Live Like You Were Dying

By Deanna Martin - August 2012

What is the purpose of the conscious life?

In the Enneagram community we are lucky enough to have a pretty good road map for the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that get us stuck.  This coupled with practices of meditation and mindfulness can help us to become aware of these patterns in our daily life. We spend a lot of time and energy seeking this enlightened state of being, going deeper into higher levels of consciousness and awareness.  This journey of discovery can be exciting and rich as revelations come and we can see ourselves more clearly.  But after awhile, you begin to wonder, "now what?"  

As a six on the Enneagram, I am always full of questions and the idea of letting go of my habitual anxious thoughts and feelings left me feeling, well, a little anxious. If I let go of these feelings, if I didn't let my panicky state guide my every behavior, then who would I be? What would I do with all that time that was no longer being spent on managing my anxiety or escaping uncomfortable feelings? What do you do once you know what is keeping you stuck? For me the answers lie in going deeper into my own heart and getting clearer about my values.

Values are our hearts deepest desire.  Values are our particular way of being in the world that makes life rich and meaningful.  There is no right or wrong to choosing values and there are countless values and combinations that are unique to each person. When we are able to align with our values, we feel a vital life energy moving through us. So in the awareness and waking up to personality type and stepping into the void of the conscious mind, we make room for our hearts desire to arise from within. What once seemed empty and void of any meaning now has new life.

Values are unique to each person. Having once gotten all my cues from my parents, teachers, churches, and other authorities, I had to now go ever deeper into myself and ask, what is my hearts desire? At the end of my days what do I want to be about? In my exploration, I have found that for me a life that is well lived would be a life in which I experience creativity, contribution, intimacy, authenticity, compassion for self and others, and playfulness and humor.

Values energize and guide us. When I look at these values I feel an energy within me, a lightness of being that propels me forward, an internal YES that speaks to my heart's desire and speaks of meaning and richness. So when I am faced with that internal question, "now what?” I can look to my heart and use my values as guideposts for direction and meaningful action. Values are like the horizon off in the distance, a direction in which we orient our life.  We will never get there, but we can always move in the direction of our valued life. I can spend the rest of my days orienting myself toward this valued way of being and I don’t have to wait until I get a new job, find a partner, or feel better to do it. Choosing to live out your values can begin today.

Values are different from goals. If values are off on the horizon, our goals are stops along the way.  It is out of these values that I can set goals.  For example, if contribution were a value of mine, then a possible goal would be writing an article for this newsletter.

So you may be asking yourself, what do I value?  There are many ways to get at this answer, but country singer, Tim McGraw might ask, how would you live if you knew you were dying?

Check out this you tube video and sit with your own heart.  What is your heart's desire? How do you want to be in this world?  What qualities make you come alive when you live them out?  Take some time to reflect on the different domains of your life (relationships, work, play, family, spirituality, etc) and list some of the values you would like to more fully integrate.  Remember values are qualities of being and a direction in which we orient our life.  Goals are things we accomplish along the way. Every moment we are given clues as to what we value as we interact and live in this world. If we are awake and paying attention, every moment gives us the opportunity to reorient ourselves in the direction of our dreams and to live like we are dying.

Deanna Martin, LPC utilizes the Enneagram and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a "third wave" form of cognitive behavior therapy that utilizes mindfulness, acceptance, values, willingness and committed action to help transform lives.  She works with individuals and groups.

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