Over the last weeks we looked at the general structure of this month’s principle and tried to understand it in general terms. We also looked at how it applied in the past and the present. This week some practical considerations and personal thoughts — about trying to apply the Principle of Proportion to what we believe the future holds.
General Considerations and Personal Reflections:
Here are some personal reflections. I offer them in the spirit of dialogue and exchange, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about, and experiences with, this principle.
Now For Something Completely Different
My approach to the principle this week is a bit different than usual. As always It involves some reflection. However, in this case at least, I believe it benefits from writing your thoughts down. I’ve already mentioned how this principle seems fundamentally connected to having clear priorities. Trying to sort that out helps us recognize if some activity, goal or aspiration is being ignored, or on the contrary being given too much time and energy.
What follows is a reflection on the closely related theme of turning wishes into projects.
The first thing I do in this exercise is 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 that I really need?”, “what is it that I most want?”. I try not to discard anything that comes to mind. Instead I make notes about those things that seem most “charged”, that seem to move me the most. I make an effort not to be judgmental — as if I am listening with affection and detachment to a very close friend who is telling me about their secret dreams. I tell myself things I might be ashamed to say out loud. imagine things I’d never really do. I imagine things that in the balance of my life I’d never really even consider doing.
The point is it doesn’t matter if you say I want to win the lottery, or to tell my boss to screw off, or have a torrid affair, or move to a cute little home with a lovely picket fence, or whatever. You have to make a big effort to be honest, non-judgmental, and suspend self-censorship. You don’t ever have to tell anyone else. This is for you.
Having made my list, I reviewed it a few times. I then try to think about each point a little more deeply. In doing that perhaps I realize that it’s not necessarily that I really want to tell my boss to screw off. It may be that is just a kind of shorthand. Perhaps it’s an image that for example compensates in some way for the sensation of being stuck in a situation I 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 actually make ends meet (or even a little more). In the same way, perhaps you conclude that “winning the lottery” is simply a sort of metaphor for having more control over your 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.
It is certainly worth taking note of those thoughts that take you beyond the initial image (fantasy, reverie, day-dream), and point to the underlying climate the image is trying to compensate. But remember the central point of the exercise is to clarify what are the things, or situations, for which you hope.
When I do this exercise I try to do it more than once. I make various goes at it maybe at different times of day or, once a month for a few months, or in different situations. Each time I write down the results. Then I take that list, and ask myself, for each item that seems like it really would be a good thing: “What would I have to do to turn this from a dream or aspiration into a reality? How would I make a plan to arrive there? What would the first step or two be that I’d have to take?
In at least one of those reviews I ask myself two additional questions. First: what kind of world (situation) would I like for myself, and my loved ones? Then I’d asked myself: what am I willing to do to create that world?
Finally, I try to get beyond vague responses and come up with concrete actions (even if only the first small steps on a long path). I try to turn my vague aspirations into plans, with clear precise images of things I could do, at least to get started, in moving toward the situation to which I aspire. I try to give an order to these actions according to what I feel is most important. Sometimes that’s easier if put in the negative: what would I feel worse about not trying for if I died without advancing in that direction? In that way I end up with a small number of priorities.
I write down my conclusion and read it over a few times. Then I stash away my notes so as to compare them the next time I tried this exercise. Repeat over time and see what remains the same and what changes.