Thursday, April 24, 2008

Living Your Vision

A while back one of our instructors was helping at another school. The school he was at is amazing, and does great work with plugging children in to their natural environment. On this particular day our guy was frustrated with himself at not being able to convey a skill as effectively as he could have. One of the school's regular staff gently put a hand on his shoulder and said, It's okay, you can't do it all". Without thought, my friend replied, "Why not"?

Everyday I wake up and there is an endless banquet of adventures, challenges, and exciting things to learn. It startles me to see people "acting their age" in this society. Instead of greeting each day with enthusiasm and a joy for their purpose in this world, it seems those steeped in the maturity required of their age slog to the tune of a dirge created by their willingness to succumb to external forces. They have chosen, it seems, to become hapless players in a shallow routine, or victims of someone else's story. Each time I see this "energy" I wonder what ever happened to the wide eyed child to make them this bitter. I automatically honor my mother and even my absent father, for teaching me how to be and what to avoid. There is a remorse for the lost person bundled in routines of fast pace, frustration, and a creeping futility that needs to be drowned out by endless streams of video, cell phones, music and appointments.

To say this realm hasn't touched my life would be untrue. My children bring it home from school every day. Each student that comes to my school has to "unwind" from the general rush of the contrived world of the clock. In fact, until they do, they cannot reach the levels of awareness required for real learning. In my public school life I have to weave the primitive skills in to a construct that enforces the fight or flight response with bells, deadlines, clocks, and calendars. It is almost too late by eighth grade to preserve the sense of timeless wonder responsible for bringing people in to the moment. The elements necessary for a natural curiosity and sense of adventure have been absent for too long by the time I get most of them. Even the teachers unconsciously exude this aura of hapless commitment to something that once "fired them up". Alarmingly, I teach in a rural environment where opportunities to "go out and play" are right out most kid's front door. It would be far too easy to cave to the "pressure" of this artificial environment. To do so would be nothing less than surrendering your purpose for being.
I am sure that it is even more difficult in your world. Do you remember what you wanted to be when you "grew up"? Are you drawn to certain interests, activities, or locations? These are all elements of your identity. Suppressing them, ignoring them, or putting them off to remain entrapped in a "safe" routine is denying your self wholeness, wellness, and your purpose for being. Don't get me wrong, there is a balancing act between living your vision and your obligations to "the matrix", but knowing fully who you are and where you should be is the first step toward achieving that balance.
Holding "sacred space" for your path in this world will make you more content and affect those around you almost immediately. You'll find as soon as you release your commitment to the clock that you get more done and that you enjoy doing the things that used to seem mundane. Traffic jams become an opportunity to unwind and observe people. Challenges, deadlines, expectation, all transform in to an exciting obstacle course that need to managed in order to make room for the space required to be centered and to express your vision.
Many of us have a hunger to express in ways that are not "economically feasible". My purpose is preserving skills handed to us by our ancestors. Delivering these skills as proficiently as possible is my identity. It doesn't pay the bills, but it nourishes my sense of place, gives me joy, and creates a space where I am eager for each day coming and thankful for each day that has passed. Suddenly, the bills aren't that important. When money is tight, as it often is with three children on two teachers salaries, it is something that gets managed quickly in order to keep the space alive for living our vision. In my world we can do it all. It is our story to create and we are the main character. When I dive in to the middle school experience, I keep that light burning bright. By example I show these kids that one light can brighten a darkened room, and I challenge them to be that light.
We need more people living their vision in this world. It is hard, but it is fun. It is exhausting, but it brings peace to your heart and balance in your life. In my world, holding that sacred space for the youth, who desperately want adults to respect and have a hard time finding them in their modern experience, is the real way to "act your age". I'm forty and in a sling. In the last week I have been blessed with being able to work on friction fire, catch spring peepers with my children, teach my eldest son and youngest daughter how to shoot a bow, guided my eldest son through climbing the tree in the backyard higher than he ever has, prepped the garden for planting, built a cold frame, made four shelter videos, taught a class at Unity College, was present for the first wood frog call in the back yard, and fixed the dog runners. Not bad for just using your left hand, huh? Is my shoulder healing as well as it might? No, not really. But recent events have now made that a priority. Mark Morey, a friend who helped create the Vermont Wilderness School, was expecting me at his pace today to help with youth and rites of passage. He asked me an important question after finding out about my shoulder injury. It is a question we should ask ourselves every day. "How is your Sacred Fire, and what is this teaching you"? I knew the answer as soon as it was asked. For me it was that in order to continue to maintain the bright, warm glow of my sacred fire it is now time to honor the wisdom in movement and the gift of your physical being. What will it be for you? Honor that sacred space inside of you. Nurture that fire, that passion, and change the world by fully being that which you were meant to be. In short, be the hero of your own journey, not the victim of someone else's. If you don't know where to begin, go outside and play. Today, I am going to sit beneath the bird feeders and heal.

Respect and Medicine,
Mike Douglas