This weekend is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, so thanksgiving is on my mind. Those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving in the USA (I get to do both) can look at this as a headstart! I truly am thankful for those of you reading this who have walked with me over the years (literally or virtually) as we practice navigating the improv of life.
It’s pretty easy to be thankful for the things we like and want. Yet even when this is so, it’s easy to be distracted when we don’t like, farless want, some of the things that are going on in and around us! Being thankful here is much more challenging. And to be clear, I’m NOT suggesting we respond with platitudes or pretending – the truth is that sometimes, when we pause even for a moment and pay attention, it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure to do things, or be present in circumstances that we really don’t enjoy.
It can feel like we’re the clay on the potter’s wheel being squished into shape, and that part of the process can be uncomfortable at best.
One of the things I’ve found helpful to remember is that we’re on a journey in this life, and this moment is the beginning of the rest of the journey. Sometimes (perhaps often?) the beginning of journeys are not so much fun.
Even going on vacation can start with the logistics of ticket buying, packing, waiting at airports, and sitting (packed like sardines) on a plane. These aren’t the fun parts! But when we finally get to where we’re going (especially if this is a winter vacation in a warm, sunny place – I’m remembering times of going back home to Barbados in the winter!) things feel different. Actually, even anticipating the feeling of where we’re going can make a difference to those parts that aren’t so fun.
I remember the energy of people at the gate waiting to be packed onto the plane is often lighter – there’s excitement in the air – even after getting up early and going through security! And typically, there’s not been so much lightness on the way back to winter – especially for those who are uncomfortably sunburnt (even though this too will pass), or anticipating going back to ‘the grind’ of everyday life they’ve just had a respite from. It’s clear how we feel is significantly impacted by what’s happening in the moment. But what if it was possible to impact how we are feeling – even when things are uncomfortable and seem outside of our control?
Already there’ve been a couple of clues of things that could make a difference – 1. taking the longer view (could this be the beginning of something I really want?), and 2. this too shall pass. Though we often try to hold onto the wonderful moments, and rush through the uncomfortable things we experience on our life journey, all moments – both uncomfortable and delightful – do pass. Do any of you who have kids remember thinking when they were new babies “I’ll never get to sleep through the night again!”? Even that time does pass.
But what if there was a practice we could cultivate that would make a difference- that could change how we’re feeling inside ourselves, regardless of what’s going on out there? Again, I’m not talking about pretending, or the “fake it til you make it” mantra that’s never rung true for me.
My first conscious experience of this kind of out of control moment was nearly 30 years ago. You’ve probably heard me tell the story of my unexpected pregnancy – if not, you can find it here. As a reminder hint, it occured after I’d had a tubal ligation. It was definitely an unanticipated detour in my life, and not one that I wanted!
Even though at that time I was close to the beginning of my journey of intentional personal growth, the one thing I was committed to was not trying to make myself feel anything I wasn’t feeling. I allowed my upset and fear (and all the other feelings that washed over me) to be there. In a profound grace moment a couple months into my pregnancy, I heard words spoken that resonated to my core, awakening a deep truth. I was reminded that even though I had no idea how, or what it would look like, I was being held and supported. Moment by moment, the resources would be there for me. I could feel there was a different outcome to this journey than the one I’d been terrified of. When I looked along the tunnel of my envisioning I could see some light, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t the light of a train coming towards me. Saying “yes, and …” to that experience and the journey that followed was the beginning of the shift that completely changed the trajectory of my life.
The truth for all of us alive is that (even though there may have been some extraordinarily hard moments) the resources to live with them have been there. Perhaps not in the form we most wanted, but there has been sufficient.
Can you see the way combining these 3 principles, using them as the basis for a practice – a way of being, of intentionally focusing our attention – could really make a difference in how we could meet uncomfortable, scary or painful circumstances?
- Take the longer view – I’m on a journey, and beginnings are often challenging
- This too shall pass – this is really uncomfortable and I don’t like or want it, but being clear on what I don’t want, points me to what I really do want, and I’m curious about my part in co-creating more of this
- As I say yes to this, the resources (including the clarity and courage I need) will be there for me.
I know this way of meeting life the improv of life is powerful, and SO important for anyone who wants to be able to really engage in life – whether it’s facing things that are frustrating or annoying that we’d rather not have to deal with, situations that feel too big and we don’t know how to navigate them, or times when things feel really scary, dangerous, and beyond our control.
It’s clear these are circumstances every one of us living faces in some form, and for me, this kind of exploration and these practices have become necessary life skills. So, I’m excited to share with you that the introductory program that’s been percolating in me over this last while has (finally!) come into form! I plan to offer it publicly early in 2017 – the current working title is Meeting Life with a “Yes, and …” – even when it feels like all hell is breaking loose! So stay tuned for more details as they become clear to me.