You may have noticed that I’ve been conspicuously absent. No blog posts, tweets, or Facebook updates. In fact, I’ve only responded to the most urgent of emails.

I’d love to tell you that I’ve been on a creative sabbatical or cooking up fabulous ideas or off on a great adventure.

But I haven’t.

Call it Mercury retrograde, Murphy’s Law, or just plain old life, but I haven’t had the space or the energy to do anything on my own behalf. Outside circumstances have dictated my reality. Each day has been an effort just to get the basics accomplished.

For a while, I wallowed in guilt.

I should be able to get something more done, shouldn’t I?? Perhaps I could get up at 4:00am instead of 5:00am. Maybe I could dictate a few things while driving in the car. Or scribble a few notes while preparing dinner.

Or not.

(Sleep and avoidance of accidents are high on my priority list.)

Then I fell into frustration.

This doesn’t have to be so hard, I thought. Couldn’t anyone see that I needed a little help here? Couldn’t I have an hour just to relax or create?

No.

(Now and then things are hard.)

Then I marinated in a stew of negativity.

Why me, I asked. Why was this happening, I wondered. Why? Why? Why?

Because.

(Sometimes, that’s just the way it is.)

I stayed in this cranky-pants place until I remembered to ask myself a very important question.

What’s right, right now?

In other words, what was working well for me right now? What could I appreciate right now? What could I be happy about right now, regardless of outside circumstances?

I stepped into that question and found… The sight of white camellia blossoms framed by cedar branches. The tantalizing aroma of peanut butter cookies. The silhouette of the moon captured by clouds in the morning sky. The feel of a brisk walk. A hug from my child. Enough money to do what I needed to do. A family that loves me. Friends I adore. A community that matters.

I came out re-energized.

We all experience less-than-perfect times. Focusing on what’s right – in the present moment – shifts your perspective and changes your mood.

If you can paint vibrant, detailed pictures of what’s working well for you right now, you can weather the tough, gritty parts of life and create a wave of energy to carry you to better times – earlier and more often.

Suddenly, things don’t look or feel nearly so bad, do they?

Energize your life with what’s right, right now.

{ 8 comments }

During the course of a day, you make thousands of tiny decisions. To put butter on your toast or not. To get on the treadmill or not. To do the piece of work you’ve been putting off or not.

Invariably, you follow the course of your inner guidance system – the one that’s got a fairly rigid idea of what you should do, what you should like, what you should want, what you should think, and what your day should look like.

To some extent, that guidance system is in place to get you through the day with ease and to help cut down on the number of decisions you need to make. For example, bran muffins are healthy for you and easy to have for breakfast – so that’s what you eat. Decision made.

Those decisions, made according to your shoulds (and often in your very best interests), end up creating routines.

Those routines create practically the same days with virtually the same outcomes.

Not too playful or especially interesting.

But what if you were interested in creating a different experience? A different day?

It’s possible – playfully.

In theater, there is a form of acting known as improvisation. The actors take their cues from suggestions made by the audience and spontaneously develop dialogues, scenes, and stories – entire plays – based on those suggestions.

In order for an improvised scene to be successful, the improvisers involved must work together responsively to define the parameters and action of the scene, in a process of co-creation. With each spoken word or action in the scene, an improviser makes an offer, meaning that he or she defines some element of the reality of the scene. This might include giving another character a name, identifying a relationship, location, or using mime to define the physical environment. These activities are also known as endowment. It is the responsibility of the other improvisers to accept the offers that their fellow performers make; to not do so is known as blocking, negation, or denial, which usually prevents the scene from developing. ~ Wikipedia

Most of us are resistant to suggestions as a matter of course. It takes too much time to consider the new idea or way of doing things. We know best. It would mess with our routines.  We don’t know what the results might be.

So we block the suggestions.

But what if you chose not to?

What would your day look like if you simply followed the suggestions that came your way? If you played along with what life offered?

  • Ordered the seared tuna recommended by the waiter instead of your usual salad with dressing on the side.
  • Listened carefully to a colleague’s idea around a challenging issue instead of discarding his suggestion immediately because you think he’s an idiot.
  • Acted on a loved one’s hint about the toilet seat instead of ignoring it.
  • Delighted a customer by responding to a problem immediately instead of saying you’ll have to check with your boss.
  • Bought the blue sweater the sales person tells you is a knock-out even though the black one seems more prudent.
  • Moved the couch to the other side of the room when your mom says it would look so much better there even though you disagree.
  • Went to get ice cream with a friend in the middle of the afternoon, for no particular reason, because you were invited instead of instead of staying home and cleaning the kitchen.

Imagine the new scenes and dialogue you might create, not only within yourself, but in your relationships with others as well.

If it seems too, too much to actually act on these kinds of things, what if you just kept track? What if you just wrote down all suggestions you hear during the course of day?

You might be surprised by all the possibilities trying to get your attention on any given day – simply begging you to create a radically different day.

Harness the energy of co-creation, embrace those little suggestions, and find out what playful things life has in store for you.

Are you ready to play?

{ 10 comments }

When you step up to embrace your possibilities, life can get a little crazy.

Which is where mine is at right now. Crazy. But in a totally good way.

A little over a month ago now, I added another thing to my already full plate. It was an opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up since it gave me the chance to work with another president on some big things that I like – like planning for the future. When the offer arrived, I thought, “Yes, that sounds fun, I’ll do it.”

The euphoria of the moment and the interesting nature of the opportunity momentarily overshadowed any costs.

Because there are always costs associated with our choices. Things we give up or forgo – for now – in exchange for the current opportunity.

In my case, the costs include two or three days a week away from home. Long drives. A heavy use of my intuitive and creative reserves. Squeezing in the grocery shopping, getting the oil changed, painting my daughter’s fingernails, and organizing play-dates in between writing blog posts, working with clients, and nudging other projects forward.

On the flip side, every opportunity also brings benefits.

The benefits of my new opportunity include engaging with fabulous people around thorny and intriguing issues (which just delights me!) as well a significant chunk of cash and an education on a whole new set of issues.

So how did I know if this was a good opportunity for me from a cost-benefit perspective?

I don’t – yet.

Let me explain.

The cost-benefit analysis is something we engage in on a daily basis. We do it automatically and unconsciously with even the smallest of decisions.

Do you go to the store now or take a nap instead? Do you sell your house this spring or wait for the market to recover? Do you take the promotion or do you stay in the job that you like?

Weighing these types of questions, we make literal and figurative lists of the pros and cons. We try to figure out what the best answer might be.

But in reality, all we can do is make an educated guess based on where we are in our lives right now.

Do the costs and the benefits of the opportunity seem to make sense right now? Do we understand and agree that the impact on our time, relationships, finances, health, etc. will be worth embracing the opportunity?

If the answer is yes, then we are probably are good to move forward.

But that’s not the end of the story.

The real answer arrives when life recalibrates in response to the accepted opportunity.

Think of it this way. You are a mechanic. The new opportunity is your engine. It has just arrived in the shop and you aren’t familiar with it. You examine it. It looks gorgeous!! You listen to it run. It sounds a little rough. Perhaps it’s the different brand of oil? The new gas? You aren’t sure but you are going to play with it a bit. Try to make a few adjustments.

So you fine-tune that engine. You calibrate and recalibrate until it runs without a hitch … or until you discover that no amount of tinkering will save this baby and you have to throw it out for a new model.

And, guess what?? If you have to throw it out, that’s totally OK.

It is in the tinkering, or the calibrating and recalibrating, that the most important lessons arrive. The ones that inform our next steps. Our next selves.

When I became a realtor, I had no idea why I had chosen that particular occupation other than I liked real estate. All I knew is that it seemed like a good decision based on where I was at that point in my life.

As I moved into the profession and tinkered with my life in response to its demands, I discovered something really important about myself that I hadn’t really understood before – I liked to have my evenings to myself. This doesn’t sound like a huge discovery but it is. The ability to sell real estate usually requires that you show property in the evenings.

Oops.

The good news is that I took that information with me to my next opportunity. And the next several after that.

I became an adept at costing and calibrating.

Costing and calibrating are essential skills for embracing your possibilities. Become an expert. The pay-off will be huge.

{ 4 comments }

There’s an epidemic in my world.

An epidemic of gray. Gray faces. Gray demeanors. Gray outlooks.

It may just be that time of year, the cusp between winter and spring when everything seems to be in a state hibernation and nothing has bloomed yet. Or it may something more serious – like coming off the highs of the start of a promising new year, only discover that not all that much has changed and realizing it’s already March.

You’ve lost your zest. You’ve gotten sucked up into the same old routines. The bickering at work. The weeknight couch-potato fests. The lack of progress on your shiny new business plan. Shall I go on?

Let’s take a breath. Let’s infuse those gray demeanors with a bit of pink.

Let’s play a little game.

I know you’ve got tons on your plate. I really, really do. I can relate. As a single mom of a kindergartner who works, has a business, writes, and spins multiple projects along with mountains of endless laundry, I understand having lots to do.

But this game will be fun, I promise. And, it won’t even be that hard to play once you get started. Taking the first step is the key.

This game is called Just One Thing.

Interested?

Good.

Here’s how it works:

  • Survey your life environment – health, finances, relationships, self-nurturing, spirit, work, etc.
  • Identify where you feel out of touch.
  • Pick one thing – and only one thing – that you could play with in the next week to change that feeling.
  • Do that thing.
  • Examine how that one thing changes your outlook (or not) and why.
  • Record your discovery.

So, let’s say you feel out of touch with your body. It feels lumpy and inflexible. Like it couldn’t move off the couch if it wanted to. What could you play with to change that feeling? Experimenting with some form of body work like massage or Reiki? Signing up for a class introducing the art of the trapeze? (I seriously considered this one!)

Perhaps you feel like your work has gotten stale for some reason. What could you play with to spice it up? Hold your staff meeting at Starbucks instead of the dull-green conference room? Send an email to someone you’d like to have as your mentor but have been too afraid to ask?

The possibilities are endless.

So I challenge you to play.

Name that place in your life where you feel out of touch. Go ahead, put it down in the comments or send me a note if it seems too scary to share it in public.

Pick one thing to play with this week and do it.

Report back on the results.

Can you feel the pink flush yet?

Let the games begin.

*******

P.S. Where do I feel out of touch? Coming up with a totally outrageous, incredible offering in my business that will scare the pants off me and delight others no end. Whew. Just saying it makes me feel kind of pink already. I’ll be playing with this one for sure.

{ 4 comments }

Would you know what to do if you were lost and didn’t know how to find your way?

I’m not talking about being lost in the woods or in an unfamiliar city. I’m talking about being lost in your own life.

After slowly and painfully coming to the realization that I no longer wanted to practice law – and before finding my next thing – an entire year flew by. A year filled with partings and discoveries that reshaped my perspective and changed my path in life.

I parted ways with my job, my career, my marriage, my first home, and many of my “friends” after discovering they belonged to my job and my marriage.

I had no idea what to do next. I had no idea what I wanted to do next.

I was lost and I had no map.

Imagine. Your career has disappeared. Your marriage is over. Your home is gone. Your friendships have evaporated.

What would you do?

It’s either time to crawl under your blanket and never come out or step up and find out what life has in store for you.

Although I admit to spending quite a few days under the blanket, I did finally come out – like a mole afraid of the sun – slowly and cautiously. I was stripped of everything that I thought my life was about.

I was naked. Fresh. Tender. Like a baby. Reborn at the age of 32.

When I finally caught my breath after my many partings, I realized that I had been granted a rare gift – the chance to start over and rebuild things from scratch, my way.

When we are babies, this starting-out-from-scratch business seems natural. We don’t know any better. Kind adults guide us. They offer assistance and direction. They pick us up when we fell down. They tell us everything will be OK. They watch our development and suggest things we might want to try, like piano lessons, drama, and the debate team. They paint pictures of the safest careers for us, the best choices for our temperament and aptitudes. They offer suggestions on where to go to school and what to major in.

They provide us with a map – the template to get from point A to point B in a neat, orderly fashion designed to minimize risk and missteps.

Starting from scratch as an adult isn’t quite the same experience. No one hands you the map.

Finding your way is entirely up to you. You are alone. Every choice is up to you and you have no one to blame if you make the wrong choices or end up somewhere you don’t like.

Making your own map feels scary if you’ve never done it before.

You aren’t sure what you are doing or where you are going exactly. Your peers, family and friends wonder if you might have lost it altogether. Cocktail parties become an agony when the “so, what do you do?” question rears its head, is answered with stammers and long-winded explanations, and then met with silence and blank stares.

There is no socially sanctioned category in which to put someone who is engaged in the fine art of map making.

And it is an art.

Have you ever wondered how the map makers of old crafted maps when they had never seen their world in its entirety?

They simply and imperfectly imagined their way. They attempted to define their place in the world based on what they knew, assumed, and thought to be true.

They experimented their way forward.

They tried. They attempted. They did the best they could with what they knew.

With each experiment, they got a little bit closer to the truth. With each piece of information they gathered, the evolution of the map moved from its misshapen, barely recognizable form to the one we know today.

It is the same with making the map of your life.

It will not appear fully formed. No, indeed it will not. Instead, points and paths will be plotted out one step at time – as you imagine your way forward and gather information about who you are.

Likes. Interests. Loves. Callings.

Will it be easy? No.

Ink will be spilled. Tears will be shed. You’ll chart the wrong course and end up somewhere you don’t want to be. You’ll lose your way only to find it again when you least expect it. Your friends and family will tell you the world is flat and if you keep going, you might fall off.

But the journey?

The journey will be totally worth it. You’ll discover destinations of such power and beauty that you’ll be encouraged to keep going – perfectly imperfectly.

Your map will slowly take exquisite shape and it will reflect all the wonder that is you.

That year that flew by for me?

It was the start of my map-making journey. I imagined my way forward with one small experiment at a time. I played. I dabbled. I focused on what brought me joy. I had no idea what I was doing but with each success, and each failure, I knew a little bit more about the shape of my map.

Oh, the places I’ve been!! Oh, the places I’ve yet to go!!

What about you?

*******

All good map makers need an assistant – to hold the paper, sharpen the pencils, and dig up the eraser. Let’s work together.

{ 10 comments }

How joyful do you feel? Right now? In general?

This question has been weighing on my mind. In the past week, I’ve had conversations with clients and colleagues who felt overwhelmed, dissatisfied, frightened, angry, hurt, and frustrated for one reason or another.

Listening to the stories being shared, I marveled at how easy it is, for all of us, to remain mired in the joyless even when another option exists – the path of joy. Choosing the path of joy might not change the circumstances but it certainly helps shift perspectives, attitudes, and attachments.

Why not choose the path of joy?

Because it’s not easy.

We tend to stay in the joyless because we don’t know or have lost touch with what joy is. And, because we don’t know, we can hardly choose it. Instead, we remain with what is comfortable, known, and easy to access – overwhelm, dissatisfaction, anger, hurt, frustration.

We don’t make it a priority to cultivate joy.

I carried this insight with me to my latest love, the Pilates mat. I discovered Pilates a few weeks ago and fell in love with the fluidity of movement and the awareness it brings to each muscle in my body. When I leave a session, I am filled with wonder and joy. Joy in being alive. Joy in feeling strong.

One sequence of movements in Pilates that I find particularly fascinating is called “the 100.” It focuses on strengthening the body’s core by doing 100 barely-perceptible crunches.

Tiny pulses that build strength one micro-movement at a time.

Joy is like that too. It’s not one big “crunch” it is a series of small actions and movements.

The path of joy is filled with tiny pulses that when added together, form a strong, healthy internal core – one of connection, deep knowing, gratitude, generosity, pleasure, happiness, and contentment.

Choosing  joy is a relatively simple affair when put in terms of tiny pulses, or the micro-movements that fill your internal reserves and expand your outlook. Things like:

  • Forgiving someone at work who makes you crazy.
  • Taking a nap instead of sweeping the kitchen floor.
  • Treating yourself to pink primroses just because.
  • Finally going to the indoor rock climbing center and signing up for one session.
  • Sending a shot of love and patience to the young mother who looks like she’s on her last nerve.
  • Taking ten minutes to savor your morning coffee and watch the sun greet the sky.
  • Pinning your grandmother’s favorite brooch to the belt loop of your jeans so it will be noticed and enjoyed.
  • Sowing seeds in the garden and watching for the first green shoots to arrive.
  • Splurging on a small delicacy that you’ve read about but never tried – caviar, Turkish coffee, a specialty cheese.

All of these tiny pulses add up to a joyful you.

They are moments that can be re-called when times are tough, anticipated when things seem bleak, and noticed in place of less joyful alternatives. They make you strong and allow you to shift your perspective easily because you know you can choose joy when you want to.

What would happen if you incorporated 100 tiny pulses of joy into your life?

One pulse a day for 100 days.

Two pulses a day for 50 days.

Three pulses a day for 33 days.

Four pulses a day for 25 days.

Five pulses a day for 20 days.

Ten pulses a day for 10 days.

It might be just the work-out you’ve been looking for.

*******

Helping people discover their joy points is one of my favorite things to do. Consider working with me in a way that won’t seem like work at all. Click here to find out more.

{ 11 comments }

Last week, I had a bit of an upset. Two things happened that derailed my good cheer and caused me to question the value of what I am doing. When you hear what they are, you will probably laugh because they are so, so minor in the grand scheme of things. But, I know you’ve been there too and will understand what I’m talking about.

First, I made a really embarrassing public mistake by misidentifying someone.

It was, of course, totally unintentional but I felt absolutely terrible about it. Fortunately, the person involved found it hilarious. I’m pretty sure we are now bonded for life over the incident.

However, at the time I was going through the first few minutes of the experience, it was excruciating. I was mortified. It was like one of those near-death experiences where your life flashes in front of your eyes but, instead of my life, every embarrassing mistake I had ever made flashed before my eyes.

  • Like the time I told a gruff judge I was working for that a certain lawyer was a real stinker – only to later discover I had identified the wrong lawyer – after the judge had chewed him out in court.
  • Or, the time I told my boss a piece of legislation was stupid and antiquated, only to discover she had helped draft it.
  • Or, the time I mentioned to a woman I was having lunch with that a certain guy had been flirting with me and he really wasn’t my type, only to remember on the way home that she had once dated this guy for years.

Ouch.

The second thing that happened is something that happens to all bloggers on a regular basis.

Someone unsubscribed from my subscriber list and felt compelled to leave a comment as to why they were unsubscribing. In short, the person said my work was, “boring.”

I looked at that word for a long time. I wondered why someone would take the time to say such an unkind thing. After all, they could have just unsubscribed and we could have parted ways gently and kindly.

Every person who works hard at their craft – whether that is writing, painting, or repairing cars – hopes their work will be appreciated and well-received, if not adored. If it is not, we tell ourselves that the person expressing the negative opinion is not one of our “tribe.”

Logically, this makes sense.

But, in those tender, vulnerable parts of ourselves where we question on a daily basis whether we are adding value, creating beauty, or helping someone, unkind words can land like a heavy stone.

Which was exactly how I felt. Like someone had thrown a stone. That “stone” caused a ripple effect where I wondered what I was doing, did anybody care, was I on the right path, was I really helping anyone.

And, I didn’t feel like writing another word.

Ouch.

At this point in my narrative, you are either laughing at the high drama surrounding these two minor incidents or wondering about my sanity. I hope it is the former.

After getting some distance and perspective, I know I was gifted with two great learning experiences.

First, “shit happens” as we used to say in law school.

It is how you deal with it that makes the difference. You can either crawl into a hole and never come out. Or, you can stand up and look for the opportunity in a situation.

In making my mistake, I chose to look at the opportunity it presented – the opportunity to get to know someone much better than I would have otherwise because we will always share this moment.

Second, the opinions of others do not belong to you.

Opinions can be instructive and well-intentioned or damaging and mean-spirited. In either case, we get to choose our learnings from them.

My learning from my unsubscribed subscriber is that perhaps, there is a grain of truth in the comment; otherwise, it would not have touched me so deeply. It is something for me to explore and consider as I continue to write, define my purpose, and build my business.

So there you have the whole sorry saga.

Once in a while, we need to be shaken up a bit. It’s the upset that gives us the opportunity to reevaluate or reset our thinking, perceptions, and understanding of ourselves.

Have you had a good upset lately?

{ 22 comments }

In law school, my professors were fond of handing out elaborate hypotheticals designed to test our powers of observation and analysis.

Today, I’m going to give you a hypothetical to get you thinking about a facet of our lives that we often overlook or push to the back-burner.

Intrigued? I hope so. At the end, there will be a quiz. Be prepared to explain your response (as they say in every good exam!).

The Hypothetical

You are at work, sitting at your desk, dutifully pouring over the first quarter’s financial projections. You’ve finished your fourth cup of coffee and are considering whether that candy bar in the vending machine will suffice for lunch or whether you need to head across the street for a pre-packaged sandwich when the phone rings.

“Uh oh” you think as you glance at the display screen – “she” only calls when something has gone completely off the rails.

It’s your boss.

With no small amount of trepidation, you answer the call. Prepared for the worst, you paste a smile on your face, extend a cheery greeting, and ask how you can help.

What you hear next practically knocks you off your chair.

Instead of asking you to respond to the latest disaster, your boss tells you that she has decided to give you the afternoon off, with pay. It’s her way of thanking you for all of your hard work.

However, she has one condition:  you must spend the afternoon playing and be prepared to tell her what you did when you return to work the next morning.

You readily agree and get off the phone before she can change her mind. Grabbing your keys, you head out to the parking lot and get into your car.

Sitting behind the steering wheel poised to put pedal-to-the-metal, it hits you:  you have absolutely no idea what she means by “playing.”

You take a moment to consider your options.

You could:  a) take a nap; b) head over to the mall to see if something strikes your fancy; or, c) clean out the garage – something you’ve been meaning to do for the last six months.

You aren’t sure if any of these options will satisfy your boss. The euphoria that filled you moments ago starts to evaporate and panic makes itself known.

The Issue

The issue facing our hypothetical employee is fairly simple – namely, what is play?

For humans, play is a refuge from ordinary life, a sanctuary of the mind, where one is exempt from life’s customs, methods, and decrees. Play always has a sacred place – some version of a playground in which it happens. The hallowed ground is usually outlined, so that it’s clearly set off from the rest of reality. This place may be a classroom, a sports stadium, a stage, a court-room, a coral reef, a workbench in a garage, a church or a temple, a field where people clasp hands in a circle under the new moon. Play has a time limit, which may be an intense but fleeting moment, the flexible innings of a baseball game or the exact span of a psychotherapy session. Sometimes the time limit is prearranged; at other times it’s only recognizable in retrospect. The world of play favors exuberance, license, abandon. Shenanigans are allowed, strategies can be tried, selves can be revised. In the self-enclosed world of play, there is no hunger. It is its own goal, which it reaches in a richly satisfying way. Play has its own etiquette, rituals and ceremonies, its own absolute rules. ~ Diane Ackerman, Deep Play

So, I ask you, do any of the options selected by the hypothetical employee qualify as play?

The importance of this question cannot be underestimated – not only for purposes of this hypothetical, but for our own lives, as well. Many of us, I fear, would find ourselves in the same situation as our hypothetical employee if we were unexpectedly granted a moment, an hour, an afternoon, or day that was completely our own for the sole purposes of playing.

We wouldn’t know what play was. We wouldn’t know what – exactly – was expected of us.

Which is both sad and funny at the same time.

We used to know the answer quite clearly back in the days when we could entertain ourselves with anything, be it breadcrumbs or cardboard boxes. In an instant, we could slip away from the ordinary, manufacture the extraordinary, and enter a state of divine concentration where the only goal was to have fun.

As we grew older, play was pushed out of us. We were encouraged to sit up straight, stop goofing around, and get to work.

Gradually, we stopped playing.

We grew up and, worse yet, we forgot what play was or how to do it.

The Rules of Play

So, let’s break down the elements of play as described by Ackerman:

  • A refuge from ordinary life
  • A sacred place
  • A time limit
  • Favoring exuberance, license, and abandon
  • With the play itself being the end goal
  • Done according to its own rules

Using this framework, can you define what constitutes play? For our hypothetical employee? For you?

The Quiz

Will our hypothetical employee be able to fulfill the boss’s request?

If you had one minute to list everything you do that counts as play, what would be on the list?

Would you know what to do if someone told you to go out and play?? If not, why not?

{ 11 comments }

Let’s talk about beliefs – specifically, beliefs that don’t serve our best interests.

You’ve got them. I’ve got them. We just forget they are there sometimes because they live below the surface of our consciousness. Lurking. Waiting to trip us up. Keeping us from what we want.

Simple words that keep ugly little messages in our heads like:

  • I will never have enough money.
  • My job bites.
  • I am getting old.
  • No one understands me.
  • I’m overweight.
  • My co-workers are stupid.

These beliefs influence the way we approach our days – and, ultimately, the way we approach our lives.

One of the things I treasured most about my interview with Martha Beck last week was her suggestion that we hold our beliefs “lightly” and that we not give them so much weight or credence.

But how is that actually done??

According to Martha, one way to do it is to allow ourselves to see that the opposite of what we believe is also true.

By seeing that the things we believe to be true may also be false, we force the verbal brain to relinquish its obsessive belief that it knows the “right way,” or “how things should be.” This throws us out of our preconceptions and into pure perception and observation, into a state of open-mindedness. ~ Martha Beck, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World

So, let’s give that a try with the examples I noted above (these are not necessarily my beliefs – they are intended to illustrate how our “belief” thinking could work):

  • I will ALWAYS have enough money.
  • My job ROCKS.
  • I am getting YOUNG.
  • EVERYONE understands me.
  • I’m NOT overweight.
  • My co-workers are SMART.

Feeling some resistance? I bet.

But step back and look at those statements and see if you can allow yourself to discern their truth with an open-mind.

This can take a bit of work, depending on what beliefs you are playing with, but you can get there. By way of example, our new opposite truths might look something like this:

  • Yes, I will always have enough money because I always have had. I’m still here, aren’t I?
  • Yes, my job does rock. It allows me to eat, buy clothes, and talk with interesting people. Shall I go on?
  • Yes, I am getting “young.” Every day I learn new things or open my mind to more possibilities – things I hadn’t even considered when I was 18.
  • Yes, everyone understands me – especially when they get a chance to talk with me, one-on-one.
  • Yes, I am not overweight because I am not my weight. I am simply me.
  • Yes, my coworkers are smart. I just haven’t taken the time to focus on their particular brilliance.

Still feeling a bit of resistance??

That’s OK. Most likely, you are having trouble believing the words.

And, that is exactly Martha’s point.

We have allowed words to be the “truth” about ourselves when the real truth lies elsewhere – namely, in our experience.

Words – or language – are arbitrary. Words are something we have assigned to give meaning to experiences so that we could all communicate in some way. But, the words, in and of themselves, are not our truth.

Truth itself is something you live, not something you think…. Talking about [words] isn’t enough to experience them; in fact, it often becomes a barrier to real experience by convincing us we know something truly when we really only know it verbally. To avoid this mind trap, cultivate the ability to identify, or even create, paradoxes in your everyday thinking. In other words, whenever you find yourself believing a statement is true, identify ways that its opposite could also be true. ~ Martha Beck, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World

Go live your truth.

Leave the words behind.

Open the pathways to new possibilities and new ways of being.

Try the “opposite is also true experiment” – I’d love to know what your experience of it is. Please share in the comments!

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One of the things I like to ask people is what feels impossible to them. If you had asked me that question, I would have said, “I’d love to do an interview with Martha Beck but there’s no way that’ll ever happen!”

But I went ahead and asked anyway.

You can only begin to imagine how I felt when I received a “yes” to my near-to-impossible request but even more, when I read these words from her in answer to one of my questions:

I believe things are even more magical and exciting than I was able to express….

No kidding! You couldn’t have told me that having Martha Beck on my site was possible. But clearly, it is.

Everything really is possible.

And here she is. Magical. Exciting. And then some… Enjoy!

*******

AO:   For quite some time, I have sensed that a shift is occurring in the way we need to show up in the world in order to thrive personally and financially. Your new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want, seems to embody that conversation. What is this “wild new world” and what do you think it will ask of us?

MB:  We live at a time of unprecedented change. Technological innovation means that many industries are disappearing, methods of production and transferring wealth are being upended.  We’re also changing the face of the earth, affecting the oceans, the atmosphere, and the climate in ways that could be devastating to all life (except cockroaches). And the change is accelerating so quickly that futurists now say they can’t imagine what will happen by 2050. Ray Kurzweil calls that year “the singularity,” because, like the physics of singularity in a black hole, change will become so rapid that it can’t be meaningfully measured.

This is terrifying if you’re thinking the way most of us learned to during the 20th century—in methodical, logical steps focused on physical processes. But we evolved to cope with chaos, and so a return to our instincts—and to the methods of “wayfinding” used by our ancestors—can help us not only handle our challenges as individuals and as a group, but create huge positive change and even reverse the damage we’ve done. Not to be alarmist, but if we don’t do this soon, we’re toast.  I believe that precisely the changes needed to thrive personally will give each of us skill sets we need to play a part in an overall positive transformation.  It’s time for humans to begin living harmoniously, in a way we’ve never really seen. But it is possible, and necessary—and wonderful.

AO:   We all dream of living fully and embracing our possibilities. If we only had time to cultivate one skill or attribute that would allow us to move closer to that reality, what would it be and why?

We would learn to question and dissolve our beliefs. Not that all our beliefs have to go—we just need to recognize the small, earthshaking truth that our beliefs are artifacts of mind, not reflections of absolute reality. Once you can question your beliefs, you can let go of almost all the torment that exists in many human minds.  You can begin to see the world with less distortion, since our beliefs shape our perceptions (psychologists now know that we don’t believe what we see—we see what we believe, filtering perception to fit our preconceptions).

Once you hold beliefs lightly, you can respond to your instincts and your real preferences. Fears of failure and impossibility can be questioned and released. To a huge extent, people’s lives are a reflection of their expectations, and if we expect what brings us joy, rather than believing our fear, we can create changes so positive they look like miracles.

AO:   I asked my readers what they would most love to ask you if they had the opportunity. I received many fabulous submissions but I chose these two because they speak to what many of us are afraid to say out loud.

First Reader Question:  I know–deep down in the bottom of my soul know–that the work I’m doing isn’t the right work for me.  I highly–skyscraper high highly–suspect my issues with work are closely related to my health issues. I even know what it is I love doing, and I know there are people making making-a-living money at it, and I know I have the talent to do it, too. BUT, I have tons to learn and it feels like I can’t do all the work/learning I need to do while doing this soul-sucking work that impacts my health AND given this economy and the two teenage children with college barreling towards us that I need to provide for and my age (solidly middle) I do not feel at all that I can be cavalier about any of this.  

I am trying to do what I can in the time that I have and take care of my health and celebrate every little step forward I take … but I’m wondering if there is something else/more/different I might do.  

For what it’s worth, when I was mired in the deepest pit of what-do-I-do-about-my-marriage/life hell, Martha’s book The Joy Diet was one of the ropes I pulled myself up with. When wanting to do something I’m unsure of, I still ask myself her question about whether the option I’m considering feels more like jumping into a clean pool of water or a murky, dirty one. Helps me every time.

MB:  First of all, I’m honored that you found something worth reading in my books—thank you! What I’d suggest is that you begin slowly adding more of the “tons” you must learn to do your real life’s work, subtracting a little from the soul-sucking horrible job. I’m not asking for the moon—start with 15 minutes a day. You’ll find that the learning doesn’t require additional energy from you; it will give you energy. 

I found this out when I was in violent chronic pain and exhaustion. Just 15 minutes a day of what I loved (reading novels and working on my first memoir) added so much energy that I felt I’d slept an extra hour.  Don’t be daunted by the learning—have fun! If it really is taking you toward your heart’s desire, you’ll be amazed how different it feels from the work you’ve been told is “solid.”  You’ll also learn surprisingly fast. Don’t think of it—the learning or building a career—as your “life’s work.” It is quite literally your life’s play. Work is SO twentieth-century.

 Second Reader Question:  I find that I constantly hold myself back – I can’t give into abundance or happiness even when I am in the midst of it. How do you learn to trust that and stop looking for the other shoe to drop? I do this in so many ways – including not taking advantage of wonderful opportunities that are basically handed to me on a platter. This is more than just living in the moment because I can find happiness in most moments as long as they remain small and therefore not scary – what is terrifying is THRIVING. Absolutely terrifying. 

MB:  Our brains are wired to look for danger and disappointment everywhere—but the wiring isn’t “hard,” it’s “soft.” Psychiatrists can help change the brains of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder by showing them fMRI readings of their brains while they’re having an anxious moment. They learn the lesson we can all use on our anxieties: “This is just a connection in my brain I created by thinking anxious thoughts over and over. If I can think something else, the wiring will change and the anxiety will fade.”

AO:  Thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts with us, Martha. Is there anything else you would want us to know?

MB:  Only that I believe things are even more magical and exciting than I was able to express in Finding Your Way. The more I “deep practice” the basic way of thinking (or not-thinking) that I described in the book, the more the world astonishes me. I can’t wait to read other people’s stories of the wild and crazy things that happen to others as they explore this way of operating in the world. We really can surf the waves of change, and the ride is just going to keep getting wilder.

*******

Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want is a definite must-have for your book shelf if you really want to embrace your possibilities. It’s a guide to tapping into the “deep, wordless knowledge” that we all carry in our bodies and souls. Martha draws on ancient wisdom and modern science to show you how to consciously create the life you want. It’s simply magical.

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