Inspiration

136. THE GREAT EXPERIMENT

One of my basement beliefs, one a good many may disagree with, is that our behaviors are more important than our objectives. I think how we decide to act is far more productive, and in the long run, satisfying to our spirit, than creating and moving toward a vision. Both are important, even necessary, but in my experience, character is shaped much more by how we choose to get somewhere. The way in which we travel and the things we do along the route is where we find and reveal our soul. Our resolve to do it repeatedly is prompted by reaching the summit of one’s vision, and in doing so, know we can take up a similar quest again. I suppose it could be equated thus, “If life is a road trip, then how important is the course and carriage as opposed to the destination?” Many philosophers have pointed out the secret to living is about the journey, and I agree. Goals are inherently necessary or movement through life becomes stagnant, pointless; but when we look back, reminisce as it were, do not our thoughts almost linger more about how we got there than it was about finally accomplishing our mission? I think the secret to living is to make our life’s vision all about the journey by creating interesting and creative intentions that force us along new and challenging paths. The circle (or perhaps spiral) becomes symbiotic between method and objective.

Here lies the real question, “What would happen to our lives if we concentrated on our conduct rather than focusing on an outcome?” I have other posts on this blog addressing the importance of asking quality questions, and in my opinion, this is one of the best. If outcome is all that matters, then it’s almost inevitable we will forgo our ethics to reach a conclusion. I’m not willing to compromise my principles, so I choose to, in every situation, practice my beliefs. For example, I will not abandon kindness in favor of cruelty just to win the race. I once heard a man say, “If life is a journey, then the faster you go, the quicker you reach the end.” If this is true, then the higher the speed, the lower the quality of our experiences.

I threw away a good portion of my life, fifteen years at least. I have no compunctions about it, but I do intend to do what I can to regain ground, and I must say, so far, so good. I made a decision years ago to treat the rest of my existence as an experiment. When I first sobered up, appreciation and gratitude for everything rose massively. Situations many would call boring or ordinary had me looking at the miracle of the moment most ignore. It forced me to slow down, and in turn it gave me an insight to a secret, one I talk at length about in another blog post, 118. Eyes of Wonder. The secret is this, the more we look forward, anticipate as it were, the more we force our perspective of time to slow down. Think of your own childhood. Did it not feel as if your birthdays were three years apart? That Christmas was never, ever going to arrive? When we were children, we spent all our thought processes, all our energy looking forward. It didn’t matter if we anticipated a pleasant conclusion or not. As adults we tend to look back, both in the framework of reminiscence and regret. It stands to reason, the more we concentrate on the past, the more we neglect what’s in front of us, and in doing so we speed up the arrival of our future. If I’m correct about this, then the reverse is true. The more we look forward, with either dread or eagerness, the more we force our awareness of time to decelerate. This realization was the first part of my intended “experiment.”

The second part was to concentrate on my morals. If I were to move forward with a plan, I needed parameters. The willingness to set and stick to behavioral boundaries is what separates us from the common animal. We have the ability to look in the mirror and say “I’m going to be a better person than I was yesterday, kinder, more tolerant, less indulgent, better informed, more productive, less selfish, more empathetic and less judgmental, and so on.” This list reflects my personal intentions, but you get the idea. Grizzly bears do not get up in the morning and say to themselves, “Today I’m going to be a better bear.” Doesn’t happen. We own the ability to circumvent our instincts, and that’s a divine gift, one many throw in the garbage.

Once I had both parts, I had the vehicle to move forward with my life’s “experiment.” I will choose to constantly look forward to tomorrow (without ignoring the moment, this is important) and do so while attempting to become a better person than I was yesterday. If you’ll notice, my plan is absent of a specific destination, but without manufacturing them, I’d have a difficult time collecting research, so I do set goals.

I’m not immune to distractions and I often find myself wandering off the road, this year (2020) especially. I get flat tires, run out of gas (physical neglect), I pull over to indulge in crappy roadside gift shops (materialism), and get bored (lose faith) BUT… I always eventually keep going. Here’s to better roads worthy of stopping to take pictures, enjoying the ride,  and meeting new people along the way.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

125. SEARCHING FOR INSPIRATION

The older I get the more I know what the highest personal achievements in life are, and surprisingly, in the end, we don’t seem to want anything material at all. We may think we do, especially in our youth, but what’s truly sought after are the feelings that come from what we’re convinced will trigger whatever state of euphoria we seek to manifest. Many (including myself) buy into false repackaged, cliched, and resold icons associated with happiness which usually revolve around power, money, and fame. When people find they cannot gain footing on this type of path, drugs inevitably become the number one go-to in pursuit of mood-altering experiences, and I can understand why; it’s easy, extremely available, and it works…sort of. I myself was a slave to the idea of alcohol induced tranquility just like millions of others. If you don’t believe this to be true, take a ten-minute drive through the nearest business district and count just how many places you pass by who sell liquor. Damn near every street corner is testimony to the immense popularity of booze. Illicit drugs are a bit more covert, but I’d wager almost no one on Earth is unaffected in their own family by their ubiquity and use. All too often this path becomes extraordinarily self-destructive; physically, yes, but more importantly, emotionally. When we force our state of mind to change from the outside in, we ignore spirit and embrace pure hedonism. We also forget how to express ourselves naturally, how to explore our passions and allow our sorrows. I know from experience when the spirit dies from lack of nourishment, so does the body.

Complete contentment, peace, ecstasy, excitement, harmony, and bliss are good examples of the type of heightened emotions everyone wishes they had instant access to. Unfortunately, we’re all too familiar with the opposites such as discouragement, conflict, depression, boredom, apathy, and misery, and believe it or not it’s here the secret of inspiration can actually be found. Stick with this article and by the end you’ll be, well… inspired. Trust me.

We are creatures of negativity for two very distinct reasons, but this isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. We have built into our limbic system the “fight or flight” response which is on the constant lookout for the safest path. There are those who confront this instinct by intentionally risking limb and lifestyle, either for excitement or to challenge tendencies, but it’s always there in one form or another. And this skill is extremely useful, no doubt about it. Our ancient ancestors knew enough to be afraid of danger and avoid unjustifiable risks. The second reason is a little weird. We approach most tasks and challenges with a mindset that says “how can I fix this?” OR “how can I improve this?” As a result we automatically look for lack, and when we do, we force our minds to notice and all too often manufacture flaws, even if they don’t exist to begin with. One thing’s for sure, very seldom do we walk through life carefree and totally accepting of the world around us. Those souls who do are almost nonexistent. This is why we identify with negative points of view so easily, it’s a covert  and highly practiced habit to begin with.

The least desirable emotional states I listed above are actually easier to understand and diagnose than their counterparts because of the way we’re wired. They aren’t simple, no illusions here, just more relatable, more common as it were. I’ve stated this many times on this blog, I’m no doctor nor am I a professional on any subject I bring up, all I try do is share how I’ve moved past those barriers in life so many of us seem to share. Most states of negativity I’ve found a way past, although I don’t practice what I preach as much as I should. My ego occasionally gets inflated, I look for excuses, and play the victim from time to time, there’s no doubt about it, BUT I do know how to get beyond these temporary setbacks

There’s a one-word response for neutralizing negativity. Those I’ve named above, discouragement, conflict, depression, boredom, apathy, and misery have a redundant thread.

  • Discouragement = giving up on taking action
  • Conflict = absence of seeking cooperative action
  • Depression = unwilling to take action
  • Boredom = no action at all
  • Apathy = not caring about taking action
  • Misery = not taking the correct action

Obviously the key word is… action. Action designed to avoid destructive tenancies is, by default, creative in nature, and all things creative hold the seeds of inspiration. If this is true, then it stands to reason creativity breeds inspiration. You see, most believe inspiration comes before creativity. Not true. If you want to be inspired all you need to do is choose to be consistently active in your own life. The activities don’t have to be all rainbows and unicorns, and most likely they’ll be annoying rather than comforting, though this isn’t always the case. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the nature of your activities are as long as they’re intended to be part of a bigger (positive) picture. Think of life as setting up dominos, once they’re in place all that’s needed is a push on the first one. Yes, the preparations can be tedious and time consuming, but the payoff is easy to visualize. The satisfaction of seeing them make a predetermined pattern, to act in a perfectly synchronized, harmonious manner is pure gratification. The same logic can be applied to those goals and dreams we so often abandon because the road leading to our visions seems overwhelming and hopeless. Little steps and movements all too often lead to huge accomplishments, in fact I would say this is the only way one finds themselves seeing their dreams come true.

When I look back at the things I’m grateful for, the accomplishments I’ve followed through on, they all consisted of constant, small, sometimes almost imperceptible movements. Most were drudgerous, but in the end it has always been more than worth it. The price is not that high upon appreciating the worth of the finished product. Seeing one’s goals make the finish line IS inspirational, and THAT inspiration is what is needed to start all over again on a new, perhaps even more impressive task.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood