Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Childhood Trauma: Threats, Abuse, and Punishment

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Ender’s Game

I recently finished reading Orson Scott Card’s “Ender Quartet,” consisting of the books Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind. While Card shows through the tale of Ender’s life and adventures that he is an outstanding storyteller, Card also reveals quite a well of wisdom.

One such piece of wisdom, from Ender’s Game, comes as a thought Ender has while at Battle School. Thinks Ender: “A good commander… doesn’t have to make stupid threats.”

Ender notes this to himself after one of his commanders threatens punishment on him for questioning authority and not doing as demanded. The commander is supremely arrogant and sees Ender, who is only a few years younger than he, as a worthless and stupid child. From Ender’s view, it makes much more sense to treat one’s soldiers with respect. After all, they are not the enemy and must be worked with cohesively to succeed. There must be trust all around.

This is a superficial meaning, however, needing not have any relation to a military operation. More immediately, it is (to this writer) about family; it’s about the relationship and interaction between parents and children.

A good parent doesn’t have to make stupid threats.

Stupid Threats

How many times do parents threaten their children with punishment, how many times do parents verbally degrade or physically hit their children, for saying and doing things for which the parents disagree with? And in how many of these instances are the children being threatened or punished for doing the very same things the parents themselves either did when they were children or might still do when their children aren’t around?

Right. What comes around, goes around. It’s familial karma. What’s in the consciousness (at any level) of parents is naturally and (usually) unwittingly passed into the consciousness of their children.

Unless adults have made the very deliberate effort to clear out their own childhood traumas resulting from their parents doing more or less the same to them, adults, as parents, will inevitably pass some form of that negativity to their children. It can be no other way.

And so it comes to parents to clean up the sludge in their consciousness so they cease polluting the world and their children with their inane threats and abuses. It is up to children (of nearly any age) to learn to actively keep themselves free of baggage as soon as they are able. And it is up to various societal groups (such as schools) to learn from those people who truly understand healing—READ: the ones-who-have-been-there-before, not those who’ve read some intellectual theory in a textbook and now believe themselves to be qualified—so that physical, mental, and emotional difficulties can be dealt with appropriately when they've already become trauma and can be worked through consciously when arising in daily life before any actual trauma occurs.

The Argument

Considering the way our society has been since time immemorial, it would be expected for the argument to arise that: If I’m not supposed to threaten or strike my child when he misbehaves, what do you want me to do?

Up front, the note must be made that if your child wants to run out into the middle of a busy street, then, yes, you have to take stronger measures than just sitting there on your porch sipping tea and kindly requesting that he cease playing chicken with the oncoming cars. What these stronger measures are, however, are your own. Solutions will be many and unique, some ideas being listed below. This disclaimer out of the way...

First keep in mind that what I’m suggesting through this writing is a process. If you’ve slapped your son daily for looking at nudie photos every day for the last year, it’s likely going to be difficult for you to not do it again today and tomorrow. So begin by seeing the process of it.

Next, instead of immediately flaring up when you see your son looking at the pictures (or if you do flare up, then afterward), ask yourself why you are flaring up. Ask what is within you that perceives nudie photos to be so bad. Have you, perhaps, suppressed the anger, helplessness, and trauma of when your parents had punished you for doing the same? Figure it out.

Yes, I know. The nudie picture example as flawed, John. Of course it’s wrong, and he should be punished!

Is it wrong? Is it really? Listen… I’m not here to tell you one way or another, okay? I’m here to tell you that you have to figure out what is true for you, what is right and wrong for you.

If you’re slapping your kid for looking at nudie images because your religion forbids it and demands prompt punishment, realize that you’re acting out a rule of a man-made institution. As stated in the Bible: the laws of God are written in our hearts. Before you go reactively walloping your kid, let go of all the extraneous crap and then figure out, probably for the first time in your life: What does my heart tell me about this situation?

Because if you find that your religion is wrong, then your incessant need to punish your child becomes wrong. Similarly but said differently, maybe you would find that looking at nudie pics is okay once in a while. Or maybe your religious ruling does have some degree of validity, but the deeper truth is that you’re subjecting your son to a hell of a lot more trauma and suffering from threats and abuse (and yourself to a lot of unnecessary misery) than if you’d just leave him alone to learn what’s right or wrong in his own time.

And unless you have no heart, certainly you must already know how it hurts you to strike your child every time he misbehaves. Which in the religious case would indicate that there is something seriously wrong with your religion, not you.

And what’s all the viciousness doing anyway? If your son's been doing supposed wrong for 365 days and caught and slapped every time, don’t you think he’d have stopped if your punishment were actually fixing the cause?

Indigenous Solutions

Aside from the suggestions for healing I made in the above section titled, “Stupid Threats,” there are other ways, ancient ways, worthy of consideration.

Whenever we become lost in life, whether it be in diet or community or whatever, we can almost always refer back to what certain indigenous tribes from around the world have done. Granted, some of these things are either inappropriate or irrelevant to the modern day. But there are still plenty which, had we the humility to take the practices on as our own, would reveal amazingly positive results for all of us.

The practical wisdom of (some) indigenous tribes are a “proof of functionality” revealing that threats toward and abuse of children (or anyone who’s imbalanced, really) is never necessary and “a good parent doesn’t have to make stupid threats.” When worked properly, personal trauma and troubles potentially to be created in the world at large would be nearly nonexistent.

One example of dealing with unruliness comes from (assuming my memory serves me correctly) an anecdote by Robert Wolff in his book Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing. Wolff tells how in one of the villages of a tribe he’d visited it was known that a certain tribe member was stealing the belongings of others. Everyone knew who this thief was yet no one said a thing. No threat, no punishment. Not even the lightest of chidings. Just zero attention. Eventually, all stealing ceased and all items were returned just as mysteriously as they’d disappeared.

As the natives here showed, attention is energy is sustenance of that which is manifest. What we focus on endures; what we acknowledge and release fades.

There is another tribe I’ve read of which offers a fresh perspective on how to deal with child misbehavior. When such occurs, a number of other family and community members form a circle and put the offending child in the center. The adults then take turns telling the child what makes him or her good, reminds him or her of times when he or she had done well.

How about that? No one flying off the handle. No on placing blame or laying on the guilt. No one giving or receiving threats or abuse. Just immediate acceptance and healing.

Give Them What They Need

Another solution is to give a child what it is that the child needs. Absolutely, this is as open-ended as anything. But I’ll use an example to give you an idea of where I’m going with this.

A close friend of mine has a son (now an adult) who is extremely troubled. He’d spent the better part of his life this way. Recently he was imprisoned for the first time. And, yes, while prison is generally prison, he’s also able to cope with his life for the first time ever. He has a routine; he has food, clothes, and shelter; he’s finally been diagnosed and is being treated for a mental disorder; he’s receiving an education appropriate for his high level of intelligence and for which he is excelling at. Whether his life will ever be roses and sunshine is still up for debate. But it certainly appears that sprouts are shooting up where before there’d only been a desert hardpan.

Sometimes the most straightforward (yet not so obvious) answer to healing imbalanced humans is just giving them what they need, whatever that may be for any given person.

The other day the concept of child punishment came up at the dinner table. My Mom said something to the effect that when I or my siblings were put in the corner we were supposed to think about what we’d done wrong.

I said: “Mom, I never once thought about what I’d done wrong. Ever. I was either too busy making faces at someone in a different corner or being mentally miserable because it was so boring.”

And that's the thing: I think back on all the times as a kid that I was put in the corner or grounded or belted or whatever—and never once—not one time—did I ever think about what I’d done wrong. Maybe I cried, maybe I bitched and moaned, maybe I repressed some more emotional garbage. But never once did I think about what I’d done.

And do you know what? I would do the same thing time and again. If my brother was teasing me and I shrieked at him and called him a penis (as I was wont to doing), I’d be punished for it. And by next week, perhaps, he’d tease me and I shriek at him that he was a penis again. And I would be punished. (...guess my parents don't know the truth when they hear it...)

The same goes of all the other thousands of crimes I’d committed and punishments I’d received as a child. The same goes for the trillions upon trillions of other crimes and punishments of the world’s children (and law-breaking adults).

Why? Because threats and abuse and punishment don’t work.

The only time these things “do work” is when their victims get the shit traumatized out of them and come to fear the potential wrath to befall them should they ever repeat their actions again.

If you want to change what a person does, then you must give them what they need. You must either truly understand why they want what they want and give them adequate reason and personal space to change their mind, or you must change yourself (dropping the inclination toward punishment) and teach the way by walking your talk.

Last Words

You may do well to think about these things, especially if you’re a parent. What you see in your child is nearly always a reflection of something in you. To threaten or break a mirror just because you don’t like what you see, well, a broken mirror simply exponentiates the reflection that was already there and traumatizes the "mirror."

Keep in mind the echo of Card’s advice: To his or her children, a good parent doesn’t have to make stupid threats... or ground them for a month or tell them how horrible they are or belt them or slap them or send them to bed without dinner. All such drama creates trauma, and trauma makes for more karmically repetitive drama.

A good parent seeks to maintain their children’s love and trust, not to physically, mentally, and emotionally traumatize the children and push them away using self-righteous threats and abuses. A good parent seeks out and heals the inconsistencies within themselves before lashing out at the inconsistencies—or seeming inconsistencies—within their children. A good parent uses their children as mirrors to their own self, rather than targets of blame or as punching bags. A good parent honors their children as unique individuals, rather than treating them as robots designed to validate their every belief and behavior.

A good parent treats their children how they would like to be treated.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

“I’ve Married My Mother!” – A Discourse On Opposites and Attraction

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Funny, isn’t it? How so many people say: "I’ve married my mother!" or "I’ve married my father!"

Of all the fish in the sea, isn’t it peculiar that so many folks, if not early on in their relationships then certainly more so with the passage of time, come to the realization that they’ve “married” one of their parents?

The answer is quite simple: No.

It is not peculiar, not in the least, at least once we know the difference between what we’re superficially looking for and what we’re truly looking for in a relationship and why.

What Am I Looking For?

There is only one “thing” in the whole of this dualistic existence that any of us ever truly want. We usually don’t know consciously that this is what we want and may often believe we have it to a greater or lesser extent… But we don’t—perhaps ever.

Nonetheless, because we’re subconsciously aware that we’re missing the realization of this “thing,” we go on seeking to obtain it via the only methods we know—these methods being fully external and taught to us by our parents… Who, it just so happens, were seeking to realize the same “thing” in a way taught by their parents, though they themselves were unsuccessful.

And thus, in our unwitting search, we’ve all so far come up short.

What is this “thing” I speak of?

Unconditional Love.

The “Problem” of Duality

The central “problem” of duality for those seeking Unconditional Love is that Unconditional Love is of wholeness, of completion of self. This means that Unconditional Love cannot actually be found within our divided, duality-based experience.

We don’t recognize this consciously, however, and so we go on searching, searching, searching, using whatever means seem appropriate to us.

Often, this means that whatever qualities we see in ourselves, we unconsciously seek to match their opposites in the external world.

This means that marriage usually becomes (…Spoiler Alert!!!...) not a true love relationship but an affair unwittingly designed by two duality-minded individuals to offer each other the “2nd half” of themselves.

The Elusive “2nd Half”

In needing to realize wholeness yet not understanding the greater need to go within to do this, no matter how many times we may marry our 2nd half will remain elusive.

Consider the examples below, where the male and female play equal and opposite roles. Note that the roles presented for each gender can be reversed.
  • Male is rageful; female is submissive.
  • Male is an alcoholic; female is dry.
  • Male is intelligent; female is foolish.
  • Male is sociable; female is shy.
  • Male is big-mouthed; female is timid.
  • Male is athletic; female is lazy.
  • Male is prosperous; female is poor.
The list goes on, with every trait having a polar opposite.

Experientially, this typically forms the cornerstone of marriages:

Two people unconsciously see in each other their “2nd half.” They unconsciously fall in “love” with an idea of completion. And they unconsciously go off and attempt to live a life together under the false pretense that their marriage has been consecrated by heaven and will last forever.

Yikes! That’s a lot of unconsciousness!

Is it any wonder why the divorce rate has skyrocketed? It is any wonder why people get married and divorced 2, 3, and 7 times and are still restless as ever?

Parental Influence

Parents give their children the foundation of what they know (beliefs, fears, etc.), whatever that may be, these teachings often being passed on wordlessly, vibrationally. Children adapt these teachings each in their own unique way and then express them in some form during every interaction they have with others.

In example, suppose our father is sociable man who’d married the shy woman who is our mother. They’d done what seemed appropriate to them based on what their parents had done and their parent’s parents and so on. (Though of course no one had ever specifically told them they’d married in order to realize a 2nd half.)

And so, without making the very conscious, deliberate effort toward true self-understanding which most of us have never done, we only have what our parents have given us to work with (for good, bad, better, worse, or indifference) and so have no choice but to live within these limits (not that we'd ever label them this way).

In a “parallel” sense, this means that if we’re female we would carry some of the traits which Mother does. As we grow and get into relationships, we will then, as Mother did, seek a 2nd half who compliments our own half. If Mother is shy, we would be shy, and we’d therefore seek a more sociable male as a partner. We’d thus “marry” our father.

In a “perpendicular” sense, Mother may be shy yet we are quite sociable. And here now during this reading, as a female, we think, I’m not shy like my mother. Indeed, I’m the proverbial social butterfly. We must take care in such thought, for it may be ego blinding us, and we may still end up in a relationship for unconscious reasons.

It could be asked at this point, Where does my sociability come from? Is it authentic or is it taught? Because if it’s authentic, then we will know it at the core of our being; we will be unshakable, fearless in this regard. If it’s merely been learned (as taught in unawareness by Father) or created as a defense mechanism of sorts (like, I refuse to be shy like Mother), well, guess what?

We’re still dancing with duality. We’re still going to be unwittingly searching either for a 2nd half who will provide the shyness or for a sociable one who will support the perceived “rightness” of our fears and false beliefs we’ve created toward our mother.

Similar can be said of males.

As a side note, but certainly not of any less importance, we need also to be aware of our motives when a relationship would result in our mate being the equal or opposite of both our parents.

For instance, if both parents are shy, we may find ourselves attracted to other shy people. This could be indicative of both a need to prove our shy ways “right” as well as a means of seeking parental approval. If our parents are shy yet we seek a sociable mate, as before, this could indicate some kind of unconscious rejection rather than true desire.

The Good News: You Need Not “Marry” Your Mother or Father! …But You’ve Gotta Do the Work!

As I’ve alluded to above, “marrying” one’s mother or father is not a necessity. We’ve only done it for the last few thousand years or so because we’re silly like that.

Through this writing, I’ve frequently used the terms unconscious and unwitting—terms describing a state of unawareness.

I know it’s going to be difficult for some (perhaps many) who read this to accept that they are living their lives in the unaware manner I’ve suggested. No less, the truth is the truth, and we can’t really grasp this truth until life throws us a major curveball—read: (commonly) a deeply traumatic experience which forces us to face our lack of integrity, our lack of wholeness and self-awareness—or we willing begin doing the deep self-inquiry required to make our unconscious conscious and thus develop a greater self-awareness while releasing our as yet unrecognized limitations.

If we’re lazy and our significant other is quite active, is there any better argument? On some level, do we not wish to be more active ourselves? Are we not looking for completion through them? Sure. Isn’t it evident now that perhaps our 2nd half has an interest in us because s/he would like to learn to take it easy once in a while? Sure.

Because laziness and over-activity alike are fear-based (the former being of apathy and/or despair and the latter of avoidance of internal discomfort). Neither is the deeper truth of who we are or what we want.

By all means, we may have a personality preferring peaceful homeyness or one instead leaning toward frequent rock concerts and mountain climbs. There is nothing inherently wrong with either. But if our relationship is one of laziness and go-go-go as an unconscious cooperative attempt at “completion,” then we are a testament to these very words.

Be aware that none of this is meant to suggest that this 2nd half business is a problem, as such. It’s only a “problem” in the sense that it’s an existential lesson. Remember, lessons are not just found in math text books—they are the very reason we are here in human form on earth!

And so we must do the internal work concerning relationships, which carry some of the greatest lessons.

If we aren’t in a relationship, we can work out what traits we would look for in a significant other and see how they apply to us and our parents. If we are in a relationship, then we should be readily able to compare traits between our significant other and our parents and self-inquire as to why we’ve made the choice we’ve made.

If we are currently in a relationship and it strikes us that, My girlfriend/wife is my mother! then we’ve surely become cognizant that we’re caught up in the consequences of unconscious action. We now have enough awareness to begin the inner work necessary to get to release our misalignment.

And it is time to do the work when we realize these things because not only do life lessons come up when Life deems it’s time for us to “face the music,” but once we see we cannot unsee, which means that anything we do to follow up that is not of healing is avoidance. Conscious avoidance creates inner friction (usually more than unconscious avoidance) which causes both external troubles and internal dis-ease.

A Happy Ending

Let’s pretend we see the truth and do the work in a timely, healthy manner.

What do you suppose the outcome would be of breaking down the internal wholeness-denying barrier of I-am-the-1st-half-and-need-a-2nd-half-for-completion?

The Unconditional Love we’ve unknowingly been seeking through unconscious means can be realized, can be experienced consciously. But the implication of Unconditional Love is self-completion. Such experience is for each of us and each of us alone. It is not an experience anyone else can give to us. For it arises from the space where duality has no say. It arises within.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Butterfly and the Fly in the Sink

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

The Butterfly

by Nikos Kazantzakis
I remember one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the back of a tree just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited awhile, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened; the butterfly started slowly crawling out, and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath, in vain.

It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.

That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the external rhythm.

Personal Thought

I’d read the above piece some time ago. My thought was that it was a very good lesson and one that I would take with me for the rest of my life. It’s something I’ll never do, I had thought to myself…

The Fly in the Sink

I was standing at the bathroom sink one night when I noticed a very small and fragile fly on the side of the sink. It appeared to be stuck in a small water droplet. I thought: He’s in danger. I must get him out before he dies.

I ripped off a square of toilet paper and gently touched the edge of it to the side of the water droplet. The water absorbed immediately, and the fly flew off the side of the sink and began hopping around on my hand. Proud that I had done a good deed, I lowered my hand to the countertop. The fly hopped off only to land in another water droplet.

Dang, I thought, and placed the edge of the toilet paper against this new droplet. But although the water had been absorbed, things were different this time. The fly’s body and wings had been crippled. It was still alive, but its movements were minimal; a struggle.

I momentarily debated what to do about the fly. On one hand, I avoid deliberately taking the life of any creature, no matter how small or large. I’ve come to have a deep respect for the wonder, intelligence, and purpose that other creatures carry. On the other hand, I’d just interfered with the life of another being; one that I’d “saved” only to inadvertently cripple. Uncertain of what to do, I took a shower as I’d initially intended. When I finished, the fly was still writhing around in same small area of counter space. It was still alive when I’d left the bathroom.

Arrogance, Ignorance, and Interference

It had never occurred to me that perhaps the fly was fine just the way I’d originally found it. Maybe within an hour or two the original water droplet would have dried and the fly would have remained among the living. I don’t know. In my almighty human arrogance, my immediate assumption was that the fly would die otherwise; that it was already in danger when I’d first seen it.

But perhaps the fly was bathing or drinking—perhaps even basking in a water droplet as humans do in the ocean. Perhaps the fly was only in danger because I interfered; because in my ignorant compassion I crafted a fairytale drama about the situation of another life—a life that I knew little if anything about and a drama story that led me to destroy rather than create.

Are You Serious!?

Some may think my story is a bit on the humorously absurd side of things. “John, it’s a fly for God’s sake!”

Such individuals are more right than they know. Quite literally, it is for God’s sake: it is life.

This life is something that many of us have great difficulty comprehending. Our culture teaches that any existence beyond our own is of minimal value (heck, sometimes ours included). We’ve learned such a deep-seated fear of death, a death that most of us haven’t the foggiest clue about, that we seek to destroy everything in our path that appears suggestive of death’s potential discomfort.

We step on the critters out on the sidewalk. We spray deadly chemicals all over the insects on the plants in our garden. We smash harmless bugs on the walls and floors of our houses. We clap winged insects between our hands. And this is only our dealings with the smallest, most helpless of creatures.

Occasionally when people kill insects which pose absolutely no threat to them I’ll ask something like: “How would you feel if a foot came down from the sky and stepped on you?”

“Smashing,” they tell me. No they don’t. I just made that up for a bit of comic relief. But they do look at me like I’m an idiot, maybe going so far as to actually say just that.

Chalk it up to human arrogance, I suppose. Such behavior doesn’t make sense to me anymore, but I guess if killing the defenseless critters of the world is what some must yet do, then so be it. I don’t agree with it, but I can respect it because I wore those shoes once, too. I’m as guilty as the next guy.

But now I know better. And through my clearer perception I’ve come to realize something: I’ve ended the lives of countless other beings for their committing no greater atrocity than trying to survive peacefully…and inadvertently provoking the fear of death within my own being that I was too afraid to face directly.

Note: This text is a modified version of a post originally published on 7/29/12 to former personal blog “Without a Story.”

Monday, September 7, 2015

What Does Your Occupation Say About You?

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Life Lessons: Hidden In Plain Sight

That job you’ve been doing for the last 30, 40, 50 years is a major part of your life purpose, you say?

Well… Probably not.

I mean, yeah, it kind of is because you’ve so far made it a central focus of your time on this planet. But that’s not really where I’m going with this.

I’m leaning not towards things such as why it seems you are here, what work runs in your family, or what has fallen into your lap, but: For what purpose did your soul incarnate here?

Because I can tell you as I look around that most people are not so much fulfilling a life purpose through their occupations as they are actually unwittingly responding to a subconscious drive. They’re spending 8+ hours per day, 5+ days per week staring with blind infatuation at their life’s most gigantic signpost—the very signpost that would reveal to them their greatest internal life obstacle.

The very signpost which, if acknowledged and its associated internal imbalances resolved, would align them with their deeper meaning for being here.

Purpose Is an Extension of Internal Fulfillment, a Consequence of Some Degree of Soul Realization. It Is Thus Internally Realized, Not Externally Given.

Let’s Consider:

Who of us does for a living what our parents do themselves and/or want us to do? Who of us are doing for a living what happened to fall into our lap? Who of us are working for a boss who shares traits with either/both of our parents (overbearing, lazy, greedy, etc.)?

Who of us has taken up a certain place in the workforce seeking to fill our lives with a certain quality—for instance, we’ve joined the military because we’d believed we needed to prove to others, “I’m brave,” or “I’m honor-worthy”?

Even if we totally dig our work, these questions must be asked. Because the simple fact is that most of us are doing for the sake of doing without ever recognizing the higher purpose for which we’ve become involved in that doing.

Although this topic covers nearly every occupation, let’s use someone having a family lineage of firefighting as a for instance.

Your grandfather was a firefighter. He had four children, all of whom were also firefighters. Of course, one of these children is one of you parents. Growing up within this firefighter-identified setting and all of its beliefs and fears and such, you’re come to think it a great way to make a living—brings in money, saves lives, makes one courageous, etc.

As a child you’d played with firetrucks and always dressed up as a fireman on Halloween. Once you’d reached high school age, you volunteered at the local fire station. Once out of school, you’d promptly attained all the required training and became a full-time firefighter. All without a second thought.

But what if you would have had a second thought? Before all this firehouse work, what if you’d have self-inquired as to whether such work is truly what you want or if there could be something deeper within it?

Like you want it not because you truly want it but because it’s what others want and expect of you. Or because it practically fell into your lap and you don't like the discomfort of trying new things. Or because it carries a thread of guidance to your greatest internal life obstacle—the obstacle you don’t recognize consciously but your soul knows and reveals to you subconsciously?

Occupation as a revealer of your greatest life obstacle. Yes. In choosing to be a firefighter (and because the universe loves puns), you might ask yourself questions such as…
  • What am I truly burning to be, to do?
  • What is smoldering within me?
  • Who’s life am I really seeking to save?

Intense stuff, I know. But critical nonetheless. After all, what purpose would we have for being here as individuals if we’re merely meant to live out the desires of our parents and families, of our societies, religions, and governments?

Rarely if ever does any kind of satisfactory life purpose come so easily as family lineage or by waiting for the “right time” and “right place.” Satisfactory life purpose doesn’t come automatically by doing everything we’re told to do by government, religion, et al. (though most of us fail to see that we are indeed “doing everything we’re told.”)

No. True fulfillment and purpose come through understanding who and what we truly are and why we are here. It comes through understanding the deeper meanings of each aspect of our lives and then integrating what we learn into our experience of life.

So you see, wanting to become a firefighter is (likely) nothing but an outwardly manifested circumstance created by you unconsciously as a means of overtly directing you to the fact that internally you are, say:

Burning to be free of familial “we are firefighters” identity constraints. The angry rejection you’d received from your parents as a child and your subsequent emotional repression when telling them you wanted to be a water salesman has been smoldering in you for ages. The life you are truly seeking to save from “burning up” is none other than—your own.

Life Shatters. Then Transcendence.

To those who are unaware of the cosmic irony of life, this may all sound so silly, so foolish. But this is how we humans feel about most things which are potentially heavy on both mind and emotions once revealed to us in even the most minor of light.

[Indeed, it’s probably why we’ve created jokes the way we have—because we sense or know there’s a truth untold yet fear saying it plainly; we know we can express that truth in the guise of humor and receive approval rather than condemnation. Indeed, it’s the very fact that a joke is truthful that makes it so funny.]

So, sure, when coming across something so direct as the message here, that the occupation one has been working at for a lifetime has been nothing more (or less) than a guidepost to their greatest life/internal/personality obstacle, well, it can be life shattering.

Yet, this same situation is meant to be a source of empowerment.

Nothing can even begin to change until we recognize there’s some kind of misalignment. How could it if we don’t even consciously know something is there to be healed? But now we know. And like G.I. Joe said of knowing, it’s half the battle.

Once the acknowledgement is made we can then do the internal work to figure out whatever is needed about why we’ve been doing our chosen external work. Why have I chosen this occupation? If I’ve been drawn to this line of work because Life has a lesson for me in it, what is that lesson? What negative traits do my family members share with the people I work with, the traits that drive me mad? What are the similarities between my internal nature and my external work?

It’s with this internal effort that transcendence can come through. The stages of life are really not much different than passing from 2nd to 3rd grade: we learn the appropriate lessons and we more on to bigger and better things…

Or we don’t learn the lessons, and we don’t move on. We repeat 2nd grade again and again and again. (Ever notice how your 1st boss treated you like a fool? Just like your 2nd and 3rd bosses? Just like your father? Do you see who the common denominator is?)

Plus, when we work a job in blindness as to its deeper personal meaning, we’re always unconsciously looking for that job to fill some void within us. And from time to time maybe it does sort of seem to do the trick. Inevitably, however, that fullness will always fade.

When we clear out life issues, the fullness is realized internally and it stays. Granted, afterward there will arise more life obstacles, but with any true internal shift there comes a corresponding perceptual and/or external shift; meaning, we realize our experience is not what we’d thought and we can be more at peace with it and/or we change occupations altogether because the subconscious programming which had been fueling our perception that we could fill a void by way of our occupation has gone kaput.

What Does Your Occupation Say About You?

Let’s now take a closer look at some occupations. Let’s see what your occupation may be saying about you. Or asking.

Is what you’re doing really, truly you? Is it really, truly you’re soul’s desire? Or—no matter how much you may claim to like what you do—have you unconsciously chosen your occupational path as a means of creating a doorway to one of your life’s greatest lessons?

Below I have constructed a varied list of occupations and just one of many potential signposts each of them may be presenting. Keeping in mind that the external is a mirror of the internal, your task (should you choose to accept it) is to use these examples as direction for self-inquiry of your own occupation.

Be it known that I am in no way attempting to suggest that any of these or other occupations are wrong or unimportant or any such thing. Clearly, as life is unfolding in this present moment, all of these things are right and necessary for one reason or another. It’s just that, were we to truly look within, we may very well find a striking correlation between our work and some of the most repressed feelings we carry…

  • Repairman: What really are you hoping to fix?
  • Psychologist: Who’s sanity really needs to be restored?
  • Police Officer: Who really feels arrested, imprisoned?
  • Baker: What is really baking?
  • Doctor: Who really seeks to be healed?
  • Accountant: Who’s worth really needs to be balanced?
  • Grave Digger: Who is really feeling dead?
  • Mathematician: What really needs to be solved?
  • Disc Jockey: What really yearns to be heard?
  • Soldier: Where is the battleground that really clamors for ceasefire?
  • Maid: What really is so unclean?
  • Teacher: Who really doesn’t know?
  • Video Game Programmer: Who really feels played?
  • Demolitions Expert: What are you really trying to destroy?
  • Equestrian: Where do things really feel "un-stable"? […Funny, sure. But could it also be true?...]

Make the Conscious Choice

More often than not, we choose occupations not with free will, as we’d like to believe, but due to the influence of two things:
  1. Subconscious needs,
  2. The external influence of family and society and the like.
Of the first item, I guess the question is: “Why Not?” If life is a continual learning process, why wouldn’t our occupations be the external home to some of the greatest lessons available to us?

Of the second: We must always remember that we are individuals, each on our own journey. The fact of the matter is that even if our parents are both firefighters and we have 16 brothers and sisters who are all firefighters doesn’t mean that we, too, are supposed to be a firefighter. Heck, they’re probably all playing the same unconscious game we are.

And, again, this is not to knock any given occupation. Each one is serving its purpose, whatever that may be, for better or for worse. And while some folks may leave their jobs and take a wholly new path after releasing their occupation-related internally suppressed garbage, some may find themselves continuing on exactly as they had been, only because the junk isn’t there they’ll be able to do their job so much better.

So why not chew on this idea for a little bit? Do some occupational self-inquiry.

Notice that your attention has been riveted so closely to the work you do that you’ve not been able to see the bigger picture—that your occupation is a life lesson hidden in plain sight.

Allow yourself to step back and refocus. Be like a firefighter. Pull back far enough to see that the blaze that’s forever threatening to burn you from the inside out can be put out completely with the fire extinguisher that is already and has always been within you.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

[Section added 12/5/2015.]

Since initially writing this piece, it’s occurred to me that aside from our use of any current or past occupation as an internal guidepost, there are other similar and perhaps equally powerful ways to discern the deeper truth of ourselves.

Childhood Aspirations
At one time or another probably everyone has been asked: What do you want to be when you grow up? And although we might have said a farmer or a doctor or an astronaut, it’s far from a given that we do indeed become what we’d desired to be as a child. Especially the astronaut types—like me.

No matter, the key is that we’d had that draw to begin with. For some kids, I would say, their draw is authentic. However, since foundational trauma and programming is established within a child in its earliest years, I would speculate that the draw for the majority is, unbeknownst to them, either or both of two things. Let’s use the instance of, Dad’s a doctor, so I want to be a doctor.
  1. Parental approval.
  2. Naturally, as a naive and uninformed human, the child doesn’t realize that Dad’s over-working, meticulously medical nature is not healthy but is instead a plea to his patients and the medical community for approval. The child thus comes to believe that: Dad only approves of those you work up to his standards. If I want his approval, I must become like him.
  3. Internal Resonance.
    Although occurring at a level below conscious comprehension, the child recognizes: Doctor Dad is very important and helps people. But because he is never around, I feel unimportant and helpless. Maybe I can get these feelings back if I become a doctor myself.
Another good place to look for inner-self-related imbalances is as reflected in the toys we’d played with as children. To explain this one, I’ll use myself as an example.

As a child I loved to play with Legos. While I don’t regret this for a moment, it’s now evident that my resonance with them goes deeper than I ever could have imagined.

One item of note is that Legos are about putting things together, about building things. Not much different from my time later in life working as a mechanical engineering technologist building machinery. Why's this important? Because I’d already believed, even as a child, that “things are broken and it’s my responsibility to put them back together.”

Also of Legos, the two main themes to hold my interest were those of Space Exploration and City Fire Fighters. While I’m not exactly sure the meaning of the space theme (I suspect it’s more of a soul yearning for a return to Infinity than about a specific life lesson), it seems far more than mere “coincidence” to me that I, the kid who’d spent his whole life struggling with anger—with an inner burning—would have such an interest in the Fire Fighter collection.

Why not take a look back at your own childhood. Is there someone you'd held a preference for dressing up as or certain toys you'd been particularly fond of? See what you come up with. I'm sure you'll surprise yourself.

Note: This text is a modified version of a post originally published on 9/20/14 to former personal blog “Without a Story.”