Seven is not an option

The mediocre. The okay. The not bad. It could be worse. Ho-hum. I call these the sevens of life. On scales of one to ten.

Where one means, we’re barely alive, hanging on with fraying threads. Where ten means, freedom. Really, in love with life and the mystery of life. Joy. Breathing awe and belonging. Getting it, the truth of prosperity, generosity, the aspirations of our work. Because there is enough always enough and we are enough! 

Loving what is, full stop. Even when we work toward making things better. 

We all have seven days, seven moments. But here is the thing: What if sevens are not an option? You see, we are better than that. We can do better for ourselves than copping sevens. 

A six, this pain. It’s real. Dare I be vulnerable? Dare I tell you, “Look, I am hurting?” Will you be here for me? Can I be here for myself and feel into compassion? Where shall I go with this?

Why the seven mask. 

An eight, this commitment. Declaring, I am. Inviting an even greater vulnerability. Unexamined, joy is a terrifying emotion. We fear it might be taken away. Usually, when we say seven, we secretly feel eight. But will the world welcome my eight-ness or feel it as a threat? Will I give myself permission to be present for the love of life and the consequences of this love? 

Why the seven mask.  

Choosing joy a moment longer. Vulnerable with the eight even if a moment.
Claiming our eights. Nines. Tens. 

credit: nicolai berntsen | unsplash

credit: nicolai berntsen | unsplash

And for some facts on living into our eights: As much as 40 percent of our happiness levels are within our control, according to some happiness researchers.

Research published in the British Medical Journal shows that if a close friend is happy, it increases the likelihood that you'll feel happier by 15 percent. Even being near people who you don't know very well will increase your chance for joy by 6 percent. 

What is unknown for you today?

Consider a world map created in the mid or late 1400s. It would be packed with wondrous detail, images of monsters and treasures on continents and islands, and commentary on the side.

One glitch with these wondrous maps: They were certain of themselves. They announced, We are familiar with what is. Nothing new to learn.

And so Columbus, when he sailed out, miscalculated by over 8000 miles the distance been Spain and East Asia.

A little-known author, Amerigo Vespucci, had the audacity to assert soon after that we didn’t know what the hell we were talking about. The lands that Columbus visited were unknown.

Sometime after 1507, empty-space maps made their debut, including a 1525 map that with a very short, narrow strip of American coast line. No assumptions. Emptiness.

Favoring observation over tradition. Leaning into not-knowing. The unknown as possibility. Daring to question our every assertion and belief.

The humbling awe of real discovery. Seeing something with beginner’s mind. Innovation accelerating. Because there are important things that we do not know. And cannot know until we enter not-knowing. What is that you are not knowing today?

credit: linda xliu | unsplash

credit: linda xliu | unsplash

Fierce with reality

“When you truly possess all you have been and are fierce with reality.” (Florida Scott-Maxwell, The Measure of My Days

Fierce with reality. Billions of years. Your life. You can trust it. Easy to forget. We get caught in what we think is reality. We mistake our thoughts about reality for reality itself. We shape reality through emotion. 

Worry about a decision. Fear of a speaking engagement. Upset, anger. What if our emotions aren't created by these externals, but form in our mind through other pathways, then go on to shape our understanding of what is happening? 

This is what neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett amid others proposes. "We don’t see something scary and react in fear, but experience fear and so perceive something as scary," is how you can grapple with it. 

It implies that our reactions to events aren’t inevitable. Events happen. The brain instantly labels events, then searches for reference points to create story. Emotions rise with story, but they’re detached from the event as it is happening in the moment. 

Fierce with reality. We forget. We can ride emotions, examine them. What is story? What is happening? Dare I live into this particular event? You’ve choices. Another thing: We are built for awareness. 

banyan tree roots.jpg

Delight, Awe, Resilience

A cloud of of nutmeg mannikins rose in front of me, brown puffballs slightly larger than the hallucinogenic seed for which these birds are named. Later in the day, a woman near me on a sidewalk broke out in a smile so tender that I smiled too. She said: “Much pain.” Across the street an angry man was yelling: Much pain indeed.

Amid the light of such windows I am learning to live my life. Awe, it seems, surfaces in the common delights of days. The wondrous nature of our humanity. I train myself to catch these fleeting moments. Until they freely fly toward me.

Research shows we can increase things like resilience and collaboration by focusing on positive emotions such as awe (the feeling we get witnessing something vast that challenges our understanding of the world). It’s perhaps because when we feel awe our sense of self and self-interest quietens. Think serotonin too. We turn to others as if seeking to share this strange flavor of joy. “It’s joy by which the labor that will make the life that I want possible,” says Ross Gay, PhD.

How shall we bring awe into life? Awe vibrates in the everyday: Stars. Trembling grasses. A smile. Nutmeg. At the end of the day, to recall three glimpses of awe. A small awesome practice for the commons of good work.

credit: axel antas-bergkvist | unsplash

credit: axel antas-bergkvist | unsplash

An Inuit Poem (Knud Rasmussen coll., Greenland, 1931)

I came down
Where the ocean lies before the shore
And looked out over
The small lands in the north
Lying blue under the clear sky,
And I thought:

Someday, when I am tired, and lie down to rest,
Someday, when I die, all this that I see
Will be the same to others,
And the air will arch blue
And quiver in the heat
In just the same way
To those who live when I am gone

But I became faint
At all this beauty

Change, Part II.

Setbacks happen. Extreme example: A heart attack. Imagine saying, "Wow, a new experience!" With delight. Which was once the response of a monk in Myanmar, just before he died. No expectations nor confidence shattered. Intimate with the moment. Only curious as to what unfolds, even death.

We relate to our world through change. But how present are we for what is occurring? The experience of earth even when negative? A customer account cancels. A supply chain corrupts. Becomings and endings. Meeting what is takes practice. Small steps. Learning to flow concurrent with the moment. Leaning into the intimacy of change. No self-referencing, reactive. Observing.

I begin to have choices. I can trust myself to find reference points as I need them for an appropriate response, to flow with tension, sensing, noting.

The tension of possibility, negative OR positive. Curiosity for what is, so it can open into making things better. Not easy. Yet this is what makes me effective with the impact I seek. Changes the way I think about creating change. Brings ease. Possibly: Pure joy in learning, contributing amid contradictions. Losses happen, inevitably. There'll be setbacks. Delighted curiosity can ride these changes into much greater success.

Hafiz writes about a mime standing upon a gallows for a crime he did not commit. He describes how the mime removes his heart from his body: "...for an extraordinary moment, it looked like someone was giving birth to Love again." And then:

“The great breeze comes by. The sun and moon
join hands; they bow so gracefully
that for a moment, for a moment everyone
knows that Joy is real. “

For me, at times, it's like welcoming a calm beyond the noise. A knowing that in meeting what is I also meet that I am enough, right here in the moment. We are enough. It's like tasting the silence that allows non-silence to play its grand drama of change. Joy is real.

Tyler Cowen from the remarkable podcast Conversations with Tyler asks his guests: “What is it you do to train that is comparable to a pianist practicing scales?”

How will you train in meeting what is?

credit: ian stauffer | unsplash

credit: ian stauffer | unsplash

For the full poem by Hafiz, click here.