What Is Your Story?

It’s easy to feel powerless in this vast and complex world of ours. After all, we are only small individuals out of billions of people. How would we ever think to have any significant impact? More often than not we let ourselves be moved along the currents of the world around us, without really thinking about where they might be taking us. We feel we are lost in a rapid of fast flowing events and random moments, and should be lucky to just keep our heads above the water. And even when we feel lucky to be alive, there’s still this constant nagging feeling that there should be more to life; that this frantic struggle to survive cannot be the sum total of what our life is about. Even when we are relatively successful and come out on top, if all we do is staving off the inevitable end a bit longer, it leaves us with a deep-felt sense of unease and lack of fulfilment.

It doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t have to feel powerless, directionless, and empty. Even when thrown about by the raging waters of life and pulled inexorably forward, we can make choices. More choices, in fact, than we can imagine. Life’s waters are complex, chaotic even, which means there are many moments where possible futures branch off from the mainstream; where even a slight change of direction can lead us to somewhere completely different. It’s in those moments of divergence – the places where one stream becomes 2 or many – that our choices lie. Where the present has many futures, it’s our act of choosing – deliberate, conscious choosing – where we can make a difference. Choice is the power each and every one of us has over the infinite complexity we participate in.

To wield that power with purpose, that’s what gives our lives fulfilment. To experience how we bring about a different future than the one we thought we were caught up in, that’s what make us feel we matter. And to make our choices deliberately, with forethought and as much consideration as possible – even when fully aware that we can only know so much and see so little of what those choices will lead to – that’s what gives us a sense of direction.

To get there we must practice three things: awareness, sense of direction and strength of purpose. With those strengths at hand we can turn our choices into deliberate ones: each choice, however small and seemingly insignificant, a tiny stepping stone on the path that leads us forward to a future of our own making. Deliberate, considered, conscious choice enables us to ride the raging river of life and use its power and speed to our advantage. Deliberate choice transforms us from helpless castaways desperately clinging to driftwood and straws into pilots of out own destiny – working with the river not fighting against it, accepting its vagaries and rapids as gifts and opportunities.

Do we use the river or does the river use us?
Do we use the river or does the river use us?

Making our choices deliberate ones requires a guiding framework: something to help us assess our options and select the ones most likely to progress us on the path we choose to travel. We need a belief-system, with values, goals and priorities. Growing up, there are plenty of belief-systems on offer: the cultural constructs of our families, peers, co-workers, teachers, bosses, politicians, religious leaders, …. If we passively adopt what those others offer us – without question or challenge – our choices are theirs, not ours, but they will be applied to our life and steer it where others want it to go.

To really make our choices our own, we need to go on a journey first; a journey into our own feelings, emotions, traumas, habits … That is a journey of discovery, discernment, adjustment, and focus. Do it well, and we will emerge with a belief system that is now truly ours. It will suit our temperament, it will fit us like a well-tailored suit, and most of all it will facilitate a sense of flow, a sense of synchronicity, when we decide and act in harmony with it, and the world starts to arrange itself accordingly.

When we find that momentum and use our choices to carry us forward on our chosen journey, that’s when we become the authors of our own life’s narrative. That’s when we can say “This Is My Story – I wrote this and I live this”.

The River

5 – Waiting

Waiting (c) Bard 2018
Waiting (c) Bard 2018

Covering the Earth in silence the snow waits patiently for the future to unfold. Nothing much happens at first: days turn to nights turn to days again. An occasional passing animal makes deep tracks in the mostly unbroken whiteness; tracks that are covered by freshly fallen snow soon after. Sometimes storms arrive to rage against the mountains. The howling winds move the blankets of snow up and down like sand dunes in the desert, tearing down ridges and forming new slopes. But once the winds die down, tired and spent – even though the landscape has been transformed completely – the snow looks as untouched and serene as before: soft, silent, motionless.

The River

4 – Falling

Falling - (c) Bard 2017
Falling – (c) Bard 2017

Where the mountains are high enough the clouds cool below the point of freezing. Tiny crystals form as liquid water turns into intricate six-starred jewels of ice. As if awed by this beautiful transformation the winds stop their rush upwards and lose momentum. Softly and playfully dancing the new-formed snow begins to fall. Hesitant at first, a few flakes at a time but gradually thickening into shimmering sheets of falling dust and feathers, the snow begins to cover the ground it falls on, until it covers it completely under its thick white silent blanket.

The River

3 – Rising

Rising - (c) Bard 2017
Rising – (c) Bard 2017

As the clouds reach the coast, storm-like winds push more and more of them onto the shoreline, where they are compressed against the mountain range that has been watching over the ocean since this continent was first created. Resisting at first, the clouds give in to the constant pushing winds and ascend against the mountainsides. As they rise their temperature falls causing the vapour to thicken. From microscopic droplets the water turns into tiny raindrops, less gaseous, more liquid, but still buoyed up by the buffeting winds that chase them up against the mountains.

The River

2 – Gathering

Gathering (c)Bard 2017
Gathering (c)Bard 2017

The vapour rises quickly into the sky and joins billions of other water droplets making the same journey. The droplets stay separate, however – unlike the oneness of the ocean water – to form a different kind of unity: intricately complex, constantly moving, almost intangible, shape-shifting clouds. Mere wisps at first, barely noticeable against the deep blue of the sky, they steadily grow in size and density, until they are big and solid enough to cast their dark shadows over the water. Like ghost ships sailing high above the ocean the clouds are driven forwards by the wind towards the land.

The River

1 – Separating

The Sun rises over an endless ocean – (c)Bard 2017

Clear blue skies over an endless ocean, basking in the merciless light of a hot yellow Sun. As the water warms it rises to the surface, to be warmed even more. There is power in being part of an ocean, comfort and a sense of belonging, of being home. And yet, on the surface, directly exposed to the blinding light of the Sun, the dark soothing vastness of the ocean loses some of its attraction and the sky, equally vast, but filled with light and lightness seems to call, promising new experiences of a faster and more varied kind: the prospect of a new existence. And so, some of the water separates itself from the oneness of the ocean, becomes vapour and gets lifted up into the separateness of being a tiny droplet in an infinite sky.