CRAZY COMMITMENTS

9390288-Cartoon-astronaout-on-the-moon-with-an-American-flag-Stock-VectorThose Put-a-Man-on-the-Moon commitments sound insane at first. On a lesser scale I’ve launched myself into what seemed like Crazy Commitments, but given enough planning and support they have worked miraculously. I have noticed that the ones that are connected to my heart and are in my best interest seem to pull me along on their own momentum once I make the commitment—once I step up to the plate and start the process.

Committing to a life as a professional actress in my mid twenties with no connections and little experience was one of those. “Insane,” my mind said. But what a wonderful career I have had.

Buying a Roadtrek camper van and going around the US by myself at 73 years old was another one—especially as I knew nothing about camping or camper vans when I began. “Insane,” my mind said. But it was a healing, reviving, memorable three month adventure.

Going to Sarasota by myself last winter knowing no one and ending up buying a small villa was another. “Insane,” my mind said. But, I made fabulous friends and found a perfect place for me.

Now, it seems I may be launching into another CC. I came back to CT with every intention to sell the house. I was convinced that my life was over here. But as I went through a massive clean out and “staged” my house, something startling happened. It was as if some mysterious energy began replenishing the house and my life here. My friendships deepened and my workshops in August filled up. Strangely, the house has not sold, so as the months have passed, my heart gets louder. “Find a way to keep the house!” it whispers insistently in my ear.

So, to my utter astonishment, that is what I am doing! I’m researching reverse mortgages to buy out my ex-husband’s half. I am looking into refurnishing the large, private downstairs area to make it suitable for someone to share the house and my expenses.

“Wait a minute,” my mind says rudely awakening me at 3 am. “At your age and with your limited income, you’re going to buy another house having just bought one just months ago?!!!!!” I wake up sweating. “Truly insane,” my fear declares firmly and convincingly.

So in the morning I reread a quote from W. H. Murray that I often use in my workshops: There is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen events, meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would have come their way.

And as I look back, that has been clearly true. There were many miracles once I took steps and kept moving forward. And, like getting the man to the moon, it took intense and careful planning. One doesn’t just launch oneself at the moon without a plan. Still, the paths to completion have been zig zaggy which required me to always be both committed and flexible by keeping my options open until the way was clear.

Nevertheless, each one brought up a lot of fear and stress. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon said, “Stress primarily comes from not taking action on something that you can have control over. I find as soon as I can identify it, and make the first phone call, or send off the first email, it dramatically reduces any stress that might come from it.”

Steve Jobs recommended meditation to handle stress. Here’s how I combine the two:

  1. I meditate and get present in the morning. That helps me to get clear about what little steps I can take that day (and I try to break it down into very little steps).
  2. I make some of those scary phone calls and write some of those scary emails.
  3. When I have done what I can do, I let go, turn it over to the Big Whatever and do something fun or relaxing. Sometimes I meditate again to clear my head.

That seems to work to keep me afloat in the river of energy that sweeps me along these CC’s. I’m scared a lot, and this may strike people as odd, but what brings up the wildest fear/excitement are the amazing miracles that show up to support my crazy commitments. And W. H. Murray is right. They have shown up.

So. Yeehaw! Here I go! That river current is sweeping me along. We’ll see what happens.

P.S. Because of all the upheaval, the next CREATIVE EXPLOSION workshop has been postponed until Saturday and Sunday October 3 & 4…go to www.TheFourPrinciples.com for more information.

WRITING IS HELL

Hell2jpgLet me repeat that. Writing is hell. Of course, sometimes it’s joyful and wonderfully enlivening and all that, but there are times when it is just plain hell. Lately I have been struggling with the historical novel that I have been working on for the last couple of years.

My frustration with this enormous task has been building. Yesterday, I was ready to give up and stop. I was in such a dark place that the whole gargantuan enterprise and my entire life seemed a crazy waste. Such global negativity was a clear signal to me that I needed to Get Present. So I called a friend who knows the Compassionate Witness Process from the Creative Explosion workshop and I enlisted her help.

As I focused on my body sensations, I felt such anger and frustration arise that I wanted to trash my room and throw my computer out the window. After satisfying that fantasy, I started feeling deeply sad. It seemed that writing this book was like digging a tunnel with a teaspoon. The image was vivid. But, worse, in this moving picture in my mind, I was not attempting to get myself out of prison, I was stupidly digging my way into a jail cell. So when I completed the book, that’s where I would land—trapped in a jail cell with my unpublished, unread book. Horrible. Why would I want to do that to myself? What was the point? No one asked me to write the damn book. I don’t have to. I could stay out in the sunshine, relax on a bench, watch the world go by, and do nothing. Why would I want to engage in such a useless, Sisyphean task? How self-punishing!

That’s where the Getting Present Process ended. Of course, the purpose of being present is to be present. Many times enlightenment happens in the Process, but sometimes, for those of us so trained in childhood to suppress feelings, we need help just to feel. I know I do.

An hour later, I met via the phone with my wonderful writing support group who encouraged me to keep working on my book. When our meeting finished, I got up to make a cup of tea. Crossing the room, I was stopped by a kind of stunning thought: “What if you are digging this tunnel, not to put yourself in jail, but to rescue and release something or someone that you deeply love to get them out of jail?”

That was a much better version of my tunnel digging. More about love than ego. Trying to get something or someone out of jail. What?  I don’t know. Maybe I’ll find out when I get there.

My despair and frustration lifted. I know that this shift in context doesn’t mean writing this book won’t continue to be like digging a tunnel with a teaspoon, but now I feel as if I have a greater purpose to deal with the difficulty of it. Now that original picture of digging my way into a prison seemed wise and right—as if some higher part of me was trying to tell me something I had misinterpreted.

This blog deals with the Being Present Principle and using the Compassionate Witness process. 

CLIMBING THE LADDER OF FEAR

Stop sign“I’m not good enough,” my friend says. Ah, the universal lament of artists who are trying to market themselves or their wares. That thought is a perfect block. It stops one every time like a lit up stop sign on the road to fulfillment. The light is red, and the words on the stop sign are written in bold caps. I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH. And though it’s a false sign placed on a road where there are no cross streets, you dutifully brake and wait for the light to change. But it won’t ever change to green because it was put there by the devil. (In my theology the devil equals unfelt fear.)

“Okay,” I say to her. “Do you want to get present?” (She has done my Creative Explosion workshop and knows the drill.) Of course her immediate response is “No.” Right. Who wants to get present when the feelings may be difficult? No one.

But, with a sigh, she finally agrees.

“So, what sensation are you experiencing in your body?”

“I’m exhausted. And my heart is pounding.”

“So, sink into your exhaustion for a moment.”

She does. “My heart is really pounding.”

“Put your attention right in your heart. What does it feel like?”

“I’m getting the image of a huge waterslide.”

“Good. Can you go up to the water slide?”

“I’m on the ladder. I’m really scared. I’m alone. Oh, now, there are a lot of people around.” She sounds lighter. Amused. “Oh, one just gave me a little nudge to go!”

“What are you experiencing right now?”

“I’m going down the slide. It’s exciting. It’s fun! Oh! I forgot that fear and excitement are in the same place in the body!”

“Right. Fear says, ‘I can’t.’ Excitement says, ‘I can.’ But we have to be willing to get out of avoidance and feel the fear before that can happen, right?”

“Right! Okay. I know what I’m going to do to market my book today!”

“Go for it. You have written a wonderful book.”

So simple, and so powerful is this process to get one moving. Here’s the pattern:

  1. Avoiding feeling by believing negative thoughts.
  2. Experiencing the fear in your body separate from those thoughts.
  3. Getting clear about what action to take.
  4. Taking action..

But, sometimes we need a little nudge.

There is still time to enroll in the May Creative Explosion workshop.

CHOOSE LOVE NOT FEAR

Life really may be that simple.  LoveLiving seems so complicated, but maybe it’s not.

Yes, we have problems to solve.  We have boogie men thoughts that wake us up in the middle of the night and scare us.  We have doubts.  We have insecurities.

We have things to take care of.  Some people have a lot of things.  We all have to take care of our things and whatever box we live in and whatever box we drive.  Sometimes we box ourselves in with these things.  We fear getting out of our boxed-in boxes: relationships, jobs, and life styles.

Fear is practically our default mode.  It’s easy to choose fear.  We can find so many ways to scare ourselves.

But what if you decided to choose love, not fear?  This is such an ancient idea.  It has been said in every language and in every human religion and understanding of enlightenment since the beginning of human wisdom.  So simple.

Start with yourself.  What if you decided to love yourself?  What if you loved yourself as Love?  What if you walked into your fear and embraced it with Love?

What if you said to yourself, “I choose love, not fear.”

Try it now.  Say it as if you mean it and see what happens.

THE WASHING MACHINE

washingmachineOne of the most fun things I do in life is help people get present.  I do it almost every day.  It’s surprising, inspiring, creative, and healing.  I’m eternally grateful and amazed by this simple process that was dropped in my lap by the Big Whatever.

A dear friend calls.  She’s really frightened—scared about money.  (I have observed in the past that fear is attracted to money like mosquitoes are attracted to blood.)  My friend goes on for a bit about her desperation and talks about some not so good solutions she is considering based on this fear.

After a moment, I ask her if she wants to “get present.”

“No,” she says, “I don’t have enough time.  It’s late.  I have to get to bed.”

Right.  NO ONE really wants to get present.  I understand that completely.  Who wants to feel deeply—to go into the body and discover what is really going on?  Getting present takes willingness and courage.

But, she’s done my Creative Explosion workshop, so after a bit, when I gently ask again if she wants to get present, she says, “Okay.  Let’s do it fast, though.”  I laugh to myself and ask the familiar, dreaded question.  “So what sensation are you experiencing in your body right now?”

“Fear.”

“Where?”

“All over.”

“Is there any predominant sensation?”

“In my heart.  I feel a lot of agitation in my heart chakra.”  (She does yoga.)

“What does it feel like?”

“It’s like a washing machine.  It’s agitating too fast.”

“What does the washing machine look like?”

“It’s not like mine.  It’s old fashioned.  Loads from the top.”

(Just like mine! I think but do not say.)  “Can you go to it and touch it?  Don’t do anything.  Just be with it.”

“Yeah.  I can feel it vibrating.  It’s going very fast.”

“Anything else about it?”

“Yeah.  The top is open and the water is filthy.”

“Okay.  Just be with it for a while.”  She’s silent for a spell then says.  “the water is all draining out.”

“Okay.  Just let it.”

Another pause.  “I feel much calmer.”

A moment.

“Oh, now I see myself standing on a crack in the earth.  There is a chasm below me.  On one side is negativity and fear.  On the other is all my spiritual work and trust.  They are moving apart and I’m doing the splits.  I have to choose which side to go to.”  It takes her a moment, surprisingly, but eventually she chooses trust.

She is present and calmer so I ask her to invite her Higher Power or Higher Self to be with her.  (This is an important part of Getting Present.  It’s not necessary to believe in God, and she says doesn’t.)  Her Higher Power turns out to be a guru who gently laughs at her fear.  He is full of good, calm, heart-centered advice.  In a very short time, she has moved from fear to peace and sees her life rationally and calmly.  She decides to continue with her creativity, do the work she has, and if it really becomes necessary, in the future she knows she can find a supplemental job.

That probably took no more than five or ten minutes.

I just love this Getting Present process.  I don’t have to advise anyone or listen to a long story or harangue.  People find their own peace and wisdom inside once they have moved into and through the uncomfortable sensations and feelings.  The images and what happens is usually surprising, healing, creative and entertaining.

I get present too with partners.  We generally laugh a lot.

What could be more fun than that?

DON’T BE A BOOB! GET SUPPORT!

BraSo, you have driven your vehicle (hopefully not a motorcycle) through The Fear Car Wash, and you’re on the road to follow your dream, right? Or have you stopped to get a Big Mac and a shake, and then taken a nap on the beach?

It’s so easy to slip into unconsciousness or indifference or a kind of lassitude. “Yeah, I know what I want. I’ve faced my fear about it, but I’ll get started tomorrow,” you say Scarlett O’Hara-like while you’re playing Spider Solitaire.

What happened?

I’ll tell you what happened.

You did not get support.

Once you face the truth and the fear about what you want, you’d better get support, because every step you take towards something that looks difficult or challenging or overwhelming will bring up fear again and again. And fear will, as it loves to do, disguise itself. It will become tiredness, indifference, amnesia, distractions, confusion, conflicts, indecision, and addictions—oh the list is long and insidious.

Depending upon how long you go without taking action toward your dreams and goals is how much fear you will have to face to get started again. So, if you have to go through the big Fear Car Wash again, this time, make sure you have lined up the kind of support you need to greet you on the other side.

What kinds of support are there?

1. God is a good one. God? Who? Like me, you may not even understand what that means, but you don’t need to. Surely you have known times when you are calm and still and willing to listen. At those times, some Guide, some Wise Self or Higher Consciousness emerges to guide you to truth and the right action. So, meditate. Get some kind of spiritual practice: yoga, walking, praying, anything that helps you go within and listen to your Higher Self.

2. Get Present with a Compassionate Witness. (See my book, The Four Principles.) Okay. I do have to say that this technique is one of the most powerful ways in which I get clear and access the kind of wisdom that I cannot seem to find in my normal, conscious mind. It’s always surprising. (Side note: While writing this, a friend called on the phone to “Get Present.” It was fast, easy, and the guidance she received completely surprised her.) I don’t know where else you can find this except in my Creative Explosion Workshops, so feel free to enroll in the next one in July. (See sidebar.)

3. Support Groups. Go to any support group that feels right to you. There are masses of them out there. The Twelve Step Programs are, of course, beautifully effective, free, and there’s practically one for every need. Not being formerly acquainted with them, I have discovered Underearners Anonymous which is not just about making more money. It’s about getting out of hiding in one’s lovely, safe cave.

If you can’t find a support group that suits your needs, create your own. I created my own writing support group which has been meeting for about two years now. Four of us. The other three fantastic women are highly committed, intelligent and inspiring. I don’t know how I would tackle a writing project I’m doing without them.

4. Therapy. Find a good therapist. I had a great one, and can still call her as needed.

5. Teachers and Counselors. Find a teacher, sponsor, mentor, or coach. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

6. Experts. You cannot know everything, so you’re going to need contractors, electricians, plumbers, editors, agents, printers, lawyers, etc.

7. Friends. Notice I list them last because friends will be there for you when you need someone to play with, cry with, celebrate with, laugh with, hang out with—when you’re sick, need help, are down and out, need them to take care of your dog, but they may not be the best resource to push you beyond the limits you have set for yourself—unless you set a more formal structure with them for that purpose.

The point is: GET SUPPORT! You are 100 percent responsible for your commitment, and you CANNOT do it alone! We can’t climb mountains solo without the clothing and equipment someone else made. My favorite Oscar speech was Maureen Stapleton saying, “…and I want to thank everyone I ever met in my entire life.” Sounds funny, but she was onto something. We are not as independent as we think. Face it. We humans are a totally interdependent species.

But, we do have to be responsible for our commitments. Nobody can support us if we don’t know what we want. Those of us who live in a relatively free world can either succeed or fail. We can either make a mess of our lives or live gloriously. Voltaire said that freedom can’t be achieved without being responsible; otherwise freedom turns to chaos. Being responsible means being clear about one’s commitments, and getting the support to carry them out.

You may not have a vision yet, but if you look at your life, you probably have a goal or two you haven’t achieved. Get support. And then, get more support. With enough you can achieve anything. You can be president if you get enough votes. You can lose the weight, write the book, go to the audition, sing your song, speak in front of crowds, find a lover, and change the world if that’s what your heart desires—if you have enough support.

Here’s the catch. The only way you are going to get support is by using one of The Four Principles. And the principle is……. Come on. Which of the Four Principles will you have to use?

That’s right! COMMUNICATION! In fact, support is all about COMMUNICATION. So, pick up the phone or put your fingers on the keyboard and start asking for help.

A FRAUD OR AFRAID

I woke up and started crying.  I was scared.

Of what?  You ask.

Of being inadequate.  Of not being up to the task at hand.  Of being a fraud.

I have committed to leading a Creative Explosion Workshop on April 6 & 7.  The purpose of it is to create the energy to start what you haven’t started and to blast through the block that is in the way of going where you want to go.  As awkward as that sounds, it’s what the workshop does for people.  It’s a powerful commitment.

I started doing the workshop in 1988 and continued doing them until 2007 when I stopped.  Oh, I could say that I needed a break.  I did.  Or that I was taking a sabbatical or even that I was retiring, but that wasn’t the reason.  I stopped because I had lost my faith in myself—triggered by a very hurtful incident.

One of my best friends, who had taken my classes for years, repeated the workshop many times, and had moved through her fear to create a career singing and performing, cut off communication with me.  I was never clear what had upset her so much that she had to shut me out completely and not answer emails or calls.  I still haven’t heard from her.  Of course, I speculated, but that was fruitless and led nowhere.

I thought I was okay about it—that it was her problem, at least I told myself I was, but I wasn’t.  Instead of feeling my hurt and my anger and fear around abandonment, I thought, “If this work could so damage my relationship with a friend of 28 years, one who chose me to be her maid of honor in her wedding, then there must be something wrong with the work.  There must be something wrong with me.”  So, I “retired” from all teaching and doing workshops.

It didn’t matter how many people had told me what a positive and profound effect the Creative Explosion had had on their lives—that some had even changed their names as a result.  Instead, I used that “failure” if that is what it was, to stop doing the work.

It has taken me years to get over it.  It’s laughable in a way, I, who guide people into and through their fear, hid from my own and used her to stop doing the work that the Big Whatever had given me to do.

But, I have used those five ensuing years to grow and learn—being with my dying sister one winter, taking a three month solo journey around the US in a camper van, writing a book about it have all strengthened me.  Perhaps I needed those five years to go deeper into myself.  Perhaps this woman was just the “Pain Angel” I needed to push me to new level of self compassion.

So now, I’m stepping back up to the plate, so to speak.  It’s been five years.  I’m afraid.  I think I’m not good enough, but I’m going to do it anyway.  Mother Theresa spoke of being the pencil that God used to write with.  I like that.  My pencil may be old, stubby, and has some teeth marks chewed into it.  But the Big Whatever rescued me before the Hound of Hell ate it up completely.   Here I go.

Is there something you’re not doing or stopped doing because you think you’re not good enough?  Do you think you’re a fraud or are you just afraid?