Rosemary always asks these pointed and difficult questions! Yes, I know they are good for me to reflect on, to answer, truthfully, for myself. And I actually thought this one would be reasonably easy for me to reply to and write this commentary. Then I took a second look!
A couple of years ago I did an exercise to clarify my values, to align them with my thinking, my philosophy. I made a list and prioritized it. I took a deep dive into this analysis, writing at length about these values I had come up with, what they mean to me and how I live by them. At the end of much thought I distilled the set of values down to two key ones: Practice and Love. In fact I even drew a diagram, a schematic to relate these two primal values: Practice –> Love.
No, this doesn’t mean my practices lead to love and it doesn’t mean if I practice well enough I will learn love. Maybe these meanings are overlays here, but these are two distinct values for me. I truly value that I am able to practice my various approaches to live a conscious life. Meditation, yoga, qigong, pages, poetry, … and any other consciousness raising practice that comes along that has potential for me is a key value. And how much more can I say about Love? Self, family, friends, community, humanity, life, Planet Earth, Nature, food, wine, beer making, wow…so much to love in life! And, clearly there is a relationship between practice and love. I love my practices. My practices help me better understand this whole sense of Love. Love improves my practices. It is complex and I can’t say that I even fully understand it when I write, and I often do: Practice –> Love.
But Rosemary’s question goes deeper here. Yes, she asks us to review our values, but more importantly to review our lives as they reflect those values we reaffirm! This is the key analysis, the driving question.
And I’ve spent the last several days, as part of our retreat weekend, reviewing and refining my answer. My answer initially is “no.” Oh sure, I’m doing a lot of practice, and I’m pleased with this. I also love: I am partnered with the love of my life. I am part of a loving family. My kids really do love me (at least they’ve done an awesome job of showing it!). But there’s a deeper level here I am reaching toward.
My exploration begins with the word “unconditional.” This is the quality of Love I’m reaching to attain. And this would then truly be the goal of Practice –> Love, my core values. I am not practicing unconditional love at every opportunity and therefore, my life is not reflecting this value.
That said I am working on it. This is my new level of Practice I’m striving to achieve. I suspect it is a life-long pursuit! But I have begun. Last evening, after Rosemary and I had returned from our retreat, our daughter stated, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that she had been craving pancakes for breakfast and would I please get up to make her some next morning! Hmmm, on Wednesdays she leaves for work at 7:15; hey, I’m retired, and while I am working harder than ever before and enjoying it a whole lot more, my hours don’t include 7:15 am! I did not commit! But this morning I was awake at 6:30, wanting more sleep. I debated with myself for about 30 seconds, and then asked “what would I do if I held the value of unconditional love? Yeah, you guessed it; I got up and fixed daughter and two grandsons pancakes (two different kinds). And the surprise and smiles were well worth the few extra winks!
With this good experience as a launch point I have been challenging myself to come from unconditional love all day. I’ve failed multiple times! I had several errands to run which meant driving and encountering other drivers; always a stumbling block for me to keep my cool while driving, but at least I continued to pull myself back to my core value. I’m practicing!
How are you practicing your values this year?