On Truth and Possibilities

Brown skinned feet with red toenails on green grass.
Me, enjoying a moment of sunshine and introspection.

Just told the truth about something. Risked quiet criticism disguised as questions, but told the truth all the same.

In the past I might’ve eventually gotten there. Perhaps.

It would’ve taken forever to word it the right way, couching it to ward off potential negativity. I might’ve given a partial answer, obscuring the whole truth for an unsatisfying omission. But the truth was the truth. My truth. One I’ve known for a long time, but didn’t have, or create, an opening to share it. And finally here was my chance. I took it.

I mentioned Brené’s work yesterday and I think it’s part of the reason I responded as I did. She encourages you to be courageous, and embrace vulnerability, “the feeling we get when we feel uncertain, at risk, or emotionally exposed.”

As a thoughtful, shy, introverted adult, I think a lot, but I don’t share my thinking much. Only with those who know how to listen. Really listen. And in the past couple of years, I’ve become even less inclined to share for one reason or another. But this practice of silence has resulted in a diminished quality of life – wasting time on things that don’t bring me joy, and don’t create value. Sure, there are times when such work is required, but if a few moments of vulnerability can remove hours of meaningless shit, well isn’t it worth the effort?

Not too long ago, I might’ve said no. Might’ve found that toiling away on nonsense was worth the safety, the security, the silence of certainty. But we live, and hopefully, we evolve, and when the time is right, we make new choices. And when the risky, scary moment ends, possibilities begin.

One task

Today I am thinking of fear. Feeling it. Working through it. Understanding it. Appreciating it as a teacher.

Fear, in certain degrees, can feel like a happy excitement. Stomach tingling, breath quickening. I felt that fear today. It comes when I have doubts about something I want to do, and I can see the beginning of paralysis. Self-sabotage. I haven’t given into Resistance yet, but I have the sudden urge to talk myself out of… progress.

But for now it’s just a tingle. It’s commentary about the relative location of me and my comfort zone.

A New Year’s Eve declaration.

Any time fear is my muse, I ponder the word fearless. I explored this a few years ago, and I have come to understand THAT being fearless is not really being without fear, but about lessening fear’s influence.

If giving into fear means remaining silent or standing still, then being fearless means speaking up or moving, despite the fear. The fear is still present, but it does not defeat you.

Fearlessness is about the steps you take when it feels safer, more comfortable, to stay put.

I’m working on a small project. For many reasons, it inspires fear. Will it be good enough? Will it come out as I expect? Will it have the impact I desire?

Will it…?

Will it…?

Will it…?

If fear wins, I’ll soon make up reasons to work on something else entirely.

If I am fearless, tomorrow I will complete one more task; bring it one step closer to completion.

The wise will rejoice

I watched a short video this weekend, and it featured excerpts from a piece by Buddhist philosopher and peace activist Daisaku Ikeda. I haven’t felt anything resonate so deeply in a long time. I quickly jotted down all the words I could remember and then found part of the poem excerpted online:

Morning sky by nicole denise.
Morning sky by nicole denise.

Quietly ask yourself
if it isn’t in fact true
that each of us,
before being defeated by an external adversary,
is first defeated by ourselves.

The weak in spirit,
the cowardly,
even before wandering reluctantly
at the foot of the wall
that towers in their path,
shrink first before the sight
of their own shadow.
Terrified of illusory figures
of our own creation,
we are defeated by the bandits
that infest our heart.

The strong-willed,
the courageous,
are always the conquering masters
of their own minds.
Thus, they fear nothing,
remain unbowed, unflinching.
Whatever occurs,
they live in perfect accord
with the Daishonin’s counsel:
          The wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat.
They know that they themselves
are like that brilliant monarch, the sun.
Shooting bright beams
through the clouds
of impermanence and change,
they advance, heads held high
into the raging tempest.

From Be an eternal bastion of peace in Journey of Life: Selected Poems of Daisaku Ikeda

Next steps

sesimbra sidewalk
Nic taking steps in Portugal.

I long held on to something that was once a good stepping stone and source of support but it turned into something… much less productive. After a couple of years it became a crutch. And over the past few months, and most clearly the past couple of days, I realized it was more like an anchor.

In Nichiren Buddhism, once you realize you’re in a less than ideal situation, you seek to understand your role in it. You take responsibility and try to transform it. Hendoku iyaku, or changing poison into medicine, is a powerful approach. But it doesn’t work if you try to transform the wrong thing. You can’t change other people. You can only change you.

I’ve felt stagnant and frustrated for quite some time, but ultimately, I was allowing an external situation to weigh me down. I was the one holding on, and in effect, creating my own stagnation. My outlook and resulting actions were the poison I needed to change.

And so, Thursday, I resolved to let go. And Friday, I started the wheels in motion. Today I am overjoyed, looking forward to next steps.