Spring 2003 - The Orange
Newsletter #7
From Diana's Desk

About Diana

Look at your Life


      Welcome 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 Orange.

On 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.

So 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.

      We 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.

      I 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.

      Yes, 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 your life.

      A 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 by itself.

Empty your mind of all thought
Let your heart be at peace
Watch the turmoil of beings,
But contemplate their return

Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don't realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
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.

Warm regards




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