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.

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Watch where you point that thing!

sling_shot_weaponized_insight_girl-1153564_640

The problem of weaponized insight

A participant in the Come Alive and Do the Thing! Mastermind has a brilliant term for the use of a supposedly wise observation to critique or diminish another person: weaponized insight.

Don’t you love it?

At first it was thrilling to me just to have a term for this phenomenon, but as I sat with it, I started to see some important implications.

A weaponized insight is a weapon, not an insight

The moment an insight becomes weaponized, it stops being an insight and becomes a weapon.

This goes a long way to explaining what’s going on when we use our own insights against ourselves.

Insights and weapons are inherently different

An insight produces a shift in awareness. It tends to expand awareness, deepen connection, and elevate consciousness.

A weapon has the opposite effect. It shrinks awareness as the person against whom it is being used goes into fight or flight.

It breaks the connection between the one who wields the weapon and the one against whom it is wielded.

And it tends to lower one’s level of consciousness to the realms of competition and survival.

When we use insight to assess, judge, and berate ourselves, it stops being insight

Weaponized insights aren’t always wielded by others. Some of the most pernicious are the ones we wield against ourselves.

How often have you argued with yourself about why you aren’t using your hard-won insights or following your wisdom in some area of your life?

I don’t know about you, but that has confused the hell out of me. How can I be so incredibly smart (just saying) and so incredibly stuck at the same time?

It’s because I’m confusing self flagellation with insight.

There is nothing insightful about any attack on your inherent okayness

Any so-called insight that calls into question your inherent okayness has been weaponized.

Since there is nothing wrong with you, any insight wrapped in the message that there is, is false.

Something that points at how you are (presumably) broken takes you in the wrong direction–but only entirely.

Put down the weapon first

I used to try to pry the insight apart from the weapon. My logic went something like this.

If I could only get the message of the insight, the weaponized message would not longer apply or hurt.

That didn’t work.

The weapon didn’t stop being a weapon until I simply put it down, even at the risk of dropping a seemingly good insight.

I began to see that wholeness is key

As I dropped my weaponized insights, I began to see the vital importance of beginning with the premise that every human being is created whole and deserving.

I saw how our relentless compulsions to judge, evaluate, and improve ourselves actually block access to deeper impulses toward goodness and creativity.

And I saw how authentic insight points us toward our underlying wholeness and connects us to those deeper impulses.

Here’s to freedom

Weaponized insights wound and diminish.

Authentic insight heals and expands. It can sting, but the sting is bracing and enlivening.

That distinction is liberating. Play with it. Take it for a test drive. And let me know what you discover.

Have a wonderful, wonder-filled week, and please share your thoughts and questions in the comments on my blog.

Love,

mollysig125

Images by Pixabay.com

You are the man behind the curtain: An invitation to see the magic in your life

 

One of the many memorable scenes in “The Wizard of Oz” shows Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion finally standing before the Great and Powerful Oz. They have come to present him with the broom belonging to the Wicked Witch of the West after having conquered her with a bucket of water. Oz thunders at them mightily and tries to put them off, but as he blusters and blasts, Toto, Dorothy’s tiny dog, pulls back a curtain and reveals that the wizard is just an ordinary man pulling levers in a magic show.

There’s always a man behind the curtain

The same thing happens whenever we see through the illusion created moment to moment by our thinking. One minute we are gripped by the certainty that the feelings and perceptions before us are real, and in the next, we see that they are projections of our amazing power of thought. One morning last week I had a realization about a long-standing story I sometimes live about not being a good-enough sister or friend or neighbor. I noticed how I’ve resisted and resented and avoided that story, and how that sets up a tug-of-war inside of me, an internal argument about being kind. I took out my notebook and made a simple list of related stories that came to mind.

  • They need me.
  • I should do more.
  • I am not thoughtful.
  • Etc.

I burned the list. It was funny. The paper in that particular notebook must have a special coating. It resisted burning. On top of that, it was a windy day. I used up half a book of matches failing to burn the list on our burn pile. Finally I got a ceramic bowl and found a place by the front door relatively sheltered from the wind. It still took at lot of matches, but that sucker is burned.

Back to the Wizard

In the movie, after the curtain is pulled back, the phony wizard is able to endow each of the characters with his or her wish. How does a phony wizard pull that off? He does it by revealing to each of them that they already had what they sought. The Scarecrow may have thought that brains lived in the diploma, which the Wizard granted him, but we know that his intelligence was there all along. The Tin Man’s heart was apparent throughout the movie, long before the Wizard gave him a heart-shaped clock. And the courage of the beloved Cowardly Lion shone through repeatedly as he shivered and shook, but stayed the course in spite of his fears. Clearly his courage was not the result of receiving a medal. And Dorothy? Dorothy wanted to go home. Home, a place that lived right there inside of her.

The magic worked by the Wizard is ours every minute of every day

You could say that the magic of the Wizard was to show each person that they themselves were the power behind the illusions they had been living, and that they had equal power to see through those illusions and come home to their wholeness and wellbeing. We have that same magic at our disposal. Whenever we see through our thoughts to the intelligence and wellbeing of which we are made, we come home. We encounter our intelligence, our compassion, and our courage.

What I noticed after burning those stories

After burning my stories about not being nice or compassionate or caring enough, I continued to reflect on those qualities. After all, I do want to be kind, compassionate, and caring. I noticed that thoughts about care and compassion can come from many sources. When it comes from an identity that is attached to being good enough, an identity that wants to be liked, or any other identity projected from a sense of insufficiency or incompleteness, thoughts about care and compassion are rooted in those things. But there are other times when those thoughts seem to stem from a different identity, one that is resourced in lovingkindness and that is not afraid or attached to outcomes.

Our hearts can always tell which identity is at work behind the curtain

Our personal thinking can get very confused about this, but our hearts can tell in an instant when we are operating from lovingkindness, which is another way of saying that we are connected with our true nature. It was good to see that what seemed to be the same drives or intentions can be generated from quite different sources. I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I have been trapped in my stories because I was afraid of losing something, like the will to be kind. How lovely to see the difference between the root of kindness, which can never be lost, and my stories about kindness, which can sometimes be quite distorted.

Burning didn’t dispel my stories

I burned my stories as a physical expression of an inner knowing: that the stories that I live are made of smoke and mirrors. It was satisfying to witness their return to smoke, but in no way necessary. The freedom we seek from our stories is ours as soon as we see that we are always the man behind the curtain. Have a wonderful, wonder-filled week, and please let me know what you’re discovering by sharing it in the comments.

Love,

 

 

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Video credit: The Critical Commons

Blame and the pressure to be right are the enemies of response-ability

Responsibility is response-ability. It is a gift, the ability to express our life force in choices and action in the world. When we pressure ourselves with self-criticism or blame, we may try to get out from under the pressure by dodging responsibility. It never works. It feels lousy, because we are dampening our own life force.

Click here to learn about my newest program, The Art of Living: Creating Magic and Meaning in Life and Work. Save $100 when you sign up before April 21, 2016.

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