In a class discussion recently, a girl pointed out that most people don’t love themselves. I told her that I do; I genuinely love myself. She looked surprised, as if self-love were abnormal. The moment that haunts me though, is, on hearing my statement, a shy girl sitting in the circle mumbled a barely audible, “I don’t.” Her slumped body language supported the silent claim.
It broke my heart.
And it reminded me of why I’m here, on this planet today.
The things that break your heart are a reminder of your mission. When you don’t know what to do, go to the heartbreak. When you’re not sure if you even have a purpose, imagine the moment when that heartbreak is reversed.
Then you go and you try to bridge the gap. You tell her that you’ve been where she’s been. You become a little ray of hope in a world that can get too dark for comfort.
My mission is to help women uncover, nurture, and love their best selves.
What’s your mission? Go to the heartbreak. You just might find it there.
I’m tempted by efficiency. My overactive brain craves the order of a predictable routine, a color-by-numbers life, the safety of no surprises.
But I also crave enchantment. My heart craves the unpredictable, the spontaneous, the magical.
In many ways, the two are mutually exclusive. Indeed they can’t be experienced at the same time. At any one moment, you can choose efficiency or enchantment, but not both. Please your brain or your heart, but not both. Derrick Jensen states it best:
Efficiency leaves no room for the enchanted. Anything that’s magical, mysterious, fantastic, dreamy, is apt to be inefficient. Furthermore, enchanted systems are often complex, and involve highly convoluted means to whatever ends are involved. And they may very well have no obvious ends at all. By definition, efficient systems try to eliminate as many of the preconditions for enchantment as possible.
Enchantment Happens in the Space Between
We’ve all heard the idea that music is the space between the notes. The same is true with enchantment. It happens in that space between the things you already know. It happens in the slowing down.
When you think and act like you know everything that’s going to happen, the magical can’t approach you, and even if it could, you wouldn’t be able to see it. You would be too busy knowing exactly what’s next.
The enchantment begins when you slow down–way, way down–and pay close attention. In conversation, in play, in work, in sex, in the daily rituals, just slow down and allow for the unexpected. Don’t let your brain decide ahead of time what will be next, what you will feel next.
Open yourself up to the vast field of potential and allow something completely new to envelope you.
Stop being so efficient by assuming what he will say next and really listen to the subtleties of his word choice and intonation. Respond to that instead of your Pavlovian expectations of what he must be saying (because that’s what he always says).
If you expect her to criticize you, anything she says or does will be received as a criticism. The compliment was backhanded; the silence was judgmental.
Your expectation creates your reality in a very practical, very real way. When you predict, you close your eyes to all of the other possibilities.
How to Stop Predicting and Allow Enchantment
You can stop predicting by opening yourself to change, by having new eyes.
Marcel Proust said,
The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is….
In our day and age, much of the outer world is known, but we’ve placed a do not enter sign on the path to our inner selves, the space in between the physical. Hey, I get it: it’s scary in there. So much darkness, so many possibilities. That is, however, also where the enchanted happens.
Enchantment, the space in between, is frightening because it shows us something new, and when we encounter something new, one of two things must happen: we must close our hearts (which is painful and numbing) or change our minds (which is scary as hell).
Stay closed or change. There are no other options.
Now the change need not be drastic every time, maybe just a refinement of perspective. But change is intimidating because there are so many possibilities. The field of potential is infinite and dark and scary. We know but a pinpoint of it. It’s so much easier to believe that what we know is all there is.
Like the multitude of people who were confronted with the truth that the world might not indeed be flat, we have the choice to remain in denial, in smallness, in flatness, or to acknowledge the limitations of our current perspective and see possibility.
In order to fully embrace the enchanted, we have to admit the smallness of our world, the singularity of our perspective. We have to shed layers of assumptions, habits, and ways of looking at and engaging with the world. We have to be able to don new eyes.
And that ain’t easy, my friend.
But that’s where the magic happens, where life happens.
Every moment spent in true enchantment is a step off the ledge into the unknown. It’s the new layer of intimacy with our lover, the discovery of an unexpected friendship, dancing in a thunderstorm, letting go of our preconceptions about others, opening up to the enormity of the Divine. It leaves us exposed and vulnerable, no doubt, and it’s not efficient or predictable, but it’s freedom.
It’s beautifully dangerous.
Anything less is just a comfy jail cell.
When you live in a fantasy world and you try to manifest a new reality, it’s tough for your inner guidance to get you there. If you live in Boston and you want your GPS to get you to Buffalo, you don’t plug in directions from Los Angeles to Buffalo. You plug in the shortest route from Boston to Buffalo. Likewise, when you want a new reality, it’s important to start from where you really are, rock bottom, not some idealized version of yourself that lives only in your imagination.
You know you’re living in a fantasy world when your feelings, thoughts, beliefs, actions, words, relationships, and reality don’t align.
Turns out, ostriches don’t actually bury their heads in the sand. We do though. Metaphorically.
Are you taking daily steps on your highest path or just always planning to?
Is your financial situation harsher than you allow yourself to think? Do you avoid taking pictures because you don’t want to face your years of self-neglect? Are you living in a fairy tale in which Prince Charming, the Fairy Godmother, or the Lotto will magically show up to save you?
If you use the phrases One day… or When…I will… regularly, you’re stuck in fantasy land. I’ll quit smoking when I have less stress in my life. I’ll leave him when I get the raise at work. I’ll start working out when I have time. While they seem like intentions, those stock phrases are holding you back; they’re holding you in fantasy land.
And you can’t get traction in fantasy land.
“Start noticing how you actually live.” –Krishnamurti
Take a candid look at yourself. When you start here, you start from a place of truth, a solid foundation. Whatever the truth is–divorce, overweight, broke, still single at 35, or just the buzz of discontent–it needs to be firmly acknowledged. This is who I am being right now.
I believe in the mystical, but I also believe in the reality of the physical. The physical is the way it is for a reason. If we don’t face it head on and without excuses, we will continue to perpetuate it–the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Pretending to still love a man who abuses you doesn’t allow for real action. Facing the fact that you smoke two packs a day, allows a choice, the choice to continue in a life that doesn’t represent your highest self, or the choice to start making changes, to start the unveiling.
So, stop lying to yourself.
Claim the stark truth: I’m a smoker and I have no intention of quitting. I’m married to an alcoholic and I have no intention of doing anything about that. I’m out of shape and I have no intention of starting a workout plan. I don’t have a college degree and I have not intention of getting one. Sit in that feeling for a minute. Really sit there and feel how it feels to accept that as your reality.
From a place of clarity and truth, you can define a new reality. There is no one right way to start; your path is certainly a unique amalgam of many methods and strategies. Here are some places to start (in no particular order):
Feel your feelings. They can be good or bad, doesn’t matter. But feel where you really are. Life’s too short for numbness.
Get a good cry in. I’m not talking about a shed a tear as you drop your toddler off at daycare. I’m talking about the kind of cry with punch, the kind of cry that has you writhing with anger and pain, throwing yourself on the ground with a feeling of wanting to escape but not having one place to go. The kind of cry that leaves you feeling clear, like the morning after a violent storm.
Face your wildest desire. Don’t deny what you really want. Face it head on. Face the space between reality and your desire.
Journal. Write about the current reality. Ask yourself why you are where you are. What are the beliefs that got you here? What are the decisions (or lack of decisions) that got you where you are?
Meditate. Go inside. Listen. Start taking a look at what’s in there.
Pray. Ask for guidance, for a sign that you’re going to be okay. Continue to ask even, especially, if you don’t get an answer immediately.
Take a leap of faith. If facing reality makes you realize that you’re in real danger, such as in an abusive situation, you might decide to take a leap of faith. Taking a leap of faith from the clouds of fantasy land will only leave you broken, but a leap of faith from a place of unwavering truth might be just the ticket you need to get on the path to healing. In the case of an abusive situation, you might face the fact that it’s time to move out or call a crisis hotline.
Clone the bright spots. No matter how dire the situation, there will always be positives. Once you face the reality, you can see the small ways that you’re already at your best. Heath and Heath, authors of Switch, say that you should clone those. Couldn’t agree more.
Take daily steps in the real world. Now that you know where you are, you can start taking steps to change. Start building the muscles you need to make the bigger jumps.
Realize you’re happy where you are. Sometimes when we face reality, we find that we can drop the story and it’s just fine. You don’t really need a college degree. In fact, the only reason you ever wanted it was to please your father. Now, that’s an enormous pressure taken off your to-do list. Maybe you face the fact that you’ll never be a size 2, and you realize that it doesn’t matter; it was just an imaginary goal brought on by a one-size-should-fit-all media. The pressure is off and you can love your own body now!