Admittedly, I wasn’t too familiar with Rob Bell and his work – but after I’d heard Elizabeth Gilbert refer to him as a “most inspiring spiritual leader” I was intrigued.
It was a clear winter day in Melbourne when Rob Bell spoke about all the big things: life, spirituality, love, suffering, creativity and mindfulness.
Listening to Rob speak, I felt more sure of who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. Yet for every time I thought YES, I now understand X or Y about me – there raised another three questions. That’s what happens when you go a bit deeper on yourself.
I filled half a notebook with AHA moments, phrases, snapshots of stories, wisdom + reminders. I can’t relay it all here, but if his work calls you – please check out his latest book How to Be Here.
1. What can you create from EVEN this?
When we talk about life, living and relating to others – and finding our way in the world, we soon come to learn about suffering. When in the midst of suffering, whether it’s experiencing loss, illness, despair, pain – Bell suggests that we can always ask “I wonder what could be created out of even this?”
What new thing, action, belief, connections or presence could we consciously choose to adopt as a new creation out of our suffering?
This isn’t about looking for reasons why we suffer, but about finding ways to acknowledge that suffering presents us with an opportunity to know ourselves and our world in a new way. Could we choose to consciously become softer, more self-compassionate, more empathetic? Could we create new connections and reach out to others experiencing similar circumstances? Could we create a new path through life that acknowledges and transcends, rather than vainly tries to deny our experience?
Consider how many support groups and fundraising charities have been founded by someone who has lost a loved one to cancer. What can be created from even this?
As I listened to this message, it was impossible for me not to be thinking about the death of my mother last year. Every day following this loss, I consciously ask “How can I live wholeheartedly right now? How can I express my truth fully? How can I be my boldest self? How can I show love?”
Consciously create your life – pain and all.
2. Is your ladder against the right building?
From a young age, we intuitively learn about ladders. We learn: study hard at school = get good grades. Get good grades = get into a good university. Get good grades = get a good job. Work hard = get a promotion. Work harder = get the corner office. And so on. All the ladders are there, waiting for us to climb up. We learn: keep striving, keep going up.
Rarely do we stop to ask “Is my ladder leaned up against the right building?”
Is this what I want? Many people get right to the top, achieve incredible success and wealth, but never have asked the deeper questions. Who am I? What will my life be about?
Some of us get really good at climbing ladders.
Is the endless striving and materialism fulfilling you?
Bell said “People make all kinds of radical choices to live the life that means the most to them.” They might choose to live frugally most of the year in order to travel extensively, or to sacrifice a certain level of income to maximise time with family or on a creative outlet.
Making a change and moving ‘down’ from the ego is a disruption of sorts. Moving toward greater vitality and health can challenge the assumptions of your society, tribe, family and/or workplace. The centre of consciousness has a message “This is how we do things” but you can make a disruption by saying “This is not my path.”
Ah. Being a disrupter. How does that sound? Waking up to what is possible and most meaningful for you. Do things your way. It’s certainly not going to be easy, because it will likely generate ripples of dissonance, but living in a way that’s not true for you won’t be a picnic either. What will you choose?
3. What is that to you?
Ever notice yourself becoming too focused on what others are doing?
Wasting your energy comparing your parenting, business success, perceived wealth, physical appearance, accolades etc to other people?
Who you aren’t, isn’t interesting. (“I’m not smart enough, I’m not successful enough”)
Who they are, isn’t interesting. (“They are smarter, They are more successful”).
The time and energy you spend in this space takes you away from your capacity to live a rich, full and meaningful life. You are in control of how and where you expend your energy.
“Decide now that you will not compare what you DO know about yourself with what you DON’T know about someone else.” – Rob Bell.
Ooh. Tough one but I’m going to try. I’ve already had my husband on to this for me, replying “What is that to you?” when I’ve been too focused on how I think someone should have behaved. It’s pretty effective when you boil it down. Keep your eyes on yourself, not over your shoulder or over your fence.
What is that to you?
4. What is the number one here?
There’s that thing we want to do. But it’s big. And we’re stuck. We know what the first step is, but what happens at step 17? We don’t know. It’s unclear. So we don’t even start, because we want certainty and a smooth path.
And the longer we stay stuck, it gets harder to move into action. We get tangled in a sea of complicated thoughts, trying to second guess all the unknowns along the path. So to appear capable, confident, skilled. Not foolish. God forbid we make a mistake!
How do we cross over from spectating to participating?
Ask, “What’s the number one here?” Then just do it. Once you’ve done that, then you’ll do two – even if two may be different by then.
Step by step by step. It’s impossible to see the whole course, so commit to action, be curious and open. Keep moving. You don’t need to have a clear vision of step 17 yet!
Wowsers, some big truth telling here. As a new business owner, I’m faced with new. Different. Unknown. Unfamiliar. All the time. I’m committing to shifting my perception to one of excitement, intrigue and purposeful incremental action rather than anxiety, fear and avoidance of action.
Care to join me?
5. What can you do to remind yourself that you have today?
A physical reminder, or moving meditation, can help anchor you into a space of gratitude and presence. Remembering that you are here and alive today.
Bell spoke of people who are thriving at a deep level, have a ritual that is personally meaningful for them that helps them feel into that place of aliveness.
He spoke about moving houses many times with his wife and family, and always carting around the heavy boxes of ‘good’ china that remained saved for a ‘special’ occasion – but were remain unused. Remembering that every day is a gift, they now use the special china for family breakfasts. It is a tangible, physical reminder to celebrate and mark life with gratitude for the here and now.
For some it might be baking cake, going for a hike in the forest, surfing, running, singing, sewing. The possibilities are endless. Choose what gives you that sense of awe and vitality and do it.
Are you putting off doing something special? Don’t wait.
© Naomi Morrow, 2016