Signs and Portents and Garbage

bird staring at koiSometimes I believe the work of human life is coming to understand what we already know. We’re evolved for process and analysis and learning, but our ability to do that gets drowned out in the noise of modern life. The push to earn and consume, the need to conform, the crushing sense of inequity you get from watching TV or scrolling through RKOI.

We know a lot of things, but we don’t believe the things we know.

My dad died of Alzheimer’s, and in the years of his decline, I spent a lot of time realizing what I already knew. I knew that life isn’t fair – growing up, Dad himself used to remind me of that. But seeing someone I love suffer so much; that was what it meant to understand. I knew my father loved me, of course. But I didn’t understand the depths of his love until I saw him desperately trying to protect me from his own illness. He was hurting and terrified, and he worried about his family more than himself to the very end.

We learn from our lives, and then we ignore what we’ve learned. We don’t hear it, or we don’t engage with it.  Sometimes we’re forced to understand what we know, like I was with my father. But we don’t have to wait for pain to teach us. There are better teachers, and paying attention to them makes us better prepared even for pain.

One way to learn is to look for signs. The world is full of signs and portents if you’re seeking them. A bird taking flight at just the right time. A glimpse of the mountains down a crooked street. A familiar song on the taxi radio.

These signs aren’t the universe communicating with you. (If belief in a benevolent creator is an important part of your coaching, I am not the coach for you. Lynn Seth is awesome, though.) They’re your soul communicating with you. Your subconscious, if you prefer. If you see a bluejay and it tells you that your late mother would have supported your choice, you have faith in your decision and your subconscious knows full well your mom would have approved. If you hear a train whistle and it seems like a sign of change to come, you have a yearning (or perhaps a fear) for change.

Watching for signs and portents will connect you to your own heart and your own mind. They’ll remind you of what you know to be true, and help you own your knowledge before pain forces it upon. Portents help you prepare for the future; they guide you into integrating your heart with your brain. They’re messages your send yourself, to cut through the clutter of everyday life.

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