared against short-term desires or wants. If you fail to take your life’s purpose into account whenever you make a decision you are much more likely to go off on a tangent or to miss the opportunity to get back on track. When you are off-track, tension tends to build. Remember being lost in a car with your parents on a road trip?

Your heart and mind provide you with valuable tools and critical feedback as you approach any decision. It matters not if you see yourself as a “thinker” or a “feeler” because heart and mind are naught but the prisms through which the “you” that you are refracts and is magnified out into the world around you.

A builder would assure you that his tools must be sharp, clean and well-oiled for the job to go as well as it can. Why would it be any different when it comes to the tools of heart and mind that you are blessed to have at your command?

The Value of Decision

Lexi, my Red-tailed Hawk hunting partner, has taught me a great many things over the last two-and-a-half years. I have a deep respect for her hunting style, which centers around an uncluttered capacity for decision.

Human beings have it relatively easy. We don’t, generally speaking, have to risk life and limb every time we eat. We don’t, in our homes or at a restaurant, have to perform death-defying feats that push us to the edge of our physical and mental envelope to keep our food from escaping before it is served. Hawks do, each and every meal.

There’s nothing like facing a life-or-death situation to test your capacity for decision and your resolve once you’ve committed. Lexi approaches the split-second decisions she must make when chasing her quarry with with an intense focus and an inimitable grace. She is not, of course, endowed with the complex (and often overly and unnecessarily complicated) consciousness that her falconer and his fellow humans possess; nevertheless, her majestic example serves as an inspiration and a challenge, a call to continuous refinement of the capacity for decision.

The greatest single impediment to decisiveness is found in a troubled heart. The mental faculties are not typically the root of indecision, in fact, it is the overly and unnecessarily complicated emotional environment in which we tend to flail around as we move pillar to post instead of steadily forward on our journey through time. A troubled heart disrupts the normal thinking processes, creating a state akin to hypoxia.

As a pilot who has had specific training in hypoxia-awareness, I can aver to the fact that hypoxia’s debilitating effect on the mental processes is secondary to the peril of the false and misleading sensation of well-being that accompanies it. The problem with hypoxia is that you tend to feel great, if not euphoric, at the very moment that you should be most concerned.

So it is with a troubled heart. When your heart is troubled – either overjoyed or dejected – your perception of what is really occurring, that is, the truth of the matter, is skewed. As such, when you are faced with a difficult decision you are wise to first come to the point where your heart is as untroubled as possible. When your heart is at rest your mind has a much better chance at working as it was designed to work, i.e. a tool for rational thought rather than a tool for rationalization.

When your heart is troubled your mind will tend to waste its energies trying to make sense of the distorted and unreliable information it is receiving from your heart. Like walking through a hall of mirrors or making your way through a busy room while wearing a pair of your friends glasses, you have to think extra hard to find your way through the situation and the course you take is rarely optimal.

How you let your heart come to rest is for you to decide. Sometimes a couple of deep breaths and counting slowly to ten will do it. Other times indulging in a brief distraction to “take your mind off of it” for a moment can help. Some, I’ve heard, even benefit from “sleeping on it” as the opportunity permits. There are many techniques that can help you in this regard, but ultimately you’ll find that deliberately cultivating an unflappable appreciation for the privilege of decision and adopting a radiant stance in all that you undertake is the key to maintaining an untroubled heart every waking moment of your life.

If you have a better day today because of what you’ve learned, don’t thank me. Thank Lexi. Thank the natural world around you. Give thanks and give freely of yourself and better days will no longer be the exception, but the rule.