Friday, May 29, 2009

enCouragingBliss: What Would You Sacrifice?

In this American culture, we are raised to believe that we can have anything and everything we could ever dream of. The wider culture tells us that there is nothing we can't have if we want it badly enough. There is nothing that is beyond our reach.

Our reach extends far: These beliefs are spreading over the globe like a poison.

Unchecked desire leads to obesity of the body, mind, and spirit.

Our planet, our children, we are all paying for this.

One of the ways that this is all too apparent is how "busy" we all are. Most people wear this "busy" like a badge of honor, not realizing that they -- that we -- become less and less human in the process.

We are tired; we are worn out; we are angry; we are shallowly connected to one another, to community, to this Earth.

We carry around our entitlement wherever we go. Americans want more and they want it faster, bigger, brighter, and better -- to the point of creating wars over resources.

On an individual level, this endless desire for more in our material lives shows up in a seeming inability to say no, to slow down, to do what we love rather than do something that gets us good pay checks, to create deep and meaningful love.

Then we sit around and complain about being busy, about not having any joy, about not living our bliss.

So we read books about time management when the real issue is about gluttony.

The lie: we can have and do everything.

The truth: we cannot. We can if we want it all half-assed, if we want to get to the end of our lives not having realized we were living, if we want quantity over quality.

For this week, let's think about what we really want our lives to look like.

If we really want to be writers, if we really want to be artists, if we really want to not be married to mind-numbing, soul-killing jobs, if we really want to be surrounded by best friends, if we really want beauty and peace and calm and laughter, if we really want to be able to go to the beach in the middle of the week...

Then we must cut back. We must pick.

With discernment and maturity, we come to know what we need rather than what we want.

And once we know what our true needs are, we are then willing to make sacrifices for them.

Some people don't like this word "sacrifice," and I think it is just another symptom indicative of our soul sickness.

Sacrifice is simply a sacred and holy choosing.

As James Barrie said:

Dreams do come true, if we only wish hard enough, you can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.

So that's the question for enCouragingBliss:

What do you want? What do you really need? What would make your soul burst into the flower, into the universe that it was born to be?

And what are you willing to sacrifice to get there?


Tess said...

I was pretty much cheering out loud all through this post. (The cats were a bit concerned!) What you write about is the reason I am never surprised to read about sudden, tragic acts of violence by "the quiet guy" or "the devoted mother". We are poisoned.

I think your phrase "discernment and maturity" is the key thing here. And it's difficult to get off that hamster wheel long enough to discern.

Even now when I'm temporarily not working I find myself being unnecessarily busy, not allowing myself reflection.

Anonymous said...

"We carry around our entitlement wherever we go. Americans want more and they want it faster, bigger, brighter, and better -- to the point of creating wars over resources."

I think to lump all Americans in this group is making a incorrect statement, and that is puting it nicely.
I do agree that some people are out of touch with their true purpose on the path. To step back and assess what it is we really want out of life and our true purpose is a good thing. Most of us are so busy trying to make a living and taking care of others to focus too much on the other stuff.Unfortunatley that is just the way it is.

claire bangasser said...

I very much like your definition of 'sacrifice' as 'sacred and holy choosing.'

Another lovely post. Thank you.

mommymystic said...

I really like both yesterday's and today's post. For me, they are related. I think a lot of my resistances, the things I do instead of following my bliss, are conditioned desires, and a form of restless ambition that was ingrained in me very young, coming from a family that was very 'achievement' oriented. So I have spent a lot of my adult life working through that, and really trying to focus in on what I want, as opposed to what others want for me. Thanks for creating this opportunity for me to focus in on this again....

Emma said...

Anon brings up a key point:

“Most of us are too busy trying to make a living and taking care of others to focus too much on the other stuff. Unfortunately that is just the way it is.”

This is exactly why it’s vital that we stop and ask: Why is that? Does life have to be this way? What systems and beliefs are creating these conditions? How can we change this situation so that we are not spending out lives just getting through one day and then the next – until we die?

We are asking big questions here, most every day. One of our major ones is: How can I live a fulfilling life? How can I enjoy my time here? (OK, that's 2.)

Sometimes our dreams about the “perfect life” sound like dreams about being rich. Hopefully, they aren’t! Being rich necessitates others being poor. Living richly/living our bliss is not about money. We don’t have time for meditation, the beach, introspection, etc. because we are rich and pay other people to do everything else for us. Living richly is about cutting out what is not necessary to your bliss (making those sacrifices) so that you have the time, energy, and freedom to enjoy the world and your life.

If everybody is busy every day just trying to make enough money to get by, just trying to keep the kids clothed, just trying not to get evicted…what’s the point? Is that “just the way it is?” Then why has it not always been that way? Why is it not that way in all parts of the world?

Yes, that IS the way it currently is in many parts of our world, but only because those conditions have been created. By who? Look to who profits (in terms of money and power).

This is an important topic to discuss, because there is an idea that deep consideration of issues or philosophy or crafting a beautiful life are privileges of people with lots of money. There is some truth behind this, because we live in a system that makes it hard to escape the endless cycle of earn/spend AND makes us believe it is probably impossible.

How can somebody who makes minimum wage or has 3 young kids or has lots of medical bills afford to do anything but work, work, work? In our dominant system, they can’t. (And yes – that’s intentional.)

We can come to two conclusions here:

1. Living your bliss is for the rich; or
2. Living your bliss may require you to leave the dominant system and forge another way of life.

For most of us, the second will be the path we need to take. Escaping the system of earn/spend is not something we achieve by earning and spending more. It’s something we achieve by rejecting that system as the only way.

Additionally, I think following your true bliss is not a solitary act. This is something we are doing for ourselves, but also for others. We create the possibility of a different life every time we act it out. We share the ways of life we find with others. We create communities that free others from the earn/spend trap. We value what we have to give and we share it.

I know I’m go on and on, but trust me – this is just the tip of the iceberg. ;)

Anon brought up an idea that I think deserves attention, because it is a commonly held idea and it also may help us focus on the heart of what we are doing here.

I’ll be back later to comment on the questions in this post! :)

babs m said...

This was very insightful. This year I have purposely cut things out so I can bake healthy bread and grow the garden and do what I know I want to do. You're right: just because it's possible to "have it all", doesn't mean we should. Now if I can only find time to read.... :)

Christine Claire Reed said...

Emma, THANK YOU! (I wish I could write that even bigger!)

I was waiting to comment on Anon, hoping that other people would pick that very thread up -- and point out the weakness of it.

So, again, THANK YOU.

This IS the CORE ISSUE: the illusion that we live in that says "this is it and there is no other way."

We are BIGGER; we are SMARTER; we are BRIGHTER; we are more CAPABLE than that.

I believe in the INFINITE POSSIBILITY that is the human imagination.

Most of us just aren't tapping into right now.

We'd rather be like everyone else; being different is hard.

We'd rather do it the way it's been done; doing it differently is hard work.

We'd rather pop a pill, read some easy, simplified book about positive thinking...

We'd (most of us) rather DO ANYTHING than DO THE HARD WORK.

Go, Emma! You need to start writing your blog again, girl! :) You rock!

Kavindra said...

I love the way you define sacrifice, but then what word do we use for the big real sacrifices, where we are doing something we wish with all our hearts we didn't have to do, but must do because of our values and ethics? Where we get no reward ourselves, just the satisfaction of knowing we gave all we could to live with love for others.

I love this post (and emma's comment) and that is why I disagree with the word sacrifice. It's not a sacrifice to give up inordinate greed or unchecked desire ... you get something much greater by reigning in greed and living with consciousness and authenticity. We agree on everything except that word!

Maybe it's just my catholic schooling that makes using the word too loosely smack of martyrdom - I don't want someone bandying that word about because they are making the wise choice not to drive to the 7-11 for that late night slurpee (and I know that is not where you are at with this at all)But when we make careful loving decisions to care for the earth and each other, to care for our children with great responsibility - it's a win win situation. Clean happy earth, happy well adjusted children who care for the earth when they grow up, connected authentic lives full of love. A far cry from sacrifice to me.

I'm going to make up a word and use your definition of sacred and holy choosing.

Very lovely post, and you as always inspire me to try and do better. And to argue with you ;)

Christine Claire Reed said...

kavindra, i TOTALLY agree with your definition of what sacrifice is NOT.

But when I use it, as you know :) , I mean it in a much bigger way.


Like picking a spiritual path and being truly committed so that we might shine like the sun we are (instead of skimming the surface of 5000 traditions and never diving deep because it takes time).

Like choosing between a few GREAT loves/blisses so that one or two can get the attention they deserve.

Like deciding not to have children.

Or deciding to have children and not a huge career.

Like getting rid of our cars even though that is hard in this society.

Sacrifice -- holy and big and DIFFICULT.

No slurpy? Too easy.

Taking time to recycle?! Too easy.

You get my drift. :)

I like to take words BACK and give them the meanings they DESERVE. :)

lucy said...

great post and ensuing discussion. it prompted me to write my own post which will be up tomorrow :-)

re: words & their is so important to understand how each of us define the words we are using. my definition of sacrifice could be totally different from isn't :-) i love the idea of holy choice. we ALWAYS have a choice in our circumstances... even if it is only in attitude or thought.

blissfully yours!

tinkerbell the bipolar faery said...

I like the concept of a "holy choice." For me it seems more like an emptying of oneself, or a peeling away of a layer, than it does a sacrifice.

Many confuse pleasure ~ i.e. feeling and sensation we feel upon stimulation of our brain's pleasure receptors ~ with bliss.

This does seem a very worthy discussion, and possibly will inspire me to write a post of my own, soon.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Exactly, Tinkerbell, bliss is NOT about FEELINGS. Happiness is a temporary feeling of pleasure, but on this blog, as I've said before, we're talking BIG Bliss -- the kind Joseph Campbell meant. Bliss as a path, as a daily set of choices.

Eco Yogini said...

what an awesome post. At work we just had this entire presentation from a company on "time management". And the ENTIRE time I disagreed with almost every little bit of "advice" he had to say. His bottom line- be more productive at work... and my immediate reaction was: I am productive at work. My moments of connection with parents and families are not a "waste" as he put it.

Also- I do think that as a "whole", our societal trends are towards consumerism. I am fortunate enough to love my job.. but it is just a job and there is no way my life will be defined by my work.
Thank you for this reminder :)

nomad said...

I have nothing constructive to add, only my compliments to each of you...Christine and all the commenters. I absolutely LOVE the way you all think.

svasti said...

I have many American friends, quite a lot of yogis actually. You'd think that those types would be free of the 'more more more' mentality you've described. But no, they compete with themselves (and/or with others) for learning faster, being stronger etc.

But this isn't just an American issue - its a western world issue, for sure.

When I gave up my job last year, my family and some of my friends couldn't understand. Why would anyone do such a thing, given up financial security etc, to go off and do a yoga retreat for five weeks? My mother even questioned me to find out what the "real" reason was. It couldn't be as I'd stated, right?

Personally, I knew I had to - my sanity was at stake. And staying in a job where I was losing touch with who I am wasn't working for me. So like you said, I picked. I chose unemployment, I chose living out of my comfort zone in a strange country.

It was amazing, for showing me what I'm capable of.

But it wasn't enough - I came back and tried to pick up where I left off, only to be humbly thrown off the treadmill of life again. Seems the universe wasn't finished teaching me how to slow down.

I've barely been ill while being unemployed and I'm sure the lack of stress and exposure to unhealthy air conditioning systems has a lot to do with that.

And while it hasn't all been fantastic (no money and no support from family) I've been learning so much about myself, and what I want and what makes me happy.

Definitely, choosing not to have it all is the fastest way to good health I can think of!

Graciel @ Evenstar Art said...


Such a fabulous post and amazing comments! There is little for me to add other than to say, to create a bliss filled life, I am working on using my talents in a new, more supportive manner. I am sacrificing my self doubts. In that sacrifice, I hope to create a new path that will use my talents for my own gain and not strickly for the gain of the corporation I work for.

I so heart your blog! xo

followingmybliss said...

Dear Christine, I stumbled across your site from BlogHer -- and what a wonderful find your blog is! I'll be adding you to my links section & will enjoy perusing some of your older posts to catch-up. In keeping with your Stephen Cope post, I posted yesterday about a wonderful video called Whirlwish, which is about following your soul's desires. If you have a moment, it's worth checking out :)