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Walking in Circles?

Studies show that we humans naturally tend to walk in circles when left to our own devices – without the necessary knowledge or preparation to navigate a simple course. Even walking a (reasonably) straight line turns out to be an unnatural task for the human mind to convey to the human feet! This is true even without the influence of alcohol or other drugs, which we know (no matter how much we deny) can easily lead us astray in oh so many ways! It is also not a function of one leg being longer than the other, though that may tighten the radius of the circles!

Actually, a study of blindfolded subjects (published in the journal Current Biology), showed that “when they couldn’t see at all, the walkers ended up going in surprisingly small circles – with a diameter of less than 66 feet.” According to Randy Gallistel, a cognitive neuroscientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, the results aren’t necessarily surprising:  “Most dead hikers, after all,” said Randy, “are found within a mile, if not 100 meters from where they got lost.”  As frightening as that is, many more are lost in the wilderness of ordinary life and walking in a death spiral right now, slowly winding their way to desperation, as the path to freedom awaits them.

I like to think that we naturally walk in circles, because our heart seeks to keep us centered. The circle is this gorgeously pure form, where all points in a particular plane are located at a given distance from a center. I find it profoundly mystical and beautiful that we would tend to remain close to and in constant relation with our center. If you are truly walking in circles as a conscious, intentional practice – which actually helps you get centered, so that you can then get your bearings and move in a deliberate direction – that is a practice to cherish (and perhaps a topic I will address directly in a future article). I believe that many indigenous peoples – and those devoted to a life profoundly connected to nature and essence – do, in fact, have a built-in moral compass that keeps them centered and whole, as the circle so aptly symbolizes. They also have the wisdom and mastery of place to find their way in circumstances more challenging than many of us “civilized” folk could even begin to cope with, much less master!

The truth is that for many (or most) of us living in the modern world (especially the U.S.), walking in circles is an unconscious and unconnected act: we are dizzily high on the omnipresent and omnidirectional spin in the airwaves all around us, permeating our brains, compromising our souls. It seems to take heroic effort of mind and heart just to avoid getting utterly lost in the incessant “B.S.” that swirls around us and through us – and to large extent – is us. Though “B.S.” comes in endless intensities of odor, the “B.S.” that seems most effective in keeping us walking in circles – or even spinning in place – are our “Belief Systems”. As writer, futurist and self-described “agnostic mystic” Robert Anton Wilson famously said, “Everything that gets into your brain affects your reality tunnel, your world view, or your belief system, which I abbreviate ‘B.S.’…” He also said, “You gotta be continually revising your map of the world, or you lose more and more contact with reality.” Though Wilson apparently did a lot of mind-bending drugs, it is hard to argue these points.

We can examine for ourselves (though much easier to see in others) the extent to which our own B.S. has served as our biased compass. Just where has that (mis)directional device taken us? For some it has taken them through what seems a straight and narrow tunnel of bigotry and intolerance, with no space for ideas that question their firmly established B.S. This can also be viewed as a vicious circle that incessantly returns one to the same narrow point of view. This is perhaps the worst kind of circle-walking, the kind where heart and mind have actually been co-opted by the ever-present cyclone of B.S., causing one to spiral into darkness and potentially into violent, destructive behavior, all the while utterly convinced that they are going in the “right” direction.

I trust, if you are reading this now, that your circles are not nearly so depraved as the example just given. But perhaps you realize that you have indeed been impacted by the noise circling around you all your life; that you do  have a tendency from time-to-time to walk in circles, coming back to the same stale place of unbelonging, where your conditioning continually whispers its unrelenting lie, “this is where you belong.”

Thankfully, there are ways to break free from mindlessly walking in circles (that actually keep you stuck in the same place),  and orient yourself in a direction that will take you progressively toward your goals, your vision. Regardless of where you are going and how you decide to get there, every path that leads to your dreams starts in the same place: with an awareness of where you are. And we can only find ourselves if we first stop walking in circles. I hope this article has heightened your awareness, and I trust you will find many clues herein as to how you can begin to break free from your own version of B.S., or “Belief Systems”, or Brain Spin.

I will address ways to escape the Brain Spin and begin to consistently walk in the direction of our choosing in various posts, so please stay tuned. And, please reach out if you need some one-on-one attention. For now, I’m going to clear my mind and ready myself for my next project by taking a walk around the block… in a conscious circle to help me keep my own B.S. in check, stay centered, plot the trajectory to my dreams, and always stay close to the point, the Why, of my life.

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Where am I?

This might seem like a silly question, but there are moments when this simple three word query might be the most important question you could ask – and accurately answer! Imagine, for example, you are hiking in a vast forest and – several hours in – you somehow stray from the trail and end up lost, unable to retrace your steps. It is a particular challenge, since, while you slept (deciding to get your bearings after a good night’s rest and with the benefit of sunlight) the sky dumped a foot of snow that has left you surrounded by an endless landscape of sameness. If you prepared well before venturing out in the wilderness, then – though you feel a bit unsettled that you are lost – you can take comfort in having several tools at the ready to help determine your location and navigate your way back to the trail: smart phone with GPS, compass, map, flashlight (if you are still looking come nightfall), the orienteering skills you learned in Scouts, the celestial navigation skills you learned in the sailing course, looking for any tell-tale signs that might be visible in the white expanse… If you have the tools and resources, if they are working properly, and if you know how to use them, you will be likely able to find your way back (or forward) with relative ease. Oh, add the machete in case you need to cut through brush or fend off a large hungry animal. Hopefully, you won’t need the gun to hunt with, but just how lost are you, really?

If you are not prepared, or if the tools are not working properly, or if you don’t really know how to use them,… this is when those who are lost tend to panic. Not helpful. Sometimes fatal. Always scary.

Whether or not you’ve ever been lost in a forest, most of us have at one time or another (if not many times) been lost in the wilderness of our minds, disoriented by the chaos of life, or way off the track of our intended life path.

Some reading this might even be lost in this very moment. If you feel lost in any way, on any level, or even know what it feels like to be lost and realize you may well “find” yourself in that scary place again, I ask that you allow me to be your guide for the next several minutes (longer, if necessary, depending on how lost you are and how desperately you want to find your way).

First, the preparation…

What tools/resources do you need?

  • Lets’ start with pen and paper to record your insights.
  • A calm mind: more on that shortly
  • A quiet comfortable place where you will not be disturbed
  • Time: at least 5 minutes, but if you’re really feeling lost, you might want to allow more or return as-needed. You may want to use a timer.

Assessment… are the tools working properly?

  • Scribble on the paper: pen on paper is functional (get a back-up if concerned)
  • Is the mind calm? No worries, we’re going to address that.
  • Is it quiet where you are? Without distractions?
  • Are you willing to invest a little time to find yourself? Timer working?

Do you know how to use the tools/resources?

  • You are literate and have legible penmanship: check!
  • Maybe not always masterful at calming the mind. Awareness helps!
  • Are you able to get comfortable and focus? Calming the mind will help… getting there.
  • Tendency to not invest time on yourself? Again, awareness helps… and this time it will be different!

Now that we have a sense of what we have to work with, make sure you are comfortably seated, please have pen and paper ready, (set your timer if you wish – for at least 5 minutes) and take several slow, deep breaths – yes, right now – deep, cleansing breaths…

…as you keep your attention here, letting whatever else is on your mind simply drift away, allowing your mind to free itself and become calm…

…making some mental space for this question to really sink in: Where am I? …

…Keep lovingly asking yourself the question (where am I?), and as the thoughts begin to arise, put pen to paper and write non-stop for as long as you can. If you stop writing, because of time or because you had to stop to think, then just let that be good enough, and put down the pen. And put away the paper… don’t read it now.

Now, take a few more deep, long, grateful breaths…

…and thank yourself for taking the time to get clearer on where you are.

And go about your day, maintaining this sense of gratitude as best you can, trusting you have grown in awareness, no matter how you may feel in the moment. Allow the day and the night to pass, and the following day revisit the question “Where am I?” and read what you wrote.

Ask yourself now – and tomorrow after reading your streamed response: Are you closer to understanding where you are now?

This is a great exercise to repeat frequently, especially during challenging times, times when you feel out of sorts, disoriented, lost, but even valuable when you feel confident that you know exactly where you are. Sometimes we are most lost when our ego is absolutely convinced of where we are!

Here’s to finding your place in the World. For only when we know where we are, can we hope to get to where we want to go.

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Wake Walker

Walking – to me – suggests intentional progress, moving forward on purpose. Choosing to go from point A to point B, one step at a time. Consciously, deliberately taking steps in a particular direction, or along a specific path, or even forging one’s own way. Slowly, but surely. At a pace that enables us to actually experience and appreciate and make sense of the progress we make. Walking is, of course, an act done in the present, which moves one’s body and life into the future – one step at a time. Naturally, as we arrive in that future moment, that very moment becomes the present moment. We are simultaneously stepping out of the past, experiencing the present, and stepping into the future. And though this process never stops, we can miss much of the journey, if we aren’t watching where we’re going.

Even if a walk returns to point A, where we started, the place is not quite the same when we get there. Time has passed, and in usually subtle – but sometimes dramatic – ways, the place has changed, we have have changed, and the way we experience the place – in that moment of return, of arrival, has changed. Point A becomes a somewhat different place, a “Point B” to some degree. The extent of the change relates in part to how transformational the journey we took; and  that relates to how awake and on-purpose our walk. Or, to what degree we were walking our why.

True, even if we stand still, we are carried along by the conveyor belt of time that moves us (all of us) constantly from past into future, yet always keeping us in the present.

True, if we choose to move by rocket, or plane, or train, or bus, or car, or bike, or even by running, we will likely arrive at point B more quickly. Often, we need need to get there faster than walking alone will make possible. But it is not always about speed; and it is not always about physical places or destinations. It is, however, always about the adventure called life, and we always have a choice of how fast we want to live it.

The distinction I’m exploring here is that if we do not move with a sense of purpose, if we do not consciously progress, if our attention is being pulled into memories of the past even as the Universe invariably draws us into the future; then, we will not have the experience of moving forward; we will not have the experience of progress in our lives. Rather, our experience will be of mind movies of our past. And every present moment consumed by viewing our mind’s recording of the past is a moment when we are not consciously moving into the future; a moment when we are not making why-driven progress. We are on that conveyor belt of time, we are getting older, our past is getting longer, our future is getting shorter, but are we really getting anywhere? Sometimes it seems we get nowhere, even if we get nowhere fast!

Admittedly, even when walking, our minds might often be dwelling on the past. Walking does not necessarily prevent us from being lost in dramas, or thrillers, or droning documentaries of our past. This is very true, and I distinguish this kind of movement as sleep-walking: the body might be moving forward, but the mind is in reverse! This is physical movement that is largely disconnected from a conscious, intentional state.  At any particular time, by any particular individual, it might also be known by another variation – or another label – such as: day-dreaming, wandering aimlessly, walking in circles, being in a trance, or being in a zombie-like state.

I am not speaking of when we might arise from bed and literally walk in our sleep. I am referring to when we are physically awake but “asleep” at the wheel of our mind, allowing ourselves to be driven by our ego in every direction but that our heart and soul truly wish to go.

It is important to note that “sleep walking” (whether or not physical motion is involved) applies not only to dwelling on or fretting over the past but also to fantasizing about or worrying over the future. It can have the same kind of debilitating impact on our ability to make purposeful progress. Essentially, it is like being “asleep” even when one’s eyes might appear wide open; even when one’s mouth might be running on and on… about memories of the past and/or worries of the future. Perhaps the objective of getting from A to B is being fulfilled, but there is no other purpose in the movement, because there is no attention to any purpose. The attention is lost to an inner film reel, and just as the reel on the projector turns, so are we walking in circles, making no meaningful progress.

Wake walking is the kind of walking, the kind of being, in which we move forward with purpose, because we are awake and attentive to the present. Our mind is dwelling neither on memories of the past nor fantasies of the future, but rather is actually experiencing the here and now. This is walking a path informed by our past but not defined by our assessments of it; a path leading into our future but not pre-determined by our concerns about it. This is walking meditation; mindfulness in motion. It is the path forged in the crucible of experience, including lessons learned from our past, life force felt in the moment, and vision calling us from and into the future.

This is one perspective of what it means to “walk your why”.

In what parts of your life have you been sleep walking? If you are honest with yourself, where would you say it  has led you? And in what direction have you been drawn when walking awake? Which way of walking has taken you closer to actualizing your dreams? Which has tended to keep you lost in fantasies or trapped in nightmares? Give these questions some time. Consider taking some walks – some wake walks – with the intention of gaining clarity of  purpose that is at work (or at rest) in your life – by contemplating the previous questions and that which follows:

Moving forward, how do you most want to walk your way through the World: as a sleep walker, or a wake walker? 

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Why Me?!

The following is an excerpt from one of my journals that I stumbled upon in search of a blank space to write. It reminded me that even in those times that feel so dark and desperate, our music is always calling us, and we sometimes need only quiet the riot of self-pity, take steps forward in the dark, watch for the light, listen for the guidance, and trust the truth we hear…

It took me hours to force this pen to paper. I don’t feel like writing. I feel incapable of the task, of any task, surely of any task of value. Frankly, I feel like crap to put it mildly.

I feel like a massive freaking failure. In so many ways that I could literally write for days. Save that my pen find a way to penetrate my heart.

I feel I am that rare kind of idiot who actually manages to make nothing out of something. I don’t just feel it; I have proof… I’m sitting in the void right now; wallowing in the sinkhole…

I had to pause for a moment, as a wave of heavy sadness washed over me. I felt like I was hopelessly suspended in the undertow of overwhelming emotion –  part of me thinking, hoping, wishing I would just get carried out to sea.

Just as the wave was cresting, the piano beside me in this inviting little cafe came to life – gently, sweetly, soaringly – in confident response to the maestro’s soft, loving caress and passionate urging of the expectant whites and blacks of potential. Potential that was utterly dormant, in peaceful slumber just moments ago, yet perfectly ready to be reminded why they so silently, patiently lie waiting to fly. Silently, patiently waiting to fly!

I am reminded, grudgingly, gratefully: my Why is the grand piano of my own potential, the keys to my own soaring song that must be played. It’s okay if I play melancholic music today, but self-pity will not have it’s inelegant way. It’s really not okay not to play. Life needs my music, no matter what ego may say!

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You are Here. Now take a bow!

Please,

pause,

for a moment –

and celebrate!

You made it!

You succeeded!

In spite of so-called “fate”.

You’ve sailed oceans of hope and love

and climbed mountains of doubt and fear,

and now you’ve surely arrived:

You – are – here!

But wait.

Before you laugh and snort, “so what?!”

Step up,

and breathe,

and take a grateful bow!

For ’til you know

you’re here –

you’ll be lost in the void

‘tween “where?” and  “how?”

Take heart

and know

you are here –

right now –

in the only space that matters.

Step up,  

and take a bow!

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Why “Walk”?

Most folks I’ve talked to quickly get it that “Walk Your Why” is a play on the phrase “Walk Your Talk”, but unless you know me,

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Why? Now!

Have you ever done something – yes that something, only to wonder later, “Why the hell did I do that?”…

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Meet Your AlterECO

alter ego
1. a second self; a perfect substitute or deputy
2. an inseparable friend
3. another aspect of one’s self

alterECO
1. the one true self; perfect self
2. an inseparable friend
3. self as a unique aspect of Oneness

In Latin, alter ego literally means “second I”. A familiar term, “alter ego” is often associated with the idea of a split self, one side of the split being essentially “good” and the other side basically “bad”. The classic example was introduced by Robert Louis Stevenson in his book The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in which the kindhearted man of integrity Dr. Jekyll takes a potion, revealing his dark side – the wicked and detestable Mr. Hyde.

AlterECO is a term of my own creation, designed to guide my own (and, hopefully, others’) “salvation”. While clearly a play on the term alter ego, a core difference is that while alter ego emphasizes a split or separation (for better or for worse), alterECO – one word – emphasizes connection, oneness (only for the better, never for the worse). Like alter ego, alterECO can certainly be viewed as “an inseparable friend”, but while the former is referring to a friend who is actually separate but seems inseparable, the latter refers to a friend who is truly, literally inseparable, in that this “friend” is one’s true, perfect self.

The alterECO is the very best friend of each of us – and unique to each of us, though how many of us really know, or have even had a proper introduction to, this inseparable friend within us? How many of us have a conscious relationship with our one true self?

So, why ECO in place of ego?  While an explanation of this term could lead me deep down the rabbit hole, I hope the following will resonate. ECO is an acronym for Ecology of Conscious Oneness. In short, what I mean by this is that one’s true self is the point of awakening where we – as human “organisms” – interrelate with fellow humans, other beings, and the environment (Ecology) in a way that demonstrates our Conscious awareness of Oneness and the fact that we are each unique aspects of the Oneness that is ALL. Got it? If not, stay tuned, as I will be approaching this concept of the alterECO from different perspectives in upcoming blog posts in hopes of painting a picture that resonates in a powerful, meaningful way with my readers.

Until then, perhaps the following perspective will be useful. Another (totally congruent) way to think of the acronym ECO is “Ecology, Compassion, Oneness”. Thus each person’s alterECO is the one true self, as epitomized by: one’s responsible place in the Ecology of the Universe; one’s Compassion for all life; and one’s awakening to Oneness. Or to borrow the language of Pachamama Alliance (an organization I love!), this would be one who embodies “environmental sustainability” (Ecology), “social justice” (Compassion), and “spiritual fulfillment” (Oneness). I believe every human on Earth (and any that may be drifting in space) has these intrinsic qualities as the very essence of their being. These three qualities explain why we belong.

So, since alter means “second”, how does that fit with the Oneness theme? Outstanding question! Here is where our human perception comes into play. As humans, we have this way of seeing, or sensing, ourselves as “separate from” others (humans, animals, things, ideas, etc.). We feel separate from, so we think in ways that reinforce this false notion of separateness.

In the one word alterECO, I am essentially implying “the One, perceived as separate”. We perceive our true self as separate, but we come to know it is one with us and we are one with it. Kinda like Chirrut Imwe’s mantra in Star Wars Rogue One, “I am one with the Force. The Force is with me.” But perhaps not including all of the awesome Jedi moves.

Have you met your alterECO? Stay tuned for more about this guiding light in your life.
May your alterECO guide you to truly fulfilling day!

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