In this final part of my “How I Live” series, I’ll share something that may seem different than the previous topics. But it is related because it’s a summation of how I live now. I’ll share, a bit abstractly, how I’m learning to make decisions differently. (And by the way, this gets a little deep, so if you’re the TLDR type, you might want to leave now, or scroll down to below the second photo.)
This isn’t about what made me decide to start a new way of living.(For that, you can read the piece I wrote for The Good Men Project.) This is more about this vague methodology of decision-making in general. This has become a major part of adjusting my way of living, so it warranted a place in this series.
Now, on with the story…
[^A different walk]
Hiking down a jungle trail, I duck under a tangle of vines. I pull up and see a clan of whiteface monkeys, half of them on the ground, tip-toeing through groundcover; the other half is launching tree to tree. One misses his target branch and barely catches a supportive twig just before hitting the ground…I’ve found this is more common than I thought of primates. I walk gingerly with my surfboard, not wanting to scare them, but they don’t seem to care. I make no difference in their routine.
I set my board and bag down to pursue a closer look at a few monkeys 20 yards away. They trot off. I turn around back toward my stuff, and the rest are rummaging through my bag and tugging at my board’s leash. They’re obviously not new to this “You three look cute and distract him” game. I tell them that stuff is not theirs, and they walk off on hind legs, glaring back at me. I acknowledge the privilege I’ve been given to experience this interaction, and I say, “Thanks guys;” and pick up my stuff and move on toward my favorite surf spot.
It’s ebb tide, and I’m standing underneath a 5-foot-high rock shelf that’s usually under seawater. We have 10-foot tide fluctuations here, and that, combined with big swells, makes the beach look different every week. One week the beach is sandy and accented with rocks, the next week it’s rocky and accented with sand, and the bedrock is uncovered.
Creases in the bedrock intersect their varying depths, and their intersections form steps. With the outgoing tide, the creases become rivulets of retreating water and the steps become mini waterfalls. I pause when I notice the sunset’s pink aura glinting in a transparent curtain of water.
I stride across boulders and peer into tidepools, scouting for interesting rocks, shells, and driftwood for friends and family. The driftwood is sanded and rocks polished by wave action, and each has its unique pattern and personality, which is often amplified when wet. Some rocks I notice, others call to me.
…And that’s how I make decisions! Now, discuss amongst yourselves and draw your own conclusions.
Okay, here’s a suggestion: I live more intuitively now.
I make decisions more quietly. I pause and listen for what some call the still, small Voice. It’s slightly different than the “gut reaction” we often think of, in that it may not be an instant, immediate thing. It’s more like a little seed, that when given the right conditions, knows exactly when and how to sprout. Or, less like a lightning bolt of inspiration and more like distant thunder of truth. A truth that’s already inside. So if presented with an opportunity, I will take time to get still and quiet and try to “feel” into it before making a decision or taking action.
One thing I have learned more tangibly is around the idea of “offers.” I thank my meditation community for this simple clarity: An offer is made and it can either be accepted or declined. In specific situations or life in general. People, places, things – life – makes me offers. If I shut up the irrational pressure of obligation, my choices become clearer and easier, IF I listen to my deep desires. That still, small Voice. The more I listen and the more aware I become of how I react to certain types of offers, the more natural this system of simple acceptance and declination becomes.
This idea is said perfectly in a classic Stephen Covey quote I recently posted on my FB wall, which was shared by my awesome brothers in The Mankind Project:
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are, and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is to have a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”
I’m putting this into practice right now. It’s in progress, and is helping guide me through some changes coming up. And I encourage you to try it. It just might show you a new trail, or at least a new way of walking and noticing life.
[^An ebenezer I made]
If you’re still with me, I want to briefly address a few issues related to the perception of intuitive living. First, there’s this assumption that only women have real (good) intuition. And I just haven’t heard much about men’s intuition. Perhaps because in the traditional American sense, men are supposed to be the practical, bring-home-the-bacon logic center of a home, and leave the women to worry about that “feeling” stuff. …No longer! It’s a new world, people. Men can (and do) live from their hearts. And that doesn’t mean we’re pussies. We’re stronger for it, actually. We become more aware of our strengths, our place, our desires, and the things that don’t line up with our desires, our place, or strengths.
Also, some may have an aversion to what I refer to as intuitive living because they shortsightedly assume and associate it with a “flaky” or “wishy-washy” way of life. There is a difference. The stereotypical actions – like delaying decisions until the last opportunity, using phrases like “I MAY do that” or “I’ll let you know, I’m not sure,” or getting sidetracked by something more interesting – may spring to mind when thinking of “intuitive” folks. Often, it’s the right-brained artists, musicians, or writers who might get unjustifiably pegged with the “flake” label (but sometimes justifiably, too).
When one gets into flaky, it has more to do with agreements. Flakiness happens when a clear agreement was made and not kept. And this also revolves around the expectations we have. It’s often related to the agreements we make with other people but don’t tell the other person. The agreements we make in our heads, and the expectations we form on our own but don’t inform the other.
Finally, intuitive living doesn’t mean “no plans.” Often, it’s a grander, evolving plan made up of smaller sub-plans that are flexible. Again, there’s a difference.
My point here is to make a preemptive strike against any thinking that holds onto the stereotypes associated with people who make decisions and take actions differently, more flexibly, more intuitively, or perhaps at a slower, more relaxed pace than the traditional American model of behavior.
That is all.