What's the blank canvas? Well, have you ever gone into a store like Michael's and wandered down the art supply aisle, looking up at all the giant blank canvases stretched across wooden frames and tightly shrink-wrapped in plastic? They come in a varietal of sizes and shapes. And when you look at them, totally blank, all you can see are endless possibilities. Maybe you'll try to recreate a classic Van Gogh, or perhaps your own interpretation of a special place in nature that brings you peace--but it doesn't really matter--you can change your mind endlessly, and once you do finally decide, you go and buy the paints and get started. That's moving forward. Whatever your blank canvas is, once you find it, it will tempt you to imagine the endless possibilities. Excited by those possibilities, you'll begin to envision a new future, a future in which your particular difficulty exists only as a memory. As your idea solidifies, you commit to making it real, taking steps forward through deliberate action to claim agency over not just the blank canvas--whatever it may be--but your own life.
Humans are incredibly adaptive. In fact, adaptation is encoded in our very genetics. Even if you don't want to move forward, you will simply because evolution doesn't stop. And each of us is on an evolutionary journey toward some clandestine goal. We learn along the way that the goal is meaningless without the context of the journey itself. And that context is bound to include adversity...difficulties of every flavor. Difficulty is the thing that shapes us, pushes us to be better. Joseph Campbell, the great mythology scholar, called this a transformation of consciousness--the key difference between what makes a person a hero or a villain. One simple change in attitude differentiates good from evil. Difficulties usually enhance the ever-present conflicting dualities we face each day--like life and death. Our vulnerability to acute mortality defines our humanity. It gives us the gift of compassion. But that doesn't make it any easier to live with. And that's where the blank canvas comes in.
Finding your blank canvas, that thing that tempts you forward despite difficulty, is an important evolutuonary step in your journey. Once you find it, practice it often. Be mindful of the power in your blank canvas. Keep in mind that you may have many different types of blank canvases--there may be more than one temptation forward for you--it may be in the form of family, friends, professional life, or some hobby or volunteerism. If you already know what your blank canvas is, be on the look out for another. You can never have too many reasons to move forward...or too many reasons to live.
Until next time, dearest readers...live with mindful deliberation!