In July of 2012, I felt inspired to record some improvisations on the piano. I seemed to be tapping into a wellspring of creativity, so I decided to start recording an improvisation every day. All in all, I recorded about 25 improvisations and posted them to my account at soundcloud.com. I was impressed with some of them more than others. Towards the end of the experiment, they started sounding the same to me. So I stopped. I was getting into a rut. Perhaps I wasn’t opening up to inspiration as effectively. Perhaps I was getting in my own way.
Now that I reflect on it, I can see that I was beginning to practice independence. That word often has a positive connotation, but that’s not the sense I’m going for here. Another way to put it is that my ego started taking over. I stopped cold-turkey, rather than let it evolve into whatever the next structure should be. As with my career explorations, I have been so invested in defining what I will be doing that it can prevent me from taking action without first knowing everything up front. This is not living a life of faith. Instead, it’s attempting to control life, demanding to know what’s next before taking a step forward.
It’s a normal part of the human condition. When we see something working, we want more of it. We figure that we’ve found the answer, and we don’t need to search anymore. We go with what works until long after it doesn’t work anymore. Then we suddenly realize we need to start searching again. What if we instead kept that sense of wonder and openness alive continually? Even when we have a big breakthrough and want to exploit it for all it’s worth, what if we at the same time kept our eyes and ears open to what goes beyond even that? Must life always be a series of stops and starts? What if it could actually flow in a continuous stream of insight and revelation?
Interestingly, the word “breakthrough” may no longer apply at certain levels. For example, if you have been sick and suddenly find out what has been causing your illness, you could call that a breakthrough into new levels of health. You have broken through a wall of resistance to your own health. But once your pursuit of greater physical health begins to accelerate, there are fewer and fewer walls to break through. Now it’s more a matter of continuous improvement, no breakthroughs required.
What then becomes possible in the other areas of your life? If your physical health and vitality are improving every day, what new breakthroughs might you see in other areas? In your career? In your relationships? The learning process can now begin to accelerate in those areas as well; increasingly frequent breakthroughs eventually give way to a smooth progression of continuous improvement.
How can we free ourselves from the things that hold us back? How can we break through our walls of resistance? One way is to increase our awareness of the limitations themselves. Shining light on them has a tendency to dissolve them, as we naturally start doing what needs to be done to overcome them. To do this, we need to cultivate a heightened sensitivity to what is happening in our lives. When we have a breakthrough, we need to keep our eyes open. Yes, receive the gift of the breakthrough, but don’t stop there, assuming that all your problems are solved now or that you’ve “arrived.” Enjoy the revelation or healing or new success—enjoy it fully! But keep listening for what even better breakthroughs might be awaiting you.
If I had to summarize in one instruction how to do this, i.e. how to launch your life on an upward spiral of success, happiness, and fulfillment, it would be this: receive each moment as a gift. This puts you in the best possible position. You are recognizing that you did not create your own life (at least not the little you that you usually think of when you think of yourself). Instead, it comes from a power far greater than you, to which you owe your life. When you receive each moment as a gift, you are not rushing to get what’s next and forgetting to enjoy what you already have. No, you’re enjoying it fully, grateful for the free gift that is your life. But when you receive each moment as a gift, neither are you avoiding the future nor giving up on your dreams. That’s because the future, and your dreams themselves, always appear in the next moment. The moment is where your gifts and your aspirations meet, your desires and their fulfillment. The more that you can stay in that place, the more your life will become smooth, an ever-expanding, upward-spiraling flow of continuous improvement and celebration.
Faith helps here. What if you believed that everything that happened to you was for your own good, your own growth, your own learning, your own guidance? How differently would you relate to the events in your life? What if the entirety of your experience was actually a love song being continually composed for you, including all the ups and downs, the sad parts and the happy parts, the difficult parts and the easy parts? What if you could receive it all as a gift? What if your faith was so strong, your stance so firm, that, no matter what happened, you chose to receive every moment as a gift? Does that sound…perhaps…rather powerful?
I anticipate this objection: “But I’m going to die eventually. So much for the ‘upward spiral.'” Ah! That’s where there’s even greater news and an even more powerful perspective. What if your body’s life was not the sum of your real life? Regardless of whether your individual consciousness survives beyond death (whether through an afterlife or reincarnation or some other means or combination thereof), I can prove to you now that you already have existence beyond death. All you have to do is open your eyes to a truth that we’re all already aware of (it’s just that we usually don’t grasp its significance): when a body dies, the Universe doesn’t. Do you think that’s any less true for your body? All you have to do is see the life of this body and mind as yet another cycle in the upward spiral of your true life.
Okay, I admit that’s easier said than done. But here again, it can start with faith. Imagine that you saw your life as extending beyond the life of this body. What if you placed your identity not in this death-destined body but in the larger whole of which it is only a part? Where would fear come into play? Would it even apply anymore? Imagine what your life could be like if you were totally free to be yourself and fulfill all of your deepest desires, living in total alignment with your true nature—all because you received every moment as a gift and did not fear your own death?
Now, finally, what would the world be like if we all did that? What if so many of us woke up to our true identity that there was no longer any way to prevent all of us from doing so? What if we saw ourselves in each other, and each other in ourselves? What if we all celebrated the gift of life that we are all always receiving? I dare say that this is what Jesus meant when he spoke of the “kingdom of heaven.”