The Art Of Discernment: Part 1
Of all the questions I am asked, the question of discernment comes up the most. Discernment is a telltale sign of authenticity, but the very nature of human psychology makes it one of the most challenging facets of authenticity to learn. The good news is, it can be learned. I learned how, and I can help you learn how too.
Discernment is a quality of authenticity much in the way a scent is a quality of a flower. In the case of flowers, a stuffy nose impedes our ability to discern whether a particular flower’s scent serves our highest intention of an important upcoming event we are planning. Similarly, a “stuffy” head impedes our ability to discern whether a particular idea serves our highest potential.
So we are left with a seeming paradox: Discernment arises from authenticity, but without discernment, how can we unquestioningly recognize authenticity?
Discernment becomes far easier to exercise following a direct experience of authenticity, but that experience is not required in order to start experimenting with discernment. In fact, experiments with discernment will serve to accelerate the discovery of authenticity.
In truth, our authentic foundation is already in place even if we are not directly aware of it. The desire to discover it arises from the fact that it is there to be discovered.
Knowing that discernment arises from an intact authentic foundation lends us courage to start experimenting. Through some dedicated trial and error, our experiences will ultimately lead us to an unmistakable experience of authenticity. In other words: When we learn to discern, we discover authenticity.
Who hasn’t had this experience:
But then a day or two passes, and it starts to slip from your mind. Or maybe you’ve even taken some very preliminary steps towards researching it. But now when you think about it, all you can see are the obstacles rather than the possibilities. Just like that, the wind is gone beneath your wings. Probably for the best, right? After all, the last thing you want is another unfinished project to beat yourself up over.
The idea of expressing ourselves in new ways can be daunting. We are often quick to supply reasons why we can’t take a particular step. To compound the issue, we have a mountain of “failed” projects and “non-starters” that we eagerly cite whenever a new inspired project dances with our imagination.
Despite our efforts to ignore and dispel them, inspired ideas continue to surface. Discerning whether a project is a daydream, a distraction, a detriment, or an expression of authenticity, rests with our ability to clearly discern whether an idea is an expression of aspiration or inspiration.
Aspired ideas are most often (but not always) born of frustration, boredom, a false sense of lack, or an grandiose sense of self. Inspired ideas are always an expression of authenticity.
So how do we discern between aspiration and inspiration?
- Authentic insight (aka “inspiration”) comes prepackaged with an exhilarating fear. Okay, so does aspired insight. Next.
- Authentic insight comes prepackaged with a daunting array of obstacles. Yes, but so does aspired insight. Next.
- Authentic insight challenges us to reexamine priorities and shed certain routine activities in order to free up the necessary time, money, and energy necessary to transform it from an idea into a reality. Duh, so does aspired insight. Next.
- Authentic insight further challenges us to reexamine our conditioned thoughts and behavior so we can leverage our strengths as well as our “reluctant strengths”. As does aspired insight. Next.
- Authentic insight is the thing we can’t not do, despite all these (and many other) reasons why we simply shouldn’t even try. Bing! We have a winner!
What we have to remember in these crucial moments is that inspiration is not about the “thing” itself: Inspiration is entirely about an opportunity to explore, experience, and express authenticity.
Tomorrow we will continue our exploration into the subtle art of discernment, and discover ways to bring it out of theory and into reality.
The answer to “who am I?” is contained in the stillness which precedes and pervades the question.
When we encounter something new, our ideals are suspended for a time. Our curiosity is peaked, and we experience a boost of creative energy that helps us learn.
As things become second-nature, we interact with the world through a screen of our ideals and we lose that boost of creative energy.
It is helpful to realize that there are essential life lessons still to learn in the mundane activities of our everyday lives. What’s more, learning those lessons will help us align with the fullest possible expression of ourselves in this moment.
The only thing more important than learning the lessons themselves is learning the art of learning. Enduring fulfillment is in the effort, not in the achievement. When curiosity becomes our default state, we unlock a wellspring of creative energy that will fuel our more creative endeavors.
My suggestion: start with just one mundane, everyday activity such as brushing your teeth. At a point when you become aware of that activity (before, during, or after), discover what lessons it has to teach you. In that space of humble curiosity, of noticing the sacred in the mundane, look for what it is you can learn.
Tapping into the space where our life’s hardships are transformed into diamonds reveals an endless vein of rich insights that we can use to fund our current expedition.
It can be hard to say something to someone we love that we don’t think they want to hear it. If we choose to say it anyway, we have an opportunity to learn something incredible. If we choose not to say it, we have an opportunity to learn something incredible. What lesson are you most interested in learning?
Perhaps “fearless” does not mean we are without fear. Perhaps it means we simply fear less, and with that comes the opportunity to learn more.
The Immediate Path
Wanting, at its essence, contains reaching. It contains an element of innocence regarding the fulfillment inherent in this moment. It symbolizes a judgment, a mindset, a universe, in which “I” and “fulfillment” are separated by an inconvenient, uncomfortable, and unwanted gap. We believe that by closing that gap we will achieve a sense of enduring fulfillment in spite of the fact that we have proven this process false countless times.
We are left with a sense that our process for identifying or attaining fulfillment is flawed, and never begin to question the mechanics of “wanting”.
Is it possible to be in this moment and not want anything to be different than it is? More than that, is it possible to discover the richness of not having what it is we want? Finally, is it possible to see that what we want is not something to be attained but more simply an aspect of ourselves that we’ve not yet explored?
In this experience, we discover our completeness. Life is no longer about wanting, but about being. Wanting still arises, but does so out of a celebration of fulfillment.
Honoring your present situation is one surefire way to align with the fullest possible expression of yourself in this moment. It seems counterintuitive: “How can I honor where I am when I want so much to be doing other things?” More than that: “If I honor where I am, what will be my motivation to do other things?”
It’s a paradox, and the only way to resolve a paradox is to swallow it whole. It is exactly these types of “ifs and buts” that keep us stuck for so long. What I’m suggesting here is for you to set aside your objections just long enough to discover firsthand if there might be some aspect of the equation that you hadn’t yet considered. I’m asking you to suspend your beliefs in order to discover whether those beliefs are serving you or holding you back.
The deeper reality is that until you have learned to honor where you are, you will remain unfulfilled regardless of what you do. As long as your primary impulse is to reach for the next thing, you will only strengthen that “reaching” impulse and you will continue to miss out on the rich fulfillment that is right in front of you.
My suggestion: start with just one mundane, everyday activity such as washing your hands. At a point when you become aware of that activity (before, during, or after), discover what lessons it has to teach you. In that space of humble receptivity, of honoring the point of even being here to do it, look for what it is you can learn.
The gap between desire and attainment lays the opportunity to learn from past desires, demonstrate sincerity about what it is you claim to want most now, and gain clarity regarding who it is that is asking.
EDL Meditation: Constriction
Every time you become aware of feeling constricted today, notice one breath consciously.
Notice how expansion is here as well.
Poetic Pause: “Released”
A windy gust
Rustling sunny trees
Warmth and grace
Upon my face
Every thing in life is in a constant state of flux. Do not look for stability in the things of this world. Look instead for stability in yourself to know what is the right thing to do in this moment.
There is a moment at the edge of reason, just beyond the surrender to hopelessness, where we can glimpse inherent perfection.
Words alone are never enough to convey such perfection: we have to experience it first-hand.
One time is never enough: we need to keep experiencing it as long as it takes to really “get” it.
Get it, then keep getting it. Your life’s work is revealed in the midst of it all.
Insight vs Desire
The difference between insight and desire is so subtle, but fulfillment depends upon us learning the difference.
Desire arises from a sense of lack. Lack arises when we forget our innate wholeness. Lack surfaces when we are out of touch with inherent perfection. Desire happens when we see life through a lens of the past with an eye towards an imagined future, successfully obscuring an experience of presence.
Insight arises from a place of fulfillment. Fulfillment arises when we recognize our inextricability from the world around us. Fulfillment is experienced when we are in touch with inherent perfection. Insight happens when we are rooted in an experience of presence, while holding loosely the interpretation of both our past experiences and our ideas for experiences we might like in the future.
Desire can be a powerful motivator. I’m not saying it is wrong to desire or take steps towards attaining that which we desire. In my experience, though, successfully honing the skill of attaining desires does not lead to fulfillment.
Insight becomes possible upon dropping the conditioned habit of chasing desire. We are no longer reaching from our past towards a future: we are rooting deeply in this moment. From this platform, we can notice the patterns at work within and around us, which leads to an insight into the inevitable outcome of those patterns.
Here’s the thing, though: the accuracy of our insight depends on how well we have cleared the lens through which we interpret those patterns. Aligning with the fullest possible expression of ourselves in this lifetime is merely a point of eliminating misconception.
Fulfillment is not a matter of what we do in the world: it is entirely a matter of how we do what we do in the world. This is great news, because “how” we do what we do is entirely within our control!
I encourage you today to become aware of one minor activity that holds a sense of constriction for you. Shift how you do that activity. Open to it. Learn from it. Expand into it. It is your master, and you, its disciple. Rather than begrudge the activity, come at it with open curiosity. Allow that activity to cleanse you of the misconception contained within your interpretation of that activity.
I Was Hacked
It all began innocently enough yesterday: My email wasn’t connecting to my server. I ignored the error, figuring the anomaly would work itself out.
A couple of hours later, it still wasn’t working. A couple of hours more: still not working. Finally, I went on the server: my domain wasn’t listed there anymore.
I call my host, Register.com, looking for insight into what in the world happened to my domain. She said it had been cancelled earlier that day, and then asked if I remembered calling and cancelling it.
Ummm, what?!? Of COURSE I didn’t call and cancel it!
Then it sinks in: I must have been hacked or something. Oh…dear…God.
Shock: I am flooded by a wave of emotion as the reality begins to set in. I open my web browser, type in my site name, only to see a generic template with a link to buy the domain. I can’t believe my eyes.
Victimized: Who did this to me?
Devastated: All my most sharable writing in the last five years…gone…
Violated: Who DID this to me?
Idiot: For not backing up my site
Lazy: For having only one password for all my logins
Shattered: My writing…gone…
Naïve: For not changing my passwords the other day in response to “Heartbleed”
Desperate: Does my host still have a copy of my site?
And then I notice a smile arising from the steady calm at the depth of the experience. I saw a clean slate. A chance to start fresh. A hidden doorway within the wall in front of me. I slip excitedly through it, anxious to discover what is on the other side.
First thing I did: change all my passwords, starting with my bank accounts. Next: marvel at the new fallen snow before going to sleep. This morning: reactivate McAfee. And then: back up my computer.
I can’t change “what is”, and the need to do so would interfere with my ability to see and take the next step. I still have no answers. My domain still resides on someone else’s server. Register.com was baffled, and escalated it for resolution.
But somehow I know that only good things will come from this experience. A similar sentiment carried me easily through the surgery I had Monday to remove a spot of skin cancer on my left temple. It’s not about “making lemonade”, it’s more about marveling at how all the pieces fit together so seamlessly, and trusting that this is yet another momentary disruption as the next piece clicks into place.
This moment is all we can affect. Do what is in front of you to do. Take this one step with integrity. String enough of these quality moments together, and the picture of your life will reveal a wondrous story beyond anything you could have ever written for yourself.
So I am taking this opportunity to officially transition to my new site. It’s not fully developed yet, but it has a simple charm. :) The site name is “caremycue.com”, drawing on the name that my friends and coworkers anointed me with a few years back. These days I identify more as Care than I do Carolyn, and it fits so well with my life’s work, so I figured I would make it “official” and bought the domain two weeks ago.
So that’s all the news I have for the moment. Oh, my surgery went well, and I expect a full recovery. Hoping my friends and coworkers won’t now anoint me with a new nickname of “scarface”. (haha!)
Have an inspired day!
No Questions Asked
The absence of questioning contains the answer.
Perceiving the Peace
The substratum of this experience of life is stillness. It is this “no-thing” within which our experience of things rise and fall. It is the single changeless constant. Unwavering. Unconditional. Enduring.
Perceived stillness is interpreted as peace.
When our attention is rooted in things, our experience of peace wavers. Stillness is unaffected by our inability to experience peace.
When our intention is rooted in stillness, our experience of peace steadies. Whatever waves rise and fall on the surface of life, the depth of our experience of peace becomes a changeless constant. Unwavering. Unconditional. Enduring.
In a forest, there are no weeds.
Feeling Ready Is Optional
From an early age, we are taught that the path to a sustainable income is to learn from experts, employ their practices, and when those experts deem that we are ready, begin offering our services. This process is partly designed to support the needs of society by leveraging our need for sustainable income. It works well in conventional, practical roles such as law, accounting, cashiering, and the like, and those roles are immensely valuable. If this way of serving the world feels most in alignment with the fullest possible expression of yourself, then you are set for life, and this essay will be of no use for you.
Speaking for myself, I had (eventually) found fulfillment in my conventional day job, but I simply didn’t feel fully expressed. That’s when I realized the distinct difference between a job and our life’s work. Our job is what we do to sustain our life. Our life’s work is an extension and expression of who we are.
When it comes to our life’s work, the “path-to-an-income” process that we learned in our formative years can be the very thing that stands in our way of ever experiencing the fullest possible expression of ourselves. There is no graduation or certification for our life’s work. We need to create our own theories and practices.
When it comes to our life’s work, feeling ready is optional.
Doing that ‘thing’ that feels most aligned with the fullest expression of ourselves exposes our soft underbelly to the world. The fear of gaining someone’s trust and then failing them can be paralyzing. Until we can accept that possibility, we will never fully trust our own voice, and we will never experience the fullest possible expression of ourselves.
Start now, before you are ready. Rather than learning a hand-me-down process to funnel people through, allow the people who connect with your offerings to inform the development of a new process.
It’s not that those early adopters are getting a lesser form of your best work, it is that those early adopters are helping to shape your best work. Essentially, you end up crafting your life’s work around the people who are most willing to have an offering crafted specifically for them. It’s win-win.
If you long to experience and express your life’s work, start now. Feeling ready is optional.
If Nothing Else
First and foremost, I am a mother. This is the lens through which I filter my most fundamental decisions. How can I best be of service to my girls today? I have learned in these past few years that the manner in which I serve can either empower them or handicap them.
I used to believe that coddling them was the best way to demonstrate love and support. When I took responsibility for my own thoughts, words, feelings, and actions, I understood more about authentic empowerment. This brought with it a new understanding of how to best love and support them. It became obvious to me that by doing less for them, they were able to do more for themselves, and that experience of autonomy is a source of empowerment for them.
In the same way, the answers I have found for my life, many of which I share here, are not intended to undermine your autonomy and instruct you on how to best live your life. By shining a light on what is empowering me this day, I am demonstrating how you can shine a light on what empowers you.
On this day, if I can share nothing else with my girls, with myself, and with you, these are the insights that emerge as a source of empowerment:
Stand clear. Trust yourself to know what the right thing to do is, even if no one else agrees, even if you can’t give a good explanation why, and even in the face of uncertainty.
Stay open. Trust yourself to handle what happens as a result of the decisions you make. Things aren’t always going to turn out the way we intend them to. The good news is that they don’t have to. There is more fulfillment in learning new skills than there is in getting what we want. Released from that pressure of needing things to go the way we want, we are more likely to try more things and experience more fulfillment.
Be humble. This isn’t about yielding to others, it’s about being in a receptive state where learning can occur. It’s about showing up in each moment confident in what you know, but willing to shift that “knowing” to accommodate new learning.
Now I ask you: On this day, if you can share nothing else, what insights emerge and empower you?