Monday, February 28, 2005

How our life is influenced by others

Developmental psychologists would say that our earliest and most lasting influences come from our families and caretakers. If we are fortunate to be raised by loving and attentive people, we internalize values and develop the capacity for connection and intimate attachments, and we construct psychological defenses to provide just the right amount of protection against negative outside influences.

'Inspiration and life are equivalent,' Agnes Martin says, and for her that is true. Her life, her creative expression, is completely aligned with her meditative practice of keeping the mind open, 'free to be inspired.' "

Teachers and neighbors also influenced our self-concepts.

In adolescence we are very much influenced by our peers. Everyone wants to be a part of the “in-group,” accepted and admired. Looking back, which group did you aspire to - the sporty type, the music type all with updated songs and stuff, the studious type, the sissy type, the girl-chasers type, nerds, those with notorcycles type,the bicycle owners type, those with neither type? And how long did it take to get over their influence? Or have you?

Let’s not forget the influence of the communities and the societies in which we grew up- and the sub-societies of religion, class, and ethnicity. Think of which category influenced you the most.

Eighty-eight year old Agnes Martin is one of the foremost abstract artists in the world today. She still works in her studio in Taos, New Mexico, and when I met her in New York a few years ago, the question I was most eager to ask was, “Who had the greatest influence on your painting?”

Her answer was a flat, “I don’t believe in influence.”

Agnes Martin told me she believes in Inspiration.

“Inspiration and life are equivalent,” she says, and for her that is true. Her life, her creative expression, is completely aligned with her meditative practice of keeping the mind open, “free to be inspired.”

Those of us who have a more interactive life out in the world can still benefit from Agnes Martin’s example of choice.

We must simply be discerning about those we allow to influence us. We must choose as confidantes and consultants only those who are skilled to advise us and clearly devoted to our well-being.

Like Agnes Martin, we can also recognize the power of our own inner Wisdom.

Every one of us has deep unconscious resources we can access through our dreams and daydreams. Allow yourself to be influenced by your own Inner Guidance. Start a dream journal and after you’ve recorded a dream in the morning, meditate and see what insight and direction the dream is bringing to you.

Perhaps then you can see what or who influences us most in our life.

Wouldn't that give us a better understanding of ourselves and our actions?

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