What inspires you?

To be inspired means to be “in the spirit,” or filled with your own spirit. Many of us are able to accomplish numerous feats of labor, every day, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that these are inspired actions. In fact, if you could do what really inspired or enthused you, how much of your daily activity would fall by the wayside? If you could reach for any star at all, what goals would softly slip away, never to be seen again?

We have to be responsible. I might not feel inspired to take out the garbage, wash the clothes, or make the nightly trek to my son’s Little League games—but I’m going to fulfill these tasks anyway. These are the details that comprise the mortar of life. But what about the bricks? What about the architectural plan? What am I building?

Character is built brick by brick, as are our lives. We choose the design, the timing, and the materials. August builds toward an impressive and major stellar event that invites us to renovate our lives so that they reflect our inspired nature—or to at least shape the rubble into a house fit for life.

The Skies Part for…
An August eclipse!

All of August prepares for a grand event on August 28th, a lunar eclipse in Pisces. Pisces represents intuition and dreams. Piscean energy is best illustrated as a reservoir of water, fed by a river and spilling into tributaries. All aspects of life—tangible and intangible—flow in and mingle in our psyche, which then enriches those around us. In and out, the mix of feelings and senses, the psychic and the sensory; acts of giving and receiving.

On August 28th, the Earth’s own shadow crosses over her body. Our Piscean self loves to swim in the lake of possibilities, but to forge a probability or a manifestation from a maybe, we have to choose. We have to get out of the water, stand on the bank, and commit to a life path.

Over the last two months, the stars have been leading its followers through the darkness of death via the detachment of surrender. It’s time to start moving forward again—but for what reason? What star are we going to follow?

What is better inspiration than your own spirit? Where better to journey than on the path of your own heart’s desires? If we’ve been truthful these last couple of months, we’ve come to realize that sometimes we follow the lead of our past, not our dreams for the future. There are many things that inspire us—and not all emanate from our own spirit. As a child, did you want to be just like dad, when you grew up? Did you want to make sure you wouldn’t become just like mom? Are you inspired to make money, rather than enjoy your job? Are you more comfortable fitting into your church, temple, neighborhood, school, work place, or family system, than you are living from your own spirit?

The human community is tribal. This is great! People who live in community, who have friends, spiritual input, and loving activities, enjoy longer and happier lives. However, communal love doesn’t equate with cells phones that sing show tunes, E-mails that prompt stress, or gossiping gangs of jealousy. In a tribe, each and every participant must develop his or her own unique gifts. What good is a group in which everyone hunts game? Who is going to seed the fields, sew the clothes, or heal the ill? Our society is sick—as are our institutions, including family, school, and religious systems—in that it defines community as sameness and love as copying.

To be inspired is to become the self that you are. You’ve spent two months narrowing down your life so that you can expand it again—in a direction that is heart-felt. What might this mean to you?

To Be Inspired: An Act of Voluntary Will
(And Adding New Brain Cells)

You can be the busiest person on earth, and not feel or be inspired. Inspiration requires a voluntary decision to follow your dreams and to enrich your life. We might be frenetically following others’ dreams, but that’s not going to get us anywhere but depressed or anxious. If said by a neuroscientist, we must add new brain cells if we’re to become enlightened.

Can you really change your life? Can you really add more brain cells—and what does that have to do with inspiration, anyway? Let me show you.

Brain experts used to think that we had a fixed number of brain cells—which incidentally, are pruned at the rate of 20 billion synapses every day between childhood and adolescence. Science also thought that after this time period, a person couldn’t learn anything new. The brain was set in stone. How depressing! This would mean that you never develop beyond age—well, three. How can we possibly lead fruitful lives if we can’t expand beyond age three in likes and dislikes, attitudes and views, inspiration and goals?

Some very interesting brain studies have turned traditional thought upside-down. In actuality, we acquire new neurons throughout life. As well, the brain is more neuroplastic than thought, which means that it’s brain can adapt and change. An old dog can learn new tricks—IF IT WANTS TO. A grumpy old dog can become happy and interesting—again, IF IT WANTS TO. (Information available in Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, by Sharon Begley. This book explores the relationship between neuroscience and Buddhism.)

Initial research showed that a hamster that ran a wheel for four to five hours a day developed new brain cells. Additional research revealed that a hamster forced to exercise did not add brain cells (only developed exhaustion.) The hamster had to voluntarily set about its daily runs to receive real benefit.

Choice was only one of the elements that increased the intelligent use of the brain—and the number of new neurons. Novelty and an enriched environment both enabled greater transformation. What does this say to us? In a way, the research implies that it doesn’t matter what has happened to us. We can change our brains—and change our lives. By taking responsibility for our own growth and actions, we can improve our lot in life—and get a lot more out of life. The best way to increase our life satisfaction is the voluntarily select and go after goals that mean something to us.

Going after someone else’s goals isn’t going to work. Chaining ourselves to a desk job we hate, sitting in front of television shows that mean nothing to us, or having coffee with someone we dislike, is anathema to hope and progress. The truth is, we have to live life our own way, or we’re going nowhere. Now, we don’t have to be mavericks—entirely. Studies on community reflect the importance of close relationships, support, and love. In my own life, I learned an important lesson on following a set path in a unique way when I decided to participate in a marathon.

A Personal Inspirational Story
A few years back, my friend and myself had participated in a nine-month self-development program. One of the tasks was to undertake a physical endeavor (aka, hardship) that made you prepare (aka, sweat) so as to achieve a sense of accomplishment (aka, be glad you never have to do it again.) I had chosen the Twin Cities Marathon, with a caveat: I wanted to walk, not run. My girlfriend said she’d walk it with me.

The morning of the event was clear and dry, so I was relatively comfortable standing at the starting line; in fact, I felt pretty darn “cool.” Looking around at all the buff and slick people, I felt like one of the chosen elite, an athlete through association. We lined up, the horn fired, and we were off.

Within a half-hour, my friend and I were near the end of the line-up. Even the slow joggers and race walkers were bounding ahead. Behind us were only a few people in wheel chairs or on crutches. Within an hour, we weren’t just near the tail; we were the tail, followed only by the emergency crew.

“Go around us!” I shouted. They said they couldn’t because of safety rules. Feeling totally embarrassed and completely lame (I could just see us making the newspaper: Walking women cross the finishing line at midnight, in last place), I decided we should veer off and establish our own path.

So we did.

I actually completed my walk of the Twin Cities Marathon, just not on the “right” streets. By following my own inspiration, I think I had a much more interesting odyssey—and maybe developed a few more brain cells, in addition to sore feet. As we sauntered the lakes, we stopped once in a while to talk to people we knew. The window-shopping on Hennepin Avenue was truly inspirational, as were the double-dips cones at Sebastion’s ice cream shop. And if it took a few forays into Starbucks to keep our adrenaline pumping? All the better.

When we tired, we called another girlfriend to join us. Her gift of gab picked up our spirits, and created additional stir when making shopping detours, and it was she who came up with our mileage equation. “X” amount of minutes would equate to “X” number of miles, regardless of how many ice cream stores we visited in that time period.

That was the best (and only) marathon I ever did.

How is this a lesson in inspiration (versus justification)? Well, I’ll leave you to figure it out. Since my marathon days, however, I’ve been much more comfortable waiting to be inspired before acting—and following my own unusual style when inspired.

Words of Inspiration
I can’t tell you what inspires you, or how to go about acting out your dreams. I do know that we can’t wait for the winds of change before we rise, put on our racing (‘er, walking) shoes, and get inspired. However, here are few words of inspiration, from the famous and the infamous, to assist you on your path.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible.
T.E. Lawrence

The end of wisdom is to dream high enough not to lose the dream in the seeking of it.

William Faulkner

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
Patrick Henry

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Perhaps the best way to become inspired is to ask if we’re being inspired. When arising, why not ask:
What inspires me about today?

When performing a task, why not ask:
How can I become more inspired in this activity?

When talking to a friend, perhaps query:
“How can I shape this conversation so it’s more inspirational to both of us?”

And always, you can ask yourself:
“What inspires me?”

Remember not to edit your answers—as I didn’t when querying the members of my own household, who responded in the following way to my question, “What inspires you?

•    Gabe (8). Inspiration, I don’t know what it means. But I do know what makes me happy. And that’s what I like to do. Not picking up my room.
•    Michael (19). Inspiration, oh come on, mom. You already know what I like. Haven’t I been clear, all these years?
•    Honey (Big, young dog.) Gabe’s food, and more of Gabe’s food.
•    Coco (Not-as-big, blind, deaf dog.) Getting Honey off my tail.
•    Wilma (Big turtle.) Food and the thought of swimming the English channel, even though it’s in an aquarium.
•    Willie (Small turtle.) Not being squished by Wilma. Or beaten to the food.