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A Thought From My Hero

the path

A political victory, a rise in rents, the recovery of your sick, or return of your absent friend, or some other quite external event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “Self-Reliance”

It seems to me that circumstances, when they are agreeable, make it feel like we’re on the right path. Everything looks good and there seems to be no reason to make adjustments. Needs are hard to notice while they’re being met.

When circumstances go awry, we look for what we’re missing.

Maybe agreeable circumstances can be found, much of the time, along the wrong path too.

So maybe agreeability and ease are not such good signposts for finding the right path.

The path we’re on, then, isn’t what we do, or where we are. It’s why we do what we do, and how we got where we are.

Our principles define the path that’s right for us. We don’t choose them, we uncover them.

If we aren’t living up to our principles we are wandering off the path, even if circumstances still feel quite agreeable, for the moment.

When circumstances become disagreeable, clear principles will illuminate the right path. If better days happen to arrive on their own accord, they may only make you forget to look for it.

What do you think?


Photo by David Cain

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Cheryl Paris March 11, 2010 at 5:34 am

Dear David,

How are you doing? Good and so true thoughts!!!
When things are going good and we are merry we try not to discover beyond that. Be just happy with the good happening in our lives.
Once our already established paths go awry that is when we discover or re-invent what is already in us. But as the moment did not call for it so we did not take any action. It has happened with me and I am sure there are many so would also believe so. I was able to find the faith and the energy within me to find the path leading to my success again.

Bye for now,
Cheryl Paris
.-= Cheryl Paris´s last blog ..Is willpower inherent or cultivated over a period of time? =-.

David March 11, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I’m doing all right Cheryl, thanks. I too am guilty of waiting until things go awry before looking at my overall direction. The problem is that it is difficult to make adjustments when we’re upset because that’s when we have very little perspective. I haven’t wandered too far though :)

Erin March 11, 2010 at 8:26 am

While I do think that doors opening is often a good sign that you’re headed in the right direction it’s important to bear in mind that maybe doors are opening and you’re walking into a tough life lesson and that IS actually the right path. I don’t think discomfort means you’re on the wrong track at all. But it’s interesting because I think there’s a difference in obsessively trying to push through a wall in life that’s probably there for now, for a reason, and working hard to overcome a hurdle that maybe difficult, but not an impossible feat.
Also, I often find that sometimes being in a place of agreeable circumstances, I’ll often chose to turn a blind I to things that are problematic, just not immediately so, so that I can feel like i’m on the right path.
I think it’s good to always keep a healthy dose of wanting better things for yourself and bettering yourself, while keeping it in balance with appreciating what is already at your disposal and not resenting what you have not yet accomplished. It’s also good to have an ego check once in a while when you think you’ve found the right way to do something, and now you don’t need any help getting through life. Sometimes those upsets are important. And since life is constantly morphing and changing, one can’t expect the same direction to be the right direction forever.

David March 11, 2010 at 1:26 pm

While I do think that doors opening is often a good sign that you’re headed in the right direction it’s important to bear in mind that maybe doors are opening and you’re walking into a tough life lesson and that IS actually the right path. I don’t think discomfort means you’re on the wrong track at all.

Oh for sure, that’s what I’m trying to say. There appears to be a relationship between how “right” circumstances feel and whether we’re on the right track or not, but I think maybe that nice, comfortable feeling can be found when you’ve totally lost the path, and likewise that a not-so-comfortable feeling can be found when you are doing the best thing.

I think it’s good to always keep a healthy dose of wanting better things for yourself and bettering yourself, while keeping it in balance with appreciating what is already at your disposal and not resenting what you have not yet accomplished.

Yes, wise words. Hitting that balance has not always been easy for me. I tend to slide to one side or the other.

Brad March 11, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I mostly agree. The corollary to this truth would be that when we behave in accordance with principles, circumstances tend to get better. So it is a cause versus correlation thing.
.-= Brad´s last blog ..Deportment Gone Awry =-.

David March 11, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Yes, that’s the tendency. But behaving in accordance to principles might take you through a long period of difficult circumstances, such as if you knew you had to leave a high-paying career to start at the entry level in another one. Things could be tough for long enough to convince you that you may have made the wrong choice.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) March 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Or~ if my principle is to live in a state of acceptance and trust then I am being given an opportunity to walk that self talk and to delight in my ability to manifest what I want.
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..New Store Item: Geographical boundaries and global markets outline =-.

Brad March 11, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Right, and in fact they may never be more “pleasant” at all. But they will almost always be more meaningful, or at least wreak less havoc on your mind.
.-= Brad´s last blog ..Deportment Gone Awry =-.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) March 11, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Hi Brad~ this is my Facebook fav quote for the week~

“Give me a spirit that on this life’s rough sea Loves to have his sails filled with a lusty wind, Even till his sail-yards tremble, his masts crack, And his rapt ship run on her side so low That she drinks water, and her keel ploughs air”~

~George Chapman
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..New Store Item: Geographical boundaries and global markets outline =-.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) March 11, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I think this post is like a pool of clear water~ awesome!

Evidently we need to wonder off our path, some further than others (psychic youth) to be able to identify what our principles are. That path can become knife-edge thin~ the balance to dance on this requires having already learnt to fall.

I try not to be a fair-weathered friend to myself ~:-)
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..New Store Item: Geographical boundaries and global markets outline =-.

David March 11, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Wow, thanks Char. This really has me thinking:

I try not to be a fair-weathered friend to myself ~:-)

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) March 11, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Remember the scene in Titanic, where people are rowing away from those (some of them friends) drowning or freezing on make-shift pontoons… Or The Beach, where the Dane is dying from gangrenous shark bite….

…that’s what I think of when a friend isn’t there for me cause they too rapt up in themselves (fear); that is my goal of who *not* be in my daily life. And if I don’t start with being that way for my Self~ I’m not going to be able to do that for Others.

What’s the point of friendship (with Self or Others) if at crunch time I have feet of clay…?
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..New Store Item: Geographical boundaries and global markets outline =-.

David March 11, 2010 at 11:45 pm

That’s quite a powerful image: the one of the Dane (or was he a Swede?) suffering alone because nobody could bear him. I think it is a good model of who not to be, but I wonder if we can ever be so assured of what we’d do in situations like that. I am sometimes surprised at how reactive I get in certain situations. In an extreme one I find it hard to imagine I’d be able to transcend the disproportionately bad reactions I sometimes have at lower levels of crisis. But in the mean time it makes sense to always be working towards that level of stability.

Andy Parsons March 11, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I’ve been spending a bit of time on yahoo answers recently and one of the sections that really gets me interested is religion.

I’m amazed by a lot of the questions people ask about it, and the beliefs a lot of them have. But I myself used ot believe in god and so I can understand how people do.

This article is to me a bit like a sermon I vaguely remember hearing in church numerous times as a child, only a much more clear-minded and honest version of it.

You seem to have found a way to see the REAL truth behind the things that matter most in everyones lives, without the unnecessary and confusing clutter of ancient mythology!

I particularly like this article as I have often wondered, as I dare say maybe most people do, “am I on the right path”?

I also think the right path is different for everyone, and is constantly changing. It’s not a straigh path in one direction, but a complex web of interconnecting paths.

To further this “web” metaphore, I also believe there is no one right path, but many. There are many wrong paths too. They all interconnect.

The best we can do is to be aware of what really matter most to us (our principles) and to follow those whether it seems like the right path or not.

David March 11, 2010 at 6:50 pm

I think you’re right. The path metaphor seems to imply that there is only ever one direction or course of action that is right for you, but that’s not really what I mean.

I like the way Castaneda phrased it. Instead of asking “Is this the right path or the wrong path?” he asked “Does this path have heart?” Many paths could have heart.

Yasmin March 11, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Hi David! I just recently stumbled upon your blog after being an avid reader of 1000 awesome things, and I am absolutely in love with all the things that you write. I must have read more than half of your posts in one day!

I was really excited to read this post today… not only because I understand what it means to me, but also because I have taken it and molded it’s meaning to fit my personal life…. specifically in the area of love and interpersonal relationships

The way I see it, when someone special comes into our lives, our spirits are lifted and everything seems right in the world… and during those moments that we share with our significant other, the stars feel aligned and our steps have an extra beat. But sometimes we depend so much on finding happiness and peace with this special person that we forget what makes us happy… or oftentimes, we don’t find the peace within ourselves and expect others to fill us with that peace. We feel as though the arrival of this person is finally going to bring us the peace we need, not realizing that we need to find our own peace and make our own path before we can make one with someone else.

This is what I’ve recently learned about myself and about life. I’m 25 years old and I’m just learning how to feel inner peace. It’s a tough, tough inner battle though… I can’t even lie…. But I know that there will be many fleeting moments of happiness & peace in my life… some moments / people will come and some will go… but I have to find that happiness and peace within myself above anything else. It’s the only thing that will remain once my surroundings change.

Thank you for sharing this! I love it!

David March 12, 2010 at 12:03 am

Well thank you Yasmin. Thank you for reading, for the friendly words and the insightful comment. All those times when it felt like “Finally! The planets have aligned” were on their way out as soon as they arrived. We can’t count on them.

I hope to hear more from you.

Patty - Why Not Start Now? March 12, 2010 at 12:21 am

The triumph of principles. I’ve never heard that quote before. I think you and Ralph are right. But I also think that principles are sometimes skittish little creatures, hard to pin down. And sometimes what we think are principles are instead imposters dressed up as such.
.-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..At the End of the Day, A Poem About Happiness =-.

David March 12, 2010 at 12:35 am

Good point Patty. There have been times when I’ve defended a fear or prejudice I had by convincing myself that it was some noble principle I held. For example, I used to (or maybe still do) defend myself against suggestions that I was too quiet by believing that others talked too much. It was just a basic fear masquerading as some higher principle. I talked about that in this article, but I hadn’t thought of this as “impostor principles” until I read your comment.

Darren March 12, 2010 at 1:47 am

Great article. Pleasure and pain are simply two sides of the same stick. You can’t have one without the other. You slowly and gently rub your arm and it feels very nice; you rub it too hard and fast and it tears the skin and burns. Pleasure and pain are also fleeting; one of the keys to inner happiness is to be detached to both sensations. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the pleasures or express our discomfort with the pain, but we can only be aware and accept that both are fleeting. Of course I wish I could say I’m already living this ideal; I am merely striving towards it.

The_Timekeeper March 12, 2010 at 6:56 am

Beyond asking if a path has heart, I have to balance whether the path has truth … or if I am following an imposter principle, as you say … or a “principle” masquerading as fear, denial, distraction, ambition, altruism, service, habituation, emotional or psychological distress or disorder, or a path based on “shoulds,” societal, familial, community or otherwise. The key must be in mindfulness, openness, willingness, humility and earnest effort. The paths in life are not so important, I think, as what we learn from choosing them and travelling them.

Erin S. March 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm

“Needs are hard to notice when they are being met.” What a great line for a song…

Happiness is a choice. So many wait for some external sign, but it comes from inside us. Emerson has some wonderful insights. I believe we have lost our sense of contentment. That is one thing that makes us so unhappy as a society in general. It is why people seek something in buying stuff, eating or drinking to excess, needing a relationship even an unhealthy one.

Contentment is not a bad word. It is stepping outside a daybreak, feeling the earth waking up. Taking a deep breath, noticing how good you feel from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. You have what you need. There is no lack. Life is so good. And you believe it. Let it settle in. You still move on with your day. You can still improve yourself, complete projects, create new ones. But some live in constant hunger, anger, longing and never know a moment of contentment. It is learned, it is peaceful and healthy.
.-= Erin S.´s last blog ..The Holy One =-.

Brenda (betaphi) March 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm

The last time you quoted Emerson it was “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” As much as I love Emerson, I’m not crazy about either of these statements. a) I love quotes and b) I love high spirits.

He references two separate things, raised spirits and inner peace. I agree that “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” But joy is a different thing. Joy comes from external events like those Emerson mentioned. Joy is loud and peace is quiet. For balance we need both. Similarly, a balance between high and low principles may be best. My poor son, who has his standards for women set sky high, is missing out on a lot of joy that can come from dating. Instead, he ‘settles’ for a quiet, principled life. There’s nothing wrong with being a monk, but I want the joy of grandkids for myself, and the joy of children for him. Peace and principles without joy aren’t enough.

There is an awful lot of talk about following your bliss. You seem to be suggesting something different, following your principles. I don’t know, David. The bliss route sounds like more fun. Maybe they aren’t mutually exclusive.
.-= Brenda (betaphi)´s last blog ..Riddles and Puzzles =-.

Nea | Self Improvement Saga March 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I agree that following our principles is a part of being on the right personal path. But its important to make sure that those principles are truly ours–not those taken by others to become ours. I am one who loves to follow my bliss and I won’t stay on a path that feels wrong to me. However, I do also agree that there can be moments of feel-good when on the wrong path. What I like to do is stop and ask myself if what I’m doing is actually in alignment with my ultimate bliss–not just something momentary.
.-= Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog ..10 Ways to Live in the Now and Reawaken to the Present Moment =-.

Brad March 12, 2010 at 10:42 am

Nice quote. Poets amaze me.
.-= Brad´s last blog ..Deportment Gone Awry =-.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) March 12, 2010 at 1:19 am

True~ I’ve not been in such a situation as that extreme~ but I have been in ones of a lower level and that gives me hope.

I am pretty sure I would not be playing volley ball on the beach tho. Or telling him to shut up. Or putting him somewhere where I could keep him out of mind. I know how to make a stretcher from trees and shirts, and can start an outboard motor.

I think I could smother him…if he asked; tho in the movie they had other options, and they chose the hedonistic ones.
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..New Store Item: Geographical boundaries and global markets outline =-.

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