Jan 23 2010
Every week at my Toastmasters club we choose a theme for the meeting. This week the theme was “Mistakes”. With that as our focus, people inadvertently made blunders and one glitch followed another. Fortunately, our overall theme is to always have fun, so the meeting became a comedy of errors with lots of laughter and the enlightening awareness that our focus on mistakes was creating mistakes. One man said, “Imagine if the theme for today had been “Accomplishments.”
We all have themes in our lives, either consciously, unconsciously or both. Fear of making a mistake was an unconscious theme of mine from an early age. In grade school one of my teachers wrote on my report card: “Janet will one day find that it’s a waste of time to worry so much about making a mistake.” It’s not only a waste of time but it causes a whole lot of suffering. That suffering motivated me to consciously cultivate and grow over the years a new theme: “This moment is perfect just as it is.”
Byron Katie writes that when people would say “Namaste” to her, she always thought they were saying “No mistake.” She loved that, because that is the theme of her life — there are no mistakes — there simply is what IS. She says, “Arguing with reality is like trying to teach a cat to bark – hopeless.” And it just creates more suffering. During my anxious time last year with my ruptured appendix and uterine cancer, I read and reread Byron Katie’s book, “A Thousand Names for Joy” — I wanted to saturate myself in that attitude, in the peaceful state of surrender to what is. As a result, that expansive state of acceptance aligned me to the flow where everything unfolded easefully and things worked out better than I could have imagined.
Once we become aware of our unconscious themes, we can then choose a conscious theme — when the unconscious theme recurs, as it will, we can use it as a reminder to reinforce our new, desired theme. When cancer came a calling it at first evoked my old theme, the fear that I’d somehow made a terrible mistake that caused my cancer. But then I focused on my desired theme, “This moment is perfect just as it is.” That being my focus, that became my experience. Having had cancer made my life better, richer, and more on purpose, because that’s the way I choose to think of it. Shakespeare said, “It’s neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so.” Our focus and how we interpret what is happening is like magnetic paint that colors our experience and draws to us more of that experience. Like energy attracts like energy and our themes perpetuate themselves.
I believe countries have themes. I was feeling disheartened by the terrible tragedy in Haiti, feeling the heaviness of that country’s theme of ongoing poverty and despair. But I am heartened by what I see as their underlying theme of resilience, faith and courage. As slaves they fought for their freedom and won it. A young girl named Bea was trapped under the rubble for days, buried alive. When they finally got her out, she said, “I believed I would live. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t scared at all.” Their spirit and faith prevails as many of them sing, chant and pray in the midst of this devastating tragedy. Here is a line from one of the songs sung by Haitian native, Wyclef Jean: “Earthquake we see the earth shake but the soul of the Haitian people it will never break.” Now that’s an uplifting theme!
The Earth opened up like Pandora’s box and out came death, destruction and despair – but also faith, hope and charity in an outpouring of compassion and support from all over the world. In the movie Avatar, the natives of Pandora greet each other by saying, “I see you.” The world is now seeing the Haitian people and many are waking up to the theme that Avatar puts forth, that we are connected to the Earth and to each other, we are all one, and we must care for one another and help each other. In that sense, this moment is perfect just as it is.
What are some of the unconscious themes in your life? What are conscious themes you are cultivating? What you focus on grows — may you use life’s manure to fertilize and grow a theme that uplifts and inspires you and others.