WORLD-SAVER SIDEBAR: CAMPFIRE STORIES ABOUT THE TEAM

 

I’ll keep blogging away about the methods the Team needs to save the world, but I also want to pepper this blog with my favorite profiles of, and stories about, some of our Teammates. For thousands of years, humans spent their evenings sitting around a fire, sharing experiences, ideas, and dreams (that’s why TV is such a hypnotically compelling attention-getter; because it’s a flickering light that tells stories). and So I want to tell a few campfire stories by the light of your computer.

I know dozens of Teammates now, from all over the world—some rich and famous, some obscure but amazing, all currently experiencing a sense of quickening.But the first person I want to mention is the one who convinced me the Team was real:My handy-dandy portable blond Zen master and Number One Son, Adam Beck.

I wrote a whole memoir about my experiences gestating and giving birth to Adam; he was prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome when I was a PhD candidate at Harvard, and the entire event was life-changing for me.I had so many mystical experiences that it blew my rationalist world-view to smithereens.But there are things I didn’t put in that book, because I didn’t understand them.Now, as Team Time approaches, pieces are falling into place in the particularly spine-tingling way that things tend to happen around Adam.

Before Adam’s birth, I began believing in miracles, and this led me to hope I could magically “fix” him so that he’d be born “normal” (of course, he’s a totally normal person with Down syndrome, but I couldn’t wrap my head around that for a while).When the miracle I wanted didn’t happen, I wondered what Adam’s reason for being actually was.I never believed that he was “here to teach others,” as many people told me.I sensed he had his own life mission, but what could that be?I used to ask him, as I put him through the newborn “early intervention” exercises we did for hours every day.No answers came during the day.

But at night, when I was dreaming, Adam answered.

 

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Was Nancy Reagan right? How just saying NO can change your life.

 

by Pamela Slim

I knew my soon-to-be three-year-old son Josh had achieved a new level of negotiation finesse when his vigorous “NO” was tempered into “No Thank You.”  It is hard to get angry at a little man who is exceedingly polite about totally refusing to do anything I ask him.

Josh, stop throwing Legos at the wall and GET YOUR SHOES ON.”
“No thank you Mom!”

Get off that little boy and stop choking him Josh — he doesn’t like to play rough!
“No thank you Mom!”

Josh, you have to eat your veggies if you want to be big and strong like Spiderman!
“No thank you Mom, pass the Cheetos!”

Do you see what I mean?

Josh’s outright refusal to comply with my requests are the manifestation of a very clearly expressed essential self. Unencumbered by the need to please anyone but himself, he feels perfectly empowered to tell me and anyone else who will listen that he will NOT do anything that doesn’t feel good.

The concept of essential and social self was described in Martha’s book Finding Your Own North Star:

“Your essential self formed before you were born, and it will remain until you’ve shuffled off your mortal coil.  It ‘s the personality you got from your genes:  your characteristic desires, preferences, emotional reactions and involuntary physiological responses, bound together by an overall sense of identity.  It would be the same whether you’d been raised in France, China, or Brazil, by beggars or millionaires.  It’s the basic you, stripped of options and special features.  It is “essential” in two ways:  first, it is the essence of your personality, and second, you absolutely need it to find your North Star.

The social self on the other hand, is the part of you that developed in response to pressures from the people around you, including everyone from your family to your first love to the pope. As the most socially dependent of mammals, human babies are born knowing that their very survival depends on the goodwill of the grown-ups around them.  Because of this, we’re all literally designed to please others.  Your essential self was the part of you that cracked your first baby smile; you social self noticed how much Mommy loved that smile, and later reproduced it at exactly the right moment to convince her to lend you the down payment on a condo.  You still have both responses.  Sometimes you smile involuntarily, out of amusement or silliness or joy, but many of your smiles are based purely on social convention.”

Since writing her newest book, Steering by Starlight, this definition has been updated:

“I used to think of the human psyche as having two sides:  the
“essential” self, which determines our talents and preferences, and the
“social” self, which predisposes us to respond to other people’s influence.  Over the past few years I’ve also come to believe there is
a third self, one that goes beyond the boundaries of both the genetic
and social selves.  Buddhists call this “no-self,” a confusing term
meant  to focus our attention on something the intellect can’t grasp.
Other traditions call it the great Self, an identity that is shared by
everything that exists.  I’m going to call it the Stargazer, because it
never loses sight of your own North Star, your destiny.”

Pressure on the essential self

If Josh’s life progresses along the path that most of us take, as the years go by, his willful determination will be tested by nagging parents (me and Darryl), zealous teachers, managers, mentors and eventually a spouse.  His natural inclination to only do what feels good will be tempered by the need to please others.

I am going to hope that between his life coach Mom and medicine man Dad that he will still turn out a happy, confident and balanced young man (Meet you back here in 20 years to see how my predictions turn out, deal?).

But here is the interesting part:  Josh’s inner NO won’t go away, it will just go underground.

For some people, it gets buried so deep that they can’t even hear it anymore.  Some don’t believe it exists!  That is when Martha and I hear our clients say things like:

  • I don’t know what I am passionate about
  • I don’t even know what I feel
  • I am not sure which decision to make – should I stay or should I go?

For these situations, identifying your inner NO is the first step in reconnecting your essential and social selves.

Ready to try?

Getting your essential self to Just Say NO

This slightly involved but very powerful exercise is lifted directly from Finding Your Own North Star, starting on page 17.  There is a lot more detail in the book and some hilarious examples of each question, but this stripped down version should still give you enough information to be effective. Take out a pencil and paper, or fill out this Word template Download just_say_no.doc .  You are going to identify a number of ways in which your essential self says “no.”

Exercise

1.  Energy crisis.

Try to remember three different events or types of events (dental appointments, jobs, classes, social functions, etc.) where you had to show up but felt reluctant and low-energy.

Event #1:  ________

Event #2:  ________

Event #3:  ________

Now please circle the response that has the most negative associations for you.

2.  Sick, sick sick.

Try to remember three times when your health was below par.  What was going on in your life during each of these three time periods?  Please list each situation, along with the physical symptoms you suffered. Don’t worry if these situations are the same ones that came up in the last section, or if all three caused the same symptoms.  Repetition is welcome in this game.

Situation #1:  _______  Symptoms:  _______

Situation #2:  _______  Symptoms:  _______

Situation #3:  _______  Symptoms:  _______

Circle the worst symptom.

3.  Forgetting.

Write down the information that you find difficult to remember (for example, “people’s names,” “my kids’ school schedules,” “where I put my important papers”).

Info-type #1:  ________
Info-type #2:  ________
Info-type #3:  ________

Circle the type of information you forget most often
.

4.  Bundles o’ Blunders.

Write down three stupid mistakes you remember making.

Mistake #1:  _______

Mistake #2:  _______
Mistake #3:  _______

Circle the most disastrous mistake.

5.  Social Suicide.

Name three people who bring out your very worst social behavior.  It might help to review hour life’s most embarrassing moments; the two are often linked.

Person #1:  _______

Person #2:  _______

Person #3:  _______

Please circle all three of these names.

6.  Fight or Flight.

List times when you couldn’t sleep, slept very poorly, or slept so much you felt groggy and squalid.  What was the problem in your life that caused the sleep disturbance?

Problem #1:  _______

Problem #2:  _______

Problem #3:  _______

Circle the issue that most disrupted your sleep.

7.  Addiction.

Name a bad habit or obsessive thought pattern you’ve been unable to eliminate:  ________________.  Now remember what happened to trigger that bad habit the last three times you fell off the wagon. (For example, “I’d had an argument with my mom,” “I’d been working day and night for a month,” “I was facing a performance review.”

Habit Trigger #1:  _______

Habit Trigger #2:  _______

Habit Trigger #3:  _______

Circle the “trigger” that is the most likely to make you tur to your addiction or habit.

7.  Moody Blues.

List the last three times you experienced a very bad mood or a mood that seemed inexplicable, unjustifiable, or extreme. Again, note what was happening in your life at the time this occurred.

Bad-mood setting #1:  _______

Bad-mood setting #2:  _______

Bad-mood setting #3:  _______

Circle the situation that brought out your worst mood.

Summary

Step 1:

To get your essential self to “speak” to you, we first need to assemble all the things you hate most.  In the spaces below, list the answers you circled on all the exercises in this post.

List your:

A.  Lowest energy situation:  _______

B.  Three people who bring out your worst social behavior:

1.  _______

2.  _______

3.  _______

C.  Worst medical symptom:  _______

D.  Most forgettable information type:  _______

E.  Stupidest mistake:  _______

F.  Problem that most disturbs your sleep:  _______

G.  Worst bad habit “trigger”:  _______

H.  Setting for your worst mood:  _______

Step 2

Now we’re going to create a little scenario together — a scenario that should set your teeth on edge.  Using the items you’ve written on the list in Step One, fill in the blanks in the following story.  For example, if you wrote “dental appointments” next to the letter “A” in Step One, you’ll write “dental appointments in the blank labeled “A” below.

Your own worst case scenario

Imagine for a moment that you are in (A:  Your lowest energy situation)

_________________________

You are surrounded by (B:  all three names on your list)

_________________________

_________________________

_________________________

You are not feeling your best, in fact, your (C:  worst medical symptom)

_________________________

is bothering you more than ever before.

You’ve been given a lifetime assignment that involves working with (D:  most forgettable information)
_________________________

All the people in the room are authorized to watch you constantly, criticize your performance, and punish you if you make any mistakes.  Speaking of mistakes, you have just done (E:  stupidest mistake)

_________________________

a fact that is being noted by your three supervisors.  Your life in general is pretty difficult right now; that whole thing with (F:  most sleep-disturbing problem)

_________________________

is happening all over again.  You’re also trying to deal with (G:  worst bad-habit trigger)

_________________________

To top it off, (H:  your bad mood situation)

_________________________

is more intense than ever before.

Just when things are at their worst, (B-1: the person who makes you feel most uncomfortable)
_________________________

walks up.  He or she orders you to sit up politely, smile in a way that is both humble and worshipful and say to the entire assembly, “I admire you so much.  Thank you, thank you for letting me be here.  You are such a terrific person, and this is just what I deserve.  I want to live this way for the rest of my life.”

Step 3
Read over this scenario, once you’ve filled in the blanks.  Really put yourself into it.  Then pay attention to your own reaction.  How do you feel?  Rotten, I hope.  If you vividly imagine this horrible situation, you’ll experience your own particular blend of anger, despair, illness, and anxiety.  This should reach a peak when you imagine facing the person you hate most and turning over all your power to change anything.  Whatever you feel in this moment is the sensation of your essential self saying NO!

Don’t run away from this feeling just yet.  Focus on and wallow around in it.  Explore its particular shape, texture, and size.  Notice how it differs from other negative feelings.  Your true path will take you through frightening challenges, saddening departures, angry resistance and a number of other profoundly unpleasant experiences. But the pain you experience en route to your North Star feels clean, necessary and right to the essential self.  It is very different from the intense aversion you would feel in the scenario we’ve just created.  You’re not supposed to feel that way, ever.

That feeling of choked hostility, or numb depression or nauseated helplessness is a sure sign you’re steering away from your North Star towards a life you were not meant to live.  When you feel it, you must change course.  You must say to the people around you what your essential self is saying inside:  Nope, Not going there.  Not doing that.  Sorry, but the answer is no.”

Or, as Josh might add, NO THANK YOU!

I have been told that as a toddler completes the rite of passage of “not a baby, not yet a little boy,” (sorry Britney) a cheerful YES will occasionally pop out of his mouth.  I’ll believe it when I see unicorns and leprechauns doing my yard work.

For now, I am learning from Josh to embrace my inner NO.  I suggest you do the same.

And don’t worry, there’s a positive side to all this: next blog post (April 1) we will complete the exercise for finding out how your essential self says “Yes.”  Feeling that, instead of what you felt doing this exercise, will give you the gumption to say “No, thank you,” to everything that doesn’t feed your soul.

I’d love to hear what insights you glean from this exercise!  Please share in the comments.

 

 

Is there a conspiracy by The Man to keep you down?

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by Pamela Slim

I had a friend from college named Javier who was convinced that Walt Disney had it in for him.  I don’t remember the particular conspiracy, only that it involved subliminal messages, Mickey Mouse and lots and lots of oppression.

Walt Disney was not the only tyrant in his life, there were many more:

•    Academia
•    The U.S. Government
•    The IRS
•    The CIA

I am sure I am only scratching the surface.

The funny thing is, none of these monolithic institutions held a candle to the sabotage Javier did to himself.  He had tormented love affairs.  He would lose school papers on his computer just as he was about to finish them.  His promising internships always ended in a fight with a boss or co-worker. His sharp intellect and gigantic heart were prisoners behind a curtain of anger, hurt and bitterness. All he knew was that Everybody was out to get him.

Martha explains this phenomenon in Finding Your Own North Star:

“In fact, everybody’s Everybody is composed of just a few key people.  Our social nature makes us long to fit in with a larger group, but it’s difficult to hold the tastes and opinions of more than five or six individuals in your mind.  So the resourceful social self creates a kind of shorthand:  it picks up a few people’s attitudes, emblazons them on your brain, and extrapolates this image until it covers the entire known universe.  The vague compilation of folks, you call Everybody is what psychologists term ‘the generalized other.”

Looking at the world through an Everybody perspective leads to statements like:

  1. I would be more successful in my career, but The Company is holding me back
  2. More people would read my blog if the A Listers weren’t so selfish
  3. I would start a business but no one from my background ever succeeds
  4. I would be in a relationship if Men were not such dogs
  5. I would be better at handling my money if Schools didn’t discriminate against girls in Math

Such broad generalizations keep you stuck and powerless.  By believing them, you hand your creativity and motivation directly to the force you think is oppressing you.

To get a handle on who your Everybody is, try a couple of these exercises from Finding Your Own North Star, (page 63):

Everybody on Deck

Step 1:  Finish the following sentences by writing down whatever comes from your gut, no matter how silly it may seem to your brain.

1)    People judge me because:
2)    Everyone loves it when:
3)    When I do well, people feel:
4)    Nobody will let me:
5)    Everybody always tells me to:
6)    People just can’t accept the fact that I:
7)    When I fail, everyone thinks:
8)    Nobody cares when I:
9)    Society keeps telling me I have to:
10)    Everyone expects me to:

Step 2:  For each statement above, write the names of six people you know who actually, verifiably hold the opinions you’ve ascribed to Everybody.  You can use the same names for every question if that’s what pops up.

If you are like most people, you may be able to generate two, maybe three people for each item.

This list of people generally includes people you love and people you hate. Most likely, it is not everyone in the known universe, or even in your suburban cul-de-sac.

Create an alternate Everybody

Do you have a sense that your Everybody is either people you don’t care about or who don’t have your best interest at heart? Since Everybodys usually come from family, media culture, ideological camps, school, peers or organizations, their influence is strong. But are they really the right people to support you?   If not, you are ready to create an alternate Everybody using another exercise from Finding Your Own North Star (page 84).

Alternate Voices Exercise:

Step 1:  For each of these statements, make two columns:  in the left, people that have told you this statement is not true, and  in the right, people who have told you this statement is true. Fill in as many blanks as you can.  You don’t have to fill in all of them, and it’s fine if the same names come up in response to different statements.  Bother only with the statements you do not believe, and remember, no generalizing.

  1. I’m a natural born winner: always was, always will be.
  2. The world is full of people who would love to be my friends.
  3. I’ll always have plenty of money.
  4. I deserve a life of joy and fulfillment
  5. I’m physically beautiful, and I always will be.
  6. I can be wildly successful at my chosen career.
  7. I have an amazingly capable brain.
  8. I’m perfectly lovable exactly as I am.
  9. I’m highly creative by nature.
  10. My dreams are in the process of coming true.

Here is an example of the worksheet:

Alternatevoice

 

Step 2:  Look over the columns of names you’ve written down in the previous exercise, and answer the following questions:

  1. Whom do you like more?  (People on left/People on right)
  2. Whom do you respect more? (People on left/People on right)
  3. Which people have the happier, more fulfilling lives? (People on left/People on right)
  4. Which people have more stable, intimate relationships? (People on left/People on right)
  5. If you had a baby and were forced to leave your child to be raised by other people, whom would you choose? (People on left/People on right)
  6. Which individuals most deserve to have their opinions ignored, belittled and discounted? (People on left/People on right)
  7. Why in the name of all that’s holy would you give any credence to the people on the left?

Redefining your Everybody may feel uncomfortable since some of you, like Javier, have felt a giant boot in your neck for many years.

Changing perspectives does not mean that some people are not out to get you.  Nor does it aim to minimize hurt inflicted on you by real people.

As an example, just yesterday, an Anglo business colleague said to my husband (who is Navajo), while looking at his long beautiful hair, “Good thing General Custer is not alive, he sure would have loved scalping you!”

Whether you chalk this up to racism or good old-fashioned stupidity, it is apparent that The Man’s spirit is alive and well in today’s society.

But this I know for sure: if you dig deep and redefine your Everybody, you just might find there is a nurturing, supportive conspiracy to lift you up.

Trust me, Everybody knows I’m right.