Enjoyment is in The Waiting… Insight from Martha

Last month I promised to tell you results of my experiment in Radical Fun. This month I will be somewhat cryptic, because although things are in process, they are not yet signed, sealed, and delivered. I will say however, that even the pursuit of these radically fun ideas has, itself, been radically fun.
 
This has led me to think—a rare but thrilling experience for me—and my thoughts are that as I wait for things to be signed, sealed, and delivered, I have the capacity to derive immense enjoyment from the challenge of creating in form what I have pictured in my imagination.
 
It seems to me we do this all the time: we spend months or years in anguished waiting, thinking, and longing for the day that things are signed, sealed, and delivered, and then we will be free to enjoy ourselves. To draw this to its logical conclusion, I suggest we all do what Salvador Dalí was rumored to have done—purchase our own coffins, climb in, and pretend we are all finished with everything, forever.  The fact is, as long as we are breathing, the conditions of our lives will always be in flux, our ships still sailing in, the things we already own potentially dissolving (or disappearing). To accept that fact without anxiety is to enjoy the process of living. Anything less, and we are simply suffering until we die.
 
Try a thought experiment with me: Recall something good that happened to you in the past which required some level of patience. Maybe you started a business and didn’t know for a while if it would succeed. Maybe you fell in love and weren’t sure if the object of your affection would love you back. Maybe you planted weed in the back of your walk-in closet and had to wait to see if it matured before the authorities caught you. Were you relaxed and jovial awaiting the outcome? (Remember I said before the weed matured). If not, if you spent sleepless nights or anxious days anticipating an outcome you could not control, welcome to the club. Most of us do that. Now imagine that you knew beforehand that all would go well—as in fact it did. Imagine the feelings of anticipation, the delight, the happy planning, and the joyful discussions with loved ones you could have had in the absence of that anxiety.
 
Now notice that even if you had been disappointed, that period of positive anticipation could have been enjoyable, in and of itself.
 
I think the key to this kind of enjoyment is to relax around the concept of disappointment. Tension and anxiety won’t make you less disappointed if you don’t get what you want. So you might as well dive in and enjoy optimism knowing that while you cannot control all outcomes, you can control how well you cope with circumstances that hurt your feelings.
 
My favorite story about handling disappointments comes from the India guru Amrit Desai. He had a collection of very rare crystals that he’d accumulated over many years. One day his cleaning lady knocked over a display case and smashed most of the irreplaceable crystals. When she tearfully pointed out her mistake, expecting a violent reaction, the guru shrugged and told her “Those things were for my joy, not for my misery.”
 
This month, accept things for your joy instead of making them the reason for your misery. Hope for your wildest dreams to come true, and then spend all your time imagining, discussing, dreaming, and enjoying the happiest possible outcome in advance. If your heart’s desire does not happen, you have my permission to be extremely disappointed—but not for very long.
 
The fact is, the only reason you are alive is that far more has gone right for you than has gone wrong. Your dreams are for your joy; even if they lie crushed on the ground, you need not make them responsible for misery. If you raise your eyes from the shards you’ll find more dreams all around, and many of them can come true. As Marcel Proust wrote, “If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.” 
 
I’ll update you next month, but in the meantime I plan to enjoy myself!

How to Break Through Old Limitations: Insight From Martha

As many of you know, my system of coaching consists of several conceptual “tools” that can quickly cut through the chatter of people’s socialization and connect them with their essential self.   Recently, I have modified one of the tools, turning it from a paring knife into a sort of Swiss Army affair with additional flanges. Because this exercise has helped me get through the month, I want to share it with you.

Right now, in your imagination, call up a persistent problem that you have been unable to solve for yourself. Maybe you never get the rewards you feel you deserve, or you can’t get rid of the clutter in your home, or your health just keeps failing you. Maybe you can’t stop kidnapping zoo animals and hiding them in your bathtub. Whatever this problem is, the persistency with which it occurs and your inability to make it go away show that it is hiding in a mental blind spot. You are the common factor in all these situations, and the likelihood that they are happening to you by sheer random bad luck is vanishingly small. I know you don’t know what you are doing to cause this problem, but I’m willing to piss you off by saying that you are doing something.

(By the way, we were all educated in a system where the “right” and “wrong” answers were determined by the system’s definitions. In that sort of environment, you can argue your way from a C- to a B+ by making excuses, pointing out how much stress you are under, or showing the teacher where the test was wrong. Don’t even try that here. If your life isn’t working, you can be sure that there is a cause and effect reality at play. For example, if you tried a thousand times to make fire by bashing two rocks together, it would not be your teacher’s judgment that would show you failure. You could not argue the rocks into creating fire for you or into feeling sorry for all the stress they are putting upon you. Your life gives you solid, empirical evidence that what you are doing does not work.)

Now comes the tricky part: Holding your problem in your mind, relax all your muscles and breathe deeply and without effort. Instead of thinking about your problem, feel the energy of the problematic situation as a sensation that affects your entire body. You may notice strong emotions arising without quite knowing what they mean. Just keep breathing, and if you are tempted to become analytical, repeat in your mind words like “let go,” “relax,” and “be still.” Keep feeling. Somewhere in this welter of emotion, you will connect with a sensation of yearning. Oddly, you may not feel this as your own yearning; rather, it is the problematic situation itself that is yearning to change. Where you may think you want a certain person to love you, truly and romantically, the situation may be yearning for you to stand up for yourself. Where you may believe it is up to you to organize those papers in your office, the situation may be begging you to bring in another person whose filing skills are better than yours. Where you may think you should take charge of your teenagers, the situation may be yearning for you to relax and laugh with your children, to accept them without reservation and to trust them to keep themselves safe.

It may take five or six minutes before you get even a flicker of this sensation. We are so used to working these problems in our minds that letting go to see what wants to happen can at first be a baffling experience. Let the emotional power of your wish for a better life motivate you to persist in this exercise until you can feel what your life is begging for.

You will then be faced with some interesting choices, because the situation will not be yearning for what you already know how to do. It may not even ask you to do something that you think is logical or “right.” Feel free to go back to your old methods of dealing with this issue. The next time it kicks you in your teeth–and it will–this exercise will be waiting for you to reorient your approach. When you take the leap of faith to do what your wilder instincts recommend, you will break through old limitations and find that the problems evaporate.