It’s amazing how much we can do with some good patience and soft touch.
I would often be asked questions such as “How do you know so much? How did you make your dreams and passions a reality? How do you stay motivated? How do you do it all with the writing, publishing, managing, creating, etc? How do you have such deep understanding on so many diverse topics? How do you understand so deeply how to work with so many different tools? How are you so insightful, smart and aware?” These are all great questions to ask, and I’ve always been very happy to share all that I’ve learned and how I do things myself. And yet – what I’ve also noticed is that it seems like many people are not as open to understanding what it really takes to do the work, and open themselves to not only ask, but to actually do and apply it themselves. The work stops when the question stops. Or – we begin the work, but then feel discouraged and stop. Or – we begin the work, but then feel like we are not good enough, not worthy enough, and stop. The truth is: it takes a lot, a lot of work. Not just when we feel like it, not just sometimes – but always.
To start off this discussion – there is one thing that I need you to remember always and it is: Just show up. You don’t have to know it all, in fact we’ll never know it all. No one knows it all because we are human beings with very limited and conditioned human minds and perceptions. So let go of the burden on your shoulders that you have to be some version of perfect because there’s no such thing. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Don’t feel “less than” if you are not at your best some days, feeling like you’ll be letting down those people around you – all they ever need from you is to show up. That’s it. Just show up, for yourself, for others, as best as you can each day, that’s all you need to do.
And then – chop wood, carry water.
In other words: Dedication.
Dedication to our work, whether it is our craft, our relationships, our creativity, our wellness and health – is essentially understanding the importance of the value of the time and energy we are pouring into it. For example, self-development is a path that is a hard one. But we don’t just do it when a problem arises and we need to solve it. It’s an every day thing. Like a relationship. We don’t just put in the effort when a conflict arises or things go bad between us. We need to show consistent amount of effort – we need to show dedication, loyalty, commitment and appreciation towards our partner every day. Even when we feel like crap, we should at least show up for them. Like going to the gym. Surely, some days we don’t feel like exercising. But we know how good it feels after – how our body feels better, how our mind is clearer. And if we don’t want to go to the gym, we can go for a walk, or do some other form of exercise.
The way we treat one area of our life is a reflection of how we’ll treat another. It is essentially the way we approach life itself.
If you want to feel like you are really embodying the talent, the skill, the love, the intimacy, the craft – and if you really want to experience a deeper connection to all and to everything – or to be able to understand your intuitive voice and be more connected to your own self and your own unique path and to another person – then you really need to devote time and energy.
In my own life I’ve noticed that the most important thing when I grew as an individual and as a creator, when I was able to live a more fulfilled life, to live at a somewhat heightened level, at an intentional and more connected level, to experience more loving and deep relationships – involved my time, energy and devotion. It involved commitment to it, whatever the “it” was.
We can’t just be a “sometimes” and yet expect the “everything fully”.
To experience the depth of connection, we need dedication, devotion, commitment, and loyalty. It takes every day consistent amounts of effort.
This is what allows us to truly walk our path in a deeper way and to experience our life in a truly more magical way.
Chop wood, carry water. Study, learn, explore, approach it all with dedication.
Of course, it’s not always fun and easy. It’s not always fun and easy to sit in front of a blank page and have to write. It’s not always fun and easy to cook, to clean, to pay attention to our partner, or to self-reflect on the thing we thought we’ve let go of – when it is much easier to just blame someone else.
The other thing about dedication is that it is actually quite magical itself. Similar to creativity, it is almost a saving grace in times of instability, uncertainties, worries and turbulent political/social climates.
In a way, dedication achives to hold stillness in the midst of chaos and confusion. It holds attention in the midst of distraction. It holds us captive in a love, in a thing of endurance, when we are in the midst of uncertainties. It’s a kind of prayer – the creativity of heart and soul – for prayer too is what holds us in the eye of the storm.
Within itself, dedication has a desire that endures, that keeps us focused, that is heart-led, trust-led. Learn the desire. Hold it in your hands. But unmarry it from the hunger to be held, to be wanted, to be called from the streets like a stray dog whenever someone needs it. This is not a dress rehearsal. Pick up the heavy burdens of your doubts and leave them at the door. Walk through. With trust. With heart. And chop wood, carry water.
The forgotten art of the apprenticeship.
We journey through life in continual moving adjustments, along the threads, much of which are potentials rather than predetermined designs. And yet the paths we take and weave ourselves, constantly try to align themselves to our overall purpose or fate. In other words, we can never stray too far from our what is meant for us; from our purpose or calling or soul’s fate. No matter how many twists and turns we make, the path meant to lead us towards fulfilling our calling will always reshape itself in response to the choices that we make in life.
We live in a very fast paced world where it’s all about instant validation and people are so stressed when they don’t know what their calling or purpose is. It’s the human race, racing. We rarely have time to reflect, learn, research and make mistake, try again, and then mistake again … and then try again. Because there is wisdom in mistakes and each one takes us one step closer, as long as we actually learn from it. Life isn’t some “aha” moment from a Hollywood movie scene, where suddenly there are a whole bunch of sound effects and there we are, all in sparkles, finally found our calling. Okay, so what’s next?
So to me, it’s about remembering the forgotton art of the apprenticeship. It is our every day small steps we take, as we chop wood, carry water. Our “calling” is a life’s work, not a sudden thing.
Maybe your calling is to inspire people and the only way to do that is to learn some struggles or failures, where you learn self-motivation and perseverance. Maybe your calling is to have the hands that will hold those who need love in their life – and that means you’ll learn nurturing, compassion and kindness, time and time again, through the situations you’ll face. So allow life to breathe through you and mold you into what you were always meant to be.
There are many tales that speak of the art of apprenticeship and most of them involve the concept of weaving, for it takes time to learn and even master. It also takes many years, and seemingly unimportant tasks, sometimes even boring and non-sensical. But everything in life takes time. Developing a vision for our life takes time, a long time. Creating a relationship and intimacy takes time. There is an ongoing process where no little daily thing is without its meaning and purpose for the overall design.
In the tale “The Black Bull of Norroway” the girl spends seven long years apprenticed to a blacksmith. She had to do that because it was her impatience that separated her from the prince in the first place; and so they lost each other in the enchanted forest. He looked all over for her, as she did also, but the spell was already done. And so she stepped off the path a little bit – for seven years – to learn patience through the work. Obviously they found each other at the end because this is what was meant to be from the start; this was their fate as the tale said. And there are many more tales like that.
The tales’ messages are clear. Sometimes we step off, learn a few more skills, and if we learn them properly, these experiences will lead us back to where we wanted to be. There is value in the learning, in the waiting, in the thinking we are not progressing. The humility in apprenticeship, in the weaving, deserves to be treasured. And sometimes the greatest progress is made precisely during these quiet seemingly ordinary moments.
The other thing that I’ve seen in our modern age that often times prevents us from moving forward is that we want to see results right away. But that’s rarely what happens.
We live in a fast paced world and we have many platforms from which we can get instant gratification. And that’s very satisfying and very addictive. So much so, that when we are faced with real life, where things usually don’t happen immediately, we are tempted to give up or assume it won’t work out, or that we are on the wrong path, or that maybe we weren’t good enough anyway. And then we feel rejected and then, we give up.
The ability to delay gratification or practice self-control, will impact our future success and opportunity for growth. It is greatly discomforting of course, not to get the “reward” right away – but it is a muscle that we can train.
But why is delayed gratification so important?
Learning how to delay impulse for immediate pleasure in favour for long-term satisfaction is what is needed for long-term growth. It also teaches us to be more attuned to the cycles of the land and accepting ourselves more fully; we realize that things take time and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. We also learn to turn our focus inwards and align more truly to our intentions, versus doing things just to get validation or gratification from the outside. Ultimately, we settle into ourselves and become more fulfilled, emotionally and spiritually. And we learn to trust ourselves.
The lack of delayed gratification is actually very apparent in modern relationships. Impulsivity of communication, misuse and overuse of sexual behaviours, and inability to build intimacy and long-term fulfilling connections, are all results of this. We send a text, don’t get a response right away – and that’s it, over, next. We forget that there is a human being on the other end, and we have forgotten how to even normally communicate with one another anymore. Intimacy is often non-existent, a distant exotic thing in the far skies, that we can only idealize and romanticise – and we forget that it takes a lot of time and effort and heart to build intimacy with someone. Communication itself is a long path, a dance, of twists and turns, between two people that takes time to come into its fuller and deeper understanding.
Delayed gratification teaches us self-trust, self-reliance, self-sufficiency and self-confidence – because we learn to take care of our own needs rather than rely on external sources for ego soothing, validation and pleasure.
Pleasure is central to our survival, but as we mature, we need to learn to tolerate the discomfort of delayed gratification, especially if we have a higher purpose or vision.
In a way, we often prefer instant rewards because we want to avoid pain and disappointment. But that’s impossible to do in life. At one point or another, we all face pain and disappointment. And we need to accept these faces of life, otherwise we’ll never be truly fulfilled.
Delayed gratification is also an important spiritual skill and is the foundation of self-development. While there are some people who look towards spirituality as a “quick fix” or some validation of their biases, every person who is mature and serious about their spiritual path knows the importance of delayed gratification. It’s a walk we walk by ourselves and there are no maps, no directions, no how-to-steps. Just like in relationsips. It takes time and effort to learn the unique languages of the word called “us”.
I know it’s hard when we don’t get the results as soon as we had hoped. Social media shows us that it should be immediate, right? But that’s not real life. And unfortunately very few people talk about the real life nowadays because everyone wants to look perfect and “successful”. We are rarely shown the behind the scenes, the many years it took someone to be where they are. And so it is of course natural to feel like we are not good enough or that we are doing something wrong, or not fast enough.
We pour all our heart, time, and effort, into something that maybe is not that “popular” or instantly rewarded. For example, most blogs take five years to gain momentum. And it is really demoralizing to give so much of yourself without much in return; because you start to feel invisible or not appreciated for all your work. Writing itself is a blind art. Most people love what you do but they rarely say it. Most people don’t even know how to appreciate someone, express their gratitude, or say a simple compliment. The path of the creative is a very hard one. We don’t have it easy at all and rejection is an every day part of the deal. In fact, most people completely give up their creative work within less than a year. But for the rest of us … what do we do?
We wake up and we do it again. Maybe we doubt, cry, get afraid but once we’ve had enough of our feelings, we get back to it. Pouring our heart and time and effort into it again. Because maybe we just really love it. And that’s the reason why we do it, but it still hurts if it is unappreciated, right? Not because we want the validation or because we are not truly loving it, but because beneath that “love for the craft” is the intention of wanting to contribute, and be of benefit to someone. And of course, we all want to feel seen, heard and appreciated; this is a most natural human need. Perhaps, this is where trust comes in, again.
This is where dedication comes in, again.
Chop wood, carry water.
Create the beautiful environment, the soil, nurture it, care for it, and I promise you – a wild rose will grow, will bloom, and will scent your hands. And you’ll then scent the hands of all those others you’ll touch.
Trust the timing of your life.
Trust the unfolding of your life.
Allow yourself to feel it’s okay for things to move slowly, for things to take time, for just because nothing is yet surfacing doesn’t mean the roses’ seeds will not grow from the good wet soil.
All that you are is unique. There is absolutely no one else in the world that can give someone the kind of thing you can give. Only you have your own unique talent, your own unique energy, softness of hands, sound of your voice, love in your heart. No one wants you to be perfect, to be at your best, to have it all figured out. You are needed as you are. Just be you, the way you are, that’s all our loved ones ever need from you too. That’s the best thing we can do in our world.
Heart-led, show up.
For more of my writings, browse through my Art of Love.
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Cover photography by Thomas Gunillasson.