Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I'm a Beautiful Mess. Are you?


“When we talk about settling the world’s problems, we’re barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.”

This quote by Joseph Campbell reminds me of a quote by Rumi, below. 

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.”

Powerlessness is a feeling I hear many expressing about the problems we face in our world—whether it’s the decisions our government makes, the tragedies that strike our communities regularly or a world climate on a devastating trajectory.   

Leaning on the wisdom of individuals like Campbell and Rumi has been helpful for me to navigate hopeless feelings that arise as I witness events that occur. Their words serve as a North Star guiding me toward a state of being I desire. They remind me of the power I do have to effect change for my benefit and the benefit of others.

Campbell and Rumi created change in the world around them by going within themselves, connecting to their inner world through meditation, contemplation and studying ancient spiritual traditions. 

Their self-inquiry, like that of many illuminated thinkers, gave them understanding about their own nature. Who they are within is inextricably linked to the world around them. They figured out how reality works from the inside out.

When Campbell said, “We’re barking up the wrong tree,” he meant we can’t change the world’s problems until we understand and shine the light on our inner world. So, what does it mean, as he said, that it’s our job to straighten out our lives? After all most of us do the right thing, work hard, accept our responsibilities. 

To straighten out our lives means to open our eyes to what’s alive inside of us. We’re here to see that reality isn’t happening to us. It’s happening as a result of us. 

The world is a projection, like a hologram, reflecting back to us who we are as individuals as well as who we are collectively as humans. Depending on our inner awareness, we will or won’t see how reality operates in this way.

Reality Is Happening For Us

Reality is happening for us so we can see who we are and where we are in our spiritual evolution.

An evolved state of awareness enabled Rumi and Campbell to experience freedom from the plane of right and wrong. As Rumi said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there.” This doesn’t mean he didn’t see problems. 

Campbell and Rumi saw beyond problems. They understood that to focus on right and wrong doesn’t solve problems. It makes some people right and others wrong. It can create an environment of blame and divisiveness. Seeing beyond right and wrong is a step toward greater understanding.

I'm a Beautiful Mess. Are You? 

Here’s what’s alive within me: jealousy, self-absorption and selfishness, to name a few characteristics. These states of being live alongside what are generally viewed as better qualities like generosity, kindness, empathy and patience. To the extent I accept and love all that makes me who I am, I am able to embrace these characteristics in another with an open heart. 

A chain reaction occurs when we love and accept ourselves: we’re freed from self-judgement or self-criticism, freeing us to move beyond judging others, which frees us to move beyond labeling ourselves and others as being right or wrong. 

Getting honest about everything we are isn’t easy, but it does make reality more revealing. 

In complete self-acceptance we are able to see how the people we engage with reflect aspects of ourselves right back to us. This can be humbling and amazing. Depending on where we are in our self-acceptance, it can also be hard to believe. We may not be ready to accept some truths about ourselves.

Let’s say I don’t like a person because I think they are selfish. Their actions really rub me the wrong way. The idea that they are reflecting an aspect of me is ludicrous. I’m not selfish like they are! Campbell would tell you I am. And until I’m honest with myself about being selfish too, I will see myself as separate from the person I don’t like, and by extension, separate from a reality that is seemingly out there and happening to me—making my life worse by the actions of another.

When Rumi says, “…even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn't make any sense.” he is referring to this idea that when we see ourselves as whole, embracing all that we are, we no longer see other people as separate. They become our mirror. We are connected by all of our ways—the good and bad. 

We Are Indivisible

We can say, I am that or I am like her or him without a critical mind set when we see the truth—we are all imperfect. There is no shame in the gamut of characteristics alive within us. When Campbell says the world is perfect, he means that it’s perfect in its imperfection.

To expand the idea—I can see how others are driven by self-interest, money and power. I can blame those in power whose seemingly different values from my own bring about events I feel powerless to change. Or, I can admit that I too have been motivated by self-interest, money and power. 

What happens when I do this? First, I understand their motivations and drives. I can have an internal dialogue—I am that way too. I too have taken actions based on these motivations. Instead of labeling these ways of being as right or wrong I can own and take responsibility for what lives in me too.

By doing this I accept I am all possibilities. From this place of expansion I can emanate compassion for others. I can move beyond right and wrong to wish them well and send them love. Our collective imperfection benefits from more love. 

Shining the light on who we are gives us more choice about who we want to be. 

Life Arises Through Us

Reality responds in kind to who we are inside. From an open hearted place, we have an opportunity to feel and create goodwill and elevate hope, within and without. Reality then reveals more to us or how it works when we engage with ourselves in a compassionate way.

Paraphrasing Rumi—we can then experience a world that is too full to talk about. We see more of our own light reflected in others. We realize life is for us, challenging us to grow. And, we want to be more—for each other since, we are in this together.


Let’s meet in a field beyond right and wrong where we recognize, accept and love the beautiful messes we are and we'll grow from there.

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