Want Ecstasy?

“When we blend our unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.” -Deepak Chopra

For many years, while working as a mediocre middle-manager, I told people I had no talents.

Privately, I wondered if caring about people and talking could be talents.

This morning, I offered up to the Universe my inclination to care about people and to speak honestly about my failures.

Yesterday, someone paid me to do that (and, I could tell it made a difference).

Ecstasy.

Got a Chaos Management Plan?

Do you have a chaos management plan (CMP)? Not just for North Korea but for the other times when your life is “nuked” by relationship, financial, or circumstantial violence.

We can’t be lulled into thinking we don’t need one, especially if we are currently quite impressed with ourselves and our “cool.”

It doesn’t take much for the props that make us feel cool to fall away and our inner deficits to be embarrassingly exposed.

My simple CMP:

  1. Accept what is.
  2. Forgive myself and others for the chaos.
  3. Invest in inner strength more than props.
  4. Expect chaos and smile at the future.

I Have a Dream…Not a Nightmare

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Historian Rutger Bregman’s TED Talk about eliminating poverty is worth watching even if you don’t agree with his conclusions. His quote, “The one thing that history teaches us is that things can be different,” reminded me that even when things have been the same for centuries, the tenacity of courageous thinkers and doers have made huge differences for us all.

Radical, “impossible” changes occur when we:

  • Use our gifts to make a difference
  • Dream new dreams
  • Refuse to give up
  • Face the world with courage

Living like this is so much more fun than complaining about, or shrinking away in fear from, the way the world is. As Bregman said, “Martin Luther King’s famous speech is “I have a dream, not, I have a nightmare.”

Heroes: What They Have and Where They Live

“We come to knowledge (self-improvement, success) as we go to war: wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. With all four of these requisites, our actions lose the blundering quality of a fool. If we fail or suffer a defeat, we will have lost only a battle, and there will be no pitiful regrets over that.” – Carlos Castaneda

I love Castaneda’s four requisites:

  • wide-awake
  • fear
  • respect
  • absolute assurance

Although they may seem contradictory, fear and absolute assurance create the perfect juxtaposition; a tension between the raw awareness of weakness and the confident power that turns an average human being into an icon.

As in film and television, the vulnerability of the protagonist must be there or else we are not drawn to them. But, as they rise above their fear, we are lured with them…into the dangerous place where possibility lives.

worry-carlos-castaneda

Chopping Off the Dread that Hangs Over Our Head

I just noticed how terribly weighty a task is that makes me feel incompetent or below average; how I will avoid this task and let it cloud up my day and darken my future, and how, the only way I can escape the storm (that comes when I don’t do this task) is to meet it head-on.

From painful personal experiences, I am learning that these tests of my character are intentional, that they will keep coming back until I learn to be more courageous, honest, strong, persistent, patient, loving or whatever it is that I am deficient in.

Like, recently, when I had to go talk to someone who wasn’t happy with me…

It felt like going to execution (because my personality type hates disapproval and rejection so much).

But, after looking at it as a practicum in self-development and remembering that if I didn’t pass the test, I’d have to retake it, I…to my great relief…just got ‘er done.

 

face down your demons

Useful Epiphany from an Unlikely Source

I am running hard after a high-velocity tennis ball that seems impossible to reach, but, somehow I stretch and launch it back to win the point.

While my body is doing this, my mind is asking if playing tennis really matters. In the next moment, I am recalling the story of a former employee who had been brutally attacked.

Helpless, on her knees,  restrained from behind with a knife at her throat while her sister was screaming in the bathroom, Diana had to choose between action and despair. The attacker said he was going to rape and kill them both, so Diana did something she had never done before; she formed a fist, straightened her elbow, and thrust her arm behind her as fast and hard as she could, smashing into the attacker’s genitals. Her attacker doubled over in horrific pain, releasing Diana as he fell. She grabbed his knife, rescued her sister, and ran for help.

Compared to this, of course, tennis is inconsequential.

But, what if…this story came to my mind for a reason?

What if…the courage, maximum effort, and quick thinking I used today on the court is, ultimately, for a greater, more serious purpose?

What if…all of life is like that?

Dashingly Used and Cheerfully Hazarded

While in my early twenties, I read this quote in an old biography; “Life is to be dashingly used and cheerfully hazarded.”  I am not sure to whom the quote should be attributed, but the sentiment has propelled me to live much more courageously.  Just reading the quote makes me feel noble and gallant; as if even I could be a hero vs. someone petty, small-minded, or average.

When I ignore the quote and pass up opportunities to be that dashing, cheerful hero because I am too worried about…

  • disease, bodily harm, or tragedy
  • getting my fair share, or
  • my possessions

I will always lose.

Our hearts instinctively know that there is much more to life than these “safe” things. That’s why we love movie heroes and legends.

alchemist quote

“Leap Before You Look”

 

The sense of danger must not disappear:

The way is certainly both short and steep.

However gradual It looks from here;

Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

This stanza from W.H. Auden’s poem is certainly about risky love, but the sentiment can be applied to a multitude of decisions in our lives that will take us off the beaten path, away from the mundane, and into a more adventurous, fulfilling life.

Unfortunately there are no shortcuts to becoming that person we admire.

We can’t kid ourselves forever. Living vicariously through movies, games, books, fantasy, or our children will never be enough.

Today, I wish that courage to leap for you and for me.

When-Our-Comfort-Zone-Becomes-A-Danger-Zone

pierre-teilhard-de-chardin-philosopher-it-is-our-duty-as-men-and

Chardin was not advocating recklessness: only courage.

That’s Absurd!

…but necessary!

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The biggest “fear triggers” of my personality type are disapproval and rejection. That makes it really hard to be okay with looking ridiculous, even if my objective is completely unselfish and, possibly, critically important for others.

So many of us have a prompting inside to use our gifts in unique ways, to create something new, to strike out, to challenge the current “normal,” but we hold back to save ourselves the embarrassment.

But, if we…

  • regularly saturate our mind with “hero stories”
  • meditate on our innate self-worth (that is immune from outside evaluation)
  • remember the very temporal nature of our existence

…we will avoid shrinking into the shadows of anonymity where the impossible is impossible.

The Times We Cause the Pain

Often we spend so much time thinking and complaining about those who hurt us that we forget we are sometimes doing the hurting.

If I am brave enough to listen to my critics (family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, exes, or whomever) I may find that I…

  1. Talk too much about myself
  2. Think it has to be my way
  3. Argue and judge before I listen
  4. Am inflexible and sometimes self-righteous
  5. Am insensitive
  6. Have forgotten to be grateful
  7. etc.

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One of the best deterrents to gossip, whining, and complaining is cultivating the courage to confront ourselves first.