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pure desire

One of the most useful things I’ve learned in my life is the one I learned at the beginning of my first mini-workshop with HAI: ask for 100% of what you want 100% of the time, be willing to hear no and negotiate to a win-win.

It sounds simple.

And it is.  Sort of.

It is until you dig into the depths of it, and it is until it meets the decades of programming you carry.  I wish wish wish we could learn this as kids.

It is simple, like so many practices, until you actually put it into practice.

Going deeper:

Ask: we’re taught not to want, much less say it out loud.

For 100%: we learn to start the compromise before we’ve opened our mouths.  This keeps us from telling the whole truth and it keeps others from knowing us deeply.

of what you want: that would involve knowing for real what you want, wouldn’t it?  Not what you sort of want or what you think is acceptable to want but what you actually truly want.  And not what you think will get you what you want, but the actual core desire.  This by itself can keep you busy for hours.

100% of the time: oh boy.  Even when someone is dying?  Even when you know it will start a fight?  Even when….?  It’s your choice.  You never have to.  But even considering the possibility of asking every single time will change your entire world.

be willing to hear no: yeahhhh.  So ask.  But don’t be attached to getting it exactly. Ask, but be willing to be vulnerable.  Be willing to not be met in your desire.  This is the work of 1000 buddhist monks.  Nonattachment and yet presence….

…and negotiate to a win-win.  You can’t have this negotiation if hearing no has shut you down, or if you’ve given up.  This is a second chance to revisit the question of desire.  I want…but what do I really want?  Is there another way I can get what I want?  And another?  And another?  How about what they want?  Can I imagine a way for them to get what they want?  And another way?  And another?  What is it they really want?  Can I get curious enough to find out?

What happens is that the request unfolds and unfolds. Generally it goes from very simple-sounding to really complicated.  Positional arguments don’t work anymore.  Positions melt and reform three feet to the left or seven feet below where they started.  Opponents become allies.  Everything becomes soft and pliable.  Only fear causes hardening of the system.

Only fear.

And in this sometimes very delicate conversation, if you can move toward pleasure, if you can choose love, if you can not be afraid to be aligned with the person you thought you were arguing with, you can move closer. you can start to see the desire with clarity.  And paths can open.  Possibilities can reveal themselves.  Something new is born.  And with it, hope.

In order to get there, you need the desire.

You need the wanting.

And you need to know, with a superhuman clarity, what it is.  For real.  Not the wanting on the surface, but the desire behind the desire.  Not wanting sex but wanting connection or pleasure or worthwhile or attractive…not wanting the laundry folded but wanting to feel cared for.

Because when you know what you want–what you really really want–then you can find a way to get it–a way that works.

If you need a place to start practicing, begin unloaded.  Begin with what we’re used to wanting: things.  Ask: if I could have anything–anything at all–what would I want?  Forget what is practical or realistic and dig for the longings deep in your spirit.

Think cars and housing and pets and jobs.  Start easy.  It will naturally lead to questions of the heart.

Go.  Want.  It’s good for you.

kindness of strangers (in motion)

It all started with a kindness.  My car died.  Someone very dear to me bought a car, and said I could use it until she needed it.

And I said yes, and thank you.

And I did.

When the time came, she said she needed it back.

Indeed.

And so I told people that I was looking for a car.

And a friend in Boston offered me the car he no longer uses.  Between the T and zip cars, he didn’t need or want it.

So for the princely sum of $1, (and a battery and a few other things) and the time and energy of driving down to get it, I was given a car.  Another kindness.

The person who provided the first car provided support for the trip and expertise (and vice grips) and we got the car running.  (More kindness). With gratitude, I set out for home, five hours away.

Turns out that the cigarette lighter only works sometimes.  So my cell phone died just as I got to the interstate.  I’m lucky I got to the interstate first, or I never would have found my way out of Boston.

And then, about two hours later, the dashboard went wild, and then went dark.

The car stopped.

Completely.

As though the battery was dead, but it wasn’t.

As I checked to make sure it wasn’t any of the likeliest suspects, I thought, “well, the lucky thing is that I have AAA and it’s not dark yet.”

So I stood on the shoulder and waved my arms until a big rig pulled over.  A guy hopped out of the cab and offered me his cell phone.  Yes, please.

Kindness.

And I called AAA.  And I left voicemail for the person who would probably worry.  And I got back in the car, snuggled with the chihuahua, and waited for the tow truck.

Which came.

Before dark.

Now the driver hopped out, got everything hooked up, and then tried to put the car in neutral.

No deal.

So he poked around under the hood….until he found a wire, melted or broken, in the fuse box nestled on the right side.  When he held the wire ends together, the car started.  And shifted into neutral.

He hopped in the cab with me, explaining that it ought to be a simple roadside fix, only he didn’t have the tools or parts.  He drove me to the place where he was supposed to drive me, and then pointed out that I’d be stranded there, especially without a cell phone.  So muttering about how it would be irresponsible of him to strand me, he offered to take me someplace that might still be open.  Kindness. I accepted.  He drove.  We talked.

Nice guy.

Like everyone in Maine, working two jobs to make it all work.

We arrive at garage #2, only to find that it is closed.  So while I use my slightly revived cell phone (he let me plug in) to call my local resources, he pokes around some more and finds a wire.  And fixes my car.

Not a perfect fix, but a fix that gets it running again.

Kindness.  Way way above and beyond a simple tow to a closed garage on the outskirts of the populated part of our state.

So even though my day’s schedule was interrupted, and yes, this isn’t what I had planned, it’s hard to be too upset.

I have been well taken care of today, by the kindness of friends and the kindness of strangers.

 

the unicorn and the phoenix

What do you suppose Doubting Thomas felt on Easter?  He was, after all, the pragmatic disciple, wanting to see and feel the resurrection. He was logical, sensible, reasonable…

and, as the story goes, wrong.  He was the unicorn who refused the ark.  And in so doing, he embraced despair.  He gave up, surrendered to what felt like inevitable loss.

All was not lost.  But recovery from despair is not so easy.  It takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes practice.  It takes a reconstruction of faith.

Because being wrong can lead to a loss of faith in oneself.  And so, while everyone celebrates, I imagine Thomas halfheartedly smiling, nodding, vacantly toasting from the back of the call as his beloved leader whom he thought was dead but is living?

Living?

And he drifts off into the impossibility of it all, with laughter and shouting all around him.

And what then?

His celebration will not be today.  Three days is not enough.  He will count his time in weeks and months, like St. Exupery’s fox, needing to be tamed and tamed again.  He will wait.  He will watch.

and I imagine, the relief will come.  Tears of revelation will come.  He will know, in his heart, that resurrection is real.

But not today.  Not on Easter.

Today is too soon.

Here’s to Easter.  And here’s to Thomas.

 

Notes from MCon: elevator speech edition

The best part of any conference happens between the workshops.

So I’m at Momentum surrounded by fabulous, sex-positive, smart, savvy, sexy activisty people.  I love this conference.  I love these people.

And the best part of this morning happened on the elevator.

I’m running late.  I squeeze into a downward-bound box full of families and soccer moms and baby boomers.  And one conference attendee.  We smile sympathetically as the doors close.  But I’m facing IN, toward the people, and as we take off the woman I’m facing grabs my hand.

“What is this conference about?”  She’s leaned in, eyes bright, excited.

I steal a reply I heard yesterday in the elevator, going up: “It’s a conference about feminism and sexuality.”

I’m braced for the face to close, the hand to be withdrawn.  It doesn’t happen.

“Oh!  And do you work for abortion rights, too, for the rest of us, for those of us who get pregnant?”

Ohhh.  I relax.  I smile.  ”Feminism and sexuality isn’t just about being queer.  It’s about everyone.”

She throws her arms around me.  ”Thank you!  Thank you.  We (she points to her friends) were in the class of ’63.  A classmate of ours died from a bad abortion.”

I hold her hand.  ”You should come check the rest of us out.  We’re all running around with these nametags on.”

“Thank you,” she says.  ”Thank you for the work that you do.  It’s wonderful.”

And she’s gone.

Education, change, and solidarity.  Unexpected people and places.  One at a time.

 

no chickens today

This is the year when I cut the bullshit.

Not the first layer (ditched that in college)

or the second (done and dusted)

but the bullshit that says

that I have to be careful with you,

my dear.

Careful

is not getting us anywhere

and I love you too much

and I champion your brilliance too deeply

and I believe in ease too completely

to waste energy

on careful.

Let’s do the easy

extravagant

incredible thing.

Let’s say what we really mean

I love you

I’m scared

I think you’re lying to yourself

because you’re afraid to fly.

Let’s laugh like we mean it

let’s hold each other

cry

hug

and do the impossible

before breakfast

(or after if we’re hungry).

Let’s put our faith

in each other

in the good of humanity

in the taste of pancakes

in the cleanness of a rain-soaked heart

let’s commit

let’s dive in

let’s find the ease where we think it cannot exist.

I watched on TV last night

as divers sent a remote submarine

into the Mariana Trench

where the living earth

meets the living ocean

where everything roils

and very little is solid

and the ocean is very unforgiving

don’t put anything in there

you can’t afford to lose.

Very well.

Let’s go all the way deep

and let’s not lose it.

Let’s make the single

fiber-optic umbilical cord

that connects you now

to the you-who-will-be

a compelling reason

not to give up

and to grin and giggle

and dance until it’s not easy anymore

and then stop

and sip drinks

and play footsie under the table.

I wrote you an essay about chickens.

It was good.

But…it was about chickens.

What it said was this:

do not sustain subtle irritations.

Transform them through love

for yourself

and for the other.

There,

wasn’t that easy?

If your year is shaping up like mine,

all flashes of impossible bright light

illuminating dark shadows,

and epiphanies in the middle of the night,

then by all means,

let’s play together.

pardon the dust!

We’ve needed an overhaul for months.  And months.  Thank you for your patience!  Please pardon the mess as we reorganize and redecorate.  If you can’t find something you’re looking for, please drop me a line at leela@leelalifecoaching.com and I’ll find it for you. :)

it’s about wanting

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about wanting; about desire; about hope; about the strength required to want something and the power involved in getting what you want.  This is probably the first in a series.

There’s this tug of war between want and need that we learn when we’re really little.  We WANT stuff because, well, we want it.  It feels good.  But it feels like an indulgence.  It feels like extra.  It comes with an extra shot of guilt.

Need, on the other hand, need is easy.  If you need something, then you have to have it, so you might as well be done with it.  Need is justified.  Need is important.

Want is frivolous.

Or…not.

It’s a false dichotomy.  And it all comes down to that damned oxygen mask.  You know the one: when you get on a plane the flight attendant always says, “In the event of loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the panel above your head.  Please put your own on first before assisting others.”

Put your own on first.

Because want becomes need really fast.

Because not tending to yourself first can make you pass out (metaphorically if not literally) and you’re useless to everyone else if you’re lying on the floor.  In fact, you’ve just become a liability.

So to reiterate: don’t become a liability.  Put on your own oxygen mask first.

Which means in this case, your wants might need tending.

Of course, that means that you need to know what you want…

does lack of pleasure cause violence?

Incredible, fascinating paper that’s as old as I am, originally published in 1975 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  (In other words, this person didn’t just pull these theories out of nowhere.) It discusses culture, pleasure, violence, and even a little theology.  Utterly riveting.  Well worth the 45 minutes, especially if you have or will soon have children.  Take a look, then let me know what you think.  I’m not saying they’re completely right–but especially the correlations of cultural behaviors is worth attention.

Note: I’m not sure why the folks who made the video chose the images they did for the background.  They don’t seem to have any bearing on the text.

Note #2: I’m not convinced the writer’s interpretation of the Sodom and Gomorrrah story follows current scholarly interpretations.

*thanks to Reid Mihalko for the link (http://reidaboutsex.com/)

pleasure, violence, and culture (link)

pleasure. money. sex.

Pleasure-based budgeting is the way to go.

Yeah, I just said “pleasure” and “budget” in the same sentence.

We’re pleasure-driven creatures.  We do stuff because it feels good.  We want to live our lives so they feel good.  Usually we start with how much we make and portion it out, like a pie chart.

But what if we started by asking how big the pie needed to be?

Nonprofits call this ‘visionary budgeting’.

I’m taking a slightly different twist and calling it like I see it.

It’s about pleasure.

You know how it usually goes.  You get the New Finance Program that will Get You Organized.  You set it up.  You feed it all your information: bank accounts, credit cards, passwords.  It downloads everything.  Great!

And then QuickMintforWindowsTm says: you should make a budget!

And you get that sinking feeling.  Yuck.  Budget.

But try starting with this question: if money were really truly no object (if you knew you could have as much as you wanted), how much would you enjoy spending on each of your budget items?

Really enjoy.

Let’s start where there’s no social shame involved:

Charity: how much would you like to give away?  How much would feel like too much?  How much is too little?  What would rock your world and feel awesome?

Education: how much would you like to give to educators (people and schools)?  How much would you like to spend on learning things?

Self-care: how much would you like to give to the folks who help you take care of yourself?  Your hairdresser, your massage therapist, the people who run the retreats that help you get on track?  Your coaches, your personal trainer, your cleaning person?  How much for new running shoes? If you don’t have all those people in your life, which would feel good to have?  Where does it become unwieldy?   How much extra would you love to add to your grocery budget to support small local organic farmers who give you tasty and healthy foods?  Which retreats would you attend?  Think of your doctor, your dentist, your acupuncturist.  It’s not selfish.  It’s oil changes and 100,000 mile tuneups for your body and spirit.  How much would you enjoy spending on taking care of yourself?

Housing and utilities: how much would feel fabulous?  How much would feel awful?  What would you enjoy spending on the place where you (and maybe your loved ones) sleep and eat?  Phone and internet are ways of staying connected; heat is part of making your home safe and comforting and comfortable.  What value do you place on that?

As you go through this, consider again: enjoy.  Take pleasure in.  Not how much could you afford or how much you should spend.

Savings?  How much per month to feed your nest egg so it grows up into a nest chicken or nest eagle (or nest gyrfalcon, for that matter).

Entertainment?  Groceries? Clothing?

Skip around at will.  Have fun imagining writing all those lovely checks or setting up the automatic payments.  Imagine the joy of the people who get the money, when they get paid to do what they believe in and do well.

If you could spend anything—as much as you want—how much would you want to spend?

We vote with our dollars.  Companies and products and small businesses rise and fall on our spending decisions.  But we also reinforce our own values when we go shopping, and not just for stuff.

So if we think of our individual spending as a way of expressing our beliefs, then our budgets are an expression of our core values.  But asking “what are you supporting right now” misses the point.

The point is what is possible.

So how much would you love to spend?  And where would you love to spend it?

If that feels easy and awesome, great!  If it feels like a Good Idea But…

Ramit Sethi has a few programs to help you have more to spend, if that’s what you need.  Morgana Rae has a great program to help you work better with money in general (and fall in love).  Marie Forleo really really wants to make your business a success and has all kinds of good stuff to help that happen.

You can use this with anything that you usually think of as limited in supply.  Not enough time?  How much would you enjoy spending on each of your tasks?  Not enough sex?  Maybe not enough sex drive?  How much would you enjoy having, how, where, with whom?  What are the must-haves?  What are the yes-buts?  If you could have it any way at all, what would it be?  Would you rather be eating chocolate?  Or do you want to want it?

All this gets you clear on where you are and where you want to go.

Because when you have enough, using your resources (money, time, sex) is a pleasure.

And when you let pleasure drive you, you’re seriously, really, authentically motivated–as long as you know what would feel really really good.

What’s your pleasure?

PS: want pleasure-based business planning?  Check out Danielle Laporte’s The Spark Kit.  I’m only halfway through but totally completely in love.  (affiliate link; I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t love it).

Holding On and Letting Go

The crazy part is, I don’t know how to talk about my own losses, so it’s kind of good I haven’t had any.
Wait, what?

relationships, loved ones, pets, even if I didn’t get to the funeral it still mattered.

And I do know how to talk about it, after the fact.  I’m an introvert, after all, so I talk later.  I tried spilling my guts for a while but really I didn’t get anywhere.  Digestion is internal.  Expression, however, is external.  You have to do something with all that stuff.  Our bodies, as Gordon Atkinson says, make food into feet.  And so, say I: our hearts make pain into love.

Recently I was doing a reframing exercise.  Danielle LaPorte (of http://whitehottruth.com, seriously worth checking out) puts out The Spark Kit (formerly The Firestarter Sessions) where she walks you through a little clarity-finding, power-focusing, business-building internal work.  One of the 190 pages of fun and awesome (literally laughed out loud a few times–and I’m only on chapter 2) takes your biggest business mistakes and has you figure out what you learned from them.

Now.

I hate the whole “you need all the horrible things that happen to you” thing.
I’m just not buying it.
“Everything happens for a reason” — nope.
True fact:
Sometimes shit hits fan and it just.plain.sucks.

BUT.

This is subtle but important: Shit-hit-fan now what do I do with the result? –totally different question.

Not Some Mean Grownup Made This Happen To Us.  and NOT We Brought This On Ourselves.

Instead: okay, we have serious shit-distribution here.  It sucked.  Let’s figure out how to use it.

Answer # 1: OWWWWIEEE NOT FAIR.  YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!!!!

Answer #2: wait, what’s going on?  Shit?  Like manure?

Answer #3: Okay, hang on.  Can we get a rototiller in here?  I want sugar snap peas and juicy red tomatoes, and this is starting to look like fertile ground…

And then we get into the details: it will be an organic garden. It will kick FertilizerCompany’s ass.  I will feed the neighborhood and donate to the local food pantry with the results of this shitstorm.  Let’s call the papers!  Twitter!  Facebook!  Let’s build this on a reproducible framework, because pretty soon I will have an elite crew of gardeners.  And they will want a shit-distribution system…

It’s a turnaround, baby.  And it’s not a turnaround based on lies or damn lies or politics.  It’s a turnaround based on letting the past be the past and starting with a clean slate and a nonjudgemental set of facts.

Fact: Manure.  Everywhere.
Question: Now what?
The question needs to be clear and unhitched from how it got that way.  Leave unfair, messy, and painful aside (don’t stuff them, just don’t let them cloud your imagination) and look only at what is true and what could happen next. Change language.  Use “manure” instead of “shit”.  See what happens.
And the answer is obvious:
What next? Grow something.

One of our cats took off last night.  Hung around the margins, just outside the circle of light (thanks, Ani DiFranco), but refused to come in for the dinner call.  We worry about him because, well, he’s a beloved kitty but he’s not that swift.  He doesn’t like to come in.  He does like to sleep in the woods.  And these woods bite: they have foxes and fishers and owls.  And raccoons and bears and coyotes.  We love the living ecosystem, but it’s hard when we love prey as well as predators.

And I could feel myself letting go a little, trying to come to terms with the possibility that our one and a half year old sweet tabby with the fur that smells like talcum powder and the little tufts on his ears that bespeak a bobcat somewhere in his family could be gone.  Today.  Tomorrow.  Next week.  –that we might not have him for a happy 20 years and hold him while he dies peacefully in his sleep.  I don’t want to hurt when he goes, but I want to be fully with him while he’s here, so I’m trying to stop.  Stop making space.  Stop creating distance.  I’m trying to allow myself to be as close to him as I want, and know without judgement that it might hurt later.

I’ve seen a lot of people let go of other people.  Sometimes years after they’ve left; sometimes years before they’re gone.  And it’s the years before they’re gone that I really want to write about today.  Julia Terry wrote on my blog about tending the fire: keeping it alive.

But knowing that someday it will go out–by death, by separation, by circumstance–is no excuse for keeping a distance now.  Now, you have it.  Now it is alive.  Now the person is with you, flesh and blood and bone, heat and laughter and tears.  Too many relationships end before they’re over, because we think it will hurt less, and that’s somehow better.

My massage instructor told a story about having frozen shoulder, and losing the use of her arm for a long time as a result.  She said, “If I had to choose between having the severe pain and the use of my arm, or losing the pain but also losing substantial range of motion, I’d keep the pain and the use of the arm.”

The people in our arms are part of our lives.  They are part of our bodies.  Someday we may lose them.  (Or we may not.)  Someday may come, and it may come in the way that we don’t want it.  It might have happened to us painfully before.  But as Havi Brooks says, then is not now.  And someday is not now, either.

Now we have one another.
Now we are in love.
Now we can be.
Now we can change.
Now we can create what we want.
Now we can make something happen.

Now it is all possible.
What will you do–now?