There's a question an interviewer oftens asks a successful business person or celebrity: "What would you tell your younger self?"
Just the other day, we walked to our neighborhood lake and saw a pre-teen boy fishing from the pier. Alice asked me, "What would you tell your 10-year old self?"
I said, "I would tell him, 'Don't cling to good things or negative things. They will all come and go. Acknowledge them with either pleasure or curiosity, but know that few things will be permanent.'"
I hope that doesn't sound too stoical or, worse, fatalistic. I have a tremendous belief in the goodness of creation and people (especially when they are conscious and intentional of what they say and do).
But the self-work I'm doing these past years has taught me to sit with negative emotions and know that they will pass; that clinging only leads to tangling and tangling leads to self-induced suffering. Who wants that?
Recently, two members of an online group I belong to lost their wives. The post-mortem sharing of their love, loss, grief and nascent healing has been nothing less than inspiring.
What I know is that if we want a life of deep significance, genuine love and emotional strength, it’s going to involve the entering fully into discomfort, pain and loss.
Just as the 60s era philosophy of "If it feels good, do it" was hedonistic, a similar and equally harmful thinking has been born of the pandemic: “If it feels uncomfortable, make it stop.” The underlying sense is that feeling bad is wrong.
Wrong. It's just a feeling. It will pass.
Here's the thing. You can use a "bad" feeling to significantly boost your growth. Don't pass on the learning. Find out what the feeling is coming from, what it is doing to you and what you can do about it (the situation, not the feeling).
Arthur Brooks invites us to consider three types of people who deal with pain and discomfort in a constructive way:
1. Be an athlete
Do you remember the fitness legend Jack LaLanne, who lived to 96 and was both active and ripped to the very end? He must have loved working out, right? Wrong. In his immortal words, “I hate exercise.” This may be a bit extreme, but it betrays a truth about fitness so fundamental that it’s become a cliché: No pain, no gain. And so it can be with fear and disappointment. We can accept that avoiding them is the fast road to ill health, and that struggling through them can lead to progress. At first, it is painful. Little by little, however, we begin to lean in—to associate these negative feelings with the emotional strength that they can bring.
2. Be a monk
In the ancient Buddhist text The Dhammapada, the Buddha is quoted as saying, “He who has no attachment whatsoever for the mind and body, who does not grieve for what he has not —he is truly called a monk.” We can all gain insight from this. At present, almost all of us are separated from people, experiences, and things we ordinarily enjoy. Some of these losses—of lives and livelihoods—must be grieved. But through conscious detachment, we can lessen our suffering for the loss of worldly things that perhaps we don’t really need. Whether it is eating out, traveling, or going to the gym, this is an opportunity to examine each of our previous commitments. How much of our time and energy were they occupying? What is this separation teaching us about our priorities? By sitting with these uncomfortable feelings, we may be able to let go of some of the grief we feel for our old way of life, and become just a bit more monk-like in our approach to quarantine.
3. Be a sage
The challenges we are facing during this period can give us a jump-start on a key element of wisdom that usually takes many years to develop. Psychologists have shown that one of the greatest consolations of old age is that while older people have negative emotions just like the rest of us, they suffer less from them. One reason for this is that they have learned that although negative events are inevitable, negative feelings are fleeting, unless we choose to hang on to them. They figure out that they get a head start on feeling well not by avoiding bad feelings, but by simply choosing to let these bad feelings pass through them. So to get a head start on this head start, imagine yourself in a few months, not feeling bad about this moment. You will be amazed at how well this works to give you perspective and relief in the present.
The Best That You Are- Living With Meaning (a zoominar by Daniel Francis)
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
With so much negativity and turmoil, what can easily get lost in the daily noise is the lifelong invitation to be our best. In this 90 minute presentation, I will help us to:
Find greater balance amidst life's polarities
Befriend our inconsistencies and embrace the imperfections
Enlarge our vision and discover the power of decision
Set a course for living with meaning and full authenticity