This week I’m repeating an email I sent a year ago. If you didn’t have a chance to try out the exercise explained here you may find it interesting. If you’ve done it already you may find it even more interesting on repeating it so many months later. It’s a different, and perhaps more involved, approach to the weekly principle than what I usually post. If you try it out I’d be interested in comparing results. Let me know.
Continuing our “tradition” of considering one of the 12 Principles of Valid Action each month we are considering principle #4 from chapter 13 of the book (The Inner Look) one more time (for this cycle). This principle is also referred to as, “The Principle of Proportion” it states: “Things are well when they move together not in isolation.”
This week we focus on how I can apply this principle in the future. What follows are some personal reflections around that question. I offer them in the spirit of dialogue and exchange, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about, and experiences with, this principle.
My approach to the principle this week has been a bit different than other times. It involves some reflection that in this case I believe benefits from having a pen and paper or more sophisticated writing device at hand (a less sophisticated device — like a clay tablet and stylus — just won’t do). I’ve already mentioned how I find that implementing this principle requires have priorities so that no “thing” is ignored or given too much time and energy.
The first thing I did was to sit down and close my eyes (as I age I seem to do that more and more, even when not totally appropriate) I then ask myself (as one does in the Ceremony of the Service) what it is I most want. I tried not to discard anything that came up. Instead I made notes about those things that seem most “charged”. I made an effort to not be judgmental — to imagine myself listening with affection and detachment to a very close friend who was telling me about their secret dreams. I imagined things I’d never really do. I imagined things that in the balance of my life I’d never really even consider.
The point is it doesn’t matter if you say you want to win the lottery, or tell your boss to screw off, or have a torrid affair, or move to a cute little home with a lovely picket fence, or whatever. You don’t have to tell anyone else. This is for you. You have to make a big effort to be honest and non-judgmental.
Having made my list of these things, I reviewed them a few times. I then tried to think about them more deeply.
In doing that perhaps you realize that you don’t really want to tell your boss to screw off. But it is an image that, for example, compensates, in some way, the sensation of being stuck in a job or situation you don’t like. Maybe what I’d like much more than scolding someone is a more fulfilling way to make a living, or perhaps simply a job that allowed me to make ends meet.
In my case I made notes about all my considerations.
In the same way, perhaps you conclude that “winning the lottery” is simply shorthand for having more control over my own life. Or maybe what you’d really like is to feel that there is still a future wide-open with possibilities, instead of the vague feeling of fear you have about the future. Don’t worry, no one need know. You are noting these things for yourself. In some cases you want to try to go beyond the initial image (fantasy, reverie, day-dream) and discover the climate it is compensating. Like winning money might be compensating a sense of living with an insecure future.
Some of the things seemed to me things I really did want or hope for. In those cases I added them to my list of aspirations.
I had various goes at all this and wrote down the results. Then I took that list and for each item I asked myself: “What would I have to do to turn this from a dream or aspiration to a reality? How would I make a plan to arrive there? What would the first step or two be?
Next I bunched up the papers and threw them away. But I wasn’t done. I then looked up the lesson on values from the book Selfliberation by Luis Amman. I read it and carried out this very simple exercise with the so-called circles of prestige. I’m including that lesson here in case you don’t have this interesting and useful book on hand.
It is important to determine which qualities one most admires, or one’s “areas of prestige,” because they explain how each person values the situations they live in, or what situation they strive to achieve within their system of values. For example, if what a person values most is “friendship,” and what they value least is “knowledge,” this person could make a “prestige scale” with the two mentioned values at either extreme, and other values placed in descending order in between.
Make a scale of your values in concentric circles. In the smallest circle note your most important value or the quality you value most, that is, what you most admire in others and aspire to yourself. Proceed outward in descending order of importance until in the largest circle, you put the quality of least interest to you. For example, a person’s values might be arranged as follows:
The values or “areas of prestige” in the above example can be modified to fit your own situation. Whenever you are in doubt about the choice between two values, imagine which would cause you more trouble if it should fail, if you could not achieve it, or if you should lose it; this will be the most important one.
We recommend that you repeat this exercise several times and change the order of values or add new ones until you get the sensation you have found the correct structure.
When you conclude this exercise, compare it with Exercise 1, your Situation Analysis, and with Exercise 3, your study of Roles. At this point you will begin to see relationships between things that are apparently very different. These patterns will show cohesion and unity and explain much of your behavior and your present contradictions. Through these insights, you will gain a new perspective to reinforce your positive qualities.
Discuss the relationships and connections you establish with the other participants and make notes.
Since I had the book out I was tempted to dig into at a few of the other related chapters, especially: Circles of Personality, and Roles. To keep things simple I didn’t look at those or the Situational Analysis referred to above. Instead after thinking about this one for a while I wrote down my conclusions and then through the papers away.
My penultimate step was to ask myself two questions. First, “what kind of world would I like for myself, and my loved ones”? Then I asked myself, “what am I willing to do to create that world”?
Finally, I tried to get beyond vague responses and come up with concrete actions (even if only first small steps on a long path). I tried to turn my vague aspirations into plans, with clear precise images of things I could do (at least to get started). I tried to give order according to what I felt was most important. What would I feel worse about if I died without advancing in this direction. In that way I ended up with a small number of priorities.
I wrote down my conclusion and read it over a few times. I’ll get around to throwing that out but I thought I’d hang on to it for a few days just so it could all sink in.
These notes have been posted on the Facebook page, and sent to the mailing list, of The Community for Silo’s Message, Toronto Annex.
We’d all love to hear your comments, thoughts, considerations, artwork, etc about any of this. In fact we’d be very happy to circulate your thoughts and meditations along with (or better, instead) mine.
As always: if you no longer wish to receive these mailings or if you know people who would like to be included in them just let me know and I’ll remove or add to the list as needed.
And of course we always look forward to your participation in our weekly meditation (if you need info about when and where, just let me know).