One of the most useful tools development coaches employ is a personal manifesto. I’ve researched the methodology as a device for my clients who are searching for direction, clarity. The first step in the process is reflection, an assessment of values and priorities. I decided to revisit my handwritten journals that have sporadically chronicled the last thirty of my forty nine years, and discovered that I had unwittingly crafted my own manifesto about ten years ago. At least the beginning of one.
I was tired of reading other people’s truths, other people’s insights, that only partially addressed the questions I was asking. I have always been a seeker — of knowledge, of wisdom (two very different things), of beauty, of joy. Always thirsty, always hungry. By the time I reached forty, I was beginning to understand that while many rites of passage are universal, everyone’s experience is unique. Each individual’s environment, geography, situation, circumstance, cast of characters, all inform their perceptions — what and how they remember that experience.
This is the art of living. The colors, textures, flavors, fragrances, melodies that become who we are; become what we carry with us; become, when taken as a whole, integral to our very identity. This is what enamors our friends, enchants our lovers, and emboldens our demons.
I want to discuss the different elements of this piece over the next few weeks, but here it is in its entirety. As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.
Dignity and respect. I picked it up from an old job and it stuck. Treating others, including other aspects of yourself, with dignity and respect sums up the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” If you don’t treat yourself well, the premise makes no sense. If you do, you have the underpinnings of almost every religion. Perhaps a universal spirituality. Moreover, it applies to a natural law of behavior towards everything in our world. Spirit, soul, essence, yes. But also living creatures, resources, relationships, opportunities. The list is innumerable.
Live in communion. Another phrase that stuck; “There is no other.” Understand that you are a part of of everything and everyone. See the invisible thread of connection. Share… who you are, what you have. Perceive your privilege and employ your empathy. Act mercifully and forgive graciously. Meet your fellow travelers always with benevolence.
Know that you need air, water, and, at times, a little food. Everything else, everyone else, is a gift. Travel light. Cherish what is precious, let go of the rest. Learn how to distinguish. Keep it simple.
Open your eyes to what is around you. Not only the beauty, but the less apparent beauty in strife, pain, chaos. A trial weathered or a wound healed produces incredible wisdom, sometimes encased in scar tissue. Open your mind to new ideas, new perceptions of old ideas. Open your heart so as to act in love, from love, not fear.
Buy into creativity. Dig in the dirt and feel the visceral connection to earth, to the fundamental elements of life. Watch plants grow and bloom. Recognize it is the same energy that infuses a symphony, a painting, a ballet. All are physical manifestations of a holy creative source. Feel it, channel it, allow yourself to be an instrument.
Surrender. Not in defeat, but in trust. When fearful, believe. Surrender to death so that you may live life fully. Breathe. Enjoy the peace that comes when a struggle has ended. Stop kicking, and be still. Listen to the quiet and hear the divine.
Honor all that has gone before you. The shoulders on which you stand. Pay attention to the stories, learn the lessons. Carry them with you. But remember that people move, places shift. Lives begin and end, relationships begin and end, both forever altering in between. Change is constant and heartbreak is sure. While pain is inevitable, suffering is not. Grieve, but don’t stay there too long. Make way for resurrection, rebirth. By your choice or not, a new adventure awaits.