The promise of living meaningful lives

Learn and obey the rules very well, so you will know how to break them properly.

… Dalai Lama¬†

What will call the promise of living meaningful lives into this new year? What will bring us into wider dimensions of spiritual authenticity? The willingness to expand beyond the strictures and structures of the way we always do things bears new possibilities and life. Living in awe before mystery, beauty, death and birth helps us to love more deeply. Our dissatisfactions become more pliable and can turn into satisfaction with less fuss, less fear, less fighting. Being in a state of readiness, a willingness to appreciate the process as it evolves, instead of being fixated on outcome, energizes. We still need goals, but ones fluid enough to let patterns evolve with unexpected grace.

A friend of mine, who is half Native-American and half Norwegian, believes technique is important, but essence is more important. She knows that some Native-American ceremonies performed with technical accuracy sometimes lack heart. The ceremony is done right, but the reason for its existence is lost. You can find this absence in painting, music, poetry, and in people’s homes. The crafting may be exquisite, but lacks life.

A painting or poem can magnetize by subverting the rules. The deft use of black can move the eye forward instead of into shadow. A sudden shift in meter or syntax can break a poem into an unanticipated brightness. The right dose of experimentation animates. If we always do everything in the same order, using the same ingredients, we end up with the same old meal. Hitler walked his dog the same time everyday and believed that one needed an ice-cold heart to accomplish big goals. He surrounded himself with heartless people dedicated to monoculture.

Balancing improvisation with technique invites play. Without the quality of play–and I don’t know what will happen, but exploration is fun attitude–life becomes rigid. When we risk being silly, everything can loosen. Cheer enters. The heart opens. When we insist on a prescribed formality, the cudgel of drudgery swings with its killing power. But without structure or expertise our creative efforts may result in chaos.

Compare the Dali Lama and Hitler. Compassion widens the heart’s capacity to experience pain and joy or the brutal endgame of an icy heart. One opens to the complexity of life giving options, the other contracts into a life negating rules. Addiction to perfection can kill the spirit. Yet we expect the laser surgeon to practice precision, and the concert pianist to play the right note. The best surgeons use dexterity and quickly adapt to the unexpected. A great performer finds something new in what they know in minute detail; always bringing in new life.

Rumi wrote, Your depression is connected to your insolence and refusal to praise. Let us be thankful for the new year and respect innovation,



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