The heart-stuff

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in,”

or, more specifically, how it gets out.

To see — literally — where I find myself with this famous lyric, check out this video of Leonard Cohen live and how it incorporates some remarkable footage of the natural world.

Notice where the cracks are.

The cracks are in the clouds. Behind them, the sky is always clear and the sun and other stars are always shining. The cracks let the light get *out*. Out and into the world.

And there are cracks in the earth itself — in rock — letting water pour out and over and into the world.

Just so, I think your cracks and mine let light stream out of our hearts — out of that space where the ineffable always glows, regardless of what we do or don’t do. Our cracks let it out into the world.

Happily for us, the light has to flow through our bodies and minds to get into the world. And then we get to actually believe in and experience that light, and it feels lovely.

If “light” doesn’t accurately describe your experience of this marvel/sensation, Antonio Machado has some options:

Last Night As I Was Sleeping

by Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

The original:

Anoche cuando dormía
soñé ¡bendita ilusión!
que una fontana fluía
dentro de mi corazón.
Dí: ¿por qué acequia escondida,
agua, vienes hasta mí,
manantial de nueva vida
en donde nunca bebí?

Anoche cuando dormía
soñé ¡bendita ilusión!
que una colmena tenía
dentro de mi corazón;
y las doradas abejas
iban fabricando en él,
con las amarguras viejas,
blanca cera y dulce miel.

Anoche cuando dormía
soñé ¡bendita ilusión!
que un ardiente sol lucía
dentro de mi corazón.
Era ardiente porque daba
calores de rojo hogar,
y era sol porque alumbraba
y porque hacía llorar.

Anoche cuando dormía
soñé ¡bendita ilusión!
que era Dios lo que tenía
dentro de mi corazón.

Spring water, golden honey, sunshine, or God? Exactly.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All Your Dreams Are Good Dreams

Bad dreams can feel so remarkably… bad. And if they recur over and over, well you can start to dread sleep.

I’ve found the best way to handle bad dreams, recurrent dreams, or good dreams, for that matter, is to dive right into them. One of my favorite analysis methods was pioneered by Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung and made more accessible and contemporary by one of my favorite teachers, author Martha Beck. When you look at dreams in this way, they usually vanish, but, more importantly, they always reward you with increased happiness in your waking life.

Sound too good to be true? Try the following analysis method with one of your dreams.

  • Read the following long, detailed description with a full example. Or…
  • Start right off with the worksheet. 

The analysis looks involved when I write it all out for you here, but with practice it flows, feels fun, and is deeply adventurous.

If you get stuck, contact me to book a dream analysis phone call. It is SO much easier and more fun and rewarding with experienced company.

Enjoy, and let me know how it goes!

PS — My other favorite way to play with dreams is using Jung’s own “transcendent function” as I demonstrated here. It’s much less prescribed: some people love that, and some people prefer this step-by-stepway. Both are helpful and powerful.

Dream Analysis Worksheet

Click here for a link to a google doc .jpg you can print.

dream-worksheet

Dream Analysis Method (4 steps… with an example)

Step 1: Write down your dream.

Short dreams actually work best, so don’t worry if all you have is a “fragment.” You don’t need a full story.

Example: I am riding a yellow bear. It is kind of adventurous, but then for some reason I slit the bear’s throat. I instantly feel horrible and watch it bleeding with horrible sadness and regret. I wish I hadn’t done that. I don’t know why I did and wish I could take it back and resume riding the bear.

Note: It’s best to write in present tense not in past tense. (And yes, this example is intentionally weird and a little deviant just so you don’t feel bad if your own dreams are… odd. In truth, we all have EXTREMELY strange dreams, much stranger than I want to write in this post. So don’t feel bad if you do. Seriously.)

Step 2: Make a list of the “elements” (person, place, thing, and activity) in the dream.

Example:

Riding

Yellow

Bear

Slit

Throat

Bleeding/Blood

Step 3: Analyze each element, as follows:

a) Pretend you ARE each element.

Remember when you were a kid, playing, and your brother would say to you, “You be the antelope, and I’ll be the wolf.” And then he’d try to chase you down and rip off your limbs? Wait, maybe that was just in my family (!), but you remember playing make-believe. So do that now.

This is a form of what’s called “active imagination.” I want you to BE the thing in your dream for a good reason: because that thing actually is representing a part of you. So don’t look on like an observer and describe what your regular, conscious self thinks about that thing. BE that thing. Because you are 🙂

Don’t worry if it’s a bad thing. We all have every bad thing in us as well as every good thing. But their appearance in our dreams always will help the development of our true, essential self. And by the way, that essential self, deep inside, IS good. I promise.

b) Speaking AS the element, describe yourself with three descriptors.

Say to yourself “I am [insert an element here ]. I am [description #1, description #2, and description #3].” There are no right or wrong answers here, just describe yourself quickly with whatever random thing comes to mind.

Example:

I am “riding.” (Pretending to be an action or an adjective is even more abstract than pretending to be something like a bear, but you can do this hard thing!) I am an athletic activity. I am a vigorous activity. I am fun.

I am “yellow.” I am cheerful, bright, sunny.

I am the bear. I am huge, strong, wild.

I am “slitting.” I am deadly, quick, sly.

I am the throat. I am the part of the body that swallows food and talks. I am vulnerable to attack. I attach the head to the body.

If your description brings up another element, add it to your list.

I am food. I am nourishing, tasty, essential for life.

I am the head. I am heavy, on top, and smart.

I am “bleeding” or “blood.” (You can convert from verb to noun, like this, if it feels right to you.) I am vital to life. I’m red. I’m liquid.

c) Speaking AS the element, state your purpose.

Example:

I am “riding.” My purpose is to let a person use the superior strength and speed of a larger thing in order to get somewhere more easily.

I am “yellow.” My purpose is to be bright. (Sometimes your answers repeat from the previous step. That’s ok.)

I am the bear. My purpose is to live my wild life.

I am “slitting.” My purpose is to kill quickly and quietly.

I am the throat. My purpose is to ingest food and communicate with sounds.

I am food. My purpose is to give the being energy to live.

I am the head. My purpose is to do the thinking.

I am “bleeding” or “blood.” My purpose is to carry nourishment throughout the body.

d) Speaking AS the element, give us your helpful message for the dreamer.

Remember Carl Jung’s main point: each dream element is a metaphor that your unconscious mind has created in order to help you. It’s a part of you. And it’s showing up for a reason — a reason that’s always beneficial for you. Always.

Example:

I am “riding,” and I am here to help Betsy by reminding her that she is not propelling herself through life all on her, under her own power.

I am “yellow.” My message for Betsy is that there is sunshine in the most unlikely places. Like even underneath you, carrying you forward.

I am the bear. I showed up here to tell Betsy that my seemingly dangerous, wildness is fun and useful — a wild ride!

I am “slitting.” My message for Betsy is that when you have to kill something, do it in a way that they don’t see coming and that doesn’t hurt them. It’s safer and more effective for you, and more humane to them.

I am the throat. I am here to help Betsy by showing her what she’s doing. She’s cutting open the wild thing right where it’s most easily killed — severing it’s head from it’s body. [Don’t judge me, dear reader. I am actually engaging in this process as we go, and I will say it’s a vulnerable feeling, baring my psyche like this.]

I am food. I’m here to help by pointing out that… [I don’t know I’m getting nothing here. Sometimes that happens and you can just skip it as long as you’re not skipping too many things.]

I am the head. My message to Betsy is that the wild thing doesn’t really die that easily. [Sometimes the message makes no sense. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to go with whatever theme you have seen developing. That’s okay.]

I am bleeding/blood. I’m here to help Betsy by clotting. I mean, my message to her is: remember that blood clots.

Here I better do a quick analysis of “clotting” since it’s a new element. I am clotting. I’m a thickening of blood, a natural healthy self-preserving process. My purpose is to stop a living being from dying of blood loss. My message to Betsy is that her wild self’s natural processes will save it even from her! Whoa.

e) Now stop being the elements and just be yourself, the dreamer. Look at each element and what you’ve written about it. What could it be symbolizing in your life? Try asking yourself, “what in my life feels the way this feels?” “What part of me is this a metaphor for?” Or fill in the sentence: “oh… this is like ___.” After you noodle around ideas, underline your answer for easy reference.

Important: Carl Jung said that each symbol in the dream represents a part of the dreamer.

–>Very occasionally, a thing in the dream is really representing itself. So, for example. a dream of your Mom could be about her. But more likely it’s about a part of you that is like your Mom. Maybe it’s your caring side. Or your sarcastic side. Or the part of you that is creative (like how mothers create new life). It probably symbolizes whatever trait you associate with your mother on the day you are analyzing the dream. Remember, too, that symbols can change over time. <–

Example: (I know this is getting long. Skip around, obviously! I just want you have to have one complete example to refer to.)

“Riding” seems to me to be symbolic of “how I get through life.”

“Yellow” in this case sounds like optimism.

The bear is like my own wild nature

“Slitting” is.. just that. (Sometimes you do all the analysis but the word the dream gave you is PERFECT.)

Food is like nourishment — not just physical but spiritual, intellectual, emotional. (Note: I skipped forward and did this element before I finished the “throat” analysis below because I needed this information to do that analysis.)

The head is the logical-thinking kind of mind. (Ditto from note above.)

The throat seems to be a metaphor for getting nourishment and communicating. The dream seems to be saying that the same part of my wild nature that does those things connects my wild nature’s logical, thinking mind to its more “bodily” part.  And that this part is especially vulnerable.  And that I’m slicing it open. Oh man. Here’s where you ask yourself: “Based on the description I just wrote, what part of my life could this symbolize for me?” I’d have to say… information (specifically, the truth) and love.

The bleeding/blood is losing the life force that distributes the nourishment and keeps my wild nature alive, but interestingly, it also can clot. I have to ask myself, “what feels like the life blood of my wild nature — distributing nourishment throughout it and keeping it alive?” I’m not sure, so I go back and re-read the descriptors I wrote for blood: vital to life, red, liquid. This seems to be an important element in the dream, so I am going to do a quick analysis of “red” and “liquid” since I didn’t pull those out separately before.

I’m the color “red.” I’m powerful, primary/elemental, the color of fire. My purpose is to attract attention and be visible and represent danger. (My thinking is that’s why animals have red markings as predator deterrents; why emergency vehicles are red; etc. Please remember my interpretation of red might be different tomorrow. And yours definitely will be different. We could say cheerful and life-like. It all depends on what comes up for you the day you do this.) I’m here to help Betsy by making her consider those things in this list because she might normally think they are not very polite, but she needs to consider and value them. [Sheesh. I guess “red” seems to me to be like power.]

I’m “liquid.” I’m flowing, not solid, not gas, wet. My purpose is to be a state in which a material can flow or be pumped from one place to another easily. My message to Betsy is that I am a resilient material that can get to (and get into) places easily. [Liquid feels like a metaphor for the ability of something to flow where ever it wants to go.]

Now, if I combine that information with what I had before, then “blood” — the life force of my wild nature —  would seem to represent: easily flowing power that handily and naturally gets where it needs to go to preserve my wild nature’s life. Wow.

Clotting: Now, when an element references ANOTHER element, you can combine them. For example, if I combine things I wrote above, then “clotting” would be “a thickening” of my wild nature’s “easily flowing power ” wherein that power turns itself into a plug to stop itself from draining out so much as to kill my wild nature. So the the question is: what does that seem to me to symbolize? Okay this is getting intense and cosmic. So… it’s when my normally free-flowing wild-ish (i.e., free and not necessarily civilized) power turns itself into a solid, thick mass to block the flow of that power OUT of my wild nature. [What I’m trying to show you here is that when it gets hard to understand, I keep re-stating my own words it in different ways.] So.. my wild power obstructs ITSELF. For a good reason. Holy smokes.

When you get to this point, you ask yourself, “does that sound like something in my life?” And weirdly it does. Yesterday I balked at a plan I’d made some time ago. I found myself desperately feeling in my bones that I wanted to change my mind, so I decided to cancel my plan. But then I felt some self-induced social pressure that made me think I was stifling my self out of fear, and I decided I should ignore my gut desire to cancel. But I just couldn’t seem to stop that sluggish feeling and indeed felt like I was shutting down. The above description of “clotting” and that “thickening of power to block its own flow” feels like that “stopping up” process. It felt like I was scabbing over — but maybe that’s not a bad thing?


Step 4:
Re-write your dream, BUT for each element, substitute its symbolic meaning.

You can insert some of the other things you wrote about that element too if you find yourself wanting to. (I usually find it feels good to do that on the main elements or when the messages seem exceptionally powerful.)

In the example, I’ve underlined the metaphor substitutions I took from above and inserted for each element. Sometimes a substitution seems not to make complete sense or even work in a grammatical sense. Just go with it.

Example: I am going through life being propelled or carried on my own optimistic,  wild nature (in this dream it reminds me it’s here and that I don’t have to do it all myself with my regular socially-acceptable consciousness!). Its purpose is to live its own wild life and it tells me that my seemingly dangerous wildness is a fun, useful ride! It is all kind of adventurous, but then for some reason I slit my own wild nature’s throat — I mean I slice into my wild nature’s truth and love in a move that surely could kill it. I instantly feel horrible and watch with sadness and regret as it’s bleeding out, losing that easily flowing power — its life force. I don’t know why I did, and I wish I could take it back and resume riding the bear. BUT the thing I can’t see, the thing that the power/blood is telling me in this dream, is that my wild power ITSELF — the flow of it via a place of truth and love —  is invisibly thickening into a solid clot that will staunch its own flow in an attempt to keep my wild nature from dying. It could heal the place of truth and love and save my wild bear nature. That’s what was happening yesterday when I was wanting to change my mind about cancelling that plan: it felt like something was getting thick and scabbing over, but now this dream seems to be saying maybe that’s a good thing… if I really want to resume riding my big, strong, dangerous, sunny, bear-like wild nature through life.

Wow. Probably that seems like gibberish to you, but it lands in my essential self with a deep and satisfying ca-thunk. The re-telling is often hard to put your finger on. But it feels powerful to you nonetheless and works on you in mysterious ways.

Step 5: Thank your essential self for this message. Do something in the outer world to honor the dream.

This doesn’t mean you have to change your life. I could indeed see this a sign to follow through with my gut desire to cancel my plan. But I don’t have to. I just as easily could make a sketch of the bear; google “yellow bears” and look at pictures or read about them* ; send a donation to an organization that helps preserve bears; etc. Just doing something in the outer world is a way of integrating your unconscious’ ideas and thanking it for communicating with you. Your essential self’s messages have reached you and you are affected by them — whether you change your immediate behavior or not, you will find yourself increasingly enriched and at peace.5455426064_fca9750514_o

*Here’s the image I found! I don’t know why it’s an octopus riding the bear — that of course wasn’t in my dream and my bear was considerably less cuddly and much more fierce — but I went with it. Interestingly, I am reading a book right now about octopuses and how their
intelligence redefines our ideas of consciousness! Woo-woo… Click on this link to visit the cool “Dog, Bear and Monkey blog” that posted that pic. I hope it’s legal for me to put that pic here as long as I refer you to the origin!

Posted in Dream work, Essential Self, Metaphor as a personal transformation tool for you | 2 Comments

“Problems aren’t problems, happiness isn’t happiness, worry is nothing to worry about, nothing is nothing, and everything is everything:” my latest favorite game

A Game!

Fill in the blank (insert any emotion, state, or situation):

“[Blank*] is nothing to [Blank — the same blank as before or some grammatically correct form of Blank] about.

[Blank] isn’t [Blank.].

Three ways to win this game:

  1. Make yourself laugh OR
  2. Shock yourself into pure consciousness OR
  3. Find a case where one of those newly-formed sentences DOESN’T hold true. They kind of always do, huh?

Please get back to me with your results and your own favorite variations on this game (mine are in the title)!

Posted in Emotions, Favorites, Fear and bravery, Heartbreak, letting go, Thought work | Leave a comment

The 12-Second Rule (yes, this might truly change everything)

It’s not that I disagree when people say “Be happy now —
don’t wait for some circumstance to change.” I just don’t FullSizeRenderfind it to be a helpful instruction, especially in the midst of a dark night of the soul.

But last week a mighty force for good pointed me to a practical, game-changing “how-to.” It’s like the 5-Second Rule… only inside out, backwards, and 2-1/2 times bigger. I call it:

The 12-Second Rule

Whenever you have a positive experience — even a very tiny one — pause for 12 seconds. Absorb it, and feel it integrating into your insides.

Ahh… feel that.

And as if that weren’t enough, science shows it actually makes you happier going forward. I think it’s worth an experiment on oneself to see.

All my best,

Betsy

PS: I hope you check out this pleasant, short Tedx talk by Dr. Rick Hansen based on his in-depth book that describes this inner phenomenon’s neuroscience.  But I suspect you don’t need those details for “proof.” I suspect you’re “aha’ing” all over the place, thinking:

So THAT’s why Aunt Laura was so beatific.

I’ve HAD that experience.

Maybe that’s why we like vacations — we take the time to do this.

Maybe this is what Oprah does in her gratitude exercises.

Maybe this is why Eckhardt says the power is in the now.

Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said the kingdom of God was at hand.

Maybe this is what the Buddhists teach in mindfulness.

Wait… there’s probably always some small positive happening to me that I can find, notice, and absorb. Like: a stranger holds the door open; the sky; breathing.

Maybe this is why the yogis of yore taught us to focus on the breath and to feel it nourishing us.

Did I really just put Aunt Laura, Oprah, Eckhardt, Jesus, Buddha, and  the yogis of yore in the same list? Yes… and I love that. I think I’ll wallow in that a second or 12.

I suspect you’re stringing more aha’s and 12-second-happiness-integration-sessions closer and closer together. I would love to receive a message, email, or comment from you about your experience — so I can soak in it too.

PPS: Thank you to my friend and colleague, Rena Rachar — a true wonder in this world — for bringing this to my attention. I recommend you find some excuse to work with her.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“If I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart.”*

~ Someone I know has been side-railed by the pain of someone they love.

Indeed everyone I’ve ever known has at some point frozen up because they didn’t want to hurt someone else.

I have too. (Those of you who know me are whispering “understatement…”)

It’s because we want those people to be well and safe and to live in joy and peace.

~ But stuckness is a red flag

UnknownMy experiences and values — as well as the stories, data, and theories I’ve collected from admirable folks both famous and not — tell me that when I find myself immobile, it’s a sign of some misperception on my part

That’s because truth always frees us up — reveals and allows our next move.

~ In these cases it’s best to look into reality. Very specifically

My friend and I decided to look at the lives of people we admire and care about and see if there has been any evidence of opposite scenarios in which:

–> Someone went ahead and lived the way they wanted even though they were pretty sure (and sad) that it would contribute to the unhappiness of someone they cared about… but in fact the other person ended up thriving.

We found so many examples that you might think I’m making it up, but likely, if you play along, you will find tons too.

Who: Spurned spouse stories alone numbered twelve before we forced ourselves to move on. Then we found examples of bosses, colleagues, parents, siblings, kids, other relatives, friends, heros, mentors, advisors, and entire religions, fields of work, and nations — basically every kind of entity you could care about — who recovered after a person disappointed them. Actually they not only recovered but ended up so much better off.

“Selfish Action”: The potentially wounding actions in our stories included severing ties with that person, quitting a job, declining a promotion, moving, not moving, changing hairstyles, coming out as something different  (different religion, gender, sexual preference, political affiliation,  and more) rearranging furniture, going sober, changing professions, quitting school, revealing personal details in writing a book or movie, being late, canceling plans or trips, spending money on something, getting a pet, taking a class, simply telling someone that their actions/words feel hurtful or distasteful, ceasing to do a behavior they no longer find enjoyable (cooking, driving…) doing any of the above to a third party that the person cares about(!), or some elaborate combo (e.g., becoming a male warrior to save your people and land when you should be a bride, as a certain Disney hero did).

Results: The other person ended up happier in these stories for different reasons — because they moved to a place they adored, found out they loved living alone, discovered the joys of living with friends rather than relatives, moved in to help with grandkids or aging relatives, reconnected with old friends, made all new kinds of (healthier or more fun for them) friends, ended up with a new romantic someone who was much more easily suited to them, got into therapy or otherwise looked at themselves or their past and healed/grew, adopted step-kids or -grandkids or horses or other animals, got rid of step-people or step-animals, developed an amazing hobby/interest/skill/job (this was most common — sometimes it was an old thing revisited, sometimes a new necessity, and sometimes something random), went back to school, changed careers, did surprisingly better financially without the other’s fiscal influence or take-charge-ness in their life, got spiritual, got sober, partied more, became a vegetarian, became self reliant, wrote a book (okay maybe about the person who wronged them but, still, it is a success!), traveled more, cozily nested in their home more, avoided a disaster they would’ve been in (like a plane crash, car crash, epidemic), simplified, and/or allowed themselves to live more largely. We knew more than one story of a person for each of these cases. Plus a few movie plots. Likely, you do too.

Quite often, it was hard not to conclude that the seemingly wounded person thrived not only DESPITE the “bad” situation but BECAUSE OF IT. We found ourselves thinking they might even say “thanks be that happened.”

Note: Stop here if you want to end on a happy note. It’s all the evidence of truth that you need. Only continue if you still believe, deep inside, that you should do something that makes you feel bad in order to avoid making another person unhappy.

–> Someone forced themselves to live in a way that didn’t feel good to them in order to avoid hurting someone they cared about… but in fact the other person ended up unhappy anyway.

Who: same categories of people as above.

“Selfless Actions”: Staying in a situation that feels bad or doing some new thing that feels bad or refusing some new situation that feels awesome. In our examples, the situations involved a marriage, friendship, job, home, town, style, lifestyle, and/or plan of some kind (involving travel, money, animals, children, and more).

Results: It was all too easy for us to find cases in which the “other person” seems to be unhappy no matter what happens, no matter how hard the selfless hero tried and continues to try to do the right thing. The results are homes, workplaces, books, friendships, clubs, political eras, etc that are lifeless. So many sages say happiness comes from inside us and each of us is responsible for figuring out how to be happy. The evidence we found really supported this as truth. It’s not an easy truth for those of us who want to consider the impact of our actions on those we love. If we could make them happy by our actions, we would. But sadly, we can’t.

–> Someone forced themselves to live in a way that didn’t feel good to them in order to avoid hurting someone they cared about… and they themselves ended up unhappy.

We did find sad cases of chronic loneliness, stress, bitterness, energy loss, or just sadness on the part of the selfless hero.

–> And what’s even sadder is the surprising revolution we had: there are cases we found where the selfless hero’s own decreased happiness led them to engage in behaviors that seemed to contribute to the other person’s unhappiness… further down the road: illness, meanness, adultery, substance abuse, withdrawal, accident-proneness, poor job performance or job loss, or simply a constricted way of living and/or inability to support and appreciate the other person. That person who they were originally trying to protect felt wounded, just at a later date.

I don’t like reporting these results. They’re sad.

–> Less catastrophically and seemingly more commonly, we see cases where the hero continues to behave selflessly and things go reasonably well — it seems they did protect another, and they live a decent life, but at the end of their life they feel regret.

This famous blog post went viral and led to a super lovely video (I love watching and listening to this woman talk — I think it’s really worth 16 minutes out of your day) and book because of the ubiquity and poignancy of this scenario.

I’m not saying you should live as a selfish egomaniac. We are talking about you living as your heart desires — and your heart is good and true and there is no danger of it wanting to be a bad person. Psychopathic, narcissistic, sociopathic, Machiavellian behavior does not make its host feel good. Tune into your body compass (try here or here or the Martha Beck book Finding Your Own North Star). If you’re still unsure, get someone to help you figure out this and other ways your heart communicates with you. Because I am convinced that the beauty of our hearts means the following is true:

“If you truly live as your heart desires, it’s best for other people and for our world.”

Bonus: a gorgeous, fierce horse may join you for the adventure…

mulan-dream-cast

* Mulan. But then you already knew that. Click and sing along!

Posted in Body Compass, Desire, Thought work | 3 Comments

Pleasure Power

Three words for four days, and you will be changed:

Pleasure is Power.”

~ Danielle LaPorte

Not only that, but I hereby whole-heartedly — with zero possibility of being wrong — pinky-swear that you’ll be changed in a way you like VERY MUCH. 

How to do it: Actually go ahead and “mantra.”

Repeat the three words out loud, in a whisper, or in your mind as often as possible. (I have never recommended mantras as I have found there are much stronger ways to access That-Way-That-Feels-Like-Magic. But this one changed my mind.)

What does it mean and how does it change you: Pick any/all interpretations:

  • Interpretation #1: Pleasure can fuel you. And you can use this extra energy to face and, in fact, dive into any little or huge thing you want, so explore these specifics:

FIND pleasure in any situation, and NOTICE how your energy rises.

The spring air is fresh whether or not you notice it. But when you take note of it’s coolness and enjoy the moist-dirt-infused-with-light-green-growy-things smell, you are fed in a way that’s much bigger than that one breath.

The conference room where you have a stressful meeting has a pretty picture on the wall whether you notice it or not. Let your eyes linger there and really take it in: you get a high that’s better than coffee. And who thought THAT was possible.

MAKE pleasure for yourself, and FEEL the ways in which you’re super-charged.

Bring a can of vanilla beans to work and actually take the time to huff them. Set a timer to do it every 45 minutes — show some discipline! — and, oh my gosh.

Make pleasure for others, and be prepared for your internal strength to go super-hero.

All right, maybe don’t invite your colleagues to smell your can of beans, vanilla or otherwise, but you could bring A PIE! [Warning — your co-workers may fall in love with you. If you don’t want to take that risk, bring cookies for very nearly the same effect minus the stalking.]

SAVOR all that pleasure — in every second. And then for one second longer than necessary.

I don’t know why we sometimes avert our attention from the intoxicating. Maybe because it does in fact shake up our worlds. But try wallowing in a pleasure for as long as you can — a whole minute?! — and you won’t believe how you feel and what happens next.

So say you make a thing that pleases you immensely whether it be a report, a quilt, a poem, a pie, a hike, a bike ride, a newly-planted vegetable, a belly rub for a human or 4-legged buddy, or a camouflaged can of vanilla beans to take to work on Monday. Take an extra little while to feel the pleasure of what you just did. Breathe it in. Wiggle your toes in it. Kiss it on the lips.

Caveat: “Pleasure” is what makes your essential self feel free. You can judge this via your own internal Body Compass. It will steer you clear of false pleasures that give you an artificial high followed by a stark low.*

Extra Bonus Caveat: The deeper, more genuine, and more accepted the pleasure, the more real and unstoppable the power. Experiment. Tell me whether or not you agree.

  • Interpretation #2: Feeling pleasure puts you in a position of power.

Think about any meeting, negotiation, conflict, date, or reunion whether between work colleagues, family, sweethearts, or friends. Consider:

~ Who was the leader — the person who seemed to control the tone, level, content, and outcome of that time together?

~ They seemed to be enjoying themselves, didn’t they? They took pleasure in the room, weather, food, their own clothing, and/or any number of other things AS WELL AS the situation at hand. It’s weird but true.

  • Interpretation #3: Feeling power gives you pleasure. Oh my yes. AND…

Are you a little panicked or put off yet? Of COURSE because:

Pleasure and Power are two very naughty words indeed.

I wrote a whole bit on the specifics of these words’ stigma — including how they’re seen as especially unseemly for women and for anyone interested in a spiritual experience of life — but I deleted it.  Because you know all about that.

Instead of giving time to those old voices in your head and/or society…

Just try the “pleasure is power” mantra for four days.

~ That’s long enough to see if you notice any changes you like, but also it’s

~ short enough to prevent any long term damage. I don’t want you to not do this on the grounds of being afraid of ruining your life. You can abandon the whole thing if the changes feel yucky.

Just be sure your yardstick for both pleasure and luckiness is your truest self via your Body Compass, and you’ll be safe even if you get disoriented — disorientation itself can be a pleasure when it’s a free-fall into joy.*

When we follow what feels like a huge relief — a “shackles off” kind of pleasurable freedom — we tap into an energy unlimited that can power only our highest, most truly good desires. Whether those be small ways of being or huge acts of doing, your power is a true pleasure.

And that fuels us all.

So pleeeease pleasure power your next four days. Do it for the rest of us! For the planet! And let me know the specifics:)

All my best,

Betsy

*This sensation is an easy way to tune up your Body Compass. As my teacher Martha Beck says:

~ Imagine a thrilling leap into a crystal clear, deep pool. Feel your body. That is the sensation your inner self creates in your body when it is scared but likes something.

~ Imagine a yucky leap into a polluted wastewater pool. Feel your body. That is the sensation your inner self creates when it is scared and dislikes something.

Posted in Body Compass, Fear and bravery, Leadership | 1 Comment

Rent, Grace, and a Method for Letting Go (for those of us who… don’t)

A good idea

As you know, we coaches are big on releasing attachment.  “Let go,” we exhort ourselves (and others! in a well-meaning way!)* when we detect grasping.

A difficult-to-access idea

Whether we’re talking about holding on to something already in hand or desperately wanting something elusive, when you stop grasping, it does work crazy magic plus you feel exhilarated and calm at the same time. But I can’t always DO it.

I understand that release is likely an opening up — unclenching my mind, fist, or heart — and trusting that if things don’t go the way I want, then the new way or new result will be something wonderful. Something better, even. But sometimes I just can’t get how.

In fact, gulp: when stuck in desire, I don’t even WANT to stop wanting.

I decided to un-pack the idea in search of some fundamental “how-to”

Re-leasere(again) + laxare (Latin: loosen, relax)

Re-.” SO maybe once upon a time we were relaxed and loose, AND we can get that way again. Nice. BUT…

Lease?” That’s just weird because:

Lease: “A contract by which one party (landlord or lessor) gives to another (tenant or lessee) the use and possession of lands, buildings, and/or property for a specified time and for fixed payments.”

What the heck does renting have to do with relaxing and loosening?

Hmm. Maybe I should stick with “letting” go. But… brace yourself:

Let: First definition (archaic, based on the root word lei): “leave behind or abandon”

Second definition: “give the use of (a house, room, etc.) to a tenant in return for rent.”

How did we get immediately from “abandon” to “rent” in the same word?

For that matter…

How do we get release from lease?

Based on our own language, we might deduce that in order to re-lease, we had to have leased in the first place. It would seem that:

In order to relax our grip, we must start with a contractual agreement.

What if we do need to be proper landlords of our property — and presumably that includes our own selves? As proper “lett-ers,” we would need to spell out the following:

~ We allow particular use and possession of our property

~ by contract

~ over a finite, clear period

~ for an agreed-upon return (rent/payment/compensation).

So, for example, if I can “re-lease” a particular object of my desire, then it means that I first entered into a mutual and clear agreement with the desire-ee saying ‘you get to use and possess my desire for ___ amount of time and in return you give me ___.’

Are you freaking out in the reading of this as much as I did in the writing of it?

Yeah, you might say, because what about unconditional love?

But then you realize…

What’s unconditional love got to do with it?

You realize… letting go does not conflict with love, conditional or otherwise, because grasping is not love.

Even in the midst of the grasping, we know that it’s different than love.

Love is adoring and enjoying something (a person, place, object, activity, sensation, emotion, idea, etc.) and wanting the best for that something — actually reveling in whatever’s best for it.

Grasping is when we want the something for our consumption. For ourselves. We want to adore and enjoy that something in a specific way — in person, maybe. Or exclusively. Or immediately. Or for a certain amount of time.

Here’s the tricky surprise bit: We can love and grasp at the same time.

We can combine love with attachment

We can mutually agree upon a very specific way in which we will adore and enjoy something in return for… whatever we decide upon.

Maybe in return for reciprocal enjoyment and adoration. Maybe security of some kind. Maybe money or a barter or a favor to be redeemed in the future.

And then, within this framework, we can loosen and relax.

Contractual agreement + love:

It’s kind of cool. It’s marriage. It’s a job contract. It’s every pillar of society, and indeed it is civilization — the whole “social contract.” I think that’s a cool thing: love is in all of it.

Best part is…

When it’s over, you know what you are leaving behind: that specified mutual exchange. You’re abandoning the right to use and possess one another.

Don’t mourn unconditional love

Because the love is still there. It’s here now.

The love is not abandoned, just the lease.

Knowing that, you automatically release: re-loosen and re-re-lax.

It’s all rather glorious…

… Unless you never had a lease to begin with.

This is my personal specialty.

I now think that when I cannot let go of something, it’s because:

Some kind of use and possession happened but wasn’t clarified.

Maybe there was a reciprocal deal going on that wasn’t spelled out. Or maybe I only thought there was a reciprocal deal. Maybe it is an unrequited, unfulfilled yearning with only one way in and very definitely not clarified, even within myself.

Before we spin any further down that rabbit hole of self-loathing, don’t panic.

There is a solution!!!

Write a lease after the fact. 

Think about it:

You can post-date the lease!

~ Initial next to that old date with the real date so you’re not lying to yourself.

You absolutely do not need another person to do this!

~ Most of our agreements are with ourselves anyway. All the really big ones, for sure.

~ Or you can sign the other person’s name. (In front of that fake signature, write your initials, the word “assuming intent for,” and the current date — just to be above board with yourself.)

~ If the other party wants to be in on it, fine. But be careful here. Be very clear about what you want to write. Put yourself first in this part of the process.

Agreed? Agreed. Let’s do it:

LEASE

“I ____ [lessor] agree to allow ____ [lessee] use and possession of my ______ [e.g., soul, body, mind, emotions, imagination, desire, labor, resources, house, dog, shoes, or whatever] for ____ days/weeks/years/lifetimes in return for _______ [e.g., the same from them, fun, a sense of safety, full-on worship, mild affection, any kind of engagement at all, chocolate, the family gumbo recipe, or whatever you want]. This agreement can be renewed if both parties agree, and it can be revoked by either party at any time without cause.”

Agreed:

________ [Lessor]    _______ [Date]

________ [Lesse]      _______ [Date]

RELEASE

Renewed/Revoked [cross out whichever is not applicable]:

________ [Lessor]    _______ [Date]

________ [Lesse]      _______ [Date]

After you complete the revocation of this lease, you can file it, rip it up, or burn it.

Note: you can add a witness if you want, which is especially fun if you want to have to have a Lease Burning Party with your best friend. With cake.

It doesn’t matter what you do with the final rental agreement because that exchange is done and over with.

All that’s left is love — your wishing well for the other party.

There may be a mutual regard — fine. That’d be frosting. Not necessary for you to enjoy the cake though.

The binding part is gone. You’re cleansed and loose and relaxed. Free.

You may be grieving a loss — and that’s okay. You can mourn.

But you are not aggrieved. Because:

You have a NEW lease…

On life.

Boom.

We should have KNOWN that a “lease” brings freedom because think of all that we feel when we say someone has a new lease on life.

Let’s write out that one!

A NEW LEASE (on life)

“I ____ [lesse] agree that The Universe/God/The Way of the World [lessor] does allow me use and possession of unlimited love and my life  for the rest of my days on earth in return for nothing [because that’s how it works with the ineffable… that’s the definition of grace]. Amen.”

Agreed:

________ [Lessor] _______ [Date]

________ [Lesse] _______ [Date]

This lease is always renewed and not revokable.

Thanks be.

* The very best don’t do this, of course.

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