Our workplace cleaners went on holiday over Christmas, so when our kitchen bin reached capacity, I emptied the rubbish and noticed for the first time that the liner was tied on the side to fit the bin snugly. I put a fresh bag in and was dutifully tying it on the side, when one of my colleagues asked what I was doing. I said I was tying the liner on the way we do it around here – wondering if I had got it wrong.
No-one told me to tie the bin liner into place. There was no rule written or guideline to follow – I just saw that that was how it had been done and followed without further thought or question. These small and insignificant moments are perfect examples of how much of what we do in life is a mechanical or automatic adoption of the way we’ve seen how something is done.
Take this into the arena of religion – be it organised or our daily ‘religious’ mechanical behaviours – and the games truly do begin, as we learn to behave in ways that become part of us, but are not actually from our true self at all.
In that bin liner moment, I didn’t question or feel into the process, allowing even the smallest space for the possibility of checking in and acting from myself, I just adopted the way I saw it had been done before me. To bring our own awareness to the task or moment at hand is very different to “doing it the way it is done.” We all have an inner compass that registers everything, unimpeded by thoughts of right and wrong, its direction based on a knowing that, unlike organised religion, doesn’t come from outside measures, teachings or rules.
Many of us seem to have forgotten our inner compass when handing over to others to know what is right for us. The amazing thing is that our compass hasn’t forgotten us and is always patiently waiting for us to stop and listen to its messages. These messages often come in the form of a feeling, a deep inner knowing. Maybe all that is needed from us is to actually be willing to listen.
From tying bin liners to deciding on what to cook for dinner, how to be on a date or what organised religion we follow, it is easy to adopt popular practice, forever on show outside of us, at the expense of tuning into our own internal compass. Whatever we, or those around us do religiously – morning coffee, church on Sunday, tying bin liners – it is worth stopping to discern if it is done from a deep connection to the compass within, or a mechanical habit whose origins lie outside of our own hearts, as we follow accepted ways, instead of feeling the way for ourselves and daring to follow this instead.
By Adrienne Ryan, BEd, Brisbane, Australia