Since January, I’ve been engaged in a grand experiment. Dr. Jeffery Martin’s work on Fundamental Wellbeing has inspired me to approach wellbeing in a conscious and deliberate way. So, each month, I’ve taken on a new practice to explore. Last month, it was embracing the concept of “trust” – how much can I open myself to trust myself, another, the world?
This month, I am exploring “Love” as a preparatory tool in conflict. I’ve been in the conflict game long enough to know that only good comes from being in a better space when facing conflict. We can call that space love or inner peace or calm or Fundamental Wellbeing. No matter which word, it’s the feeling I’m getting at. We need to find our way back to that feeling time and again to be able to engage in difficult conversations well.
So I was delighted to discover recently that a dear friend of mine has been using love as her preparation tool for difficult conversations!
She and I have had a few wonderful conversations of late about how to approach any difficult conversation by, firstly, finding a place inside oneself that is “love.”
That state and process can a bit amorphous to explain, but the place to start is by noticing when you have any kind of “trigger” inside of you that feels like pain. That pain can be anger at another’s actions, sadness, heartbreak, confusion, anxiety.
Once you notice your “negative” emotion, then the work is to look inside to find a connection to love again before you approach the other person.
What does one mean by connecting with love inside oneself? There are so many ways and means.
The Heartmath Institute has a wonderful quick coherence tool I’ve written about before, where you think of someone you love for a minute or two (and put your hand on your heart) – and – bingo – you’ve got that loving feeling again! That’s a quick one.
A worthy exploration of love comes from the classic book: Love is Letting Go of Fear. Here is what the author Gerald Jampolsky teaches us about love:
“With Love as our only reality, health and wholeness can be viewed as inner peace, and healing can be seen as letting go of fear… Love, then, is letting go of fear.”
Jampolsky tells us love and fear cannot exist at the same time so that coming to love dissipates our fears. He advocates for inner peace. It’s been my experience if I, or my clients, have not found some place of inner calm, peace or love before starting a difficult conversation, the chances of it turning out well are vastly decreased.
So how does one arrive at inner peace and love?
Jampolsky tells us that “We cannot be free until we discipline and retrain our minds…In order to experience peace instead of conflict, it is necessary to shift our perception… Fear is really a call for help, and therefore a request for Love…If others do not change in accordance with our expectations, we are likely to regard them as guilty… Peace of mind comes from not wanting to change others, but by simply accepting them as they are. True acceptance is always without demands and expectations.”
Yet where does this leave us when it comes to our own needs? Are we to become doormats or sacrificial lambs in the name of Love?
I believe not!
Love is our starting place, the doorway to enter into a difficult conversation and a re-negotiation of expectations. Love is a powerful mindset that can help a difficult conversation go well. I’ve seen this mindset work in the classroom, in the mediating room and as my friend engaged with me recently in a difficult conversation.
My friend actually teaches people how to come back to love within themselves. If you want to explore her method, check out Empowered Love.
Becoming Love is the starting place to making peace!
“If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer.” … Albert Einstein
Late last year, I came across Dr. Jeffery Martin’s work on fundamental wellbeing. He interviewed over 1,000 people who said they felt fundamental wellbeing most of the time, in order to study what they did and how they showed up in the world. His research is solid and important, as his programs are teaching people how to create a greater sense of peace in their worlds.
Since January, I have been on a quest to settle into a deeper sense of wellbeing and each month this year, I want to use this space to reflect on the experiment with you.
This month, I am most interested in Martin’s observation that those with fundamental wellbeing trust that things are unfolding exactly as they should, without the ego’s need to explain, categorize or understand. There’ s a sense of ease about this. As one of my teachers Marc Allen says, the approach to life is: “in an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way, in its own perfect time, for the highest good of all.”
That is my take-away this month, to practice that mantra a few times a day. I want to practice remembering I don’t need to understand it all. I want to strengthen my belief that I can trust the unfolding mystery, so much of which I don’t understand, but may not need to. Perhaps my striving to understand creates inadvertent “dis-ease” with the path of trust yielding more.
A story I heard Oprah tell once illustrates my path this month. Oprah tells how she really wanted to play the part of Sofia in the movie The Color Purple. It really didn’t look like it was going to happen and she was upset. In her desperation, she prayed for help to let her dream go. A song came to her spontaneously and she started singing: “I surrender all… all to thee my blessed savior… I surrender all…”. She sang and prayed until she got to the point where she could let it go.
She truly surrendered all into trusting that which she didn’t understand.
And just as she let go into trust, the phone rang.
It was Steven Spielberg. She got the part.
“Adult life is dealing with an enormous amount of questions that don’t have answers. So I let the mystery settle into my music. I don’t deny anything, I don’t advocate anything, I just live with it.” – Bruce Springsteen
Since the beginning of January, I have been on a quest to settle into a deep sense of well-being. I came across Jeffery Martin’s work on fundamental well-being and each month for the whole year, I want to use this space to reflect on the experiment with you!
Last month, I noticed that when I tell myself: “I have enough” – that statement automatically generated feelings of gratitude. I wanted to take that practice into my month and see what fruit it yielded. Each time I recalled it this month, it gave me that same sense of gratitude. It’s been powerful medicine and it is a practice worth strengthening. I wonder if any of you notice the power in that statement!
What calls me this month is to pay attention to my feelings. I know enough about conflict and difficult conversations (with myself and with others) to know that emotions are central to pay attention to. What is newly emerging for me is the complexity of what emotions may be pointing to and asking us to pay attention to.
Our feelings motivate us to action. When I feel something, it is often connected to either:
* a thought memory from the past
* a present-moment need
* a desire for something in the future – a holy longing.
Feelings are so important to pay attention to, and yet feelings are not generally privileged. In conflict, we anesthetize our more vulnerable feelings by allowing feelings of anger and rage to be dominant. These too are important feelings and can point to injustices.
Yet, they can also cause us to blame others and separate ourselves from others – to other the other. This is the constant paradox with feelings – they offer a gift of finding our way home to our deeper selves, yet they can be deceiving. Just because I have a strong emotional reaction to you, that does not necessarily yield me my truth at my first “feel.”
Emotions are, perhaps, a bit like dreams: they need interpretation.
For this month, I want to pay more attention to my feelings and see if they lead to:
* a memory
* a present moment need or
* a future desire.
Let me know what you think!
“Inviting our thoughts and feelings into awareness allows us to learn from them rather than be driven by them.” – Daniel Siegel, MD.
Since the beginning of January this year, I’ve been engaged in an experiment. I’ve been looking to strengthen my own sense of fundamental wellbeing. Jeffery Martin has been my inspiration, having amassed a lot of research data on what fundamental wellbeing is and how to achieve it.
This last month, my experiment and practice has been to focus on expanding my sense of self, my sense of identity. I want to strengthen my identification with something larger than myself. I’ve been setting my alarm to go off multiple times a day and sitting with connecting with that larger self.
I can’t report in huge changes that I can notice, but I do feel more open. For example, I was recently listening to a podcast by Tami Simon interviewing Spencer Sherman, a wealth management investor. Spencer was talking about a practice he does of equanimity – which he calls “having enough.” He notices what he already has in his life, to offset the pain of focusing on what he doesn’t have, as there is always not enough. Of course, there is also inequity in the world and in the moment, for our spirit, it helps to notice and nurture what we do have in the here and now.
As I listened to the podcast and felt into the possibility that perhaps, in this very moment, I have enough, an image came into my mind. I saw a surfboard on waves and I realized I had always, until now, thought my security came from staying on top of the waves. What came to me is that if I see the surfboard itself as my equanimity, not the times that I am standing up, then I can ride the waves with a stronger sense of fundamental wellbeing. Everything can change around me – good times and rough waters, but if I hang onto my surfboard, I’ll be okay.
That, to me, is fundamental wellbeing.It’s not about clinging to any type of “toxic positivity” (yup, that’s a thing!). It’s about feeling life in all its variations. I know this. I have many a time related to Rumi’s poem The Guest House. But do I practice this consistently? No!
Yet I love the idea that we can achieve a permanent inner sense of equanimity. I want that: to know, no matter what, it’s okay. It’s all okay. That doesn’t mean there aren’t waves and crashes and things to be engaged in. But under it all, we rest on a foundation of fundamental okayness.
This coming month, I want to cultivate an “Enough Practice.” I already have many little signs around my house saying variations of “I am enough.” This month, there will be a twist. I will recite “I have enough.”
I have enough love. I have enough life. I have enough time. I have enough friends. I have enough water and food and air. I have enough.
It makes me feel instantly grateful.
I certainly have enough readers. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for reading my words. Your presence means I have someone to give to. Your receiving is a gift to me.
You are enough for me.