On messing up

On messing up

Some years ago I made a horrible mistake. (And yes, I’ve made tons of mistakes since then; this is just the one that comes to mind in the moment.)

I was president of a local arts organization, and in that role I was making the rounds of galleries during an Arts Walk. I was particularly struck by the quality of work in one gallery, and I said as much to the owners, who introduced me to the artist.

And then I said, “What’s a talented guy like you doing in a dump like this?”

I didn’t notice at the time that it wasn’t funny

I didn’t notice that my remark had gone over like a lead balloon. As I look back, I see that I wouldn’t have noticed because the same self-consciousness that gave rise to my insensitivity kept me from authentically connecting with the other people in the room.

I might never have noticed but that the gallery owners sent me a letter of complaint.

I was horrified and defensive

I got home late one night to find the letter. I was horrified and defensive. The gallery owners were being unreasonable. They had no sense of humor. They should have known that I had intended no harm.

I wanted to believe those things, but somehow I couldn’t quite settle down behind that interpretation.

I went to bed with a disturbed mind, and as I lay there, I got curious about what was behind my upset.

And then I saw the first piece.

I couldn’t resolve the gap between our realities

I truly had meant no harm, yet I saw that they truly had been hurt. I couldn’t resolve that gap.

I also had no clue how to avoid making a similar mistake in the future. How do you apologize for that?

If I acknowledged the reasonableness of their position, I would need to do something about being a smart-aleck, and I felt powerless to accomplish that.

It seemed to me that I lacked a key ingredient for a sincere apology, and that was insight into how to prevent a recurrence.

And then I saw the gift I’d been given

In a flash I saw that the key to having better awareness in the future was taking in feedback in the present.

I didn’t need to be able to second guess other people’s reality. I could simply care, invite feedback, and rely on willingness to do better and the ability to learn to do the rest.

I got out of bed and wrote an apology. I said that I had felt both horrified at causing hurt and that it had been unintentional. I told them that it was unintentional not to defend myself, but to underscore that in no way was my remark related to my experience of their professionalism or contribution to the arts.

I then thanked them sincerely for caring enough to complain and told them that, but for the feedback of friends like them, I would feel helpless to see what was clearly a blindspot.

Life gives us what we need

More and more I see that life gives us what we need.

Life, in the form of circumstances, experiences, and people, will give us exactly what is required for our next itty-bitty evolutionary step.
This is how we learn to walk, to talk, to love.

The less personally we take it, the easier the lessons go

It appears to me as I write that the less personally we take these lessons, the easier they are to learn. But you know what?

We’re going to take things personally until we don’t.

Like walking, talking, and loving, we learn not to take it personally as we go.

If you’d like to have an easier time with the lessons life delivers, consider The Art of Living

The Art of Living is a 12-week encounter with magic, meaning, and the in-built human capacity to evolve. Together we will explore the deeper intelligence available to every human being, an intelligence that can guide you in the creation of what you want in life, whether you think it is possible at the outset or not.

Almost everyone who has done this work for me comes back for more–not because they need more in order to be whole, but because they finally realize that they don’t need a thing. Participants report greater ease, optimism, and resilience. They feel better about themselves and their lives. They experience massive reductions in anxiety, second-guessing, and analysis-paralysis. And when they do get caught up in those things, they know how to find their way back home to peace of mind and clarity.

The next session begins November 9. Click here for details. Gift pricing.

Can you have a quiet mind even when you’re really busy?

Most of us live in the illusion that it’s difficult to have a quiet mind if you are really busy. We have grown accustomed to the idea that busy-mindedness is a natural consequence of being busy. There is an implicit assumption that some amount of stress, pressure, and tension simply go with the territory of having a lot to do.

Well, it ain’t necessarily so. There is no inherent stress, tension, or pressure in having a lot to do. The stress, pressure, and tension come 100% from Thought, not from circumstances.

Given that many of us live in a culture of busy-mindedness and are steeped in the habit of expecting a busy mind to go with a busy life, it is natural that we would fall for the illusion that the stress, tension, and pressure are coming from the outside. But they just aren’t.

You can “do busy” without being busy-minded

Most of us live in the illusion that it’s difficult to have a quiet mind if you are really busy. We have grown accustomed to the idea that busy-mindedness is a natural consequence of being busy. There is an implicit assumption that some amount of stress, pressure, and tension simply go with the territory of having a lot to do.

But stress and busy-mindedness don’t come from having a lot to do

Stress, tension, and pressure are not an inevitable product of having a lot to do. The stress, pressure, and tension that we feel, when we feel them, come 100% from Thought, not from circumstances.

You can test this for yourself

Most of us can readily think of times when it seemed like stress was coming to us courtesy of our circumstances. Yet when my clients give themselves space to reflect, they invariably find instances when they were extremely productive and juggling multiple calls on their time and attention without being busy-minded.

That couldn’t ever happen if stress was actually inherent in certain situations, experiences, or circumstances.

It’s easy to overlook

We may overlook the absence of stress for the simple reason that we aren’t wired to notice what isn’t there. Yet the more you reflect, the more you are likely to observe multiple times each week when you handle what is right in front of you in the moment without being preoccupied by all the other possible things you might be doing, have just done, or could be doing next.

Play with it

Play with it. See if you can recall times when you have had a quiet mind even though you have had a lot to do. Then see if you can remember times when you have had a busy mind with lots of stress and tension even though you didn’t necessarily have a lot to do. (Don’t get me started!)

Then tell me what you observe. As always I welcome your comments, questions, and push back. If this has been helpful, please share it with friends and colleagues.

If you’d like to do more with less busy-mindedness, check out The Art of Living

The Art of Living is a 12-week encounter with the possibility of high engagement and low stress. In a small group (maximum 12), we will tap the deeper intelligence available to every human being, an intelligence that will guide you in the creation of what you want in life, whether you think it is possible at the outset or not.

Starts November 9, 2017Click here for details.

 

Overwhelm is optional (really!)

Overwhelm is optional—really

If a surfer riding the crest of a wave obsesses about the last six waves or the next six waves, she’s certain to wipe out.

Yet human beings do this all the time when we (yes, me too!) innocently generate overwhelm.

The illusion of overwhelm

Most of us live in the illusion that overwhelm comes from overwhelming circumstances. We think that our jammed mental circuits, tight shoulders, irritability, and confusion are inevitable and natural consequences of the situations we face.

But that’s just not so.

Overwhelm comes to us courtesy of thought, not the world

Overwhelm is the product of overwhelming thought, not overwhelming circumstances.

Consider surfing.

If overwhelm were the natural byproduct of circumstances, every surfer would be utterly and completely freaked out by the ocean all the time.

I mean really, what’s more freaking overwhelming than the ocean and wind?

Successful surfers only focus on one wave at a time

A surfer who succeeds isn’t thinking about yesterday’s waves or tomorrow’s weather. She succeeds and improves to the extent that she pays attention right here, right now, and allows herself to be educated by the experience.

The surfer who stays in the moment learns naturally and organically on multiple levels as she gains experience. If she overanalyzes that experience, she’s going to gum up the works, stop learning, and perform poorly. (In golf this is known as the yips.)

Overwhelm arises from using the small personal mind to do a job it isn’t designed to do

Overwhelm arises when we try to think our way through situations that we are designed to live our way through.

When we live in the moment, life educates us in exactly the ways we require to meet whatever life is serving up. Like babies learning to walk and talk, life invites us to whole body, whole mind, whole spirit learning.

So long as we come back to the wave we are on right now.

Talk back

Play with this. Reflect on your experience. Where do you notice you or someone around you learning and growing organically? And where do you see you or someone else gum up the works by trying too hard or getting hung up on the past or the future? Play with the possibility that you are designed to do life with less mental effort than you may think.

Let me know what you notice in the comments at the bottom of this page, or email me.

Check out The Art of Living

How would it be to really see that you are perfectly designed to do life? If that sounds good, check out The Art of Living. It’s starts November 9, and three of 12 places are already spoken for.

The separate reality of socks

We all live in separate realities generated by our inside-out experience of life. Underneath those separate realities is a deeper reality: our shared humanity.

One example, which will seem trivial to some and significant to others (yet another indication of separate realities!) is how The Charming Prince thinks about putting socks in the laundry basket. To him, this is a two step process. To me, that verges on the ridiculous. Once upon a time, the gap between our realities could have been the basis for war, but now it simply cracks me up. What happened?

In this video I point to a deeper truth that enables us to appreciate separate realities and find common ground.

The incredible, innocent goofiness of waiting for the other shoe to drop

When my clients begin to see the principles behind how their experience is created moment to moment, they start experiencing more wellbeing. Sometimes they are startled by the degree to which their state of mind improves, and they worry about holding onto it. As one client said this morning, “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Here’s the deal.

There’s no shoe.

There’s only the experience you are having right now in this moment.

Sure, you could have any number of experiences in the future, and you may have experiences you (think) you don’t like. But so what? Does it really make sense to give more weight and significance to a possible unpleasant feeling in the future than you give to your good feeling right now?

It’s a bit like backing away from a gorgeous table of gourmet delicacies because you can’t be sure what’s on the menu tomorrow.

I say it a bit differently in the video, and I’d love to hear how it lands with you. Please share in the comments. ♥

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