Walking through Walden’s web…
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary…” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
In response to my request for feedback on the Living Chapters year long project, chapter one writer Joe Gallo forwarded this quote to me from Thoreau’s “Walden”. Joe said, “I do think that this is the essence of your adventure – To live deliberately.” He also noted, that the last sentence of this quote is normally cut off when the quote shared. Joe included the last sentence commenting, “I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant except that one has a responsibility to resist resignation as much as possible. But if circumstances make resignation a necessity, let it be a conscious choice – an act – rather a shoulder-drooping reaction to a sucky situation.”
Joe’s reflection and Thoreau’s quote struck a chord in me. Both describe what I believe to be the two of most profound gifts I received through living out the experiences of the past year. The first, being the strong desire to live a more mindful, intentional and deliberate life. The other gift being my new awareness and ability to meet, address, and accept resistance as an opportunity when necessary.
The Living Chapters structure planned the focus of my path monthly. It relieved me of the question of “what” I was going to do and presented me with the question of “how” was I was going to do it. Taking this time to specifically explore “how to live” has placed me not following Thoreau’s path of desired deliberate living but creating my own path.
Letting go of what I could not control this year, I followed guidelines and accepted suggestions while at the same time conjured my own personal energy and beliefs to breathe life into the written chapters given. This process revealed an alternate and interesting way to live. Day by day, I brought my focus back to the present challenge at hand and felt a shift occur.
Slowly over the months, I noticed the change from directing my life previously through vague instinct, external expectation and available opportunities to directing my choices through a set structure, stronger instinct, internal trust, external loyalty and the exchange of love. It has been a delicate balance between “letting go” of my old patterns while at the same time developing new intentional ones that work for my present life.
“I did not wish to live what was not life,” says Thoreau. It seems a simple desire, but in fact is not an easy thing to do. To live life deliberately cannot be accomplished in 12 months time; it must be put into a daily practice and nourished over a lifetime.
In the defined space and time Living Chapters allowed, I merely began the exploration of self and the understanding of others and our environment. As if I were left out in the woods, I slowly discovered what worked or didn’t work for me in every chapter. With each challenge I took a closer look at what I believed, how I felt and what I was capable of. Setting the themes for chapters, before starting set the intentions for my year. Showing me where and how I wanted to grow and develop.
Each player in Living Chapters pushed and supported me by dictating tasks that illuminated my strengths and addressed my weaknesses. They stretched boundaries and sparked fears challenging me to make and break new habits and banish old patterns. The chapters that fueled my resistance were most beneficial. Through the resistance I began to understand and accept that discomfort and confusion can be the first step to clarity and contentment. Understanding what was holding me back was, for me, the key that is allowing me to move forward.
I will leave you with a couple more quotes from Walden that resonated with me. Thanks to Joe for bringing me back into the woods this summer.
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to learn more about what happens when you live your life through chapters.