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.
We are one quarter through 2021. And, this is month three for my year of Wellbeing. There was so much new year hope in January. February rang in still like a possibility, but perhaps distant. March is an island unto itself.
We are just passing through the passageway of spring. Here in the northern hemisphere, everywhere around us, from the weather to the trees and flowers, we are receiving the message: Grow! Burst! Be Free!
This is also the time when small buds however struggle and push their sharp little edges to come through the cold, fallow earth.
I feel both those pulls: the excitement for new possibilities and a kind of aching dullness at the same time, pushing for renewal.
I was so excited in January by the idea of experimenting with wellbeing for a whole year! Now, with March nearly complete, I am asking myself:
“What was I thinking?”
That’s a good question!
I was originally inspired by learning of the research Jeffery Martin who has studied “Fundamental Wellbeing” for over a decade and has helped people transition into it. Having this blog to come back to, month after month for all of 2021, is such a beautiful way to revisit his teachings.
Because, Martin has discovered there are certain practices that bring wellbeing about fairly predictably.
Firstly, let’s revisit his definition. “Persistent wellbeing” is an ongoing experience, not a temporary one. It is not the state a “happy person” would necessarily be in. Martin defines fundamental wellbeing as something more “peaceful” and “contented.”
Martin tells us that when you look deeply into your core, there is an absence of that common nagging dissatisfaction that “something” is not quite right. What is there instead, no matter the outer circumstances, is a deep, fundamental sense that everything, at the deepest level, is fine.
The transition to fundamental wellbeing can start with an evaporation of that edgy sense of dissatisfaction, including freedom from the endless stream of negative thoughts.
Rating how loud that negative voice is inside of you generally, can be one way to discern where you are on that continuum. To those with fundamental wellbeing, the voices are fairly quiet and most of the time. These people possess distance and awareness. Or if the voices are present, they don’t have the emotional hooks that can draw the best of us! Instead, things arise and they go.
I would say I know that place of strength, but don’t dwell there permanently – yet! If I focus on my breath and intentionally connect with that stream of goodness inside me, I am there. I feel my identity expand as I root down into this place of Source Energy and feel the space around my heart start to come alive. That is the place of fundamental wellbeing!
This dwelling place is known by many names such as the “aware” self or “witness consciousness.” Michael Singer took a whole book to explain it, and as he says in the Untethered Soul: “There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it.”
Another important aspect of Martin’s research reveals some who live in fundamental wellbeing, can experience non-separation between themselves and other phenomena outside of themselves. They slip into oneness with the all. I have these experiences at times, most often when I am in deep meditation, but it can happen in nature, when playing music, when hugging a favourite tree along my morning walking path!
As I sit here typing to you, I am feeling the effects of that small break, focusing on my breathing and finding my still point inside, my connecting with the unified field and that greater sense of self.
Can you feel it?
A new thought easily arises for me in this spacious space, located at times inside my heart space. The new thought is – how about an experiment for this month? Want to?
It would involve setting one’s alarm to go off several times a day (you pick how often). I like to set my alarm throughout the day, not every day, but many days. I often choose 4 or 5 times. The purpose it to remind me to be present.
This month, my alarm will go off, I’m going to intentionally reconnect to that witness self – that larger sense of self.
What say you?