“Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.”*
‘Old age offers the opportunity to integrate and bring together the multiplicity of directions that they have travelled. It is a time you can be awakened and new possibilities come alive for you.’**
Our lives are trying to tell us some important things about who we are and what we can do and they never stop trying to help us find the way. Albert Espinosa encourages us to just keep moving:
‘North and south. Nothing more. Look for the north, look for the south. Don’t stop travelling between them.’^
This is something the young Espinosa had been taught by an intensive care nurse as he was realising that he now only had one lung. She had stroked his hair and said:
“Dreams are the north for everyone; if they come true then you’e got to head south.”^
Heading north and south, north and south, north and south will take us to everywhere that is anywhere in our world – a “multiplicity of directions.” We collect many things on the way – skills, ideas, experiences, achievements, struggles, overcomings – and in our later years we can see what possibilities these can mean.
One note as we continue our north an south thinking: we’re not alone. There’s often a tribe of people we can connect with:
“There is strength that comes when you walk together with those are are of one heart and mind as you.’^^
Over a lifetime there can be a positive and growing intensity to our lives. We find it in the thoughts we have, the conversations we engage in and the actions we take. I think of this as our gift. Ken Robinson calls it my element. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi thinks of it as flow. Joseph Campbell referred to it as my bliss. Seth Godin might talk about our art. Traditionally we have considered it to be calling or vocation.
When we’re travelling north and south between the poles of “Who am !? and “What is my contribution?” the gift is being forged. All the time we’re moving we are realigning ourselves to this.
Realignment is not easy. Brené Brown writes about three actions towards finds the better story for our lives: Reckoning involves an honest facing of the truth (“I am off-course”); Rumble means we must allow this to get to grips with us (“I am off-course because of … and need to let go of it”); and, Revolution (“I can now realign to what wants to come”):
‘We’ll do anything to avoid the lowest fo the low – self-examination.’*^
Daniel Kahneman, who knows a bit about how our thinking trips us up, points out that without another system of thinking we’re prone to think this is all there is and that we’re doing better than the rest:
‘The familiar System 1 processes of WYSIATI [What You See Is All There Is] and substituting [with an easier question] produce both competition neglect and the above average effect.’
Ken Mogi introduced me to the concept of datsusara – which feels like an act of realignment:
‘datsusara is a phenomonen in which a salaried worker, usually employed in office work, decides to leave the sage but unexciting life as a company employee to pursue their passions’.^*
The alternative seems to be exemplified in dojinshi. Dojinshi are the self-published manga comics. Beyond their salaried work, Japanese dojinshi producers will pay around £70 for a space that is only 90×45 centimetres at the huge Comiket event in order to sell their art. The incredible thing is that some of these publications go on to re-sell at ten or even a hundred times their original price. There is great demand for what they make.
Realignment might mean finding a new possibility or adding a new possibility to dojinshi-style to what we’re already doing but the most important thing of all is to listen to what our lives is trying to tell us.
(*Frederick Buechner, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara.)
(^From Albert Espinosa’s The Yellow World.)
(^From Erwin McManus’ The Last Arrow.)
(*^From Brené Brown’s Rising Strong.)
(^*From Ken Mogi’s The Little Book of Ikigai.)