Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Finding Your Mission...

And Chores...

I used to hate chores of all kinds. I would put them off as long as I could, even really easy ones. Chores were things to be avoided and then done as quickly as possible to get them over with. They were diversions from my real life, the things I really wanted to do.

One day as a kid, I was sulkily sweeping our porch and my grandfather who was visiting, came over and showed me the correct way to sweep, short more aggressive strokes that moved the stuff clearly towards staging areas where it could be gathered and disposed of. I was still sulky but the idea did enter my head that simple chores could be done with a certain skill.

A bit later on, I was introduced to the Zen idea that everything is Zen. Like the old koan: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” I began to see chores as opportunities to study my self. Ways to embody focus, execution, and attention to reality.

Still later, I had a real breakthrough when I began to get clear on my mission, what my life was about. The clearer I got about that, the more I began to see the chores, hassles and logistical headaches of life not as things to get around, obstacles to my mission, but actually one and same with my mission.

Chores are mission.

Or things that need to be done in order to execute the mission.
By “mission”, I mean the overarching purpose of my life. The thing that all the other things I love have in common. I believe that everyone has a mission at any given time in life. We may not know what it is, and it may change, but there is always an inner mission waiting to be acknowledged.

A simple way to start, if you haven’t found yours, is to ask yourself, What are the activities that make me feel most alive? What are my very favorite things to do? The things that need no force whatsoever to do? When you’ve got a few of these things in mind or have written them down, ask yourself, What do I get out of doing these things? What does it give me? Then ask yourself, What do I get out of that? And again, once answered, ask yourself, What do I get out of that? Keep asking until you get to the root of why you like to do that thing.
When you can sum it up in simple phrase or sentence, you’ve found your mission, or at least approaching it.

Sometimes what seems to be your mission will actually change when you acknowledge what it is. If your main mission seems to be to prove to your dad that you’re a good person, and you really feel and acknowledge it, it might just change right then and there to something deeper…A good question again is, And what would I get out of my dad seeing that I’m a good person? Keep asking until you get to something that doesn’t give you anything but what it is.

That’s most likely your mission, at least for now. If you find what your mission really is, not what you’d like it to be, or what you think a good or virtuous mission should be, when you find your actual real and true mission…that’s the point where chores cease to be chores and start to become things you need to do in order to enact your mission. They become much less chore-y and more like the mission itself. At least that’s how it happened for me.

So organizing my bills and checkbook for instance is not a chore, but what I need to do in order to have a handle on my finances so I can enact my mission. It becomes part of the mission itself. Also, priorities become easier to assign. Things that further the mission naturally rise over things that don’t. If I do a bunch of things that are counter to my stated mission…well that’s probably not my real mission and I need to do more work on digging deeper and finding out my real mission.

So here’s mine:

My mission is to practice, teach, and live T'ai-Chi as fully and deeply as possible, without using force. 

Some elaboration:

T'ai-Chi is the Chinese word for the supreme unforced balance that underlies all things. 

To me, Practicing T'ai-Chi is to study and release resistance to this underlying unforced balance. Practicing T'ai-Chi is also about developing an unforced relationship with Life. 

To me, Teaching T'ai-Chi includes but is not limited to teaching the forms and exercises of T'ai-Chi Ch'uan. It is also encouraging others to develop an unforced relationship with Life. 

To me, Living T'ai-Chi is to surrender into this state of unforced balance and relationship with Life.

This mission applies to everything I do. When I write songs, when I sing songs, when I record and share songs, when I write this now, when I teach lessons, when I perform, when I practice T’ai-Chi training exercises, when I make videos, when I pay my bills, when I work things out with my wife and friends, when I walk in Nature, when I ride my bike to work, when I design CD covers, when I wash the dishes, when I take out the garbage, when I sort through my email, when I vacuum the floor, when I feed and clean my gerbil’s cage, when I get the mail, when I make a bank deposit, when I set up gear before a show, when I print out lyrics, when I send out email announcements or post show information on facebook, when I go shopping, when I feed my fish, when I watch a movie, when I tell a joke, whatever I’m doing, I’m actually enacting my mission if I hold it that way.

If I can see the connection between T’ai-Chi (unforced balance) and what I’m doing now, then it’s T’ai-Chi too. It’s all T’ai-Chi if I can see that the task at hand is not only an opportunity to learn about and express unforced balance but also simply a necessary life task that feeds my ability to learn about and express unforced balance.

When I had no connection to this inner mission, I think it was still there. I always loved activities and things that expressed balance and the beauty of balance in some way, but I wasn’t fully aware of it. I also had all kinds of competing ego goals and hormonal imperatives that got in the way…but the underlying mission was still there.

When I got conscious of it and started to really own it and be clear about it, that’s when the chores stopped being annoying roadblocks but actually became part of the mission itself. Even stuff that at first glance seemed “out of balance” or excessive or even dark, turned out to be opportunities to express the totality of my self, a way to finding a holistic whole-bodied sense of honest expression of my overall quest for unforced balance.

So if the chores of life are getting you down or making you mad…I recommend doing some mission work. There are no chores in a fully mission driven life. 


  1. Replies
    1. Really, it's very meaningful to me right now. Will share... as doing that is significant in my mission as I know it today. Lonna

    2. Feel free. I post these thoughts in the hopes they might be of help and use to people. GB