Life is the experience of creating experience

small clown fish - like NemoWhat life experience do you want to create?

Sitting on the shore of the lake this morning I watched a small fish near the surface of the water.  Its’ movement caused a ripple effect – tiny circles at first and then ever widening and spreading out for several feet.  This small creature was creating a noticeable effect consistent with its movement.

It got me thinking about the effect any one of us has in our lives and how it is always consistent with our action.  This might seem obvious to some, but I notice a fair amount of disconnect in our world between actions taken and the effect they cause.

Take for instance a relationship interaction like having a disagreement about something.

Let’s say that you’ve made a time arrangement with someone – that you’ll be at a certain place at a specific time.  You decide that you can be more relaxed about it and delayed your arrival with doing a few things.  When you arrive, the other person is mad having spent time feeling anxious about where you were and why you were not on time.  You take the position that you were justified in being relaxed about the time and defend yourself.  The other person takes the position that they were right to feel hurt and angry that you didn’t keep your agreement.

Both people’s actions will cause ripples in the relationship environment and they will not match well at all.  In fact they will crash up against each other and produce conflict like a wave crashing up against immovable rocks.  This is inevitable because the effect of an action is always consistent with the action.  Defensiveness will produce a defensive reaction and being mad and blaming will always produce defensiveness and so the cycle of conflict goes.

What to do?

  • First, decide what kind of effect you want to have on your life and the life of those around you.  This is important in all situations – close relationships, work, community, and social arenas.
  • Second, be aware that what you choose will have an effect , weak or strong, small of large– there is no such thing as a benign choice and action.  Watching that little fish and any other critter is evidence of this truth.  We all have an effect on ourselves and each other doing the most ordinary of things.
  • Third, accept yourself completely.  Take all judgments off of what you do.  Open up to learning from your actions.  They are really the best teachers in living a life of awareness and conscious relating.
  • Fourth, shift from seeing your action as either good or bad to helpful or unhelpful in relationship to what you wanted.  If you want to create harmony with someone, breaking an agreement is an unhelpful action.  Keeping an agreement is a helpful one.  Changing an agreement consciously is a helpful one.  Justifying not following through is an unhelpful one.
  • Fifth, spend some time each morning (just a few minutes will do) setting your intention for the day.  This will be a powerful guide for your choices and action.  The more you practice this the more potent it becomes.

Consider paying attention to cause and effect in your life today.  Notice what happens when you stand up, sit down; change a routine of any sort.  Notice the response you get from inside of you as well from others when you make contact.  Bring curiosity to it all and open up to what you can learn about yourself, others, and life.  Being open to learning is the doorway to deciding what kind of life you want to create.  Then step into creating it.

Remember, the energy and effort you put into your actions creates the strength of the ripple you cause in your world.  And also know that there is always a ripple.  This is the message of the little fish.

About the author

Suzanne Kilkus

Suzanne Kilkus is a Soto Zen meditation practitioner and teacher and has practiced as a therapist and counselor for over three decades. She is dedicated to assisting people in expanding their capacity for giving and receiving love, and for recognizing and expressing their basic goodness in everyday life. Her path to live with wholehearted compassion and care is an invitation to everyone. She is a teacher with Open Door Zen Community in Madison, WI.