Last month I wrote about the death of a friend and colleague. That loss was a shock to many and sent ripples through the community. A few days before the release of my blog, another friend and colleague released hers. She is a writer and educator, former university professor turned consultant. She writes deeply, thoughtfully. Last month, as I wrote about death, she wrote about dandelions. (Read it here.)
That’s life, isn’t it? Sometimes there are dandelions and sometimes there is death. The thing about it is; our blog posts were not that different. Each of us used what was happening in our day-to-day life as a point of reflection. For me, it was examining my life as a servant leader. My friend was a role model for others – a hungry learner, a dedicated educator, a loving mentor. Am I living up to that expectation? Is my life one of character and purpose? Am I making a significant contribution? These are big questions. And, as I am about to turn 50, it seems to be the right time to reflect on them.
For Jane, dandelions were a point of reflection; on her need to fit in and the underlying fear of what people would think her as the owner of a yellow lawn. She grappled with that part of her life story in her writing. Jane and I both look at our life experiences as opportunities to learn something – about ourselves and our calling. We both identify as teachers and have chosen writing as a way of sharing our reflections, and a little piece of our self, with others.
We see our world as an opportunity to learn. Our free-will is about choice – how we react to our world and our current circumstances. We can use our world experiences, whether it is death or dandelions, to grow and learn. The acts of reflection and contemplation allow us to fall a little more deeply into who we are. It is a process of discovery. That process is inward – focused on creating meaning. Our outward connection is more about how do we share those discoveries with the people around us.
The barrier to this connection between our outer circumstances and our inner reflection are the voices in our heads. These voices can hold us back from living fully who we are meant to be. They tell us what to think, how to act, who to be. They can keep us victims of our circumstances; holding us back from contemplating life and, perhaps, our true calling. They want to put us in a box to hold together a system that does not necessarily have our best interests at heart. These voices are not you. Inner reflection is only possible when we learn to quiet them.
We may not always find meaning in our experiences. It may be that we continue to grapple with things. That we have more questions to answer than we did before. That we continuously circle back to how we feel and what we think. But, all of it is a chance to dig a little deeper to find a meaningful connection between our outer circumstances and our inner self. We will never have all the answers. Luckily, life does not have a final exam. Living is a process, not a destination. It is in the seeking where wisdom can be found.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi