Welcome to the last month of the year. Unless you live in the mountain and become very attuned with the season, to operate in the day to day world still means that we have to remember the calendar dimension of chronos.
December is the a time of taking stock and celebrating, of inner clarifying and deepening.
A course called Living in The Gift has been facilitating that process. I'd highly recommend the course for those who feel compelled now to deepen the heart of service and long for a more beautiful way to operate. It's pay from the heart, starting from 0.
A question from the course that has been sprouting in my mind is What forms of control am I ready to let go off?
I found this to be such a beautiful question, because it really frames and guide our most important relationship of all: our relationship with life itself.
"Let go" is not an action but an orientation, a quality. I often imagine it as holding a baby in my arms. Even when I want to put him down, I'd like to do so tenderly.
The irony is that when we can do so with our babies, literally or figuratively, life will also treat us the same way. As the Christians say, we are indeed the children of God but we just forget it. A picture came to mind: I'm holding my babies; God is holding me, and we are a tight family ;-)
When I first let this question work on me, I was surprised at how much control I'm still holding on, from work to relationship to personal development topics.
But hey, the invitation is to simply notice the readiness, not "should be ready" or "wish to be ready". The only thing I'm proud to say I've made progress on is that I'm loosening up control on when and how I'll get restless about trying to find the answers for all those questions. Instead, I'm slowly burning inside with longings, and it's a good thing. "May you have the wisdom to generously enter your own unease.
And discover the direction your longing wants you to take" - John O'Donohue,
The Curse of Confidence
This week, I wrote a short post about the curse of confidence and the constant tension between "I really want to do this" vs "I'm not good enough", which often manifests itself in the stuckness of "I wish I could be more confident". I hope writing it can help us understand its grip. The invitation is to get to know that tension and be even grateful for that. To notice the readiness for change and for the lack thereof.
What we are doing here is to cultivate an environment that fosters greater self-trust anyway. -----------------
A friend of mine whom I coached recently was feeling indecisive between going to a graduate program in her field or staying in her current researching job. Right now, she has a job in a research center about a particular topic in healthcare that she is quite interested in, but she really wants to be doing healing work with patients. She used to volunteer in another country doing this kind of direct work, and it has had a big impact in her life.
She’s feeling quite stuck on how to move forward.
I asked her again “You need the research to prove that healing modality to people. That I understand. But do you believe in it yourself?”
She nodded. She indeed did have a lot of experiences in this work, and she no doubt cared a lot about it too.
I continued, being slightly provocative. “Then, is there any chance that you are using the excuse of getting more credential to hide from doing the work? Is there a chance that behind it is the voice of “I’m not good enough?”
Her eyes lit up. “Yes, that’s it!” She knew. “I tried to tell myself many times to be more confident, but it didn’t really work”.
I soooo hear her. I love people like that, smart, dedicated, caring people who genuinely want to make a difference. The issue is that many also think that they are not confident enough.
The curse of confidence
Trying to talk ourselves out of this doesn’t work because when it is framed as an endless struggle for self-improvement or a war to conquer our lazy, timid self, we are doomed from the beginning. Yet the mindset of struggle is deep, as Charles Eisenstein has captured in this chapter: we tend to judge the habit of finding the easy way out.
Consider what happens when we lose: disappointment, self-hatred, even total despair? Then consider what happens when we win: further exile of the lazy part and the total triumph of the superhuman in us. It doesn’t feel right either. Living with blame and repression of our shadow — the damned part of our personality — is equivalent to living a society that doesn’t care enough for those at the bottom. It’s not going to be stable, and the explosion isn’t going to be nice. This is not just a matter of word choice: what we express, what we perceive and thus how we operate in the world are tightly coupled.
There are two other beliefs that make her “lack of confidence” diagnosis even more complicated. First, it’s true that much havoc has been done by people who are overconfident anyway. We don’t want to be like the Who-Must-Not-Be-Named President. Yet sometimes that Fear of the Bad Example can swing to the extreme of analysis paralysis.
Second is the fear of being disapproved. Have you seen how popular this TED Talk is about how to posture ourselves as strong and confident? It totally works, but more importantly its popularity goes to show how much we are scared of what other people think of us.
From that place of genuine care, it becomes perfectly healthy to seek external validation. Our tones change from than fearful avoidance (“I’m afraid that I’m never going to be good enough”) to gentle curiosity (“I wonder what people think of me” and “I want to know if you have found this helpful”)
This shift comes from something much deeper than standing tall with your hands wide open. It happens when gratitude starts to permeate our being and transforms us from within, perhaps by a combination of sincerity and grace.
Even people’s opinion of us are gifts, which we can choose to gracefully take or not.
Read the full post here on Medium.
Sharing is sprouting.
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Quotes I'm contemplating this week
On meditation and the usefulness of symbol "The best meditation is, of course, to take the religious symbol and not worry about whether it's historically true or not but know that it refers to an interior plane of experience. Choose the image you want to meditate upon" - Joseph Campbell in Pathways to Bliss
Good reminder for those of us who are skeptical about mysticism and spirituality in general: the purpose is not to verify a symbol's factfulness. Choosing to focus exclusively on fact is just ignoring imagination. Doing so is like going to a fine dining to count calories of the food. It is possible, but it's totally missing the point.
Profound Humor "If you live with one leg in the past and one leg in the future, you can only pee in the present. "
My friend Akshay quipped this while drinking tea, and I actually think he got something that sounded quite profound.
On coming back from a time of inner darkness
I found this short interview with Charles Eisenstein about mental health especially assuring and resonating with me. As someone who longs to live with wholeness and not push away anything, including the terrible "depression", I appreciate the invitation to notice readiness rather than pushing through.
"So it's not about what can you do to get out of this. It's about recognising that this time of darkness is reaching its end. And you can feel grateful for that and you can feel the ring of truth in my words. That this isn't something that is up to you to do. It's an initiation that's happened to you. It's a process that has taken you through itself.
"Instead, I would ask you to give a little bit of attention right now to the feeling of readiness that is growing in you and offer it some trust and "say thank you readiness because you are going to push me with a feeling of excitement and rightness at the moment when the time to take these small steps comes and I will recognise that moment ,and I will trust my feeling of readiness, my desire to participate in this life that perhaps I've withdrawn into darkness as a necessity to transition out of a wrong life. And I thank my soul for guiding me to do this".
Taking a short retreat break
After a series of unexpected travel plan mishaps, I'm 99% going on a 10-day silent meditation retreat soon, so you won't hear from me until later in Dec. I'm feeling excited with a few intentions.
- Deepening my being-in-the-world: While it seems like a "retreat" from the normal world, it will be a good training in showing up more fully. It will help me to be more attuned and of service to the world later on.
- Sharpen the capacity for awareness: It's good to understand the deeper reality to those basic questions like "What is the self", not as an intellectual exercise, but a felt experience.
- Unlearn the Struggle and Enjoy: The habit of struggling, "no pain no gain" runs deep, often masks behind the desire to growth. I'm trying to follow what Thich Nhat Hanh once said in this interview: "Sitting should be pleasant. When you turn on the television in your living room, you can sit for hours without suffering. Yet when you sit for meditation, you suffer. Why? Because you struggle. You want to succeed in your meditation, and so you fight. When you are watching television you don’t fight. You have to learn how to sit without fighting. If you know how to sit like that, sitting is very pleasant."
As I'll learn to breathe with more joy, I hope you are all doing well.
P/s: after the break, do reach out for the Inner Critic Assessment or general conversations about life. I'd love to be helpful.