I had a dream recently in which I watched my son Stuart go through his daily life while, behind him, was the canvas of his life. As he moved, the imagery and color on his canvas disappeared, returning to a blank canvas. Surprised, I wondered why this was happening and was given the information that “commitment is the bonding agent that fastens the colors and imagery of our life experience to the canvas.”
I woke up and called Stuart to tell him of the dream. As is generally the case between us, he said “Funny you should say that, I really needed to hear that this morning.” As it turned out, he was questioning his life’s commitments. At the age of 28, he constantly contemplates the conundrum of merging what he perceives as his life’s purpose with his career or means of support. As an idealist, he strives for the two to be one and the same as many of us do. The reality of today’s economics, however, has not yet allowed for this expression. This makes him feel as though his life is not getting the traction he desires, which has led to frustration and questioning of his efforts, which led to my dream, which led to his acceptance of the message……
The word ‘commitment’ was the key element here. I was shown that to make a decision, take action and commit to that path was how we paint our life’s canvas. This does not mean that we are obliged to follow this path for the rest of our lives, but to commit for a period of time that is appropriate to our goals and needs. Without the commitment it’s as though our plane touches down on the tarmac for just a moment, then bounces up again, touches down, bounces up etc….no traction. The colors don’t fasten to our canvas.
To support this, I just spent the afternoon with Dan Millman, most well known for his best-selling book ‘The Way of the Peaceful Warrior’, and was fortunate enough to receive the first copy of his newest book ‘The Four Purposes of Life’. We christened his book tour with this first interview.
With Dan’s usual clarity, this book addresses the difference between our life’s path or calling and our career and it assists people to fulfill both. We discussed the philosophies of “doing” versus “being” within the larger topic.
It’s popular, in a Buddhist context, to put our focus on ‘being’ at this moment in time. However, as Dan and I agreed, there is little color on our canvas without ‘doing’. Even in choosing long hours of meditation, which is often perceived as ‘being’, it is still ‘doing.’ We make a choice to DO this activity, as receptive or passive as it may be.
This morning, I happened to call Stuart on the way to the interview to tell him about Dan’s book to which he, once again, said “I can’t believe the timing on this! I was just on the phone with a friend talking about exactly this subject and came to this conclusion that we need to BE and DO….I was looking for clarity and validation on this.” I promised to swing by his place and drop off a signed copy of the book on my way home from the interview.
It’s not just Stuart and other twenty-somethings that are trying to reconcile their passion/purpose with their work. The economic climate has forced many of us to reconsider these important elements of life. Dan’s book is a wonderful guide. But, in the end, it’s our own commitment to our passions, work and life that gives our life the traction that sticks the color down to our canvas.
The good news is, if we don’t like our painting, we can always commit to something new and over-paint it! As my friend Clint’s father used to say, “Life is long, there’s plenty of time to do what we wish.”