Image for The Gathering Pod A Martha Beck Podcast Episode #159 Making Up Your Mission
About this episode

To learn how to feel safe and loved so you can access your zone of genius and create your life’s mission, tune in for the full episode! Martha also guides you through her Silence, Stillness, and Space meditation to calm anxiety and stimulate curiosity.

Making Up Your Mission

Martha Beck:

Hello and welcome to The Gathering Room! It is so good to see you, especially since I only posted the little tag like 10 minutes ago saying that today’s topic is Making Up Your Mission. 

So I’ve been writing, as you may know, this book called Beyond Anxiety that’s about living creatively because as it turns out, if you’ve got anxiety, the way to live is not just to calm yourself, but to create something and it will get you in a place where anxiety cannot reach you.

So as a part of that, I’ve really been fascinated by people who are so creative that they end up creating whole lives for themselves. And I recently went on the podcast of Tim Ferriss, who’s really well known ages ago for his book, The 4-Hour Work Week. I don’t know if any of you read that. I read it and I remember thinking, this man’s mind works so, in such an interesting way. He is so not solving problems in what we call the “normal” way. He’s really, really, really creative. Well, when I got invited to go on his podcast, I looked him up again and I saw all the things he’s been doing these many years and he hasn’t just been, I thought when I read his book, he had found a way to make all this money without working much. And then he just, I don’t know, I thought he’d just eat bonbons by the pool for the rest of his life, but not at all. He kind of went on a campaign to prove to himself that all the things he said he thought he couldn’t do well, he could actually do well. So for example, he went to Argentina and learned to tango so well that he won some kind of massive championship, dancing with people who’d been doing it for years and years, and he hacks everything he does.

He didn’t think he could swim well. So he watched all these videos of really, really expert swimmers and realized there were certain things that they were doing that made them great swimmers, adopted those things, became an expert long distance swimmer. He thought he wasn’t good at languages, so he studied the way language actually should be learned, not in a classroom sitting and being judged for everything you say. He came up with 12 sentences that if you learn them from a native speaker in any language, you basically know the structure of the language. He studied Japanese using his method and became so good at Japanese that he worked as a translator. And trust me, I’ve studied Japanese. It’s not easy. So all of this reminded me of something that I learned a long time ago when I developed all my autoimmune diseases and realized that I could invent my way through almost any situation.

So I had severe limitations, couldn’t use my hands, couldn’t sit, couldn’t stand. What was I going to do with my life? I had to start doing what’s called lateral problem solving, where I had to think of alternate ways to do the same thing, which is exactly what Tim was doing when he would sort of try to crack, he’d try to hack everything that he was supposedly not very good at doing. So it’s almost as if his mission is proving to himself that there are ways that he can reach objectives without having to go through the tedium or the difficulty or the processes that he was being taught by other people, that he could come up with them himself. This is what I call Wayfinding. It is the skill that makes you able to navigate the world these days. If you can do lateral problem solving and think of new ways to do things, I mean, I know I’m always harping on the pandemic, but as somebody trained in sociology, I’m fascinated by what happened during the pandemic in terms of lateral problem solving.

People found ways to get things done even though they couldn’t leave their houses. It was a time of explosive creativity and explosive anxiety as well. If you’re able to take the creativity route, you leave the anxiety route behind because you’re so deep in the process of creating solutions to the problems that matter to you, that your brain cannot be engaged in places that make you go into a little anxious, an anxious ball of perseveration, right? Now, if you start living from a creative place, the one thing that sparks all of it that tells you where to go next is curiosity. So instead of looking outside yourself for what you’re supposed to be doing, you look inside yourself and try to be curious about things the way a small child is curious or the way a puppy is curious. Any young thing is going to be curious because that’s what makes us want to learn about the world.

So to reach your curiosity, there are three things that the brain asks in order in any situation. Number one: Am I safe? Number two: Am I loved? And number three: What can I learn? Now, if you are stuck in feeling unsafe or if you are stuck in feeling unloved, your brain never goes to the curiosity that says, what can I learn? And it’s when you go to curiosity and start learning things that you begin hacking your own life. You begin to find shortcuts to realizing your dreams, your ambitions, your yearning. And when you realize that you have the capacity to create around anything that makes you curious, you begin to drive your own life towards something absolutely unique, and that is your mission in life. No one can find it for you, but you find it when you leave the zone of anxiety and start going into the zone of curiosity, which leads you to the zone of connecting things, which leads you to the zone of pure creativity.

And at that point, you’re guided by your heart. You’re in a place where you know you’re safe, you’re loved, and you’re always wondering what you can learn. We just had a call, Ro and I just had a call with some people who are coming with us to Costa Rica on our seminar there in January, and one of them is 94 years old and completely, seemed completely thrilled with life, so eager to learn what was next, living completely by heart. And she said, “I don’t feel old at all.” And she just certainly didn’t act old. And it made me think, okay, what if we all live to be ninety-four, ninety-five, ninety, a hundred-and-four years old? Between now and then, if we can create our lives and go toward what we yearn for in our deepest hearts, what can we make, given the resources that we now have for creating many, many, many aspects of our own lives? Communication, transportation, expression. There are all these ways of being in the world that were never here before. Now I know some of you’re going to be asking, “What if I don’t feel safe? What if I don’t feel loved? I guess I’m stuck.” You are not.

The thing is that when human beings say, “Do I feel safe? Do I feel loved?” We look to a whole store of memories of things that have hurt us in this world and we look forward to things like our inevitable death and our probable illness and the losses that maybe befall us. So we’re constantly thinking about, “Oh, this isn’t a safe place. I’ve been hurt before, and it’s not a safe place. I’ll be hurt later.” If you can start to be present like an animal, and I know I just say this all the time, and when we do our meditation, you all, well at least it feels to me like you slip into it, all of you, that you slip into the present moment when we do our strange little meditation, which we’ll do in a few minutes. As you drop attention from what hurt you in the past and what may hurt you in the future and come into the present, right now in this moment, most of us, the vast majority of us right here on this, yeah, it’s a podcast–we are not in danger right here right now.

For an animal, that’s all it takes to create complete relaxation. Is this safe? Well, nobody’s coming at me. All right, I’m going to relax. You’re all about to do this when we do our meditation. So just notice that you can find a place where thinking about the past and future stop, and you know that you’re in a safe place for this moment. There are very few moments when you’re not safe. There are very few moments when humans let themselves feel safe, but there are very few moments when we’re actually not safe.

The next thing: Am I loved? All right, so this one, this was a big one for me. I did not grow up feeling loved. It was a tough road to hoe and I didn’t feel like a lot of people loved me once I went off into the big world. I felt kind of like the scum that scum scrapes off its shoes.

I could go neurosis for neurosis with any of you out there who have low self-esteem and self-loathing. I mean, I was a mess. And what happened to me was I was so miserable, I started to have moments when I caved in under the pressure of all that morbid self-hatred, and I would get so desperate something would click. The first time it happened, I was pregnant with my son Adam, and I knew that he would have Down syndrome and I was desperate for him to have a happy life. And I was curled up over my pregnant belly in my apartment in Cambridge, and I just finally was so tired I sort of collapsed. I let go in my mind for the first time, let go of all my striving and my grasping and my needing and my aching and my hurting. I just let it go for a second and suddenly there was someone with me.

I’ve written about it. It’s funny, I don’t talk much about it because it was so on one hand, I think people will think it’s crazy. And on the other hand, it was so deeply intimate and deeply personal that it’s like I fell in love for the first time, not romantically, but I fell into love with a capital L, and the someone with me there was the love of the universe. It was everywhere. It was vast and it picked me up and I felt myself picked up and held as if by a human, but I felt in that moment that I could see eternity. I felt, “Oh, it’s been here all the time.” And that’s what I just kept getting this feeling: “It’s always here. It’s always here.” But it slipped from me again and I spent the next years of my life desperately trying to get back to it. And eventually I did. And then I would lose it again and I’d get back to it and I’d lose it again. And I’m still in the process. But now most of the time I’m in it. I’m in the place where I know I am loved infinitely by the consciousness of the universe.

Am I safe? Uh-huh. Am I loved? Always. What can I learn? What can I create? It’s when you put yourself in that place over and over and over again that you start having little spurts of curiosity that take you to the thing your heart is most attracted to. And in that space you have little spurts of creativity and little connections with things that have never connected before. And then little bits of magic start to come in and then you gain velocity and then it’s like your mission becomes a gravitational force of its own. And every time you go to: “Am I safe? Yes. Am I loved? Yes. Do I have problems? Sure, but right now I’m going to focus on I’m safe and I’m loved. What can I learn?” And boom! People come to you, money comes to you, jobs come to you. Ideas for things that have never been jobs come to you.

And if you think that can’t work, go look at the life of Tim Ferriss. He has just curioused himself through life and he’s got like 25 million followers on his podcast or 25 million downloads, some absurdly large number. Let me tell you, talking to this guy is like taking a walk in an interesting part of nature. And it kind of showed me that’s what we are when we get past “Am I safe? Am I loved?” When we can say, “Yeah, I am, I am. Then what can I learn?” We are all born geniuses and we are all born with a unique mission and we are all designed to make up the mission that will most suit us. And we will never need to look at the rule book if we can tune in to that deeply enough.

So now we’re going to tune in to it by doing the space between my eyes meditation. So here we go, everybody get relaxed. Everybody notice that you’re all right in this moment and you’re able to listen to this podcast. You have the technology to do it. You’re in a space physically where you can listen. And then let’s get out of the past and the future by focusing on the strange question: Can I imagine the distance between my eyes?

Can I imagine the distance between my eyes? Is it possible for me to imagine going infinitely into the smallness of the space between my eyes? The space inside me can go infinitely small, just as the space outside me can go infinitely large. Can I imagine going infinitely into the space between my eyes? Can I imagine the space inside the volume of my whole face? Can I imagine the space between the top of my forehead and the bottom of my chin? Can I imagine the space between the crown of my head and the nape of my neck?

Can I imagine the space between the nape of my neck and the center of my back? Can I imagine the space inside my rib cage? Can I imagine the emptiness that fills the atoms all through my physical body? Can I imagine that this space is alive? Can I imagine the stillness under all the activity of my body, the love that holds my arteries and capillaries as they pump the blood, the spaces that allow my lungs to breathe, to expand and contract? Can I imagine the silence under all the sounds I can hear? Now, can I imagine that the silence loves everything?

Can I imagine that silence, stillness, and space are brimming with love for me? Can I imagine? No one is asking you to believe anything, just to ask the question: Is it possible for me to imagine that everything is okay? And you can drop if you can find just a bit of stillness, space, and silence in there and just fall into it like you’re falling into a big downy feather quilt. And let it hold you for this moment, for this little bit of podcast, and you can just stay here. And if you do, soon your little wonderful, beautiful human brain is going to raise its little head and say, “What can I learn? What might be fun? Who could teach me something?” 

So let’s look at the questions that are coming in. There are lots of them. First of all, the first one is EMB Realtor. This person says, “I have been living the mantra ‘Do the thing you think you cannot do,’ thanks to you and Ro. How can I support my husband with lessening his anxiety and come with me on this journey to be bolder?” My favorite short phrase of poetry from Hafiz who was a 13th century Persian poet, is this: “Troubled? Then stay with me for I am not.” So if you get anxious to try to help people get over their anxiety–oh, I’m very anxious to help my husband get over his anxiety–you’re only going to be able to invite him into your anxiety. His will be untouched. But if you can say to him, “If you’re troubled, stay with me for I am not,” then both your anxieties can lessen. You can both come into the moment. You can see that not only are you safe individually and are you loved by the universe, but you’re safe together and you love one another, and then everything doubles and you get another person in. It doesn’t just double, it quadruples, it doubles again and it doubles again. It’s an exponential growth curve. So yeah, find a way to be in that space of no trouble when you’re with your husband and he’s [anxious noise], and you just keep saying, “I hear you. I hear you, I hear you,” until your calm, your silence, space, and stillness are so complete that his anxiety disappears into them and turns out to be nothing, which is what it’s been all along. Just thought forms, just thought forms.

Jackie says, “How can we make ourselves available for connecting with that universal love?” And what I would say is:self-kindness, self-compassion. So you can start to say to yourself, and I always recommend this, say to your own dear self, “May you be well, may you be happy.” So you think to yourself, oh, I’m such a moron. I left the keys in the car. And when you find yourself in one of these little fits that humans get into, just stop and say to the part that’s frantic, “May you be well, may you be happy. May you feel safe and protected. May you feel loved.” And it will calm down just a little bit. But more importantly, you will have moved your consciousness to the seat of compassion, which is where it really lives. So that place is more powerful than any other place you can go. And this is what I do day after day after day. “Oh, I hate that I did that. May you be well, it’s okay. We all make mistakes. I’m right here. May you be happy.” As soon as you give love to yourself, you align with the universe which loves you. And the more you stay there, the more you feel it.

Cheryl Jean says, “Is there a practice to use to tune in to those little glimmers of curiosity or creativity?” I’m glad you said glimmers. The wonderful Deb Dana who wrote a book called Anchoring. She’s an expert on polyvagal theory. She uses the word glimmer to mean any little object that brings you joy and it’s like a trigger that triggers your trauma, only it’s a glimmer that glimmers your happiness. So if I look at this little spray bottle full of water that I keep on my desk because I like to do watercolor, it’s a glimmer for me because first of all, it’s as beautiful as a jewel. Isn’t it amazing? And it costs like a dollar at the drugstore. And for one thing, it helps me paint. You spray and all of a sudden your watercolors go all melty and blendy. That gives me joy. Then our little 3-year-old Lila comes in and she loves to have water spritzed into her mouth. And that’s joyful. Find a little object that has positive connections and really focus on it, and a glimmer will lift you into happiness and safety just the way a trigger can depress you into misery. So grab a glimmer, literal physical glimmer, and go for it.

SJ Kramer says, “I’m so sad and I’m desperately asking people if they love me. I just want to be held forever. It makes me crazy. Any tips?” Yeah, first of all, that’s what happens, this feeling is what happens when we are deeply, deeply rejecting the universe’s love for us by really believing we’re not loved. And there are reasons that you believe you’re not loved or not lovable. None of them are true, but you came by them honestly, and you believed them for a reason. So when I was so sad and desperately, desperately needing to be loved, I just about throttled anybody who came near me. I was like a swimmer where it’s a drowning person who if a swimmer came up, I would clutch them by the neck and nearly kill us both. And what I had to learn was that I am held in this, I don’t know, the energy of the universe. Maybe it’s dark energy, dark matter that makes up 95% of the universe and we don’t know what it is. But I came to realize that it was made of love, that I could not be unloved, not even for a second by this non-material force. And I had to really shift my belief system from “Everything material is real, nothing non-material is real” to the opposite. Everything material goes away, but the non-material space cannot be defeated. It can’t be destroyed. Once you know that that is full of love, and you start aligning with it, then you can begin to feel it. You can get over your traumas that taught you to think you are unlovable. And then you don’t grab people quite so hard when you want them to love you, and that means that they feel free to be with you without any stress. And then it just goes from love to more love, to more love, to more love. I have been where you are, my darling, and I promise life can get so much better.

Jessica says, “After the longest season of hardship, I feel safe with my people and by the God of my understanding. I still don’t feel completely safe with myself, except when I meditate. Do I just practice and wait?” Become the compassionate witness to your own self-hatred. Like notice: “I don’t feel safe with myself.” Say, “Oh honey, may you be well, I get that. I get that you don’t trust yourself. That’s a common thing. May you be happy. Let’s see what happens when you know you’re loved.” You just keep taking that seat of compassion because it’s the real you. And if you think your way to it and you can change the wiring of your brain away from your trauma and into the truth: I’m safe. I’m loved. What can I learn? And then it’s just the world is your oyster. So yeah, self-kindness is always the answer to all these questions.

Daniella, Danielle says, “I have a big move to make that’s felt intimidating and overwhelming in how to bring it about for me and my family. Sometimes I slip into freeze. Any advice on manifesting the ideal and enjoying the process?” Yes. When you slip into freeze, be very, very gentle with yourself and say, “You get to be frozen. Go ahead, stay frozen. I’m going to lie down, wrap myself in a blanket.” And if you stay there for an hour or two hours or three, that’s okay in the scheme of things because if you let yourself be frozen for a while, you thaw, you gradually thaw out. It’s all about allowing yourself to be exactly what you are and loving yourself as exactly what you are. Then you move into the slipstream of becoming that is never the same, and then you find yourself making up your life mission.

Dr. Donna says, “How do you allow the letting go to feel loved when you’re exhausted from pretending you know how to do life? I often just feel too tired to feel anything but fear. I feel like the only one who can’t let go.” Well, if you’re exhausted from pretending to know how to do life, stop pretending. Just kind of go out there. People will say, “Well, what should I do?” “I don’t know. I just got here just a few decades ago. Frankly, I don’t know much of anything. I have Don’t Know Mind. What are you going to do?” If you can stop needing to show up as something humanly respectable and just be what you are, which is a curious, rather misplaced bit of consciousness in a strange human form, everybody will identify with that. And then you can all feel safe in love together, and then you all start to find your mission.

So Sonal says, “Replacing anxiety with curiosity is brilliant. How do we get over trying to be in control all the time?” The part of the brain that goes to fear goes immediately to control. If you get curious enough, you’ll be willing to let go of control to satisfy your curiosity, and you’ll start connecting things. It’s a practice, and curiosity is only the first step, and then connection comes next. My book is all about this, but you look around after a while and realize you’ve forgotten to try to be in control because you’re not afraid anymore, and you’ve been creating things and it’s like, “Oh, this is fun. I am safe. I am loved, and I’m learning something and I’m making something.” Yeah, just start and continue.

Cleo says, “If Qi or prana moves through all physical matter, including air, do you think the space also has Qi or is the space totally empty?” Well, they say in the Asian philosophies that when you experience that space, it is totally empty and absolutely solid. This is made of paradox basically. I think it’s full of Qi. I think it’s full of prana. I think prana and Qi don’t have to be substances. I think that there’s this beautiful no-thing that shimmers through the universe, that is the universe, and that we’re suspended within it, and that we can draw on its energy. And when that energy comes into us, and all we have to do is move to the space of compassion and feel, okay, I’m safe in this moment. I’m loved by some power out there. I’m just going to take a bet on that and start getting curious about the world. If we make this a habit and start creating the missions we were meant to live, we become so identified with that Qi, that prana, that love that nothing can frighten us anymore, not even death, because nothing can destroy space, stillness, and silence.

So I love you all. Good luck this week, feeling really safe, feeling really loved, and figuring out things that will help you move forward. From strength to strength, from joy to joy, from curiosity to curiosity, to the life you were meant to live. I love you. See you later. Bye!

Read more