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.

Posted in letting go | Leave a comment

Respect, prospect, prosper: what do we want?

The opposite of respect

Disrespect sometimes unhinges some of us humans.

We know that individual narcissists become enraged.

And some entire social structures promote disrespect as sufficient reason to physically harm another person (and even to have a long-term feud or beef or grudge with someone — and maybe with their friends, their relations, or every member of an “other” social structure).

But even folks outside these cases can worry about others’ respect.

What IS respect, that it can have this effect on people?

Respect: modern definition: To honor or esteem. To have regard for. To defer to.

It is a powerful cocktail of approval plus power.

There are hierarchical — almost ritualistic — kinds of actions associated with respect. Respect is something we SHOW.

We may show honor with shrines or money or bowing or doing as someone requests. We may show esteem by offering gifts or jobs or speeches of praise. We may show regard by obeying rules and authority. We may defer — and that linguistically implies a power relationship, even if just for that moment.

Politeness and respect have a tight relationship. I am, for the record, a fan of manners. And sometimes respect shows equality of power — we demonstrate that we do NOT think someone beneath us, after all, when we extend politeness. Nonetheless there is something dangerous about over-concern with respect — in either direction.

“Re”– “spect”: ancient root meaning: To look back at.

Respect isn’t about creativity or new scenarios — it’s about reinforcing a past behavior or old pattern. That’s not always helpful. Yes, sometimes it is wonderful, but we experience life in the forward direction.  So, for now, let’s look forward.

There’s a word for that too. In Latin “forward” is pro, so we get…

… Pro-spect

A prospect is first and foremost a thing: It started as a broad view. A landscape.

Also a place from which you see such an expanse.

Then it morphed into a future possibility.

Perhaps that’s why paintings of landscapes elevate our spirits. And why looking at big views in this mountain west is one of my main and happiest occupations.

We also use “prospecting” to describe an action. As kids in this mountain west, my brother and I thought it meant one thing only, and that thing was our main and happiest occupation when we were 7 and 8: looking for gold. 

Perhaps when we stand looking out over a wide scene, we are indeed looking for gold in our future. Because we all want to be prosperous. And that word conjures a different kind of “forward.”

Pro-sperousness

Spere” comes from the old root spei. This root means flourishing and expanding. Say that root word aloud and you hear how it also turned into the word space.  

Expanding space?! Did I hear someone say…

The space-time continuum?!

Aha! You wondered how I was going to work in some physics. Guess what —  I didn’t even have to TRY, y’all, because time and space appeared immediately in the word “respect.” [You can skip all this and still get my practical exercise at the end! Jump ahead to the *]

“Looking”

We are able to look because we can see light traveling through space.

And, as you know from watching Star Trek, at the huge cosmic level we actually measure that space in terms of the time it takes  light to travel that distance and be seen by us. #light-years!

Just think about that again. We measure space with time.

Visitor: “How far is it to Billings?”

Sheridan resident: “1 1/2 hours

(Oops — I mean “2 hours,” if any police officers are reading this!)

Einstein figured this out and gave us some elegant symbolic sentences (a.k.a. mathematical equations) to describe the inter-changeability of space and time, but we already knew it at some level because:

This is how we experience space. 

It’s how we experience our lives.

“Back”

A backwards glance is a nod to the past. That’s how we talk. Because, again, that’s how we experience life. The space behind us is where we came from. It’s where we were before now. It’s in our past. It IS our past.

“Forward”

The entire landscape laid out before us, with its sky and earth and inhabitants of both: those are our prospects. Our future. And every landscape carries the sense of largesse. Of spaciousness.

Expanding

It’s crazy that the Indoeuropean root word equates space with expanding. Because modern physicists know that space is indeed expanding. More recently, they are finding that the rate of that expansion is accelerating. Why? Maybe it has to do with my favorite physics obsession…

…Chaos 

With every action that takes place in the world, some energy turns into entropy — energy that is no longer available to do stuff. This energy has become too disorganized for use. It’s undifferentiated. But maybe, at least in my personal theory, it’s available for the opposite: for not-doing with non-stuff no-where. Maybe it’s available for a stillness in space — resting.

Entropy is also termed chaos. And guess the Greek meaning of chaos:

Space.

Or:

Gaping.

Once again we find spaciousness associated with an opening.

That fits with my experience.

*

I find that the prosperous feeling of increasing spaciousness is what we’re prospecting for. It IS in fact our prospect, i.e., the landscape spread out before us. It doesn’t care too much about looking back for power-type offerings of approval, nor is it hurt by the lack of them. (It’s just not possible to disrespect this kind of prosperity. It doesn’t compute.)

In a way, this increasing spaciousness is our future, but it’s also our present moment:  the time and space we are standing in as we look and see the spaciousness.

It feels like rest.

And it feels chaotic. It has to, really, if chaos is the only way in.

Luckily, you can’t avoid chaos.

Each bit of work you do generates entropy. But so does breathing and sleeping. Every action of living creates a little chaos.

Some feel more chaotic than others.

Feeling disrespected, for example. Or being accused of disrespect by an angry person.

So, yes, I am spending time trying to understand the craving for respect and that craving’s horrible side effects. (Respect for oneself as a concept, plus how that’s tied to embracing your imperfection and vulnerability are turning out to be the most important and interesting parts of that enquiry. I will keep you posted!)

Meanwhile I am fascinated with exploring the chaos  (you can do this exercise from any side of the scenario: alleged disrespect-er OR alleged disrespect-ee):

  • Recognize that the idea of disrespect is at play.
  • Notice the chaotic feeling inside that’s associated with the rage or grudge.
  • Breathe it in. This is scary. But if you literally do it with BREATH, you will be okay. Three replenishing breaths in and out.
  • Imagine you feel chaos fueling a restfulness or spaciousness inside you. Maybe this is what some call centering, meditation, resting in the presence of the unknown source, or peace.  I may not be right about this, at least for you, but check it out with some curiosity. It’s interesting to try.

In other words: you can let disrespect bring you prosperousness.

The first two steps are by far the hardest. How to find that moment of objectivity? Practice, they say. And I know from my own experience that once your inner self experiences the rest of this practice — the peace — it will be a lot more willing to allow you that moment of observation where you pause and consider what could be happening and what you might want to do about it.

Side note: clean anger is a sign that something in the world is not the way we want it to be. As such, anger will give you instructions for how you want to act in the world — to “be the change you want to to see,” as Gandhi said. Those true instructions will not come while you are enraged or plotting revenge. They come from your peaceful inner self. So even if you are sure that you’re entirely justified both in expecting a certain level of respect and in being mad when you don’t get it, this process will work. After the chaos fuels your experience of spaciousness, you may decide to act: to stay away from some other person, reveal some injustice to the world, be fully real with a dynamite therapist, or enact a plan to save the world in some large or small way. As long as your anger’s instructions keep you aligned with peace, it is likely a clean anger. If not, step back and look at what parts of your ideas may not be as fully true as you think. It can be hard to entertain the idea that your thinking is off somewhere, but in the end it is such a huge relief to figure out the most true things. They will never hurt you.

Let me know how it goes for you, ok?

All my best,

Betsy

Posted in Anger, Chaos, Emotions, Respect, Space-time, Thought work | 1 Comment

Oh, anger

This week I had a little anger episode mushroomswhile teaching yoga. Yup. I am ashamed even to say that. (Which says a lot about the expectations I/we have around anger. And yoga:))

Email, coffee talk, and phone calls on my recent Emotions 101 post have been so engaging, and discussions thus far focus on anger more than on grief, fear, or joy. For good reasons, which I will get into later. But first, this example from my life:

I teach yoga at the local community college in the basketball gym. It’s not a typical yoga space! But I like to think that I can be all zen enough to handle the huge space, people running on track above, loud sounds, variable temperatures, etc. Early this semester, people started walking through the gym during our class to get to the locker rooms and offices at the other end of the gym.

At first it was one person, so I didn’t want to cause trouble, and it wasn’t much disturbance, so I didn’t say anything. But it kept increasing. Tuesday, about 7 minutes before class ended, when the students were resting in corpse pose, a whole cluster of folks walked right though our midst. I stopped the meditation I was leading — in mid-sentence — and held out my hand and frowned and said “No. Don’t.” Them: “What?” Me: “Don’t walk through here during our class. Please wait til class is over.” Them: “But we have to get to the locker and change before practice or we’re in trouble.” Me, taking breath, collecting self: “Fine. I will talk to your coach.”

Now, I didn’t yell, point my finger in their face, insult them, or pull out the full-fledged and terrifying whammy that my brother and I spent a lot of time practicing when we were kids. But I felt those icky angry cortisol hormones roil in my system. And everyone else did too I suspect.

Anger has dire consequences

Anger can cause real, immediate and /or long-term, concrete damage if someone lashes out verbally or physically.

If someone bursts into tears of sadness or runs away afraid, we do not suffer physical wounds.

Because of the threat associated with anger, we are fundamentally nervous around people who have displayed anger. we can’t help it our — our cave person genes are sure to make us stay that way out of a survival instinct. And that goes both ways:

You may wilt in embarrassment or you may suffer the consequences of other peoples’ judgement if you publicly show grief or fear, but likely neither of those emotions will wreck connections with others as much as anger will.

Anger can be confused with sadness or danger… but it IS its own thing 

Some argue that anger is a secondary emotion.

Some of those folks say all “negative” emotions are sub-categories of fear.

And it’s true anger can move us into fear. But the reverse is also true.

Others say all “negative” emotions are a form of grief. I think this is closer to the truth int that:

Grief is the emotional response to loss.

Fear is thinking there will be loss in the future.

Anger is blaming someone for a loss.

But the healthy way we handle each of these three “negative” emotions is so different that it pays to think of them separately.

 Grief: replace what’s lost or mourn irreplaceable loss

Fear: run away if you don’t want to do the scary thing or minimize danger and act in the face of fear if your desire points you in that direction

Anger: eliminate injustice by changing an external situation or changing yourself so you get what you need or get rid of a situation you can’t tolerate.

Because anger cannot be ignored or willed away.

Lots of hopeful discussion points to becoming such a zen person that you don’t get angry, but the thing is there will always be injustice in the world. We NEED a mechanism to change situations so we can avoid the hurt that comes from the presence of something we can’t tolerate (like child abuse in our towns or like your neighbor blocking your driveway) or the lack of something we need (like equal pay for equal work no matter our age/gender/religion/ethnicity/sexual preference or like a kind word from your boss). Otherwise the unjust situation continues.

Debates over what is right and wrong — or even whether there is such a thing as right and wrong — don’t really change the argument because the feeling that “something is not right” is universally human. We can’t ignore it or say “don’t have it.”

Yes, and, alas, it seems impossible to just DECIDE to not get angry or to let your anger go without any change. The sense of unfairness will build and either you will explode OR fall into depression OR suffer generalized anxiety. None of those three options will right the wrong, so anger itself will still represent and continue to hurt you.

For proof, consider whether you know someone who doesn’t get angry. Hard to think of anyone. Even the Dalai Lama says he struggles with it. If you look closely, you see that folks that come closest to looking like they never get angry (and are happy functioning people not numb zombies) have actually just learned how to respond to their own anger healthily both in the moment and in the long-term.

For, as Harriet Larner says,

**”If feeling anger signals a problem, venting anger does not solve it. Venting anger may serve to maintain, and even rigidify, the old rules and patterns in a relationship, thus ensuring that change does not occur.”**

In the moment: Anger management techniques are well-known, but it’s hard even to notice you need them until it’s too late.

It’s pretty easy to learn that we need to breathe, walk away and deal with the situation when calm, etc… but how do we get ourselves to remember to enact those skills? Psychologists and spiritual leaders have tried to give us tools to interrupt the momentum, to see what’s happening, to detach, etc.. It is hard.

Practice helps, for sure. In fact it is essential. It can develop a habit.

But.

Long-term: Explore the anger and make some small, brave change.

We also must consistently dig into situations that make us mad and change something (ourselves or something else) because then our conscious and unconscious selves begin to trust us. Our minds KNOW it’s okay to practice anger management techniques and prevent a blow-up in the moment because our minds KNOW we will right the wrong a little bit later. Our minds have seen us do it.

Without building this trust with our essential selves, those deepest and most well-intentioned parts of us will make darn good and sure we explode because they/we want what is right to take hold in our lives and in the world around us.

So, yes, learn to see and interrupt your temper, but after you do so, spend some time figuring the situation out. Continuing my most recent example:

 I was ashamed of having gotten angry, but I pulled myself together, and after class I went down to the coaches’ offices — scary place for a non-jock like me. I introduced myself to a wholesome large young man who introduced himself in friendly way (I don’t remember his name or what he coaches because I was scared), and I explained my dilemma. He said they do have to get in there, and they have to go into the far end of the gym somehow as there’s no other entrance to the locker rooms. There’s no other way, I asked? Well they could walk down the side hallways and enter the gym through the far corner and whip into the adjacent locker rooms rather than traipse across the gym. (I never really have understood the layout of that place as it intimidates me, so I just ignore it all.) So, I said, can I just put signs on the doors saying “Do not enter during class, use side halls.” And he said, of course. And then if I just keep my class at THIS end of the gym, we likely won’t notice their entrances at the other end. (On Tuesday we were at that other end of the gym to use those walls as a prop, which is the other reason I noticed the pedestrians more than usual.)

Not really a problem. The reason it became a problem was because I didn’t deal with it early. I tried to talk myself out of thinking it was “wrong” for people to walk through the class or wanting to have demands about it. I ignored my ignorance and fear of the facility and how it all works there. Cue the exploding doormat.

Anyway, yesterday was our next class. I virtually waltzed in with homemade signs and tape and gleefully taped them up on the doors. Gleefully, because I had handled my problem and I knew I wouldn’t get the roiling in the veins again because now I understood the situation, had a plan, and could just kindly point pedestrians back out into the hall. I was so relieved.

And my inner self received huge amounts of positive feedback for NOT venting anger (not too too much, anyway) in the moment. My hope is it gets increasingly easy to remember that I don’t need to vent because I will just fix the situation.

As you can tell, anger remains something I work with a lot. My favorite resource for this is Harriet Lerner’s The Dance of Anger. I seriously hope you will buy it or check it out of the library. You will find it is super clear, practical, respectful of you no matter how you behave, and no-nonsense with you as well.

One comforting thing Harriet Lerner points out: there are cultural as well as personal reasons we have trouble with anger — and they’re unique for each gender. So we can cut ourselves some slack for having issues with this subject, which allows us a little more leeway to look into it all.

I just can’t really summarize her book’s wisdom and kindness here, nor the way in which it gives you hope that you can be more and more your true self AND have lovelier connections with others AND less and less ugly-kinds of anger in your life.

Anger is tricky for sure. My hope for you and me and all of us is that we get increasingly skillful in hearing its message for us to stop “de-selfing” and in harnessing its momentum to power our courage. Because it is a scary thing to see much less change our patterns and we need all the insight and energy we can get. X.

Posted in Emotions | Leave a comment

Mad, Sad, Glad, and Afraid –> Your Heart’s Desire

If you ever learned how to soldier on no matter HOW you felt, then you may sometimes experience these side effects:

  • being unable to name how you feel, even to yourself secretly,
  • getting a false read on your emotions,
  • not understanding the value of “bad” emotions,
  • not letting yourself feel the way you feel because there may be secondary damage, and/or
  • not knowing what to do with an emotion — how to deal with it in a healthy way.

If so, you are not alone.

On occasion* still and yet, I can have no idea that I am cold or afraid, I can stifle anger until I explode, and I can be so disinclined to feel loss that I go kind of numb. Back in the day  — when ski clothes were uninsulated, roads had no guard rails, my brother repeatedly trespassed onto my side of the backseat with his pinkie, and we moved a lot — these emotional habits made it a lot easier for adults to tolerate my company because I didn’t complain. But they are only a liability now.

That’s why one chapter of one book (Finding Your North Star) changed my life and made me want to study with Martha Beck. It showed me: how to figure out what I felt, that all the emotions are inevitable, and that those feelings are all okay because they lead us through the troubles of this world and straight back into the most pleasant of emotions: joy.

First I learned to classify my emotions into one of four basic feelings (mad, sad, glad, and afraid).

Sometimes, we feel a hybrid of two or more of those feelings. And exploring the more nuanced feelings (e.g., shame vs guilt) may be helpful later, but, for some us, a remedial “Emotions 101” is vital.

Each of the basic emotions is a natural, healthy, helpful response to some inescapable occurrence in the life of a human. The following worksheet guides you through deciphering what has been happening with you [click on image to access a downloadable .pdf]:

emotions page 1

Once you’ve identified an emotion, you need to know what to do with it and why. On the following three pages (also adapted from Chapter 8 of Martha Beck’s book), the left column lists the steps to follow — look under the emotion you’re feeling for specifics and for space to write your answers [click on image to access a downloadable .pdf]:

Emotions Worksheet: What to Do With Them, page 1

EMotions Worksheet: What to Do With Them, cont, page 2

Emotions Worksheet

Ahhh…no wonder.

No wonder we sometimes choose depression (masquerading as sadness) to mask anger or fear: it’s hard to take complete charge of our own selves.

More on bravery here. And if you’re still unable to do that thing you want, more here.

No wonder we sometimes choose grimness, bitterness, crabbiness, or meanness (masquerading as justified anger) rather than grief: it’s hard to admit there’s so much loss and so little stability in our loves. It’s hard to admit that this way of the world wounds us.

No wonder we worry and fret (thinking its genuine fear) rather than feel angry or sad: it might cause waves were we to act on anger (change the way we do things) or to simply feel sad (to acknowledge that some thing or some way of life is lost to us).

No wonder we pursue artificial highs rather than deal with the “unpleasant” real emotions that would actually free us up to follow whatever brings us genuine gladness.

And sometimes people have told us that those other emotions are unbecoming or even dangerous in themselves.

No wonder we choose emotion-like neuroses (shown in italics above) to cover our underlying genuine emotions.

“Neurosis is a substitute for genuine suffering.” ~ CG Jung

(No judgement from me here! I have had, and will again have, all of those listed above! They are simply signs we need to check our emotional compass and/or get help from someone if we can’t get unstuck ourselves).

In the end, you, like me, may have experienced how the false versions of the emotions and the repercussions of repressing the emotions cause us to suffer more.

Just knowing there IS a way to handle all of the emotions in a constructive way gives me confidence to look straight at them more and more often. And not only in order to alleviate suffering but because — biggest surprise of all —  it turns out ALL of the emotions lead us to our heart desires.

We CAN’T get to our hearts’ desires WITHOUT the unpleasant emotions helping us because life ALWAYS has loss, danger, and injustice.

<and>

The unpleasant emotions are the only way to deal with those inevitabilities.

<therefore>

The “unpleasant” emotions are one of the most powerful tools for living as our hearts desire.

I hope this helps you figure out and find your own genuine suffering, as strange as that sounds. Please let me know if you have any questions, I can be of support as you do so, or you want to share your story with me.

*Maybe more than I care to admit! Sorry to innocent bystanders.

Posted in Emotions, Fear and bravery, Worksheets | 2 Comments

Why don’t I do what I REALLY DO want to do?

I unabashedly adore my “Leaning Into What You Really Want” worksheet because when I want something, this technique works with magical-feeling ease.

Except when it doesn’t work at all.

I used to believe that those instances meant I was “self-sabotaging” or that I didn’t REALLY want whatever-it-was (since by definition we always do what we want, right?). BUT:

When a craft/construction tool doesn’t work, it means the tool is not right for the situation — not that the situation is flawed.

Likewise, please remember that if a healing technique doesn’t help you, it DOESN’T mean “you don’t really want to be healed.” It means we haven’t figured out the real mechanism of what’s going on and/or a way to get in there and tinker with it.

So this presents…

A Dilemma

On one hand, I think logic supports the idea that:

~ My inner self (like your inner self) wants itself to be as well as possible.

And yet I also have the experience that:

~ Sometimes I figure out some healthy, vital way I want to feel AND some small, easy ways to feel that wonderful way, and yet I still don’t do those things.

A Resolution Honoring Both Logic and Experience

When I can’t get myself to do something that I really want to do, it must be because my inner self does not believe that my plan is a way to be wellIn fact, in those cases, my inner self believes my plan is a sure-fire path to suffering.

An Experiment

Recently — being very tired of being very stuck in a particular grasping for a very long time — I began exploring this idea in depth. And I am super happy to report that I have been able to feel movement. I budged! I experienced a bit of unexpected ease in doing what I want to do — in doing what makes feel the way I want to feel.

You have no idea what a relief that is.

Or maybe you do.

A Worksheet (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?!)

Just in case you have undergone similar dilemmas, here’s my new worksheet. (Click on it for a .jpg file that you can print.) Together with the “Leaning Into What You Want” worksheet, it forms my current favorite coaching two-step.

Note 1: Your desired feeling state is an especially powerful tool here when you have identified its PHYSICAL sensations in your body. So not just: “free” but “that free feeling like after you take off a backpack and you feel like you could float or jump really high — like your shoulders are light and you have the strength to leap.”

Note 2: If all you do is hold your younger self who felt unsafe or sad or unworthy, or unloved, then that is the main thing. If you do that, you can probably skip the particulars of the last three boxes.

You Get to Feel Safe and Loveable

A Thank You

Quite some time ago, in the middle of an almost overwhelming “follow your bliss!” group buzz,  Bridgette Boudreau interjected “of course you get to feel safe.” My whole self sighed in relief.  I thank her for that feeling AND for the phrase that triggered it. I recommend you visit her site (especially the page describing “The Essence of the Wild Life”) for more of her irreverent goodness.

PS

As you will see when you play around with this worksheet, the old situations (and the people involved) are probably NOTHING like the thing you’re trying to get yourself to do. That’s why it’s been so hard to see what’s stopping you.

What’s stopping you is some experience that “proved” to you that “if you feel like {____}, then something bad will happen to you.”  Because that WAS true then. And possibly could be now were it not for your inner self warning you to check it out and clear it up. You may have to actually make it no longer true. Use the old situation as a model to show you how to protect yourself now and in the future (including, sometimes, from those people that hurt you before and with regard to situations unrelated to what even started this whole worksheet). You have to really mean it and follow through on those things. Then your inner self goes full steam ahead in doing what you want to do.

My next post will include an example of working through this process. Both before and after that, please let me know what you find when you put pencil to paper, how the process went for you, and if you have any questions at all.  I send you love and thanks for your own tinkering and your feedback. 

Posted in Desire, Essential Self, letting go, Worksheets | Leave a comment

One kind of fun isn’t…

… but good writers know what to do with it. 4 kinds of fun over time table

PS — One of the innumerable little delights on my 4,000-miles-in-2-weeks odyssey was learning about these four kinds of fun relative to time from my son’s camping leader Fiona and my daughter’s friend Erik. (I made up the names/implications inside the matrix just now, without too much thought… because, of course, it was fun. I may regret them later:)) I can’t find the name of a great thinker who may be originally responsible for this framework. If you know, drop me a line.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment