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Excerpt from "The Zero Point Agreement"

Introduction: Reaching For Meaning

by Julie Tallard Johnson


No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
--Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, poet and aphorist

The zero point agreement is based on systems theory of interdependence (ecosystems, family dynamics, group dynamics, communities), the Buddhist principle of dependent co-arising (nothing exists isolated or independently), as well as the ethics of personal responsibility (we each are responsible for our experiences), and, finally, on our interaction with nature (we are part of the whole). This systematic wisdom is the foundation to the zero point agreement and the life of a meaning maker.

In your life you are the zero point. I use this term more as a metaphor than as a science. Just like the image of a dream catcher presents to us a template of the web of life, at its center (its zero point) is an opening through which everything comes into the web and everything moves out of the web. Everything in our life comes through us or from us. Of course we are also weaved into countless other webs and are part of the larger web of life--and every other system, every other web, has its own center.

Imagine having your life open up to the greatest potentiality of any moment, of having the ability to make meaning from any given situation, as well as having a tangible way to transform personal and global wounds. This is what living life from your side as a meaning maker offers you. A global awakening can only take place on a personal level through a collection of individuals. Each snowflake in a blizzard makes up the storm. Every ingredient counts to make the recipe. In the recipe of your life, you are the primary ingredient. The zero point insists on an active engagement with your life and in return you are given inspiration to live creatively and ethically.

The zero point agreement states that you take 100% responsibility for your experiences. Without at least the consideration of personal responsibility we will not experience the fulfillment that is possible in our one brief lifetime. Taking responsibility for our experiences is fundamental to personal happiness as well as living ethically and creatively.

We must be our own before we can be another’s.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Imagine This

Take a moment now and close your eyes. Take a deep breath and rest your awareness in the physical sensation of your breath. Just watch your breath as it moves in and out of the body. Then take a moment to notice. Notice the physical sensations of your body breathing and sitting. Don’t add any spin to it; just notice the sensations.


Imagine that you are a drop in the ocean. Everything around you and in you is the ocean. Breathe and imagine (don’t force anything). Notice how, as the drop, you are part of the whole, belonging intimately to the whole, while at the same time a unique drop within the ocean. Breathe and imagine the physical sensation of this oceanic quality surrounding you and inside of you. This is what is meant to live life from your side. You are part of the whole but uniquely so. You can only contribute to the whole from your side, from your place in the ocean.

Blessed By Choice

Behold this day. It is yours to make.

--Black Elk

Each of us is always blessed with third options, with choices. If there is one thing the scientific approach to living our life points to, it is that there is no end to our abilities to discover and make meaning. There are no absolutes, no end point in our explorations and possibilities. The blessing comes in participating in our surroundings and consciously making meaning through our perceptions and choices. We are always making meaning through our choices, but now, we do so consciously, deliberately, and creatively while tapping into the universe’s power to manifest. We are like gardeners (always) in the Garden of Eden, with the most basic choices sometimes awakening us to our true nature. Do I eat the apple? Every decision, as Joseph Campbell says, “is a destiny decision.”

Sometimes our blessings are limited. There is a tangible poverty that surrounds us. We are not offered an obvious tapestry of choices. Still, even when the choices seem bleak, every moment offers up some third options (the true potentiality within the situation), and it is in our choices (conscious or not) that a future harvest depends.

Epictetus said that people are disturbed not by the events but by the meanings they make of them. Stories contain the meaning we make of our lives events.
--Lewis Mehl-Madrona, Coyote Healing

Even so, with a variety of choices available to us, research shows that we have a tendency to habitually respond in a patterned and limited way to our circumstances. We often remain blind to the variety of possibilities inherent in the situation. Our own perspective and history limit us. Our past agreements and beliefs and our supporting assumptions based on our history prevent us from taking risks, reaching out and making something remarkable happen. I refer to these as the pain stories we carry around with us. Up until now you may have been using much of your energy (consciously and unconsciously) to perpetuate your pain stories. In these stories, you carry around assumptions about why things are the way they are and why you need what you need, as well as your assumptions about everything and everyone. Our pain stories may have originated with acerbic events, but we are the playwright of our lives (and the director and actor). The historical and conditional cause of any particular pain story holds no power in comparison to our ability to rewrite and re-create our lives. The Universe, through its natural laws of creation, supports us in making meaning within the different settings of our lives.

Julie Tallard Johnson is a transpersonal counselor, licensed clinical social worker, and creative writing consultant. She has been studying the scientific basis of thought transformation, inspiration, and creativity for 35 years. She is the author of several books, including Wheel of Initiation and Spiritual Journaling. She lives in Wisconsin.

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The Zero Point Agreement by Julie Tallard Johnson © 2013 Destiny Books. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com


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