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Sometimes I like thinking of life as a forge that molds us and gives us shape and substance as we live. We come into this world like blocks of marble, and we’re sculpted by experience.
We can let the forge do its job on its own. But we also have the option to consciously participate in the process if we feel ready for that. We can collaborate with the forge in order to have a say in what we’re becoming.
Recently I attended a workshop by author/speaker Tim Freke. Tim shared an idea that resonated with me. First he noted the conception that when we die, some people imagine that we’ll see a bright light, and supposedly we’re expected to go towards the light and dissolve into it. When this happens, we shed our earthly identities. We experience total oneness. But we also essentially become unconscious. If dissolving into the light means shedding your individual consciousness, then there’s no ego left through which consciousness can look at itself. Consequently, going into the light actually means going dark.
Tim suggested an alternative. He asked (I’m paraphrasing here), “What if instead of dissolving into the light, the point of life is to develop such a strong individual consciousness that we don’t want to dissolve into unconscious oneness afterwards?”
That’s an interesting perspective, isn’t it? What if the spiritual goal of your earthly life is to develop such a strong consciousness, identity, and personality that you’d love to continue going even after you die? So you look at the offer to dissolve into the light and you exclaim, “No thanks! I’ll keep going with what I’ve created!”
If a Master swordmaker created an amazingly beautiful and elegant sword, would you acknowledge its greatness and then toss it back into the forge right away to recycle it? Or would you display it proudly? Study it more deeply? Admire its craftsmanship?
Would you enjoy using such a sword? Once the sword is crafted, wouldn’t it be nice to learn how to wield it? You could spend a whole other lifetime exploring and mastering the use of that sword, long after the forging is done.
Life is forging, sculpting, and molding you. Sometimes it shapes you with fire. Sometimes it shapes you with water. And sometimes it lets you rest.
Forging the Self
When you see that you’re being forged by experience, you gain the option to consciously participate in your own forging. You can help direct the forger, telling him how to mold and shape you in ways that you desire. The forger may have his own plan for you, and you can submit to that plan, you can break from it, or you can align with it and help enhance it.
How do you do this?
One way is through surrender. Recognize the ways that life has already been shaping you, and instead of resisting those movements, actively invite and encourage them. Notice where life keeps nudging you to go, and go there.
Another way is through exploration. Lean into new experiences. One of my favorite expressions is: Embrace the new. I’ve found that when I do this, I have few regrets. If the outcome is positive, then I’ve molded my character in some valuable new way. If the outcome isn’t so good, then I’ve learned a good lesson about how to mold my character, and I’ve freed my mind to let go of the recurring “maybe I should try this” thought pattern. It’s much easier to keep progressing when I satisfy my curiosity through direct experience.
Another way is by confronting fear. What do you fear? Public speaking? Talking to strangers? Being homeless? Failing in business? Being rejected? Deep intimacy? Confront your fears again and again, and your fear dissolves. This gives you more power to participate in sculpting your own character since now you can embrace new types of forging that you’d otherwise resist due to irrational fear. You gain new lists of properties that you could forge into your character, properties that were previously unavailable to you. For instance, you could create a character who travels around the world doing public speaking, which wouldn’t have been accessible when you resisted flying, speaking, and traveling abroad.
And still another way is by consciously modifying the forge itself. You can deliberately change your environment and your social connections to help influence how you turn out. Move to a new city or part of town. Drop unsupportive social connections, and invite and add more inspiring ones. If you don’t like what some of the forgers in your life are doing, stop inviting them into your forge.
Conscious Character Design
What kind of character would you like to create? Who do you dream of becoming?
Take some time to review the list of values. Note the ones that you’d most like to include in your character. There are more than 400 to choose from. See if you can narrow your favorites down to a personal top 10 list. This will help you get a clearer idea of what kind of character you’d like to create, at least in terms of broad strokes.
What recurring patterns in your life could you surrender to, such that surrendering instead of resisting would actually help you forge the character you desire?
What new experiences could you lean into to help forge your character?
What fears could you consciously face until they dissolve?
What social and environmental changes would help to forge your character even more powerfully?
You can let the forge make all of these decisions for you, or you can actively participate in the process, which gives you the ability to significantly enhance, customize, and polish your character.
Have you already created such a delightful character that you’d love to keep living and exploring with your creation as it is right now? Could you decline the invitation to dissolve into the light? If not, then what’s missing? What additional forging remains to be done?
What’s the next step for you? What action could you take right now to help forge your character in the direction of your desires?
Take that action.