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Easy Does It

tumblr_lsmnttn3jX1qg5i5zLife is hard. We all know that. It is one of the primary beliefs that helped you gut it out through school subjects you hated, your soul-vampire of a job, and the years when your children, your partner, and your parents all depended on you. When I read through the journals I have kept sporadically throughout my life, I can see how acknowledging that life is hard helps me survive and overcome obstacles.

But, something weird is happening.

It’s not just me; it’s also people I work with, people I coach, and friends from all walks of life. We are being challenged to let things be easy. This is not an altogether new idea. 2000 years ago, Jesus supposedly said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The Buddha tried a life of pain and self-denial, then declared that it was not enlightenment and chose an easier path.

My favorite philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, “The great Way is easy, yet people prefer the side path. Be aware when things are out of balance. Stay centered within the Way.”

It seems to me these days that the easy way is no longer an option for us: it is an imperative. What you are meant to do in the world may have begun with difficulty, but from here on, you are obliged to find the easiest path to all of your objectives. We live in a time of astonishing ease, especially those of us in the first world. Almost every day, at least one person says to me, “I can’t believe it’s that easy.” Guess what? It is.

For example, here are some of the things that seem too easy for me. I was educated to spend hours in libraries shuffling 3×5 note cards, searching through stacks of books, and reading thousands of pages in search of one nugget of truth. Now, I can Google “nugget of truth” and come up with over 2.5 million results in 0.23 seconds. In fact I just did it; how about this? “You are a dream of God come true.” That’s just awesome. That’s just too easy!

Another example: Now that I live in the country, shopping means a full-on expedition requiring at least an hour in transit just to buy groceries or a pair of flip-flops. Some of my neighbors recently told me that they shop online and have all of their purchases delivered to their country home. What? That’s just too easy!

Just one more: I have trouble remembering writing deadlines. So, right now, my wonderful Master Coach Jill Farmer is typing up this newsletter as I dictate it, while I’m giving myself a pedicure. Decadently easy!

By the same token, a dear friend of mine recently found a significant other through an online dating service. My daughters create astonishing works of art on their computers that would take thousands of hours to paint on a canvas. When I set out to plant a vegetable garden, a dear friend who loves to garden came and showed me how. We just ate our first batch of potatoes, a small miracle that required virtually no effort on our part.

All of this easiness is causing great un-easiness. At least a dozen people, over this past month, have asked me for coaching because certain tasks had become so easy they feared they were doing something wrong. I don’t think so. I think that a wave of easiness is rising all over the world. Does mean that people are not suffering or experiencing enormous difficulty? Of course not. But it may mean that even solving the problems of the destitute is meant to be an easier task than we believe. It may mean that the everyday labors of our lives are being facilitated by something that is teaching us to use our striving, tenacity, and grit to do things so huge and beautiful that they have never been possible before.

Do this for me: This month, every time you set out to do any task, ask yourself, “Is there an easier way?” Or, “How can I make this easier?” Can you ask a friend for help? Have you tried Googling it? Are there services out there to help you? Might small miracles happen if you simply ask the powers that be for assistance? It floors me when I ask this question to myself and realize how much easier tasks have become. And, the strength I gained gutting it through the hard parts of life is now free to flow into tasks that have one common purpose: to make things easier for others. That’s why all of this is happening, people. We are a species that works to make things easier. We’re getting really good at it. But, unless we drop the idea “life is hard,” we can’t take advantage of the astonishing ease we have created.

Command Your Time

1267744_timeIt’s springtime in the forest of Central California where I live, and everything seems to be happening at once. Wildflowers have blossomed in every field, like blue and yellow and pink paint poured over the green landscape. The wild turkeys are mating up a storm—bird porn wherever you look. My calendar seems to be experiencing the same riotous growth as everything else. My schedule is so packed with joyful and astonishing treats that there is barely an unscheduled moment left. Frankly, it’s terrifying.

I have always had a troubled relationship with time. I don’t like the way it passes, taking every material form along with it. I don’t like the way it pushes me, requiring that I put aside one joyful or necessary action to perform another. I don’t like the way it tires my body, and I fully resent the fact that it means I will not be a concert pianist, a circus acrobat, a wild animal tracker, and a neuroscientist during this lifetime.

Speaking of neuroscientists, I’ve been prepping for a workshop with 15 medical doctors who are frustrated with the way medicine is constructed by our culture. Led by the inimitable Lissa Rankin, MD, these brilliant physicians are coming here to begin forming new ideas about how they can run their lives and careers. As I read the entry forms for this corps of doctors, I am astonished and appalled by the brutal way their training has taught them to deal with their time. All of them crush more activity into an hour than most people do all day. But what gets crushed includes activities such as being present with the person who is dying, or eating a nutritious meal leisurely, or assuming an easy, relaxed pace as they open a human body and tinker with the mechanisms inside. How ironic those our culture considers healers of the body are forced to drive themselves without enough sleep, food, or play to keep their own bodies healthy. As we say in my coaching system, how can you give what you cannot live? 

But whether or not you are a medical doctor, the tyranny of time very likely dominates your life. Our clocks, our calendars, our associations drive us like overburdened pack mules from one hurried task to another. Right now, if I let myself worry about the amount of work I think I must do this very day, I will topple off the tightrope of inner peace and into a full-on panic. I suspect the same may be true of you—if not today, then soon. One of the most essential tasks for living a life of purpose and joy is to command your time, rather than let it command you.

This will require that you steel yourself for enormous disapproval. Yesterday, I was torn between the conflicting demands of a friend who needed support and an appointment at an unknown destination. I left myself just enough time to get to the interview, but since it was at an unfamiliar location and I have the navigational skills of a cashew, I was late. The interviewer at the studio was not amused. He was testy and frustrated, as I would have been in his place. As I apologized, I realized I was facing a choice: beat myself up for misusing my time, or hold fast to my decision to be present for my friend and allow the interviewer his anger without changing my commitment to scheduling myself in the way that feels most soulful and authentic to me.

For a while I chose door #1. I got out my patented self-flagellation whip (no, it’s not real, you perv, it’s a metaphor) and told myself that somehow, next time, I would have to be less emotional, more professional, in my scheduling choices. Just as everyone has always predicted, I went straight to hell. Fortunately, I left right away. By the time I got home, I had reconnected myself to what is true for me at the deepest level. That is that no professional obligation is remotely as significant as one moment that bonds two human hearts and lives. I turned on a Bob Marley song and bellowed along at the top of my voice—”Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing’s gonna be all right”—and it was. 

This little story sums up all the steps to taking command of your own time. One: Set your schedule according to your deepest priorities. Two: When others object to this scheduling, respectfully decline to give a crap. Three: When you receive negative feedback for your scheduling choices, allow any feelings you may have; then sing and dance to Bob Marley until the bad feelings go away. (You may substitute Bach or ABBA or Usher for Bob Marley, although I would suggest that you avoid Enya as this could put you into an irreversible trance.)

This process is not for the faint of heart. It scares the willies out of me. But when I do it, something miraculous occurs. Time—which physicists know to be elastic—begins to bend and stretch for me. Tasks I thought would occupy hours get done in minutes. Helpers show up out of nowhere to help things go more quickly. And the things I do become so interesting that the timekeeper in my head stops altogether. Running your life by your heart, rather than your schedule, is the only method I know that is efficient enough to help us get everything done that we need to do. 

I’ll tell you what it’s time to do right now. It’s time to set your schedule in order so that you don’t look back on the day of your death and wonder why you never really lived. It’s time to ignore the opinions of those who think your life should be all about their cause, their rules, their agenda, and not your soul’s desire. It’s time to stop flagellating and start dancing. If you wish to argue about this, I must respectfully decline. I simply do not have the time.

Your Inner Home

Ah, February. The month of hearts and flowers. The month in which, if you do not have a perfect relationship, all things conspire to make you suicidal. As a freshman at Harvard, I once went to the campus health service psychiatrist to explain that I was so buried in sadness and hopelessness that I was afraid I might simply might collapse and die on the cobbled streets of Cambridge.

“I think I have depression,” I told him.

“No,” he said, “this isn’t depression, this is just February.”

He was wrong, of course (I was depressed as hell) but he was also right. The month of February can be a cold harsh slog for the heart. It can make you feel very much alone.

I have had many difficult Februaries in my life, but this—I am overjoyed to say—is not one of them. In fact, I often feel as though I’m five years old and having a wonderful dream. As a child I was obsessed with nature and animals. Now I wake up in the morning to see deer daintily stepping past my bedroom window, a host of feathery angels eating at the bird feeder I put up, and a bobcat hunting in the pasture just beyond the fence.

Of one thing I am certain: I do not deserve one tiny bit more happiness than any other human being. (Except maybe Stalin; Stalin didn’t deserve much.

I believe the reason I’ve been given so much joy is very simple. Fairly early in my life, after having one of those near-death experiences everyone talks about, I set out to live in a way that would bring me home to my true self. Whatever felt like peace, truth, and spiritual freedom, I would do. Whatever felt like captivity, suffocation, or injustice, I would not do. It really is that simple, though there are times when it is not at all easy. (I’ll be describing the exact procedures in my telecourse that starts February 5th.)

Many people take umbrage when someone sets out to find his or her spiritual home. If you embark on a similar journey, you should expect some people to be shocked, to be angry, to tell you you’re breaking the rules. That has certainly been my experience. However, the rewards are inexpressibly wonderful. Heading towards that inner home will take you places—both inside yourself and in the external world—which your heart will recognize as its native environment, even though you have never been there before. I would go so far as to say that this may be the purpose for human life; that we are set free into a lonely universe like homing pigeons meant to find our way back to joy.

This may sound odd, but I have something I call a “song angel.” Very often when I’m especially desperate for answers I will hear snatches of a song or poem I barely remember. If I Google the lyrics they always turn out to be precisely the answer I needed.

When I bought the little house in the big woods that is bringing me so much bliss, my horse whisperer friend Koelle also moved to the property—a necessary condition of the move, since I know as much about running a ranch as chipmunks know about calculus. (Interesting factoid: chipmunks spend their entire life hiding food, but have a memory span of only 3 minutes. This means that they are constantly searching for things they have hidden from themselves. This is why chipmunks are my spirit animal.) Just before Koelle moved to the property, I was on the computer and I suddenly developed the conviction that I needed to know the American Sign Language gesture for “home.” The way I Googled my request brought up a short video by a young man named Colby Moses who signed a song called This Is Home by the rock group Switchfoot. It was immediately clear to me that I should play this song to Koelle when she moved to the ranch. It felt perfect because not only had Koelle roamed the world learning her craft without ever having a real home base, but she was also having trouble with her ears and I knew there were days where she could barely hear at all.

So when Koelle moved into the ranch several months before I did, I gathered all our friends who had come to help with the move and showed them Colby Moses’s video. We all wept copiously. And that, I thought, was the end of that. But six weeks later, when Karen and I moved to the ranch and turned on our television to see if it wouldwork, guess what was playing on the TV? Oh, yes it was. This is Home by Switchfoot. It was only then that I Googled the song again and learned that it came from a movie about Narnia—a magical land where the animals can talk that had obsessed me since early childhood.

Now, please remember what I said in the first part of this newsletter: we come home in the material world when we come to the truth and liberation of our real selves. Please humor me by joining me in a life coachy exercise, right now. First, remember a time when, even if only for a moment, you felt safe and loved enough to relax your defenses and let go of your fears. Remember a time when you could breathe a long sigh of relief, knowing that in that moment, nothing would harm you, nothing would shame you, and there was nothing to guard against. Hold that moment in your memory until it fills your mind and becomes your present moment. Then click on this link—This is Home—listen to my song angel and feel the truth of the message.

I don’t know what my song angel actually is; I don’t hold any religious opinions or beliefs but I do feel (and experience confirms) that there is Something guiding us toward the places we belong, in our hearts and on this planet. So here is the challenge: Once you get to you inner home, don’t go back to how it was. NEVER go back. As the song says, you were created for this place even if you have never known it. You are a miracle, and you are not alone.“ 

Kiss, Kiss

Well here it is: 2013. My understanding was that this year was never supposed to exist because of something the Mayans said in their fancy carvings. I’m not one to kick the Mayans when they’re down—I’m just saying. Being a woman of faith, I just assumed I would not exist as this point, so I’m scrambling to come up with some New Year’s resolutions.

I feel inspired because someone gave me a reading from the amazing Ainslie MacLeod, and I basically got a kiss from the angels. By “kiss,” I mean the acronym for the statement KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID. Several times Ainslie repeated that he was hearing the phrase “simple simple simple” repeated three times. This is not the first time I have been told I make things more complicated than they need to be. And from my observation, I am not the only person with this problem. Even if you never make resolutions, the New Year is psychologically important as an opportunity to recalibrate your daily habits and your overall way of living. So here are some instructions to help:

  1. List all the improvements you’d like to make in your body, your career, and your moral character.
  2. Throw away the list. It is way, way, too complicated to make all those changes overnight. (KISS, KISS)
  3. Choose one small EASY change that would inch your life in a slightly more positive direction. For example, during my recent move I fell off the exercise wagon completely. It is a 30-minute drive to the nearest gym. Since I moved from Phoenix (where people regularly drop dead from heat exhaustion just going to 7-Eleven) I’m conditioned only to work out in gyms. To remedy this I bought exercise implements and put them in my barn. Our dog became convinced that the gym equipment was an evil animal and became so hysterical at the sight of it that we eventually had to cover it with a tarp. This conveniently hid even the idea of regular exercise from my guilt-ridden eyes. My New Year’s resolution is simply to go into the barn and touch the exercise equipment every day. Oh, all right, every couple of days. (KISS, KISS)

This action step may seem absurdly small but as the magical Ainslie MacLeod reminded me, change is so hard for most of us that only the tiniest, simplest resolutions are ever kept.
 
I’m issuing a call for tiny resolutions! Make a ridiculously small resolution and post it (and a picture or video) on my Facebook page. We will call it “The Tiny Resolution Club.” Click on my video below and just you watch: Come March, August, October we’ll be the ones easing our way into significant change. (KISS, KISS, KISS)

Life Changes

So here I sit amidst my remaining possessions, all of which have to fit into a house on my new property that is about a third the size of the house I live in now. I’m moving soon, headed to a less arid climate and a lifestyle with which I’m totally unfamiliar. I learn new startling things about this lifestyle every day. For example, gophers are evil. Who knew? Turns out they chew the roots out from under young trees and create holes that are exactly the right size to swallow a horse’s foot and break its leg. There are literally thousands of new gophers on my new property. This ranch is to gophers what Manhattan is to Americans. I plan to address this with diplomacy, but I have been warned that St. Francis himself would have taken up arms if there had been gophers living in Assisi.
 
But the anti-gopher offensive has not yet been launched. Because right now I’m in the process of ending my old life, not yet beginning my new one. My coaches will recognize this as Square 1, a time of death and rebirth. We train to deal with many clients in this state of change, because it scrambles the average person’s brain like an egg. I’m used to it, and was expecting it, which always helps. Nevertheless, every death, from the death of the smallest hope to the death of the physical body, throws most people into the cycle of grieving: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance. This is not a clean, linear process. It’s more like taking all those emotions, adding a huge dollop of fear, and blending the entire mixture like a green smoothie of psychological anguish.
 
When people ask me “What would you do if you only had one year to live?” I never come up with the exciting bucket list they expect. I would spend that entire year trying frantically to take care of everyone I would be leaving behind. This, believe me, is a bad choice. So I have reframed my current minor death as weaning.

Weaning is indeed the death of one situation—nursing—and the birth of a new way of life for both nurser and nursee. Far from being a catastrophic separation, it sets mother and baby free to embark on separate adventures, so that between them there will be a far more interesting assortment of experiences. Baby gets to develop self-sufficiency and empowerment. Hooray! Mother gets to sleep and shower without interruptions. Hooray, Hooray! So it’s all good—but it has to be done right.

There are two steps to successfully weaning yourself off any situation. The first is tostep it down. Not to gross out those of you who have never given birth, but if you have ever fed a baby in nature’s way, you know exactly why cows make that horrible sound when someone forgets to milk them. You can’t go cold turkey in a relationship in which much nourishment has been exchanged at any point. It’s painful. It hurts the mother, and it starves the baby. A better way to proceed is to subtract one of your daily nursing sessions, and hold the new level for four days. Then subtract another nursing session, repeat for four days. Etc. (Why four days? I wrote a whole freakin’ book about it. Just take my word for it, it works.)

As you step down the amount of nourishment being given and received, you move on to the second step: substitutes. You must obviously find something else to feed the baby. Trying to be a martyr, to get along with less, is a noble but unworkable enterprise. If you are losing a situation that nourishes you, finding other nourishment should be at the top of your priority list.  (By the way, if you are in relationships that don’t nourish you, something is wrong, but that’s another column.) For example, I am accustomed to receiving weekly energy treatments from a magical healer named John Parker. Sure, I can survive without this—but to do so would probably affect my overall health. But I can’t just substitute any old massage therapist for John Parker; he’s one of a kind. (Plus, if I ever had a massage therapist come to my new property he or she would immediately be eaten by gophers.) So I have to get creative. I have to come up with something so physically, emotionally, and spiritually renewing that it will create the same net effect of a John Parker treatment. At the moment, I’m thinking this may involve Quaaludes and a very clever monkey. I’ll keep you posted.

I can tell you some additions I’ve made to my life that are beginning to make up for this loss, and they may not be what you’d expect. (They never are.) One of my substitutes is downloading entire seasons of TV series I’ve never seen and watching them on my computer. I’m also into visiting sites online where I can find tutorials on drawing the human body in extreme perspective. Another is cooking with my friends who will be living on my property. I’ve never cooked before, but for some reason being several miles away from the nearest Starbucks has inspired me. Also, I’ve stumbled upon a new system for memorizing piano music. What does any of this have to do with energy healing? Not a damn thing. That’s the point of weaning. You are going to a whole new source of nourishment, not just moving from boob to boob. I mean seriously, how is milk like grass? It isn’t! Eat it anyway!

So as your life changes—because everyone’s life is changing—use step-downs and substitutes to wean yourself off whatever you are losing. You’ll never find things going back to the way they were—but you will find yourself forced into discovering delicious new things you may have never even imagined. For example, gopher hunting.

Concepts to Calm and Comfort

Rumble Strips AheadI am going to assume that y’all are already on board with my obsessive belief that we are undergoing a transformation of human consciousness. I could be wrong, but let’s just say I’m not. It seems that this change is imminent, if not already upon us. In Eckhart Tolle’s image, blossoms are opening in individual human beings all over our flower-field of a planet. This is beyond exciting! It’s also slightly more than terrifying if you are going through it. So here are a couple of concepts to calm and comfort us all.
 
The first is what I call “culture versus compass.” If we are meant to continue living on this particular planet, we must switch—very rapidly, now—to a way of thinking and living that has never before existed. This is necessary because the conditions we now face as a species are utterly unprecedented. What this means is that no culture—I repeat, no culture whatsoever—can give us full instructions on how to embody this new consciousness. Every culture provides hints, but none by itself could possibly be complete.
 
So how does one steer a path that does not yet exist? Since there is no cultural map, we have no alternative but to rely completely on the internal compasses we all carry in our hearts.
 
This sounds dangerous, even to me. The human heart seems full of bugs and errors. I have a firm faith in destiny but have never thought it wise to trust humans too much. Tough! The heart is all we have left to guide us. The ongoing miracle I have been experiencing recently is the discovery that our hearts are being guided more benevolently and helpfully than I ever dreamed possible. Even people who set out to harm others end up accidentally helping them. (I call this the “nemesis phenomenon”; the villain who sets out to destroy the hero, but without whom the hero could never discover the limits of his superpowers.) So all of this is just to say that any decision you are facing is best made in the deepest confines of your own body and brain. They are instruments miraculously calibrated to lead you; you must trust them now more than ever. For further information on this, please read everything I have ever written.
 
The next most useful tool in these chaotic times is what I call the rumble strip. A rumble strip looks like this: your dog dies on the same day your car is totaled, your daughter joins a cult, your best friend moves away, and your refrigerator explodes. In other words, it’s a barrage of seemingly unrelated catastrophes so severe you cannot ignore them. You have no idea what’s happening or why, only that this feels too freakishly bad to be coincidental.
 
I believe that, as the phrase suggests, rumble strip experiences are designed not to torture or punish us, but to steer us. We are headed in the wrong direction, not through malice or even intent, but simply by mistake. We’re like drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel and the fates are conspiring to awaken us. If you encounter a rumble strip, from a morning of small annoyances to a year of crises, please realize that part of your awareness is asleep. By this I mean it is tied up in erroneous assumptions. Assumptions, by definition, shape the way we see the world. We are as unconscious of them as a sleeping driver is of sleep itself. That’s why the rumble strip feels so chaotic: it is jolting, jarring, and breaking apart the basic foundations of our worldview.
 
The best response is to slow waaaaaaay down. Begin to see where the thoughts you believe most deeply no longer serve to explain the chaos in your life. The rumble strip is pointing out the assumptions you must question, and in its elegant mercy it paints them so vividly with emotional pain that they will be hard to miss. For example, my first rumble strip was the year I described in my book Expecting Adam, when I was afflicted by everything from a nearly lethal illness to high-rise fires to lice. Fun! And then there was my son’s Down syndrome diagnosis. It took all that to smash apart my assumption that the value of my life was my intellect. You may have different assumptions but, trust me, some of them will not work in the months and years ahead.
 
The transformation we are feeling will only speed up from here. So please pay close attention to your inner compass. If you stop steering by your compass you will hit a rumble strip. Don’t panic. Just question your assumptions and you’ll be back on the road in no time.

Real Magic

 

So, we just finished our very first Wayfinder Workshop. It was a FABULOUS experience for me—and let’s face it, who else matters? (I am kidding!) By targeting my last book to people who already feel their magic, I appear to have achieved two things: convincing most of the reading public that I am certifiably insane, and inviting the most awesome people on earth to come play with creating a new way of being in the world. We held the seminar on Pismo Beach, California, for reasons I will describe in a minute.
 
The first day, as we stood on the beach, some of us used the animal-calling exercise described in Finding Your Way In A Wild New World. By the following day, so many whales were surfacing off Pismo Beach that it made the national news. I watched them playing for an hour during our lunch break. My partner, Karen, insists that this is a coincidence, and it probably is. I’M JUST SAYING.
 
The fact is that real magic does not require the grandiosity of a Hollywood movie. When it arrives, one can always trace the way it happened in the physical world. The miracle is always a coincidence in which God chooses to remain anonymous. Magic is glory, not what I call “gloriola.”
 
On that same note, I want to thank anyone who gave so much as a glancing thought to my story about wanting a ranch where I could live close to nature. That miracle is finally a done deal, although I’m still waiting for it to land. This is not a story of “rich person buys a ranch.” This is a story of “wacky person feels compelled to buy something she absolutely cannot afford which she is then somehow able to buy.” Seriously, you guys, I do not know how this happened. All I know is that I can now sit on my front porch watching wild turkeys, deer, foxes, skunks, and potentially a bear (some of the coaches saw him down the road a bit, and there is nothing stopping him from visiting me). Best of all are the bobcats that live on the land. I like to think of them as starter leopards.
 
In short, I live in a three-dimensional miracle—and so do you. Before the Wayfinder Workshop, several tribe members gathered with a Shaman to dedicate the land to the objective of “Restoring Eden”—healing animals, ecosystems, and humans, in any way possible. At one point the Shaman took me aside and said, “Martha. Stop trying.” Without words, she helped me find an incredibly deep flow wave of movement in my lower torso. “There,” she said, “that anchors you and you can let others anchor there as well. Then, let it heal them.”
 
She didn’t say what ‘it’ was, because on one hand it is inexpressible, and on the other hand, once you’ve felt it, there is no need to describe it. It is the TAO. It is Love. It is saturating the air you breathe as you read this. Be still until you can let it find you. That is your only job. And then, what the hell, call some whales. Because that’s AWESOME.

Make It Pay

I am coming to you from Londolozi South Africa where I am running our annual self-transformation adventure retreats. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.

That last sentence was ironic. The fact is, of course, that I am bizarrely fortunate to be doing what I’m doing right now. That said, this good fortune came my way because my friends and I decided to make it happen. I just said “This is a tough job.” But of course, it’s not a job in the sense that most people use that word. I didn’t go down to the unemployment office in Phoenix where I live and ask an employment officer to please find me a job running luxury safaris in South Africa. I didn’t send out a bunch of resumes and out of the clear blue sky get an offer to do this for money.

Insofar as I can even call this a “job,” it’s a job I made up. I am continuously amazed by the way people frantically look for jobs when almost nobody likes them and they are going away. Most of the clients I’ve coached tell me two things: #1) They absolutely hated all the jobs they’ve done in their lives, and #2) They desperately need another one. This is insane, all by itself. The whole construct of a job is just a cultural anomaly that has existed for a brief period of history. We are problem-solving animals, born with brains that can make astonishing things like computers and Toll House cookies. Why in God’s name would such an astonishing creature submit to a lifetime of drudgery on the assumption that there is no other option, even when that option no longer works?

This may sound a little mercenary because of the way our culture deals with money (obsessing about it continuously without ever mentioning it out loud), but I’m going to say it anyway. Think of something you really really really love. Then repeat the following phrase in your mind: “Find a way to make it pay.”

You may think that the thing you love has no possibility of creating income. You may think your survival hinges on replicating what somebody else made up and labeled “job.” But do you know what that person was doing? He or she was thinking, “Find a way to make it pay.” All jobs are invented. And you can invent a job that has never existed before. In fact, this is the single most important skill you can have in the 21st century­—not to do a job but to invent a job.

Some people get so indignant, even enraged, when I talk this way. They say things like “Well, that’s easy for you to say, you had all the skills and training to do what you’re doing!” But I have trouble recalling even a single moment during my education and training when someone said, “Yes, a PhD in Sociology is just what you need to take groups of Americans rhinoceros tracking for considerable sums of money.”

You can find a way to make it pay.

You can find a way that serves the world, serves your customers, and serves your soul. The job you are meant to have has not yet been named. It has not yet been imagined. It is waiting in the confines of your own heart to take shape in the world of form. I’ll talk to you next month. Right now I’ve got a job to do. Those rhinoceroses are not going to track themselves.


Photos Courtesy of Susan Honnell (c) 2012

Radical Fun

So this month I was curled into my usual fetal position wondering how to make good things happen without moving at all, when I came upon a thought. The thought was this: Since the energy of every effort creates a result in the same general zone of energy, my usual habit of working throughout most of every day was generating a great deal of what we might call “energetic fertilizer” (in other words, poop). I was trained for years to work myself to the point of feeling pooped, and I am very good at it. But who, I thought, wants to buy pooped energy? It seems we all generate plenty of that on our own. What I wanted was more energy of fun. I presume this is also what many of my customers and clients want. I decided to run an experiment. I decided that for two weeks—the final two weeks of April–I would dedicate myself not only to feeling passively well, but to having fun. Radical fun.

Author and journalist Joshua Foer, who trained as a competitive memorizer (of all things), writes about something called the OK Plateau. That’s the place where things are going well enough that we can stumble along fairly well without needing to improve anything. I have spent years on the OK Plateau when it comes to having fun. I have found that many clients report the same tendencies. When life gets to OK they stop thinking about things like fun. The challenge of radical fun is to take those OK experiences and make them delightful. We tend to assume that this is the result of laziness and selfishness, and that we would all do it automatically if we weren’t so disciplined and virtuous.

What I’ve discovered during radical fun month is that fun is a skill. Most of us are terrible at it. We immediately turn to tired stereotypes, clichés like sleeping on the beach, drinking, eating too much, and spending a lot of money. I have nothing against these activities, but they’re pathetic attempts at creating genuine exuberant joyful feelings. When I ask clients to reward themselves for difficult achievements they find that coming up with the reward is harder for them than the achievement itself. So right now, I’d like you to turn your attention to finding or creating a fun experience for yourself. Do this in the knowledge that the energy of fun will fuel your productivity in every area of your life–and also that any activity in your life is only worth doing if it facilitates the experience of joy.

First question, Are you tired? When you are tired no significant effort is fun. The clichés I’ve just mentioned (the beach, the drinking, etc.) exist largely because most of us are significantly sleep deprived. If your answer to this question is yes, you must–I said must–aggressively create opportunities to rest and act on them.

When you are no longer tired you can ask the second question: What did you do for fun as a child? Our fun preferences appear very early in our lives and tend to remain extremely stable over time. What was fun for you at age 2 will probably be the most fun you can have at 92. For me, one obvious answer to this question was reading. I learned to read very young and stopped only under extreme duress. However, my literacy was turned into work, first by my education and then by choosing a career as a writer. I realized that I frequently slip into the bad habit of reading only for work and not for pleasure. So just reading wasn’t enough fun for me. I needed to read something pointless, non-work-related, and highly entertaining. Thank you Hunger Games. By jumping into young adult fantasy fiction, I yanked myself right off the OK Plateau and into some radical fun. For you, reading may not be fun at all. DO NOT JUDGE YOURSELF. Just look back on your childhood and find what you did when no one was forcing you. Did you climb trees? Did you play computer games? Did you build forts? Did you dress in a ninja outfit and hide in the closet of your best friends bedroom? Don’t do that—it isn’t legal. But find an alternative based on the original fun experience.

The fabulous thing about returning to childhood pleasures is that you now have things like computers, cars, and the ability to purchase or barter for experiences to which you had no access as a child. If you liked playing hide-and-seek as a kid you can now go with your friends to a paintball maze and have a radically fun experience. If you liked to pretend you were a famous singer you can get voice lessons, then have your spouse film you using nothing but a phone and reach your fans online. This is the age when magical technologies make more and more radically fun ideas plausible, even easy. You’re only limited by your creativity and the OK Plateau.

Since I started my radical fun experiment, ridiculously positive things have been happening. I’ll tell you about them next month if they all pan out (some of them are still in process). But right now I’m telling you, according to this experimental sample of one, radical fun leads to radical positive results which seem to have nothing to do with the new fun games you are playing. Fun creates more fun. This month, insist on it.

There is Room

Broken Watch FacesEverything changes in time. This is the one constant in a Universe where all solid things ultimately disintegrate. It is the core principle that drives our fears and that led the Buddha to proclaim that the understanding of impermanence was the first “noble truth” that must be mastered by anyone who hopes to attain enlightenment.

Me, I’m just trying to get my damn laundry done before I have to leave for the airport.

I have struggled with time since I was a very small child. I remember vividly lying awake the night before my 4th birthday, staring at the ceiling, worrying intensely over how little I had accomplished over such a long period of time. I assumed that all the other 4-year-olds were much further along in their life missions. By the time I was in high school I was virtually insane with time anxiety. I got into a bitter argument with a friend who asked me what bothered me most about this world. I said “transience.” My friend thought I said “transients.” To this day, I think he abhors my position on our nation’s homeless population. What I meant, of course, was that everything passes away, and that I could not reconcile myself to the continuous loss that is an inevitable aspect of linear time. On a more basic note, I never felt I had enough time to do everything I hoped to accomplish. If I had known in high school how dramatically time demands would increase in the 21st century I would still be under my bed.

At this point in my life, I am lucky enough to have help with many tasks that once filled my available time and spilled over into time I should have spent sleeping. Even so I always feel I am running behind schedule. A few weeks ago I lost the cheap plastic Target watch that I was wearing because I know that I am always losing watches. For a few days I was on the road without a clock on my body. I was shocked by how often I looked at my left wrist. I remembered a Haitian proverb that became popular after slavery was abolished on the island: “The white man’s shackles have been replaced by his watches.” I had been experiencing time as my prison, my limitation, and my overseer.

To my huge relief, I soon bought another cheap plastic watch. But this one had a feature I had never seen. To set the time, I had to bring up a screen that said “chrono.” Every time I saw this screen a strange thought would pop into my mind. Not chronos, kairos. Chronos is a greek word that referred to the passage of linear time. Kairos means the time of the Gods. A moment of chronos is simply the tick of a clock. A moment of kairos is an undetermined time when an opening appears for the entry of the divine into the material world. Chronos is clock-time, kairos is god-time.

Either my subconscious mind or a passing guardian angel seems to be telling me that in order to move forward successfully with my purpose in life, I must relinquish my death grip on chronos and surrender to kairos. I am only beginning to experiment with this–such is the obsession with chronos I’ve had since preschool. At this point, my practice (and I would suggest this for you too if it feels interesting) is to notice that every day is peppered with kairos moments. A kairos moment may occur when your schedule is so full you feel like screaming. The message is to stop, to forget chronos, and to feel the calming force telling you almost nothing on your schedule is really important. A kairos moment might be the double-take you do when your eyes catch something beautiful or awe-inspiring. Take off your watch: the divine is speaking to you. A kairos moment may be the burst of laughter that comes when you realize all your darkest fears are fabrications of your mind. They are not happening now in this moment. This moment is the doorway to god. Stop and open it.

To remind myself of this I have been taking off my watch for several hours each day. Each time I look at my wrist and see nothing but skin I remember to drop chronos and feel for kairos. Within the kairos moment nothing ever needs to be done, and everything can happen at once. Life can weave itself around my heart’s desires. In one instant of kairos, there is room for everything we have envisioned for ourselves and for one another. I’ll meet you there.