Monday, June 6, 2011
Inspiration vs. Obligation
I was in a series of rather dull meetings and lectures last week when a friend of mine emailed me my horoscope. She has an uncanny way of sending these to me only when they are really pertinent. The horoscope suggested I consider whether I am taking on tasks and projects due to inspiration or obligation. It went on to suggest I only do those things that inspire me and toss out obligatory actions. Hmm...
I really started to think about how many things we do because of some sense of obligation and how often that sense is somewhat misguided. I considered how many times I had thought I was "helping" someone out of a sense of obligation when in fact they didn't want or need to be helped at all. On the other hand, the times that I have been inspired to help or offer assistance it has been met with grateful acceptance and has resulted in a win for all of us.
Certainly this works in the writing world. Books, articles and stories that someone has been inspired to write are so much better than anything someone has felt obligated to write. And you can easily tell the difference.
Maybe inspiration comes from the universe, or our higher selves, a more "pure source" whatever you believe that source to be. Obligation on the other hand seems more routed in culture and earthly rules of social order. No wonder it doesn't "fit" as well.
For instance, some men of a certain generation perhaps, go out of their way to hold the door open for a woman. They will drop everything to do this, and often the situation becomes rather awkward. They are holding this door open while the woman still isn't even there yet. They insist she goes first, race to reach the inner door before she can etc. etc. I've seen this happen with pretty frail men who struggled to maintain this social order concept while the woman would have been much more capable of opening or holding the door for the man. If however, the other persons' arms are full, they are struggling with a package, a child, a stroller, crutches or a cast, to be "inspired" to hold the door usually ensures a win for everyone. You're likely to be greeted with a smile, maybe a second of conversation, a light moment. That's inspiration versus obligation to me.
We are obligated to "color within the lines" and inspired to make our own lines.
So when I first read my email, I looked for the nearest exit. I was really only there because of obligation and wasn't feeling inspired. But I didn't quite have the nerve to just walk out. Instead I tried to change my mind set. I decided maybe I should consider the speaker as a future character for a book and I began to really look at him from a detached perspective and paid attention to mannerisms,language and "character development". I felt quite entertained, and in reality I listened more actively than I had been previously.
I continued to carry the theme of "inspiration vs obligation" through the week. It helped me "let go" of a lot of things. Instead of "working the room" during breaks, I really just talked to people that I really wanted to, or felt drawn to. Once I used a break to go browse in a book store all by myself. I found a wonderful new book. I had a number of really interesting conversations that had nothing to do with the topics of the meetings. I started listening to some of the lectures on social media from a different perspective. I stopped thinking I was going to "have" to do this and considered how such avenues might help me pursue other interests. On the weekend, I felt "inspired" to set up a twitter account. I'm actually having some fun with it.
I started to think about the Bach Flower essence Elm, and how it's indicated when you feel mentally and physically exhausted. I realize that exhaustion, at least for me, often comes when my list of obligations just seems to long and weighty. I doubt whether I'm doing anyone any good at this point. Maybe when I'm reaching for Elm, I'll also use it as a trigger to ask the question of whether my list is borne from obligation or inspiration. If it's only obligation, maybe it's time to "let go". In fact, throw out the list- you don't need a list if you're acting out of inspiration!
So I guess it is taking the nearest exit. Acting on inspiration means you listen to your true self and choose the path that feels right and light. Do what inspires you and see how much better you feel!