The world simultaneously feels like it's in the midst of a consciousness evolution and irreparably out of whack.
Things feel aligned and distorted all at once. I could give you 17 examples of how that energy is working out in my personal life. Things are falling together and apart. It's a little nutty.
If we look at the American economy, we see that it's growing in a dysfunctional way. The rich get (absurdly) richer. The economic choices we made 20-30 years ago are having their way with us now. Nothing trickles down. At all. And the mass consumerism we've been touting as The American Way has commoditized basic human needs and the moral obligation we have to each other. You gotta pay to play, but the majority of us can't even get in the game.
The consumer mindset has overgrown our innate attraction to compassion and brotherhood. You know, those qualities that were a basic survival mechanism of humankind. Those qualities that usually make us much happier than a shiny new toy or car or house or whatever we've been sold as a form of antidepressant.
This whole thing has got me thinking about growth, and the question that keeps coming up is:
What are we growing for?
We grow our economy (for a few), we grow our debt (for most), we grow our dependence on limited resources on both a macro (environment) and micro (unconsciousness) level. The natural world and our inner world can only hold out against this mindless swelling for so long.
Everyone touts this growing thing. I sure as hell do. "I'm working on it" is one of my go-to lines. And not for nothing—I sincerely focus every day on aligning myself with my guiding principles. And, for me, the term "working on it" is synonymous with recognizing how I'm failing. I do a little bit better and sometimes a little worse, but I'm aware. I earnestly try. The whole reason for the try seems, in the unspoken corners of my mind, to be for the benefit of my career, my financial standing, my effectiveness on the world. I'm trying to grow all those things.
But if we take the example of the outer world—it becomes uncomfortably obvious that mass growth is not always the answer to our longing for better. Growth is not in and of itself a marker of health—cancer is growth. So it begs the question: should we be growing or shedding?
When I think of shedding in the outer world, I feel relief.
Shedding debt, shedding stuff we don't need in our apartment, shedding expenses. Taking a slight step out of consumerism and the sardine-packed arena of BOGO means a little more space to breathe. It means my shoulders will drop an inch.
When I think of shedding in my inner world, I feel opportunity bubble up.
If I'm not so attached to THE OUTCOME in my career, I'm open to many outcomes. Something is bound to happen because a million things are happening every moment. I don't actually have to muscle my way to the future. It's comin' all on its own. If I don't have a horse in the race, if I don't attach my identity and self-worth to how my career is gonna grow, well hot dog. Things just got a lot more fun.
The practice of shedding looks like this:
- Absolute fear that if I shed something (physical or mental), I might implode.
- Shedding something (physical or mental) and remaining alive.
- Seeing my opportunities exponentially grow.
Less money on my credit card means more opportunity to mindfully spend or save what I have.
Less negative self-talk in my mind means more opportunity to be grateful for the world around me.
Less obsession with how my career needs to grow means more contentment and pleasure in my career's present moment.
Less truly is more. And I believe anyone with a creative bone in their body knows this to be true. When we put limits around our work, we almost always overflow with inspiration. When we have no money to put up the show, we come up with an ingenious set. With no audience or followers or fame, we have to make our message clearer and more potent. We work off of the lines in coloring books, both metaphorical and real, because a limit helps us see what's true.
Growth multiplies what is already there, whether it's good or bad. Shedding, on the other hand, reveals us. Sometimes beautiful parts and sometimes ugly parts. But the more we shed, the more we get down to what's true and important.
And I believe at the core of every life, if we're willing to shed every layer, we'll get to the good.