“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”
–Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau went out and built himself a house and lived off of the land. In the parlance of the times, we might say that he went off the grid. That was his dream. He went out to Walden to live life on his terms. He journaled about his experience in the book Walden. He even accounts for every penny that he spent on nails, wood and supplies! It is interesting that this journal chronicling a man’s dream of living simply has inspired so many. Who doesn’t identify with the romantic notion of living one’s dreams?
What do you dream of? Are there dreams in your life?
Our dreams are our compasses for the directions we need to go. Dreams can provide destinations for which you can set goals for yourself. Dreams often serve us as the support or escape that help us cope with the challenges we face in our present lives.
Do you know what most people say is the key to achieving their dreams? Persistance, determination and hard work. Blood, sweat and tears. The stuff dreams are made of!
Big dreams are fun and exciting. But following your dreams is not exclusively about making grand, ambitious and world changing actions. Like Thoreau, many dream of living a simple life. There is great dignity in simple and modest living. There is great dignity in waking up every day and going to work. There is great dignity in raising a family. There is great achievement in a marriage, partnership or living alone. There is great achievement in living the life of your choice. Following your dream is about knowing what makes you happy and enjoying the moments that you have.
A word of caution: don’t push yourself too hard to realize your future dreams. You will change only at a rate that is natural for you. Working towards your dreams will happen over time. In pursuit of our goals, we may exhaust our internal resources and our health may suffer. Chronic stress and hypertension can lead to a myriad of health problems. Chronic stress can also be very damaging to your present relationships. High expectations and pressure can also lead to developing negative beliefs about yourself. Many people believe that they have little worth if they are not doing or moving towards their goals.
If you have difficulty slowing down and relaxing, of stepping away from work or your goals, of accepting who you are in the present moment, consider seeking mental health counseling. This can be provided by a psychotherapist or a spiritual leader. If you are struggling in your relationship with your partner or family, consider couples or family counseling. These services can help you find a more sustainable work-life balance and healthy self-care.
A helpful mindfulness practice is to accept and feel happiness for who and where you are today. Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening, describes a visualization exercise to feel present moment happiness. Close your eyes and imagine the buds of a rose bush.
Did you picture a a rose bush full of blossoms?
Close your eyes again and imagine a rose bud that is not fully opened. Try to find the beauty that is in this bud–the beauty of a bud before it reaches it’s ultimate blossom.
Do you feel the joy in your life right now like the joy you may have with your dreams?
There is great beauty in you in the present moment.