Creating Your Right Life

inspiration & tools for empowered living

1123
2008

There’s No “I” in “TEAM”…But There’s ME

Yo!  Martha’s First Blog Post!

Hi, it’s me, Martha.  I recently realized that all I really want to do was sit down and yack with my coaches and clients.  I tried doing this on the phone, and lost six pounds because I forgot to leave time to eat.  So I’ve decided a blog is the way to do my yacking.  I’ll be posting every couple of weeks.  I wish we were hanging out drinking margaritas and roasting marshmallows somewhere in a wilderness paradise, but for now, this will work for a “campfire.”

So about a year ago, I decided I was about to die.Not in a hypochondriacal or suicidal sort of way—I was healthy as a horse and happy as a clam—but because I’d finished every project and realized every dream I could imagine.I was standing on the summit of my personal Everest, looking out at the amazing view, filled with gratitude, with nothing left to climb.Since no new dreams or goals sounded interesting to me, I figured I was all finished, and was about to experience the adventure of death.

So I made sure my will was in order, doubled my life insurance, and headed off to Africa, to run a coach training course.Along the way, I had to stop at my favorite place, Londolozi, a game reserve in northern South Africa that feels like heaven. I wondered, with no little excitement, if I was destined to be killed by lions.I mean, what a way to go, right?  Tell me where I’m wrong!

But to my astonishment, no lions ate me.Instead, I got operating instructions for the rest of my life.

AND HERE’S WHERE YOU COME IN.  (Probably.)

If you’re reading this, it’s because you have some sort of interest in, or at least curiosity about, my work: writing, coaching, speaking.And if you have such interest or curiosity, it’s probably because you’re on the Team.

I’ve been aware of the Team since I was a small child, though I still don’t quite understand it.I just felt oddly different from most other people, as I think most children do, except that occasionally I’d see someone and feel a small burst of recognition:“Oh!That person’s on my Team!”I had no idea why I thought this, or why some people were so clearly my Team, while others clearly weren’t.There was no age, gender, race, ethnic, or socioeconomic bias to the Team: I “recognized” people who seemed wildly different from one another.

What all these people shared was a faraway perspective, a sense of standing outside ordinary society and puzzling over its many problems.For a while I called them “Watchers,” though I had a sense they were meant to do more than just watch.At some point, I always felt, the Team had a job to do.And we were all in training for that job.

I pushed these thoughts away during my skeptical adolescent years, but they came back like a tsunami after my son Adam was born, when I was 25. I still had no idea what the Team was meant to do, but I was getting a vague picture.It had something to do with facilitating a major change in the way human beings think.I was in academia, so I figured I’d add a tiny pebble to the edifice of social science, and that would be it.No one would even notice, which was okay by me.

Over the past 20 years, the number of Teammates I’ve spotted has grown exponentially.For the past two years, Team members have been coming out of the woodwork.Many of them have simply walked up and asked me, “We’re on the same Team, aren’t we?”I’m not even surprised by this any more.I just say, “Yup.”

“Do you know what we’re doing?” they’ll say.

“Not exactly,” I tell them.“Something about a transformation of consciousness.”

“Of course,” they say, as though this is very old news.“But do you know exactly how?”

“No idea,” I tell them, then add something I heard from Teammate Betsy Rapoport: “but whatever it is, we move at dawn.”

 

The Task of the Team

This conversation happens to me more in South Africa than anywhere else (you South Africans are big-time Team, the whole kit and kaboodle of you).So I should’ve expected that instead of dying on that Africa trip, I’d awaken to a whole new slate of dreams and goals.

That trip, I met a whole slew of Team members, whose lives are about “rebuilding Eden.”I learned that Londolozi, the wildest place I’ve ever been, was reclaimed from dessicated farmland by John and David Varty, who inherited the land when they were teenagers.Since then, they’ve repaired massive swathes of land all over Africa.According to one of the geologists who’s helped them do this, it would cost $38 billion dollars to repair every ecosystem on earth.This includes having healthy humans who can live on the land by preserving it, rather than ruining it.When I read Dave Varty’s book, The Full Circle, I finally realized why I can’t die just yet.I have to help the Team accomplish one little task.

We have to save the world.

Oh. That.

Understand that I am a natural pragmatist and a trained sociologist.Long ago, I assessed the way the human population was expanding and affecting ecosystems, and decided that I’d tell my kids not to have kids, because that way there would be fewer humans to suffer when everything goes to hell and only the cockroaches survive.To preserve a world where humans can thrive, we not only have to stop ruining the planet, we have to repair much of the damage we’ve already done.Until a year ago, I didn’t think this was possible.Now I believe it may be.But it’s going to take the whole Team, pulling together.

So, are you in?

 

Your Role On the Team

There are probably millions of Teams on earth right now.I only “recognize” people who happen to be in mine, but this isn’t an exclusionary categorization, just a functional one.I’m still not at all sure how we should coordinate our actions when dawn breaks.But I can tell you some of the common characteristics of my Team, and these characteristics will give us some clues about our respective and collective jobs.See if you identify with any of these criteria:

  • You’ve always felt separate and odd, misunderstood by others while having the ability to make them feel understood.
  • You’re haunted by a feeling of having something incredibly important to do, but you don’t know what it is.Over the past couple of years, this feelings has become almost overwhelmingly intense.
  • You hate small talk, but find that large talk is not encouraged.
  • You love, love, love animals; in fact, your life feels incomplete unless you’re interacting with animals.  This is your posse:
 
  • Your childhood and adolescence were difficult.Like really, really difficult—abuse, addiction, years-of-total-despair difficult.
  • You’ve had a significant “life accident” such as losing several family members to death, being physically disabled, or having a child with a disability.
  • You’ve had a long-term, disabling and/or painful illness that was mysteriously unresponsive to medical treatment.
  • You occasionally feel compelled to learn or create certain things, without really knowing why.
  • You’ve begun meeting people who are like you, in a strange way you can’t articulate, and you feeling powerfully drawn to these people despite lots of surface differences.

If this is ringing your chimes, you’re the kind of person who, in a traditional culture, would probably have been identified as a shaman, a wizard, a druid, a medicine person.  You may also have been burned at the stake.  Oh, well, nothing is perfect.

So it’s wonderful to live in a time when the burning-at-the-stake thing has been scaled down.On the other hand, it’s a bummer to be a natural-born shaman in a culture that doesn’t believe in shamans.You may not know exactly what to do with your life.Maybe you’re posing as a therapist, a hospice worker, a human-resources coordinator, or some other identity that is our society’s pale version of tribe mystic.You probably haven’t been trained as a shaman—I haven’t been, and I’d never claim the label.But I was born with the bug.And if you were, too, we probably have similar roles in the saving of the world.

 

Getting Ready to Save the World

The traditional life’s work of a tribe shaman has two components:

1.Learn to align oneself with the Powers That Be.

2.Use connection with the Powers That Be to teach and to heal.

Of these two tasks, the former is far and away the most important.In my “life coaching” system, which is really a form of tribal teaching, we say we have to “live it to give it.”

The good news is that if you live it—if you behave according to your own ethics and constantly work to be more authentic—you can’t help giving it.People will hunt you down to ask for your advice, and they’ll feel healed by being near you.  The word “wizard” comes from the same root as “wisdom,” and wisdom is always in short supply.  It’s a seller’s market…with one catch.

The bad news is that trying to give it without living it (not walking your talk) can make you diabolical.No one does more damage than a born shaman who’s aligned with the wrong Force. Both “living it” without “giving it” and “giving it” without “living it” are impossible.  You must stay in balance to be a Good Wizard.

It’s worth noting here that the term “charisma” is a Greek word that refers to the quality of being connected to the spiritual realm.A “charismatic leader” can create either great good or great evil, be a Martin Luther King or a Hitler.Even if you were born to serve only yourself, your kids, and the dog, being born a shaman means you’ll have unusual influence, so it behooves you to live rightly.

Once you set out to live as authentically as possible, you’ll automatically download the operating instructions for your particular role in saving the world.You may feel drawn to active application of geology and ecology, like Dave Varty.You may become a politician.You may adopt a stray cat.Everyone on the Team has a different, unique path.Shamans are alike in some ways.In other ways, we’re wildly different.The way for you to teach and heal is your way only.So how do you know you’re on track?In a shamanic kinda way.

 

How To Stay On Track

Happily, shamans have a built-in safety mechanism to help keep them (us) on track: if we don’t live authentically and serve others, we become physically sick and psychologically tortured.To stay healthy and happy, you must follow your singular path, even when every bit of social pressure and cultural custom dictate otherwise.You have to realize that “shaman sense” and “common sense” may look very divergent to the people around you—but for you, the two are always aligned.

When my life was filled with activities and intentions that weren’t “on course” for me, I was clinically depressed and/or crippled by massive chronic pain, eventually diagnosed as fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, and a few other incurable illnesses.As long as I live my shaman-path, however, I’m very happy and my “incurable” illnesses are completely dormant—no symptoms at all.

 

So the way to follow your own personal operating instructions is to do whatever makes you happiest.That may sound selfish, but shamans are only happy when helping others.When we’re helping, we’re happy, and when we’re happy, we’re helping.Saving a swathe of Africa, becoming a doctor, writing a book—these are all just byproducts of living in the joy zone.

Right now—ever since that trip to Africa—my operating instructions have been telling me to do what I’m doing right now: find the Team, and tell them who they are.If you’re not on my Team, this whole blog post is ridiculous to you.I don’t mind.I’ve been accused of heresy and insanity plenty of times.But maybe you’re thinking, “I’m on the Team!I’m on the Team!”If so, I’ll be writing to you and about you in future blogs.For now, all I’ll say is, this is Martha Beck, and we move at dawn, and what’s more, my dears, it is almost sunrise.

 

 

 

0922
2008

How are you feeling, really?

by Pamela Slim

If I were to attach a giant magic probe to foreheads across the U.S. right now, what emotion do you think would be off the charts?

Fear, anyone?

Market meltdowns, government bailouts, war, natural disasters and election uncertainty make this point in history a pretty unsettling one, at least for those of us in the United States.

However, I would guess that under the general feeling of panic, there are some other emotions which are causing people to feel paralyzed.

As my friend Colleen Wainwright said recently, “What is really harshing your mellow?”

Chapter Eight of Martha’s book Finding Your Own North Star offers an extremely simple but highly effective way to decipher your emotional state, asking the question: “Are you more sad, mad, glad or scared?

This works like magic with my clients that feel foggy, conflicted and totally stuck.  When I ask “how do you feel?” they often do not have an answer.  But with the question, “are you more sad, mad, glad or scared,” most will immediately choose one of the words, like “mad” or “scared.”

Once the primary emotion is identified, we dig down and find out what is causing it. With the cause identified, we define what course of action is necessary to get them to feel better.  Once they see a path forward, the original emotion almost always dissipates, or at least does not feel so overwhelming.

So if you are feeling stuck and uncomfortable in some part of your life but don’t know what to do about it, try this 4-part exercise from Finding Your Own North Star:

Magic Question #1:  What are you feeling?

Exercise

1.  Right now, are you feeling more sad, mad, glad or scared? Even if your feelings are very mild, try putting them in one of these categories.

2.  Now write down at least six different words, besides those listed above, that describe your feelings at this moment.

a.
b.
c.
c.
d.
e.
f.

3.  Think of three works of art (songs, movies, images, poems, plays, books, etc.) that resonate with your current emotional state.

a.
b.
c.

4.  What do these works have in common?

5.  Complete the following sentences. Don’t think about grammar or spelling; just shoot for emotional accuracy.  No one has to see this but you.

a.  I wish …
b.  I hope …
c.  I’m angry that …
d. I’m afraid that …
e. I’m sad about …
f.  I’m happy about …
g.  If it weren’t embarrassing, I’d feel …
h.  Even though it’s stupid, I feel …

Magic Question #2:  Why am I feeling this way?

Those of you who have young children will immediately recognize this exercise.  It is attributed to the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota who used it in their rigorous quality program to drive production efficiency, but we all know that they just stole it from a bright toddler (Mom, do I have to eat this ohitashi? Why?  Why?  Why? Why?  Why?).

Exercise:

1.  What was the strongest emotion that emerged as you did the exercises from Magic Question #1?

2.  Why do you feel this way?

3.  Why?

4.  Why?

5.  Why?

6.  Why?

When you get to the real reason you are not feeling good, you may find the answer is not one you want to hear.  Martha says:

“One way you can always tell when people have lost touch with their emotions, or are unwilling to admit to them, is that when you ask them about their motivations, they’ll say, “It’s complicated.”

The Question:  Why didn’t you call me last night?
The Answer:  “Um…it’s complicated.”
The Truth:  “I didn’t want to.”

The Question:  “You seem so distant; what’s wrong?
The Answer:  “Well, it’s complicated.”
The Truth:  “I don’t like you.”

The Question:  “Don’t you want to date me anymore?”
The Answer:  “It’s just complicated.”
The Truth:  “No.”

Usually, people who use the “complicated” line actually believe it themselves.  They think of emotion as a tangled web of contradictory forces.  This is because their emotional compasses are pointing in directions that offend their Everybodies or their social selves.  The only way out of a “complicated” emotional situation is to figure out which feelings are coming directly from your core and which are imposed on you by social fears and obligations.”

This exercise can be very helpful for going from big, global problems like “the state of the economy” or “greedy corporations” to something specific that is within your control to change.  Here is a common scenario which you may relate to:

What are you feeling? “I am angry at my company for laying people off.”

Why? “Because it should care more about employee loyalty.”

Why? “Because I work my heart out and expect to get something in return.”

Why? (I usually amplify this question by asking “Have they given you any recent evidence they  will reward your loyalty with lifetime employment?”) “Because I am ignoring the fact that companies have not rewarded employee loyalty with lifetime employment for a long time, if ever.”

Why? “Because then I have to take responsibility for my own career, and that is scary.”

Why?  Because I have limited networks outside my job and don’t know what else I could do to make money.”

Bingo.  In this scenario, there are two prevalent emotions:  anger and fear.  In order to get to a pragmatic course of action like working on alternate career paths, you may need to release some anger.  Releasing anger can also lead to grief:  longing for the way companies used to be, when you did not have to be so fearful of layoffs and where long-term employment with one company was encouraged and desired.  Once these emotions are expressed, you can get to work on the one thing in your control:  your own career path.

Magic Question #3:  What will it take to make me happy?

Part of what keeps people paralyzed is that they believe that the only way they will feel better is by expecting others to change.  Using my recent example, you can see examples of useless and useful yearnings:

Useless Yearning:  “I want corporations to stop laying people off.”
Useful Yearning:  “I want to develop a career path that will not be dependent on the rise or fall of any one corporation.”

Useless Yearning:  “I want Wall Street Traders to stop being so greedy.”
Useful Yearning:  “I want to have my money in stable, smart investment vehicles.”

Useless Yearning:  “I want things to go back to the way they were, before all this doom and gloom.”
Useful Yearning:  “I want to learn how to feel grounded and positive, regardless of what chaos is going on around me.”

Exercise

1.  Think about a situation that makes you feel angry, sad or scared.  What is it about this situation that you wish were different?

2.  Think about a situation that makes you happy.  Which elements of this situation do you want to keep?

3.  What do you want most right now?

4. What do you really want most right now?

Try to get to a description of something you want that is within your span of control, even if it involves the help of others to make it happen.

Magic Question #4:  “What’s the Most Effective Way to Get What I Want?”

Exercise

1.  Think of a very inexpensive item you’d like to own, such as a Popsicle or a shiny new pencil with your name stamped on it in gold-colored letters.  Make sure it’s something you don’t own a the moment. Note what the object is in this space:

1.  Now think of six ways you can get the item you just named without leaving your house.  You can use any communications devices or other technologies at your disposal, and you definitely don’t have to go it alone.  (Magic question No. 4 is all about working with others to reach your objectives.)  Even if the methods you come up with aren’t things you’re really comfortable doing (like borrowing or calling third parties to ask for help), list them.  You may build up some courage, and even if you don’t, you’ll find that refusing to censor your inventiveness will lead to more solutions.

a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.

3.  Read over the solutions you have listed, and see if any of them are a) possible, b) legal, and c) morally acceptable to you.  If an action plan fulfills all these criteria, go ahead and use it.

4.  Double-check to make sure your social self isn’t ruling out workable solutions.  Here are some signs that your social self is acting as your master, rather than your servant:

a.  When you think about putting the solution into action, you find yourself laughing in embarrassment.

b. You react to the proposed solution with thoughts like “I could never do that” or “I can’t just…” or “But I have to…” These statements tend to reflect social inhibitions, not actual limitations.

c.  You immediately think of some person who’d be upset if you took this course of action, or you stop yourself with the question “What would people think?”

5.  If you have had any of the reactions above, consider whether you might want to break the rules of the social game.  Be sure you stay within the confines of your own moral system; violating your integrity will lead you directly away from your own North Star.

Once you complete this trial exercise, guess what:  time to try it with something you really want from Magic Question #3.

And if you are still feeling a bit scared at this point, I am hoping that it is no longer the “we are doomed, the sky is falling” variety, but rather specific, healthy anxiety that comes up when you start working on getting what you want.

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