Monday, March 11, 2013

The Art of Space

To put the world in order, 
We must first put the nation in order;
To put the nation in order, 
We must put the family in order; 
To put the family in order,
We must cultivate our personal life;
And to cultivate our personal life,
We must first set our hearts right.

What if revolutionizing the world lies in our personal relationships- with ourselves and the people with whom we interact everyday? What if it starts unintentionally in a casual setting because there's space for conversation to organically carve the way through to what matters most to each one of us?

What if leaving open time and space instead of setting rigid agendas and goals is what we need to cultivate creativity and accelerate innovation?

What if setting goals actually inhibits our ability to unabashedly reach for our dreams by overly narrowing our focus?

I'm not saying that we should never set goals or agendas, nor am I suggesting that we should sit around silently doing nothing. 

What I am saying is that so often we frantically run around attempting to force improvements, conversations, advances, relationships, revolutions- when in reality what we need is to create an environment where people are able to just be- just be- just for a moment. I realize it seems counterintuitive. I'm asking you to, instead of looking and sounding busy every.single.second, sit still, be silent, and allow all of the genius swirling around inside of you have a moment to materialize and manifest naturally in its own time.

Have you ever noticed that some of your best ideas and most profound epiphanies don't come when you're being told to conjure them on command, but instead surface in some of the most unexpected moments when you're doing something else- showering, riding a bike, talking with a friend over a beer (or froyo, as was the case when this entire train of thought initially began).

There's great value in goal setting. I also believe there's immeasureable value in allowing open space for the unexpected to occur. 

Last week, I asked a friend what was important to him. His response? Leisure. 

My initial reaction was, "really?," but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that perhaps he's got it right. Leisure, from what I took from his response, is that open space to bring people together and just be. From there, a multitude of experiences and conversations have room to unfold in a way they'd never be able to in a structured setting.

I'm about to ask a mind blowing question. Ready?

What if our work/jobs don't have to have the goal of being revolutionary world-changing phenomenons? What if it's ok that what we do to make money isn't necessarily something we're passionately obsessed with, but simply serves as a means to sustain what we are passionately obsessed with? What if that could be just as effective in contributing to a brighter and happier world because a bunch of people are cultivating joy in their lives albeit not through a job? What if learning to balance acceptance and contentment with where we are and striving for more is how we change the world? What if changing the world shouldn't be our focus at all?

Allow me to make one thing clear: those whose work is their obsession- that's awesome. But for those of us who haven't found that niche, are we to constantly feel like unfulfilled failures because we can't proclaim the glories of our profession to the world? I get the argument that our jobs take up a very large percentage of our lives so we should do something that we enjoy, but my point is that we could spend a very large portion of our lives feeling like failures always looking for the next thing while searching for our bliss. That seems like a grand waste of time to me. Maybe it's ok to be ok (happy, even) where we are while being open to other possibilities.

That said, I'm also not saying that we should stay in miserable soul-sucking-spirit-crushing jobs just for the money either. There has to be a worthwhile balance.

I ask this because it is a journey I've been exploring, and the answer I've arrived at? 

No. Not knowing does not equate to failure.

Have I found my calling yet? Nope. Is that ok? Yep. I've had some pretty incredible experiences on the journey along the way. I've learned lessons that I wouldn't trade for the world.

What if I never find a way to reconcile what I love to do with how I pay my bills? 

I think that's ok as long as we keep making space to do what we love- to do what makes us happy and makes the hours fly by as though they were seconds.

And who knows? Maybe in that space, an unexpected transition will happen and we'll find that what we love and our work become indistinguishable from each other.

What's the point of all of this? Simply, that while setting out to change the world sounds like a righteous goal, maybe changing the world starts with us learning to make our own tiny universes better by loving each other and ourselves to the best of our ability by being true to what we believe and know is best for our lives instead of being governed by what we are told we "should" do- even when it sounds noble. Maybe it's ok to sit back and enjoy being around each other without feeling as though we need to charge out and save the world as our profession. Who knows, a life-changing-world-altering idea could come out of nowhere, or maybe, we'll form closer stronger bonds with those around us.

Maybe that's where revolution really begins.


  1. Hey Haiku, I came across your blog on your article on Tiny Buddha. This post really articulates in detail what I have been feeling and experiencing for the past year! I used to firmly believe that I had to devote my life to changing the world and starting some kind of revolution somewhere, and eventually realized that it all really materializes bit by bit, slowly but surely, through every single bond in my life, through how I see and feel and relate to the world. It's amazing feeling for myself how everything really starts changing in trickles and streams and how things turn out the way I used to wish they would, only when I stop focusing on changing the world.

    Thanks so much for sharing and articulating all these, it's awesome to know that I'm not the only fella who travelled from being a stubbornly 'change-the-world' believer into a 'love-and-peace-and-let-things-be-and-you-see-everything-really-starts-to-change' discoverer, if that makes sense. XD

    I recently took a pretty rough journey from coming to terms with all the fundamentals that laid the ground for most of the emotional patterns all my life and finally managed to see how it all stems from what I thought home and family was, and how I never really understood emotionally how my mum had loved me.

    So in a way I guess I can half-imagine a fraction of how arduous it must have been, for you to come to terms with everything you went through, looking back at your life, and at the end of it all, or even while still wading through it all, to be able and willing to share all of it with the world.

    :) I don't know what else to say but thanks!


    1. Hi Jingyi,

      I've found so often that people get wrapped up in saving the world, they forget about their own lives... How can our communities, cities, states, nations be better when our own lives are falling apart?

      I was nervous about putting this out there because it is such a popular belief that we all need to go out there and endeavor to save the world from itself... and it's not to say I don't think we should absolutely be out there trying to clean up pollution, inhibit greed/cruelty, feed the hungry, etc... I just also believe we need to build from the ground up, so to speak.

      Thank you for reading and reaching out. It's SO good to know there are others out there whose thoughts and stories resonate with my own.

      All my best,