to another season's newsletter. My long cold winter was spent working
more than I planned and traveling to several conferences. I can honestly
say that I didn't leave much in-between time. As I was doing a force
march to finish up all my work and get to the goal, I remembered The
one sunny and almost too hot to hike day in August, I was hiking with
friends to the top of Mt Chocorua in New Hampshire. It is a beautiful
journey through the forest and over ledges that culminates in a summit
that is bare of trees and dimpled with large irregular boulders. I was
rather tired that day, probably from staying up with those friends the
night before. Once past the beginning of the trail it is a constant
up, up, up. The sun beat down when we were out of tree cover and we
scrambled over rocks and ledges as we tramped along. I ate through my
supply of hard candies and gulped water, but my feet and my spirits
were starting to lag.
So good "re-framer"
that I am, I searched for some thought, some incentive to perk up my
spirits, pick up my feet and give me the motivation to carry on. Then
I remembered The Orange. This was no ordinary orange in my pack, nestled
next to my peanut butter sandwich and oatmeal cookies. This was a large,
ripe, sweet, juicy, navel orange. I knew because I had eaten one of
its siblings the day before. It was sweet, seedless perfection.
in good coach fashion, I secretly focused on my orange. I told myself
that when I got to the top, my reward would be The Orange. I imagined
hooking my fingernail into the skin for that first step in the unveiling.
I saw each scrap of peel drop into the baggie I brought for that purpose.
I saw the juice sprinkle out into the sunshine as I separated the sections
into slices and laid them out. Then I tasted each exquisite bite. It
watered my mouth as I hiked. While I lived in my interior world, my
legs took me to the mountaintop.
reached the summit. It was warm, breezy and bare. The sun sparkled on
the lake below. I carefully chose a spot atop a large boulder on the
edge to enjoy the beautiful view. I spread my plaid shirt out to use
as both a seat and adjacent tablecloth. I took off my boots and socks.
I had worked hard and was more than ready for my treat.
carefully pulled out my sandwich, then my cookies and laid them on my
shirt. And then, yes, my beautiful orange. I held it as I smiled to
myself and felt so clever that I had used this orange as a motivator
to keep the pace and reach my goal. I placed the orange next to the
sandwich and cookies and it very promptly rolled down over the boulder
and plunged 3000 feet to the valley below.
I was able to laugh. It was so seductive to focus on that reward, that
the goal and journey received less attention. Rewards can slip-or roll
away or not be what you expected. What you have left is the memory of
the journey and the new reality of this next "location" in
client of mine had just been though a fairly long period of crisis and
struggle. She was always striving for the time that she would have that
normal, ordinary life. Well she arrived to that point, then found it
somewhat uncomfortable. She asked me, " Now that I have the life
I want, how do I shift from crisis mode to everyday ordinary living?"
I see a relationship
between my orange experience and her situation. Though my goal was to
reach the summit and my reward was the orange, my client's goal and
reward were the same. In each case, we fantasized about the perfection
in our reward. Truth is- my orange rolled away and she still had mundane
tasks and open time that were much less exciting than her previous activities.
We can easily become addicted to
a stressful existence and not see the specialness of ordinary life.
Ordinary life does not always give us that buzz. Who defines ordinary
life? It changes as society and technology change. Yesterday, I spent
5 minutes ordering a shower gift on line. When I was a child, this would
entail a half-day trip to the department store in the city. When I was
a mother with school age children, it would have required at least a
run out to the mall. So it is not any particular ordinary life, but
our response to it over which we can have some control.
I suggested to my client that she
start with self-care activities. Tending to her houses of body, shelter
and finances can help with the transition and be very grounding. Usually
at crisis times these self-care components have been neglected. Attention
here can provide needed sense, order, meaning and purpose as she downshifts.
And finally, centering practices such as walks, meditation, and journaling
will help her to keep focused in the present and a little less attached
to goals, rewards, and outcomes. Of course that leads naturally for
me to one of my favorite topics, detachment. "Ordinary life"
becomes precious and an adventure in itself when you are present, not
reactive and a bit amused with day to day happenings. I will leave you
with a quote from Stephen Mitchell's translation of the TAO de Ching.
May you be present to each ordinary moment, seeing it as special all
Empty your mind
of all thought
Let your heart be at peace
Watch the turmoil of beings,
But contemplate their return
being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.
If you don't realize
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.