I’ve said it for years. And over the past weeks the idea of ‘No Make Wrong’ has been actively inserting itself in my reflections and conversations – if you’ve been part of them, thank you! It’s been so insistent in its percolating that I began to wonder whether a new model might be gestating inside me. But something remained unsettled and I couldn’t put my finger on it – until yesterday.
A combination of the powerful outpouring of responses in and around me to the Charleston shootings, and a situation in my personal life where something I’d for years deeply desired still seemed completely impossible.
And so I did what I teach and practice – I connected with my commitment to be present and not turn away from what is, and sat with it all.
I began to notice I was stuck in a loop.
It was a sobering moment to notice the invitation I’d been offering myself and others was instrumental in keeping me stuck AND increasing the pain!
As so often happens, that sobering moment was also a moment of epiphany.
I suddenly thought of something I’d learned over 30 years ago when my boys were young. Our brains don’t register negatives. So rather than what we DON’T want, it’s crucial for us to focus our attention on what we DO want more of. The powerful emotions evoked by these situations outside my control really etched in me more deeply, how crucial it is to have the vision of possibility we stand for as our focus – a kind of sea anchor in the midst of the storm that’s swirling.
When I feel into the shootings in Charleston, or the deep desire in my personal life that still feels unattainable, I feel emotion rising – the clench of anger and frustration, and tears of sadness. I don’t for a moment want to minimize the enormous pain experiences like Charleston has allowed so many of us to tap into. At the same time, if I keep my focus ‘out there’ on what’s happened in Charleston, or the choices of others in my life make, I often swirl helplessly in the grip of my emotions.
I’ve always acknowledged our instinctive human responses to challenges as normal, understandable, AND a part of what makes it so juicy to be human, so I have NO desire to shut them down. They’re certainly part of our authentic human response, but swirling in them sidesteps another thing I’m committed to – being a powerful presence standing for Realizing RICH Relationships – in my life and in our world.
So where did I go to access the power I needed to take that stand? What’s the practice I’m most committed to? If you’ve been in this circle for any length of time, you’ll not be surprised to hear me say I turned to the notice, accept and nurture of the Attentional Living Cycle. (You can download a copy of that here.)
Instead of continuing trying to NOT ‘Make Wrong’, I accessed the COURAGE of my COMMITMENT to NOTICE I was making wrong – both the situation out there, and my response to it!
Just that shift to noticing was enough to create a pause in the swirl of fighting within myself.
‘Notice the Make Wrong’ was a far more powerful approach!
Not only did the pause in the swirl of my internal conflict that followed my ‘Noticing my Make Wrong’ allow me to get off the hamster wheel of fighting myself, and let go of the pushback of my outrage about what was happening ‘out there’, it actually opened a way for me to CELEBRATE what was happening.
Rather than any sense of shame or anger at myself about the helplessness I’d been feeling, I could now recognize and ACCEPT my passionate emotions as an indicator of the depth of my desire for, and commitment to doing my part in, co-creating RICH Relationships in our world. What I’d been avoiding noticing was pointing me back to being even more fully me.
Truth is, in the mystery of life, each one of us has our unique journey. And though we may often wish we did, we have no direct control over the choices and actions of others.
Making a difference starting with a fierce commitment
to loving ourselves into being our most powerful selves.
But our choices DO make a difference. As that icon of courage and commitment Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
The kind of love he was talking about isn’t warm fuzzy feelings, or agreeing with the choices of others. Love that’s powerful enough to drive out hate is fierce loving. And it has to start with a fierce commitment to loving ourselves.
Yesterday morning, rather than distancing myself from what I was feeling, or distracting myself by focusing on what I thought others should or shouldn’t do, I first focused that noticing and acceptance of myself. I became courageously CURIOUS about how I might best NURTURE myself right there. What that looks like will be unique for each one of us and can differ from moment to moment.
This is NOT a once and done thing. Nor is it just about the actions we choose (though I’m all for the nurturing in a good massage, or some favourite thing to eat!). I see the fierce loving of Attentional Living as a spiritual practice – a way of honouring and being at peace with ourselves so that in each moment of our lives we can be the fullest expressions of the people we came here to be. And of course, honour our and others’ humanity in those moments when we don’t manage to be and do that.
So, no new model, instead a deeper understanding and greater commitment to the practice I’ve consciously engaged for over 10 years. Today, this is the fullest expression of the person I came here to be. Tomorrow, well we never know what clarity other epiphanies may bring! But if you feel a sense of resonance with this exploration, or if there’s something here that doesn’t sit right for you and you’d like to explore further, I’d love to hear from you.