Several weeks ago, I went on a trip and brought a book with me. I had planned on reading it slowly, methodically and regularly. I truly love the thoughts of Thomas Troward but have always found his writing to be somewhat difficult, so I thought that the trip would be the perfect opportunity to focus on this one book which is packed with deep and profound spiritual wisdom.
Every day I’d unpack my backpack and put the book next to my computer. For several days in a row, I tried to read it, tried to stay “on schedule”, and it was like pulling teeth. It did not flow. I barely comprehended his words. By about the 4th day, I realized that my plan was torturing me. I’d look at the book and think, “You are not even sticking to your plan. You are undisciplined. You had a beautiful opportunity and you are wasting it.” I didn’t really notice these thoughts until they got louder and louder, and I noticed that I felt worse and worse when I saw the book.
I finally decided to let my plan go. I noticed that I felt better. Along the trip I’d picked up a copy of the book, How Starbucks Saved My Life. I couldn’t put it down. The simple, humble, sometimes painful, sometimes humorous, tale of this man’s life swept me along. It helped me to become more light-hearted and more present to those around me too because it talked about respecting each other.
I realized that I had made a goal, at the beginning of the trip, that I could feel good about. I could say I’d accomplished something difficult, I’d learned something, I’d advanced spiritually.
Sometimes I still view Life like it is a tough school master. Like it is demanding that I struggle, work hard, fight my impulse to nap, meander without a purpose, or indulge in little extravagances. I can feel it there saying, “What have you done, what do you have to show for all of that time? I hope you haven’t wasted it!”
And I could have wasted it. I could have wasted it by sticking to a rigid plan when clearly it wasn’t speaking to the deeper part of me. I could have wasted it by feeling guilty and ashamed of myself and as a result been an unpleasant companion to my family and everyone else I met. I could have wasted it by being so wrapped up in myself that I didn’t have time to think good thoughts and prayers about others or notice their needs and try to help them.
We all know people like this. Individuals who are so wrapped up in their little worlds that they seem constantly irritable and unhappy if they aren’t sticking to their plans, or things aren’t turning out the way they wanted. I dare say most of us have been these people too. They/we aren’t very pleasant to be around. It as if they/we are wrapped up in cocoons of self shouting, “What about me?”
Who do I want to be? I can answer that question by asking who I like to be around. I want to be easy, open, available, relaxed and kind. I want to enjoy life and share that joy with others. I want to be aware of goodness, aware of what is going right. I want to notice the world around me and respond in a loving way. What could be a better plan than this?
If you have a plan that is torturing you, maybe it’s time to re-think it. Imagine that someone you love was telling you that it was their plan (and how they were struggling with it) and listen to the words that you would tell them.
“We hear a great deal these days about Initiation; but , believe me, the more you try to become a so-called ‘Initiate’ the further you will put yourself from living life.” Thomas Troward (excerpt from a letter written to Genevieve Behrend in 1912)