1. Closing a chapter
William Bridges suggested in his book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, that all new beginnings begin with an ending. We release so that we can receive anew. As I’m de-cluttering more than 30 reams of previous iterations of the book, and notes from past workshops and conferences, journal articles, stories and examples that proved tangential, there’s a need for a retrospective – honoring the threads of concepts and values that continue to inform my work, honoring the lessons learned. (Do one scary thing a day is now part of me at the cellular level.)
2. Finding new maps and compasses
When my friend Lorrie heard I had “put the book to bed,” she e-mailed me, welcoming me to “The Land of Now What?” So true. And…there are several ways we can sift out the core values we want to guide the unfolding adventures.
a. from the retrospective: reviewing what has been the golden thread in the previous epoch, what never got lost no matter the details or the de-rails. For me, I could clearly connect the dots between the e-newsletter I’ve been posting for 5 years – Healing and Awakening into Aliveness and Wholeness and the title of the book which finalized itself just this past November: Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being. Ahhh. [The neuroscience of] Healing [psychology] and Awakening [mindfulness] into Aliveness, [resilience, well-being] and Wholeness. That is the larger process that holds the book or any other product of this journey. Reassuring to have a larger map to fit the pieces into.
b. from new imaginings: Jonah Lehrer suggests in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works (see May 2012 e-newsletter) that we need the down-time, daydreaming, reverie, mental play space of the holistic right hemisphere of the brain to percolate new ideas as much as we need the planning-producing functions of the analytic left hemisphere if we are to be both creative and productive in our leaping.
One of the ways I let myself daydream is to browse the shelves at my local bookstore (an endangered species) and let my unconscious mind steer me toward what I might be interested in next. The Compassionate Brain by Paul Gilbert? The Emotional Life of Your Brain by Richard Davidson and Sharon Begley? Letting the possibilities open.
c. from role models: I know emerging into a larger world with my integrity intact is a core value for me. The third season of Masterpiece Theater’s “Downton Abbey” begins January 6, 2013 on PBS. Given our current socio-economic and political climate, I know I’m not the only person on the planet who has been drawn to the portrayals of integrity shown in many of the series’ characters. Someone would rather go to prison than to tell a lie; isn’t that unbelievable in this day and age?
I also have realized that my favorite genre of films is not romantic comedy or historical drama but is triumph over adversity on behalf of a noble cause. Films like the documentary I saw over the holidays – Chasing Ice. National Geographic photojournalist James Balog and his Extreme Ice Survey spent three years documenting the disappearance of the glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska and Glacier National Park. The images are stunningly beautiful. The revolutionary time-lapse photography offers incontrovertible evidence of the impact of global warming. And the intrepid perseverance of the team is a stellar model for me of resilience and integrity on behalf of a noble cause. (see Resources below)
d. from recovering unfulfilled dreams: Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot wrote in her book The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50 (September 2009 e-newsletter) of the power of recovering dreams from childhood, to pick up painting or the saxophone again, to prime the brain to move in a new direction in life. I never gave up hiking the ridge trails near my home while I was writing the book. Trekking through wide-open vistas was one sure way to re-calibrate my brain. But hiking the open spaces now helps prime my brain to think larger and to trust the unfolding mystery.
It’s so very common to use the down-time of the holidays to clean out the basement or the garage of old things we no longer need. De-cluttering includes clearing out old habits and the baggage of past fears and worries, too. The sub-title of Chodron’s book Taking the Leap is Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears. This phase of de-cluttering is an important phase of any coaching or personal growth process. As we seek new paths, new projects, it’s necessary to identify the saboteurs, inner gremlins, automatic negative mumblings of our inner critic, that would block or de-rail us.
Development involves giving up a smaller story in order to wake up to a larger story.
– Jean Houston
My gremlin, of course, is techno-phobia. My brother, who still doesn’t own a computer but who also gave me the title of the book; once said “I’m a 33 1/3 rpm record in an i-pod world.” I can relate. When I finally got an i-phone, I learned how to use it, in part, from someone who was 8 years old. I have a lot of brain cells to re-train in the coming months, and especially need to dissolve any blocks that would keep me from doing so.
4. Setting intentions
I would love for the maps of step 2 to be all filled in with concrete destinations and strategic action steps to get from here to there. The part of me that faithfully colored within the lines in the third grade still loves the certainty of to do lists and the sweet feeling of arrival when I meet a deadline. But it’s no accident that a friend gave me another of Chodron’s books over the holidays – Comfortable with Uncertainty.
Research shows we are actually more likely to reach our personal goals if we set our intentions in a spirit of “May I…” rather than a fierce determination of “I will!” We set ourselves up for possibilities rather than failure, and we are more likely to succeed if we can leap fully into a possibility rather than hold back for fear of failure.
So I can set the intention to create for myself the experiences that will teach me the skills I need to move forward, without boxing myself in to goals and steps that will organically evolve anyway.
5. Taking action
That said, the way to get through any doubt or daunt about taking a leap into something new is to begin. Noted anthropologist Angeles Arrien says, “The cure for anxiety is action.” My favorite line from John O’Donohue’s poem “For a New Beginning” is “learn to find ease in risk.” I wrote quite a bit in the book about the natural body-based dread of trying anything new. Taking a leap requires finding ways to identify those dreads or blocks but also to dissolve them. And we dissolve them by creating experiences that teach us that we just did. The first day at the gym. The first lesson on the piano. The first session with a resume coach. We try; we see that we did; we find our courage for the next leap.