Rules for Life
Tell the truth.
Don't be attached to the results.”
Angeles Arrien (The Four-Fold Way)
From time to time, I come back to the words and work of anthropologist and spiritual teacher, Angeles Arrien. She died in May, 2014, but her legacy of teaching will live forever. Her approach to life was positive and pro-active; she believed in and promoted “Walking the Mystical Path with Practical Feet.” Her four-fold way is still one of the best recommendations for how to live that I have ever read or contemplated. She used the hero archetypes as a means of illustrating each one:
- Show up and be present—the way of the Warrior or Leader.
- Pay attention to what has heart and meaning—the way of the Healer.
- Tell the truth without blame or judgment—the way of the Visionary.
- Be open, but not attached, to outcome—the way of the Teacher.
These recommendations for life are extremely simple on the surface, and very difficult to put into practice as a lifestyle. Being present means bringing your whole self—body, mind, spirit—into every encounter, every moment of every day. Not your distracted self, not your impatient self, not your excited or anxious self, not your half-way-listening self—all of you; your complete focus, your total attention.
Being able to pay attention to what has heart and meaning requires that we first ignore what does not have heart and meaning—that being all the physical/material concerns that we give so much energy and attention. How do I look? This is so out of fashion! I can't wear these old shoes! I just have bad hair! How can I get people to like me? You know—the things we endlessly fret over. To follow only what has heart and meaning may mean forsaking all else.
Telling the truth without blame or judgment produces a human conundrum—most of us tell white lies all the time (average—10 times a day). Some research shows white lying as an adaptive behavior, a survival skill, linked to becoming civilized—it makes sense not to tell your spouse he/she looks fat in those jeans if you want to survive. But the low-ball estimate is that all of us also tell at least one, closer to two, out-and-out lies every day. Being deceitful has consequences for both the liar and the recipient of the lie. Energetic and spiritual consequences to our self-esteem and our ability to trust ourselves and others. And lying, more than anything else, destroys relationships.
In my estimation, being open, but not attached, to the outcome of anything we do is the most difficult task of all. I had a conversation just yesterday with a woman whose son and only child is about to marry a woman she believes is entirely wrong for him. She's anxiously trying to make the best of it. Almost every parent feels some anxiety about their children. Being able to truly allow it to sink in that their path is their path, and necessary for their growth and development, takes a lot of personal work on the part of the parents. Hands off. Hold them in your heart, help them when you can, and otherwise try to stay out of the way of their learning. Hard, hard work. Being unattached to outcome is one way of allowing soul to lead. Trusting that even though you don't know where the path is going, following Spirit is the best way to get there. Thanks to Angeles Arrien for sharing her great spirit and soul with us.
In the Spirit,