Artwork by Jennifer Harkness 2006 acrylic on canvas “Stillness in Chaos”
Dear Sailors, everything in life starts with a dream. It starts with a tickle of sensation and tremor of feeling, a tiny seed of an idea. The trick is to listen. We live in a culture of action and doing. We introduce ourselves and say, “What do you do?” It’s high stakes to answer with something impressive that has commodity. What if we said, “What brings you alive? What do you dream about? What is most relaxing and replenishing?” What if we learned to ask and listen to the emotional landscape of ourselves and others? What if instead of charging through the door to knock the next one down we paused and asked what it was our hearts most long for? What if we prized space to breathe and be instead of productivity? What if our worth was from being present and authentic, vulnerable and empathetic instead of performance? I wonder this daily. I make space for it in my life and it is a foundation of the work I do with others. Hour by hour we dream together until dreams start to unfold into realities. Action is needed in this world, it is the values and intentions that drive it which matter most.
You might dream that your body felt better, that your mood was more peaceful. You might dream that your friend struggles less or that people don’t suffer from being poor. You might wish you didn’t have to work, or you had a big house. You might wish your loved one was alive. Go ahead, dream big. Be fantastic. Be unrealistic. Be raw. Go deeper. You might dream that you feel more excitement, that you had more adventure. You might be exhausted and need more space. You might dream of being unconditionally loved. You might dream of the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s that cannot be. Ask yourself, if you had a magic wand, if you had a billion dollars and no obligations what would you do with your time? How would you change your world? Who would you want to be? What could you do for hours on end without tiring? What experience is effortless in its joy? What would be your priorities and interests? What passions would emerge? Who would you surround yourself with? What do these dreams satiate in you? What longing calls for it? What need drives it? This is your wisdom. This is the yearning of your deepest health and sanity. Dreams are not just for sleeping or children. Dreams are a birthright and at the core of our creativity and ingenuity. After all, someone had to dream up the device you read this on. Someone had to dream up a way to communicate with words. Someone even dreamed up you. All came from a feeling and need, all had an idea to start. Maybe you can’t have exactly what you want. Maybe it’s not tangible or in your control in anyway, but you can still learn from the want and sublimate it anew.
Go ahead, ask yourself, how do you want to feel dear sailors? What are your values and intentions for how to live? When do you feel that now? Is there any part of your feelings, needs and dreams that are happening now, even in a small way? What stops you from cultivating more? What prevents you from pursuing any of this? Where is the block to the natural flow of your desires?
Better yet, who were you before the world told you no? Before the imposed limitations and fear? Who were you at the beginning when the world was new? When each moment was a new adventure and surprise? Who were you before habits set in? How did you meet your experience with fresh eyes? Did you jump in, hold back, freeze? Did you ever even get a chance to just be? Did anyone love you without expectation of who you are supposed to be? If they did, do you appreciate them? If they didn’t, do you forgive them? What lives in you still that holds you back? Who tells you no now? With all the years behind you, what do you regret not doing most? Who do you regret not being? What do you do now, in this questioning, to live your most authentic life? To just be.
Take baby steps my dear friends. You have to examine and water the seed for some time before it sprouts. It takes nourishment and resources to get it to bloom. You have to make room for it in your garden, so perhaps other things need to be cleared out first. Some roots go deep and involve great effort to pull out to plant something new. You have to trust the process and figure out what old skills help and what new resources you need. You might have to throw away your old shears or shovel, the old tools might damage this crop. You are also probably going to have to ask for help. None of us get anywhere alone, you need loved ones to help tend the field. Part of the essential fertilizer for dreams is encouragement. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, who dream their own dreams. People who want you to thrive. Let go of the rest, if even only in your mind. All this, along with patience and grit will see you through.
You may not know what color exactly your bloom will be or how tasty the fruit. Sometimes you aren’t even sure what kind of food you are growing, or if it’s even going to be food. You just keep listening and questioning and practicing. Sometimes you will need lists and plans, the garden path is tangible and clear. Sometimes it’s a jungle and you will just need mass doses of ambiguity tolerance and exploration stamina. Sometimes we just keep going back to that vine and tending it with hope and dedication, learning what we need, and it needs as we go. You are going to make mistakes. Learn from them. Stay curious. Then one day you will be looking at this beautiful dream in all its glory and disappointments and be grateful you dared to try. Even if the original plant withered and died, if you listened, it told you what you needed to know. And if you keep listening, if you let your wise heart lead, you will hear the next one calling to you. The well does not run dry, and nothing is permanent my dear sailors. Everything has its season, and it’s never ever too late to dream and change and grow.
May we all sail in peace.