This blog was featured on 02/26/2020
Striving Revisited

​In my last blog and newsletter, “What Fuels Your Ambition?” I discussed challenges I’ve had in my life regarding striving. The day after I sent it, I received this thoughtful response from Hazel Breen, a writing student of mine, who has raised four children (now in college): 

“Exactly. Very well put. I am at that point myself. What I’m not sure about is whether I should be advising young people to dial back the striving in this competitive world. The striving seemed to pay off for me, though the personal cost was high. Aligning with the co-creating forces may be a luxury only enjoyed when you’ve secured your necessities? Still pondering that one.”
This is a wonderful question to ponder. Here’s how I see it:
I like to think of these “co-creative forces” as our inner GPS. It’s always ready to guide us, but we live in a world where it’s easy to get sucked into your personal thoughts, which tend toward the negative (due to our survival instinct) and gets noisy. This prevents us from hearing helpful inner guidance.
When we don’t scare, shame, or scold ourselves into achievement—when this harsh inner personal voice (ego) softens—we can better hear our inner GPS and we don’t have to work so hard. We find ourselves in a place of flow where magic happens and good things materialize. In this state we experience clearer thinking and efficiency, which makes us more likely to secure our necessities, as well as go after our dreams!
Why push, wrestle, and strong-arm your way through life when you could be pulled, guided, and supported? 
If, as a young person, I’d known I could be drawn toward what I needed, or that a subtle universal guidance was at play, or if I’d known how common it is for people to be in what author and transformational master coach Michael Neill refers to as “an abusive relationship with themselves,” that awareness alone would have given me an advantage. 
I wish I’d known the following as a young writer:

  1. I was innocently and unconsciously creating my own internal pressure—and pain—with my thinking.
  2. Letting it go would have lightened my mental load, which was never mine alone to carry.
  3. Taking one step at time while tuned into my inner GPS (the result of a quieter mind) was my ticket to success, as well as happiness.

I also wish I had known, instead of seeking comfort from my pain through pot, alcohol, sex, and work (to name a few of my old favorites, and which created additional problems), that I could turn within. 
Spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle has an exercise where you close your eyes, put your hands out, and see if you can feel the universal life force (energy) in your hands. I’ve done it many times and the energy I am able to tune into feels like a subtle, soft, undulating pulse. 
The other day, while meditating, I explored this further. I started with my hands, stayed with the energy, and felt the sensation move up my arms, and into my whole body, which rippled with this soft, healing vibration that I’ve come to understand as life itself. There was no separation between it and me, between me and anybody else, no time and space, and, best of all, no worry, stress, or physical pain. I was simply this loving, oscillating wave, at one with the universe.
I don’t know how much time I spent there, maybe ten or fifteen minutes, but dropping down into this inner sanctuary felt like bathing from the inside out. 
In that space, these truths are amplified:

  1. Much of what goes on in my physical world reality isn’t as important as it seems. 
  2. The stakes are rarely as high as I imagine. 
  3. Whether I realize it or not, I’m being supported. 
  4. I don’t have to do all the heavy lifting in life.

Those of us who have strived for decades succeeded despite our striving and not because of it. 
I’m not saying there isn’t a place for hard work, but when the energy behind it is fearful, shameful, or punitive, it blockscreativity, insight, innovation and much more. Fear strangles creative output, and rarely brings out the best in people, young or old. I’m not talking about the fear that keeps us safe, but the ruminating psychological fear that keeps you up at night and spews negative bullshit into your ear all day long, and prevents you from showing up in ways that set you free and bring joy. 
Freedom, faith, confidence, and willingness to take risks bring out the best in us.
Co-creation happens all the time whether we realize it or not. 
Awareness of how to align with co-creative forces, how to get out of our own way and listen to our inner GPS, is not a luxury. It’s an essential tool for living a productive and happy life.

*This photo of me was taken over 25 years ago on a river trip (Rio Grande) and writing reatreat with poet, Sharon Olds.


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