How many of you feel like you’re struggling to find balance between living from a place of inspiration and trying to make a living? Society is like a fine tuned machine, and each person a cog that has been neatly shaped to function as a part in the mechanism. But there are those of us who are not so easily shaped, whose shape is not consistent, but rather fluid and organic. We don’t fit into that mechanism, not unless we’re willing to compromise who we are at the deepest level of our being. And for many of us compromise is not an option. Yet, we still find ourselves living within that mechanism, confronted with the very same challenge that everyone else faces, having to make a living in order to survive.
This is often difficult for those of us who don’t fit into the mechanism, and yet we find ourselves under its weight. Just like everyone else we find ourselves having to pay rent and bills, purchase food and other basic necessities. And it can be quite a struggle sometimes, even for those who have submitted to the machine. But for those few who dare to tread their own path, there is the additional challenge of covering ones living expenses without compromising one’s way of life.
Our society has laid out the basic instructions for survival. Follow the rules. Be quiet. Sit still. Ask permission. Don’t ask questions. Do as you’re told. Stay in line. Be on time. Go to school. Go to College. Get a career. Work hard. Get ahead. Be successful. Raise a family. Retire when you’re old, worn out and no longer useful.
But that doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, there are a growing number of people who society labels as dysfunctional simply because we don’t fit into that system. Some of us find ways to work within it or around it. Some of us are still trying to figure out our place. Some of us are struggling to express our innate creativity while earning a steady income at a job that doesn’t foster that creativity. And some are so preoccupied pursuing these creative passions, travelling, exploring, and searching for real meaning in a seemingly meaningless world, that working a regular job is of little interest. Yet, one finds that you must earn some living if you want to eat.
This message is for you. To let you know that you’re not alone. And, regardless of what society says about you, you’re not crazy. You’re not lazy. You’re not a loser.
You see, the social structure has it all backwards, and you already know that. I don’t think any of us, if we are truly honest with ourselves, would say that it’s a healthy system. It’s just that some people are able to adjust to it easier than others. But even when you observe those who have given themselves fully to that mechanism, they display all kinds of mental imbalances, in particular, an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction. The fact is that most people living within the mechanism just aren’t happy.
Jiddu Krishnamurti reminds us that, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” So it is no wonder that so many people are miserable, angry, depressed, suicidal. So many people are searching for a sense of meaning. Because if you look at what we’ve been taught, there is no meaning in it. Ultimately it’s pointless, hopeless, futile. We are taught to work in order to live, and to live in order to work. But there is more to live than simply paying bills. So where does that leave the rest of us? The dreamers, the artists, the non-conformists.
You see many of us are still trying to figure it all out, to figure out our purpose in life, to figure out our passion, our talent. Or maybe we know what it is we’d like to be doing, but we just haven’t figured out how to bring it into reality, that is, how to balance our passion with basic survival. And sometimes we feel stuck. We lack a clear sense of direction. We begin to question whether we should just follow the herd, get a job, contribute to society.
Often we feel confused, conflicted. We look around us and we see that so many people are just going through the motions, living very mechanically. And yet for us, we feel pulled in two directions. And when you’re being pulled in two directions, there’s a tendency to remain simply stuck in the middle. I think we get stuck because we have two conflicting voices telling us what to do. One is saying “Follow your passion. Live from inspiration.” The other is saying, “Stop dreaming. Get your head out of the clouds. Be realistic. Get a job like everyone else. Work hard. Make money.”
So we have to look at where these voices are coming from, and I think we’ll find that one is the voice of society, programmed into us from early childhood. And the other is the voice of our heart, which has always been with us, crying out to be liberated. The sad thing is that for many people, the heart gets drowned out. So what you end up with is a society full of people who have lost touch with joy, who have simply given up on their passion, who have regrettably submitted to the mechanism. And when their children ask them why it has to be that way, they simply answer, “That’s just the way it is.”
See, here’s what makes it so difficult for many of us. We see everything that is wrong with the current mechanism. And we know there’s a better way. But we often lack the tools, support and instruction on how to live outside of that mechanism. We have grown up in a society which only offers us one set of instructions. And the only alternative it offers is that we fail and wind up hungry and homeless. Now we know that this isn’t the only alternative. We know that it’s possible, and even preferable, to live in such a way that we might have an abundance of resources, while pursuing our passion, and living in harmony with nature and with one another. We know that war and poverty are completely unnecessary. We know that happiness is more valuable than material wealth. But we don’t always have a clear idea of how to get to that place. Society has only prepared us to be a cog in the machine. That’s all that society knows. So when we even mention our desire to do things differently, society tells us, “You can’t do it that way.”
So what is our purpose? What are we supposed to be doing with our lives? I have asked myself this question a thousand times. I know I have gifts to share with the world, but I’m not always certain of how best to share them. And I don’t always get the encouragement and support that I need to manifest them. And even when I do find ways to share my gifts with others, I still find myself struggling to get by, struggling to earn a living, and sometimes I feel like giving up and giving in. But I could never do that. Even if society were right in saying that the only other alternative is to wind up on the street, penniless and broke, I would rather be poor doing what makes me happy than be rich and miserable.
So what can we offer to one another? I think the answer is very simple. In a society that does not support an alternative way of living, that does not offer instruction on how to go about living in a way that nurtures passion and prosperity, inspiration, happiness, we can offer support and inspiration to one another.
In regard to finding your purpose, in contributing to the world, Howard Thurman once said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
In my own life I have often felt like a stranger in a strange land, like a sane person in an insane world. In some regard I feel I am more awake than the average person. I may not be fully awake, but I’m awake enough to see that the current system doesn’t work and that we need to do something different. And while I often envision a better way of life, I don’t always know how to go about bring it into reality. But here’s what I’ve observed. I’m not the only one who’s waking up. In fact, it seems that we are living in a pivotal time in which people are waking up in greater number than ever before. And many of us are still in a bit of a daze. It’s still morning and we’re still a bit groggy. But that’s ok. The point to consider is that we are waking up. And the more that people are waking up, the more effect this is having on society as a whole. It doesn’t matter if you’re out there tearing down the old structures and erecting new ones, or if you’re just opening your eyes for the very first time. Because what is needed, and what is occurring, is a shift in the collective consciousness. And when enough of us are awake, then change is inevitable.
So for those of us who visualize a better world, but don’t know quite what to do in terms of bringing that world into reality, it can be stressful at times. We’re tired of the old broken machine. We want to see the world to flipped right side up. But I think we need to be patient and take solace in knowing that the process is already underway. And what we must do in the meantime is focus our energy and attention upon our own personal awakening. Because our awakening alone will have an effect on the collective consciousness. It’s like Mohandas Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change toward him.” We might have big dreams, but we can start small, start with what we know.
So what are we passionate about and how can we begin to express it? It doesn’t necessarily have to be about saving the world. Some of us might be inspired toward environmental, social or political activism, while others may simply be inspired to pursue their creative talents. And what we must realize is that everything has a place. It really doesn’t matter what it is that we are inspired to share. What’s important is that we pursue it with passion. Because the passion we give to expressing our gifts will inspire passion in others. By living from a place of inspiration we inspire that same sense in others. And it might be that a song you write or a painting you paint inspires others to go out and change the world. So don’t think that anything you do is without value.
Now we talk about all the problems in the world, and we discuss our vision for a better way of life, and it often feels that this isn’t enough. We must do something. But because we have not been given the proper tools and instructions, and because the greater society does not support our vision, we can often feel helpless and hopeless. But I say that merely talking about it has power and purpose. Because if we can have these kinds of discussions, if we can openly share our ideas and our visions, if we can merely share wisdom and information, then this wisdom and information will help to awaken inspiration in others.
There may be a million things which I can do to reshape the world and make it a better place, but the least I can do is share my vision, to give support to others like me who are waking up and feeling overwhelmed by the insanity in which we find ourselves, to simply remind one another that we’re not alone., that we’re not crazy, to connect and collaborate, to build community, to build upon one another’s ideas, to offer the prospect of possibility.
So whatever it is that inspires you? Whatever it is that you’re passionate about, give time and attention to that. Give it expression. And share it with others. In this way we can support, inspire and encourage one another toward a better way of life for everyone.