The Benevolent Guide…Insight from Martha

A few days ago, my partner Karen’s beloved father passed away after a long illness. It was a very gradual departure; for weeks, everyone thought that each hour might be Charlie’s last. The days immediately following his passing were unthinkably grueling for Karen and her family, but I’ll say this for imminent death: it clearly differentiates the things that matter from the things that don’t. Being together matters; how we look doesn’t. Love matters; status doesn’t. Having a roof over our heads matters; having a mansion doesn’t. Peace matters so much that by comparison, literally nothing else does.

A few months ago an interviewer asked me, “What are you most grateful for?” and I found myself cheerfully blurting, “Death!” There was a long silence, and then I stammered, “Er, well, it’s nice to think we don’t have to just, you know, keep doing stuff.” The interviewer did not seem to be going there with me. Oh, well, I thought; when I’m dying it won’t matter what she thinks of me. And then I remembered: We’re all dying!

Getting past the fear this creates has been a life’s work for me—a work very much still in progress. But after schlepping away at it for years, I now feel more awe and wonder than dread of death, and the knowledge of its inevitability gives me permission to do more and more of what matters, less and less of what doesn’t. In Africa, where I spent June, I had few possessions, no telephone or email, a very simple schedule. Since returning I’ve given away most of my clothes and set out to minimize things like unnecessary meetings, housework, correspondence, and especially thoughts that distract me from the amazement of being alive for a little while.

Think about whatever you have planned for the next few hours. Would you do this thing if you were currently helping a loved one cross the threshold of death? Will this thing matter to you at all when you’re the one crossing that threshold? If not, stop. Do something that matters in the face of mortality. Living this way makes death a benevolent guide that shows you how to create the best possible life you can have. And doing that brings peace, the peace that matters so much that nothing else can ever compare.

When in Drought…Insight from Martha

when in droughtLast year was the first I spent in California. Having come from the desert, I was all excited about the winter greenness, the rains that always come in October…okay, November…well, FOR SURE in December…or absolutely in…January?

Or not.

This is the first time in recorded history that the rain has not come at all. The forest I love is gray and stark. I swear I can feel things dying.

I was getting rather testy with God about this when a thing happened.

Jeanette Trompeter, a journalist and pal of Master Coach Jill Farmer, asked to interview me for the local news. We did the interview, then I forgot all about it. Several weeks later, I happened to flip on the TV exactly in time to catch the segment about me. Jeanette then told the weatherman how worried I was about the drought. The man in the magic box faced me and said, “Martha, stop worrying about the drought.”

I know! Right?

It still hasn’t rained. That’s how these things work. When I was deep in debt, I got winks that said “Stop worrying about money.” It arrived…eventually. When I was “incurably” ill, I got winks that said “You’ll get well.” I did…eventually. The good stuff didn’t happen when I wanted it to, but it happened. And in the meantime, these loving messages from the universe helped me drop useless anxiety.

Try this: Think of a current “drought” in your life. For 10 minutes, just trust that it will all be okay. Trust that you’re being guided. Trust, against all odds and evidence, that you are safe.

When I use this exercise on my drought fears, the strangest thing happens: I feel it raining inside myself. I become a microcosm of the life-giving rain that, someday, will bring California back to life. Or so I trust.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A week after Martha wrote this, it started raining in California.

How to Cure Self-Consciousness

You step into the party feeling reasonably confident. True, your favorite little black dress feels somewhat tight, but it’s still elegant, and the wind outside only tousled your hair a little. Then, just as you’re preparing to mingle, it happens: You pass a mirror and glimpse your reflection—your horrifying, horrifying reflection. The dress isn’t just read more…

How to Tune In to Your Inner Wisdom

This very day, two individuals are vying to be your personal adviser. The first, whose name is Fang, dresses in immaculate business attire, carries a briefcase full of neatly organized folders, and answers all e-mails instantly, via BlackBerry. In a loud, clear, authoritative voice, Fang delivers strong opinions about how you should manage your time. read more…

Doing Nothing… Insight From Martha

Yesterday I went whale-watching with my son Adam and my partner Karen. It was a beautiful day, and there were humpbacks everywhere. Aside from the slight injuries I sustained being elbowed by other tourists, it was awesome. Of course Adam had his own odd way of whale-watching, which consisted of sitting on the boat with read more…

How to Accept Yourself

Have you ever heard one of those near-death stories where someone recounts an out-of-body experience? I just love them, especially when they include details I didn’t expect. For instance, I’ve heard several previously nearly dead women say that when they were ostensibly peering down at their bodies from a distance, those bodies looked unexpectedly pretty. read more…

The Empathy Workout

I can’t say I always enjoy cardiovascular exercise. I don’t think anyone does. Oh, I’ve seen those infomercials featuring models whose granite abs and manic smiles become even more sharply defined at the very sight of workout equipment. But as we all know, these people are from Neptune. Being an Earth-human myself, I strongly resist read more…

When You Feel Lonely

At times in my life, I have felt utterly lonely. At other times, I’ve had disgusting infectious diseases. Try admitting these things in our culture, and you’ll find they evoke identical responses: Listeners cringe with a mixture of pity, revulsion, and alarm. In a culture where everyone wants a happy family and a sizzling relationship, read more…