Tiny Revolutions №97: What the World Needs is You
some year end ramblings ✨
There’s a famous Zen koan about compassion that compares it to reaching back to adjust your pillow in the night while you’re sleeping. The lesson? True compassion is unconscious — we do it for others without thinking, and it’s less about deciding what is right and more about sensing what’s needed and acting accordingly. Which is kind of what Zen is about in general, but that’s a longer story that I simply do not feel up to in these dwindling hours of 2022.
This teaching has been on my mind a lot lately because this has been a year where I just kinda went with the flow. From working with clients to relationships with friends and family to creative and community work and beyond, I put very little on a long term plan or a schedule this year. Instead I did my level best to pay attention and allocate my time and love and energy wherever it seemed like it was most needed.
Which was fun! And rewarding, and frustrating, and scary, and unpredictable, and well, a bit of everything.
As I wrote in a recent issue about working with intuition, my year wasn’t necessarily about me. I mean it was, in the way that I was the captain of the ship, but it was also about everyone else, and those lines were often blurred. Sometimes I really wanted to do the things I did. Sometimes it was more like I felt like I had to do them. So my days were a grab bag of light and dark and every possible shade of grey.
Which reminds me of this little banger of a Wendell Berry poem:
To Know the Dark
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
What I take from this is that you really never know what you’re getting yourself into until you get there. Sometimes things we think will be incredible suck. Sometimes beauty and transcendence emerge from the most dreadful moments — and often from the most mundane ones. Which I think is as good a reminder as any as we reflect on the year that was, and map out our intentions for the one that will be.
I’ve been reading some wonderful year-end reflections from writers I admire over the past few weeks and considering what I might have to say. I thought about making a big recap post of all the stuff I’d done, but, to borrow a phrase from the British, I couldn’t be arsed. Suffice it to say I was BUSY (and as of the end of November, quite burnt out).
But I do want to leave you with one thing that is clearer to me by the minute:
We are beings of immense power, you and me. In our daily interactions with each other, we have tremendous influence. More than we realize. It’s a scary thought because the implication is that every moment matters, and that there is therefore no time to show up with anything less than our best.
Well, guess what? There isn’t.
Friends, what the world needs is you.
And not the optimized future you. The messy, imperfect, confused you of now. The you you can be and are already. Take it from someone who takes forever to learn anything and always, always, always learns the hard way — the lessons never end. But they come about in the doing so we might as well get on with it.
So that’s my message to you as we close out another wild and weird year. However you feel about how you “did” this year, you have everything you need right now. Set intentions, make resolutions, whatever. But don’t wait to live. We need you out there doing the best you can minute by minute, gesture by gesture, day by day.
On to some things I found worth sharing:
“Am I allowed to be awesome? I think so. I think the universe wants that.”
Here’s me on a recent episode of the Angel City Zen Center podcast with a talk I gave on our fall retreat about balancing ambition with Zen practice. Bonus: The Alan Watts hot take you didn’t know you needed.
“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
- Chinese proverb
“What if everything was natural? What if there was no wrong or right action in terms of who you loved, who you wanted, or who you were drawn to? If the will of the universe was the will of the universe, and if everything was happening as it was, then wasn’t everything you could possibly do all right?”
- Melissa Broder in The Pisces, an intense, weird, and amazing novel I loved this year.
“Compassion isn’t only me benefiting you. It’s us together, swirling in and out of each other in the expansive ever-connectedly ineffable space of imaginative reality. I am not just me. You are not just you. My I and your you depend on each other.”
- Norman Fischer in The World Could Be Otherwise: Imagination and the Bodhisattva Path, another book I held close this year.
“In the bigger scheme of things, the universe is not asking us to do something, the universe is asking us to be something. And that’s a whole different thing.”
–The poet Lucille Clifton, whose work is excellent any time of year.
And finally, the year end message we all deserve.
Thanks for reading Tiny Revolutions, as ever. I didn’t write as much this year as in years past, and yet you’re still here, a fact for which I am immensely grateful.
Happy New Year!
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