The following is from Caroline’s 2016 Salon
One of the more difficult truths to convey to people is that changing anything about your life – your health, the direction of your life, the quality of opportunities that you generate, how happy you are – is not that difficult. Change is not dependent upon wealth, as so many people are prone to believe. And it is not a matter of having time or space or energy.
It is a matter of how you organize, see, relate to the “reality” of your life. That’s a huge statement that requires a bit of interpretation. I suspect that if I had said that in a lecture, I would be looking at facial expressions communicating, “What?”
One of the great teachings of Buddha is that change is a dynamic that is always in motion. Everything is always in a state of flux. Our bodies are always changing. The day is in constant movement – seconds turn to minutes and then to hours, with us aging along with each tick of the clock. And as each second passes, just imagine all that happens in the world within that second. It’s incomprehensible. Absolutely incomprehensible. Food is rotting in your refrigerator while political decisions are being made and babies are being born and storms are forming in the oceans. It’s uttering astounding.
And you can’t see any of it. You cannot see anything at all and yet all of it – every single speck of it – somehow has an influence in the flow of the events of your life. It’s one of those wild, outrageous cosmic-sized truths of life. We cannot see any of the power elements that actually influence us. We only see the consequences. We may lose our job, for instance, but we do not actually see the thought processes involved in the decisions that need to take place before we are let go from our occupation. That is the caboose on the train of a decision – not the engine. We never actually witness the engines. They occur in the invisible world – all of them.
Choices, decisions, thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs are the engines that organize our reality. Events that happen cause us to make choices; they are not the choices. A common belief is that life changes come about because of huge events like the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, moving to a new neighborhood, buying a house, marriage or divorce, a new job or job loss, an increase or loss of income. It’s true that such events shift the course of our life but it’s also the case that these events do not happen often, given the length of our lifetime. We may have two or three children, not one a year. We may marry once in our life or twice; hopefully not endlessly. That means a person is either widowed or divorced. Job changes are more frequent these days, as is moving. But few people move annually.
What does happen all the time, however, is conversations with people on all levels, intimate, casual and professional. We read all the time, whether it’s Internet blogs or Facebook chatter, books, newspapers or whatever. And we just notice things. We listen to the chatter in our environment coming from everything around us. We live in the information age, as they say.
All of this constant streaming of human, written and electronic data flowing into our energy field holds the potential to generate new ideas or inspire a thought or stir a desire that sets sparks off in our imagination. Change happens when you let those sparks of imagination take hold of a new idea or, as in the subject of this Salon, answer questions that you do not normally think about. And yet these questions are the sort that invite you to evaluate how you think about your life and the quality of choices you make each day – and why you make those choices. If, for example, you were to decide, “I’m not waiting any more to follow my dreams. No more waiting,” what would you actually do next? By this evening, your life would be on an entirely different trajectory. Imagine that.
I call these Power Questions because they contain the power to change you, to inspire you, to draw you into reflection about what you want in your life and how you see yourself. These questions are not just about what you want. Life is not about taking, having and getting more. We obviously need to survive in life. We need to provide for ourselves and our family. But we also need to tend to the task of becoming a good person. Are we the best person we can be? Again, how you answer that matters. Maybe you feel you are or maybe you will decide there is room for improvement. And if so, how will you (and are you even willing to) do the work? If so, by the end of the day, you will have made a difference in the quality of your life and the lives of all those you encounter for the rest of your life. That’s a big deal.
So, take your time. I took my time creating these questions because they matter. Remember no one needs to see the answers to these questions but you, so be honest with yourself. Some of these questions might pinch a little, but that’s what I want these power questions to do. Otherwise, they are useless. And enjoy the task. Your life could be very different by the end of this Salon.
- What is the one thing you have postponed changing about yourself? Are you prepared to make that change now?
- Are you a good friend who keeps your word all the time?
- Would you offer a good friend much needed (uninvited) advice when you can see he/she is headed for disaster, or remain silent?
- Are you open to receiving uninvited counsel from a good friend if the situation were reversed?
- Is it more important for you to win the power game or to know the truth?
- What is more important to you – wealth or love? (No, you can’t have both so far as this question is concerned.)
- Have you explored your creativity to your satisfaction?
- Do you dismiss your creative ideas based on financial thinking or lack of time?
- Which would you prefer: Losing your creative energy and spark or gaining more free time in your life? (No, you cannot have both so far as this question is concerned.)
- Can you actually name a creative project or dream that you would like to pursue now?
- What are three very unusual qualities in you that define who you are?
- Do you feel that the choices you make allow those qualities to shine? If not, what are you willing to do in your life to let the best of you become the strongest part of you?
- Do you consider yourself to have healthy self-esteem?
- What three qualities do you appreciate most about yourself?
- What are your three greatest personal challenges?
- What do most of your close friends consider your greatest personal challenge?
- Do you spend your musing time drifting into past regrets, fear of the future or present time concerns?
- How much of your day do you dwell in stress and how much is spent in calm waters?
- Imagine your life twenty years from now. Close your eyes and drift forward to whatever age you would be twenty years from now. Which of today’s problems and emotional issues are still troubling you twenty years from now? Ten years from now? Five years from now? Three? Even one year from now? How significant can they be?
- Would you rather have acknowledgment or love? (And no, you cannot have both because often in life, the pain in a person is self-created because they can’t figure out which one they really need versus want.)
- But which do you need: Acknowledgment or love?
- Do you find it challenging to acknowledge the gifts and accomplishments of others?
- Which do you feel more often: That life has blessed you or that life owes you more? (Everyone tends to answer “I feel both”; however, the operative word in this question is “more”. Which do you feel more often?)
- Do you have to remind yourself to count your blessings or does gratitude come naturally?
- How sure are you of what you believe in? Spiritually? Politically? Personal values?
- Are you someone who stands up for what you believe in?
- Would you challenge a person who is critical of a friend?
- If you knew someone was telling a lie, what would you do?
- Is honesty an important value for you?
- Are you as honest with people as you want them to be with you?
- Are you someone who thinks that having more money is the solution to your problems in life – and if not all of them, most of them?
- Do you often spend from entitlement rather than from necessity?
- What makes you feel as if you are “truly alive?”
- How often do you feel that way?
- Do you generally feel that your life is good?
- Do you often hesitate to do what you want because you fear what others might say?
- And how often have others actually said something to you?
- Whose opinion of your life matters as much to you as your opinion of your life?
- How often have you gotten angry at yourself for not doing what you want to do – and then blamed someone else for your lack of courage?
- What qualities do you love most in others? And do you tell your family and friends often enough how much you care about them and how much they mean to you?
- How many of those do you have in yourself?
- We may all die tomorrow. Just because we are not ill does not mean we will live another day. We only have this moment and then the next. We only have each other. We only have each precious moment together. Knowing that truth – and it is a grand cosmic truth – review who you might still be angry with or what issues might still be unresolved and ask yourself if holding on to negative feelings for one more moment is worth it.
- If you said yes – even slightly – is holding on to your negativity:
1. A matter of pride;
2. Or the thrill or need to get even with that person;
3. Or the need to get the “other” to acknowledge/witness the pain of the wound;
4. Or the need to prove that someone unjust was done to you.
- None of those goals can ever be met. Very few people care that they hurt you just as you have already forgotten most of the people whom you hurt. You don’t think about them everyday. But imagine someone else dwelling on what you said to them twenty or twenty-five years ago. It’s preposterous. And if one of those people did finally come up to you, after waiting all those years to see you and said, “I’m so angry at you. Do you know what you did to my life because of what you said to me?” More than likely you would say, “Who are you?” Or you would say, if they were a close family member, “I don’t recall saying that at all. I’m sure I never meant to hurt you.” And now that person would be left feeling bereft. Or perhaps even angrier. None of their wounds were validated. But that is the more common scenario. We hold on and hold on only to find out the wicked other has moved on long ago. Or never registered the wound at all. What is true is that every human being has wounds and every human being has wounded someone along the way. Some have left battlefields of wounded people. We do not always get our apologies from the person who stuck the knife in us and we do not always get the opportunity to apologize to the people we owe an apology to for our dark actions and words. But in this world where invisible acts of the heart move through our “inner net” with the speed of “holy light”, the grace of our good deeds finds its way to wounded hearts in need of comfort. And the grace of our kind words are used to create soft thought forms that settle sweetly into minds in turmoil. It is worth letting go to make use of yourself as a vessel of light. You can put that space in yourself to better use.
- Is meditation or prayer time a value?
- If you had the rare opportunity to encounter experience “God call you by name”, would you say yes?
- Would you say yes to becoming a healer if it meant undergoing the Wounded Healer journey of initiation?
- How deeply do you really want to know yourself? Do you want to know all the whys about you or just a few?
- What are your three greatest fears and of those three, which two do you know you can release at any time?
- Finally: What is the dream you are postponing? And if you heard the Divine say, “No more postponing. I gave you that dream for a reason. Act on it,” what would you do? There are no financial guarantees with a dream. All dreams are financial risks. All dreams take courage. And dreams do not have to be great, big, huge. They just have to spark your imagination and make you grateful you are alive.
Now, go through your questions again. I hope you answered them slowly and thoughtfully. I did. It may sound odd, but I took my time with every question. Some of them came from Spiritual Direction work and others from my work with people and others popped into my head as I wrote this. I thought it obvious that many of the questions included a sort of, “Well, and so what are you going to do about this?” or “And, now what?” Next step. I did not feel I had to add that. For example, question 45 asks you if prayer or meditation time is of value to you. Whether you replied yes or no, I assumed you would then spend some time thinking about the value of introducing one or both of those practices into your life. A “no” answer is insufficient because it does not do justice to the significance of what it means to have a prayer/meditation life versus not having one. Having one implies that spending time in reflection and in sacred dialogue matters to you. Invoking grace matters. Having faith in something greater than yourself matters. Hope comes more easily.
I would love some feedback from you with this Salon. I would love to know if these questions really caused any of you to think more deeply about the choices you are making with your life and if any of you actually decided to do something outrageous.
And I send you all a heart full of love as we enter August. I hope you have a lovely final third of the summer.