Last week, I went to the World Domination Summit, a weekend conference in Portland for people who want to “live a remarkable life in a conventional world.” I’ve been going to this conference for several years now (with a 2-year hiatus for the pandemic) and the reason I keep going back is that it fills my bucket in a way that no other activity or event can. The power of spending time with people who are open-minded, creative, and compassionate rekindles something in me that often becomes dormant in our work-a-day world.
I don’t quite know the name for this thing that rekindles. Maybe it’s my creative spark? Joy of being alive? Feeling connected and seen by my fellow humans? Whatever it is, I always feel extra motivated and inspired after my WDS weekends.
One of the things that the World Domination Summit does so well is to combine motivation and play. I think we too often forget that the best type of motivation doesn’t come from deadlines or to-do lists, but comes from a sense of play, creativity and passion. If I feel passionate and playful about something, then the creativity flows. If I am excited about something, then I don’t mind doing even the mundane aspects of it because it feels like it’s in service of something big and important.
But how do we connect to this sense of passion and play in our everyday lives? I have a few ideas:
- Check-in regularly with your intuition. I taught a workshop at the conference on how to tune into your intuition and it was a big hit. I’m realizing more and more that this is a lost art. We are so used to using our brains to come up with a logical, well-thought-out plan for things that we forget to check in with what resonates with our soul. Sometimes a “good decision” will also be what’s right for our spiritual path right now, but sometimes we have to listen to that inner knowing and do something that sounds crazy or illogical to feel that sense of joy and awe.
- Find your weirdos. One of the things that help me stay connected to my own unique purpose is to spend time with other people who are weird like me. When I surround myself with folks who are creative, intellectual and kind in the same way I am, it starts to build on itself. I find myself getting increasingly more inspired and when I share my ideas, my weirdo friends riff on them and mirror them back to me in even more creative and interesting ways. Creativity is an emergent property –it’s more than the sum of its parts. So, if you can get a bunch of creative people together, magic will happen.
- Remember this is all a play and we’re supposed to experiment. When I’ve traveled to the place we go between lives via meditation or astral projection, I see that we come here to have an EXPERIENCE. It’s like we’re signing up for an 80-year, round-the-world vacation where we get to feel, taste, see, hear and discover so many unique and amazing things. From our soul’s perspective, there is no danger and no fear, because this is all temporary. The more spiritual work I do, the easier it becomes to remember or lean into that aspect of my awareness and let go of the “small stuff” that usually stresses me out. I ask myself, “What would I do today if I knew this was just a time-limited adventure and my only job here was to have amazing experiences?” I invite you to ask yourself the same question – what would you do today if you knew this was all a grand adventure that would end sooner than you realize? How would you spend your time if really, the point of this “humaning” thing was to have memories and experiences just like you do on vacation?
I’d love to know if these resonate for you, or what your ways are for connecting to that creative spark. Reply and let me know!
When we let the ego drive the bus without having other ways of looking at the world, it can drive us a bit mad. One of the most effective tools I know to become a happier person and make sure we’re not only listening to the ego is to cultivate three distinct voices in your head:
- The Ego
- The Observer
- The Caretaker
The Ego — this is the you that is experiencing all of things that are happening in your life. Ego is the part of you that feels emotional reactions to events and people and creates narratives about why this is happening — people’s motives, the reason for your reactions, the fact that the events happening around you are fair or unfair, etc. Basically, if your life was a movie, your ego is both the main character and the narrator that explains it all. Usually our ego makes its interpretations and creates that narrative on a subconscious level, before we’re even aware.
The Observer – also known as metacognition, this is the concept that there is an aspect in us that can simply observe what the ego is doing, without judgement. The best way I’ve found to practice cultivating this voice is mindfulness meditation. When you meditate and a thought comes up, name what it is. Like “thinking” or “remembering” or “worrying.” In this way, you can practice becoming the observer of your thoughts and emotions. This can then start expanding out of your meditation practice and into your daily life. Once this happens, you become able to watch your ego, thoughts and reactions in real time!
Getting to know the observer can be an especially powerful tool in working with anxiety and depression. As Ram Dass said, “Learn to watch your drama unfold while at the same time knowing you are more than your drama.” When we can connect to that part of ourselves that is observing the drama, we realize that there must be some aspect of ourselves that isn’t depressed or anxious, because the observer is neutral and calm and is looking at the drama from another perspective that isn’t filled with helplessness or worry.
Note: once you start developing a relationship with the observer, you may start to get some interesting intuition “downloads” from this POV. I believe that our observers are somehow related to our spiritual selves, or our oversouls, and that in cultivating your observer you’re actually strengthening your connection to universal consciousness.
The Caretaker — this voice can counter the negative interpretations of the ego. For so many people, our egos can have aspects that are rooted in insecurity or feelings of shame or worthlessness. The caretaker is the antidote to that. When the ego interprets a situation as shameful or worries about other people’s judgements, the caretaker can come in and say the exact right thing we need to hear. I recommend spending some time really imagining and developing this character. They may change over time, but start with someone that feels loving and kind to you. My current version is Carol Kane, she is both caring and sweet and can also kick some ass and tell my inner critic off when she starts saying mean things to me.
In case you need some examples of what your caretaker could say to you, here are a few ones to start with. Pick the ones that resonate with you and make you feel cared for:
“I love you.”
“You are special to me.”
“I see you and I hear you.”
“It’s okay to make mistakes. It doesn’t make me love you any less.”
“You are a good person”
“It’s not what you do but who you are that I love.”
“You don’t have to be alone anymore.”
“Of course you were afraid, that reminded you of something scary in the past.”
“If you fall down or fail, I will pick you up.”
“I am proud of you.”
“You are such an amazing person. I love who you are.”
It can feel funny at first to cultivate these different characters or voices in your head, but the ability to switch from one to the other when I need to has made a huge difference for me. Now, instead of having no choice but to follow the drama of the ego, I have two other options that I can lean into and see what they have to say or how they feel about the situation.
Let me know if you try this and how it works for you! I’d also love to know what your caretaker says or does for you. As someone who didn’t have good roles models of caring early on, I’m always looking to collect new ways to speak to myself and treat myself in caring ways.
I’ve spent a lot of time worrying the past few days. My worrying always tends to be about the same, familiar topics and it feels involuntary — I’ll be fine one minute and then suddenly I’ll start with a familiar spiral of worrying thoughts. Like a well-worn path in the woods, my neurons have forged paths through my white matter where they trigger the same fearful thoughts over and over.
Most of my worries are about safety and security. I worry about my business being successful. I worry if I will have enough money when I retire. I worry where I will live in 20, 30 or 40 years. And I worry about my health and if I will have people to take care of me when I get old and frail.
But I’m sure if my life circumstances were different, I’d find different things to worry about. If I had kids, I’m sure I’d be worried about them. If I owned a house, I’d probably worry about a big repair that I couldn’t afford. Even if I had millions of dollars, I might worry about never finding love.
Worry does that. It finds something to latch on to, regardless of our life circumstances.
But I know better than to let my worries completely take over. I know that they have a sneaky way of amplifying themselves and consuming my day if I let them drive the narrative.
So today instead of letting worry take over or trying to forge ahead by forcing myself to push aside the worry, I took a walk in the park to have a conversation with my worry.
The worry started its chatter, “Why are you in the park? You should be working on marketing right now. How are you ever going to be successful if you don’t start doing more?”
“Yes,” I answered, “I hear you. What are you really scared of?”
“I don’t want to be destitute and alone,” said my worry “I don’t want to feel like I have to keep pushing and working and struggling when I’m 80 and too tired to do it anymore.”
“But I’m pushing and struggling now,” I replied, “I’m not marketing because you’ve put so much pressure on me and my success that I can’t possibly be lit up and excited about it. What if I didn’t worry about what I was building for the future and instead just did what I enjoyed, right now?”
I reminded my worry none of us know what will happen in the future, life is quite unpredictable, so trying to live there is actually a bit silly. All we can do is live in the now.
“I’m scared,” my worry said.
“I know,” I replied.
“I want to feel taken care of,” said worry, “I want to feel connection and warmth and like I don’t have to do this alone.”
Ah, there it is. My core wound coming up again.
You see, as a small child and all through my adolescence, I had to do some really hard things with little to no support. My mother had a severe personality disorder and if I expressed any need for help or care, it was met with anger, blame, and vitriol, so I learned to do everything on my own. I still struggle with this today, and when I worry, it’s that I’ll be alone on my own again, with my heart broken and no one around to hold me or help me through.
I’m not actually scared of any particular circumstances, I’m scared to feel that heartbreak again.
But I’m not 7 anymore, and I know if I feel heartbreak, I will make it through. It won’t be pleasant, but it also won’t kill me.
So I ask my worry to show me where that heartbreak is in my body. It’s a tightness in my chest and heavy like a stone. I walk through the park and I simply feel it. I don’t make a story about being alone and unsupported in the future, or let it take over my thoughts about work, I simply let the physical sensations arise in my body.
It hurt. I felt so, so alone and so desperate for connection and care.
Then, I turned to my inner caregiver, that part of my awareness that I’ve cultivated over the last few years as a source of love and care, and I asked her to show me what care feels like.
I felt warmth, connection, laughter. I saw times with friends where I’d felt so comforted and loved. I saw the world as a welcoming place. I saw future relationships with people that I don’t even know yet that fulfil me in new and amazing ways.
Suddenly, I heard the birds in the park and I stopped to listen. Had they been singing this whole time? The grass had been freshly mowed and felt like soft velvet under my feet. There were two girls on the swings screaming and laughing their heads off.
“Right now, this world is safe,” I thought, “and I am not doing this alone. I am connected and cared for by my friends, this planet, and even by people I haven’t met yet.”
I could almost feel my brain chemistry change in that moment. Like one set of neurotransmitters had been reabsorbed while another came flooding in.
I felt safe. I felt connected. I felt like all was going to be okay.
I know it’s different for those of us that grew up in severely dysfunctional or abusive situations. I know how our brains developed differently under the constant stress, I know our nervous systems do their best to try to navigate the patterns of extreme highs and lows, and I know that all of that is now a part of my physiological makeup, and why when my worry comes along, it feels so invasive and involuntary.
But you can get to a place where you can feel comfort, safety, connection and care, even with no one else there. You can change the way you perceive the world, and when you do that, it no longer seems like such a scary place.
It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes a willingness to do some shadow work and let some intense feelings arise, but it can be done.
If you want some support in this, a sherpa to help you climb this mountain, then please reach out. You deserve to feel safe and comforted. You deserve to look at the world and see connection and care.
I’m sitting in my red kayak, paddle across my lap, staring at the class 3 rapids just ahead of me. I’d pulled over to a calm spot on the river to mentally map my path through the rapid. Three days before this was the first time I’d ever been in a kayak in my life. Six months before this, at 32-years-old, I’d been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer.
I was on a weeklong program through the non-profit org First Descents where young adult cancer survivors learn to whitewater kayak. We were also learning how to face fear again after having one of the scariest things imaginable happen at a really young age – a cancer diagnosis.
Looking out over the rapid, I calculated which course I should take to try to avoid flipping the kayak. In whitewater kayaking, you’re “attached” to the boat by a rubber skirt, so if you flip, it’s no fun to try to find the ripcord to get out of the boat while upside down, with no air, in the middle of a rocky, turbulent rapid. Like I said – I was facing fear again, but this time it was my choice and not some shitty cancer diagnosis that life had dealt me.
As I stared at the rapids, I had a realization. I was in a boat! (I know – not the most profound realization. Stay with me.) The boat was designed to float, so instead of trying to control the boat, I needed to listen to the boat. The boat knows how to stay upright in the water, all I had to do was feel into which way the boat wanted to go, try my best to be one with the boat, and follow its lead.
So, I did. And it was so much easier than trying to control the boat. I had faith in the boat’s design and its ability to do what it needed to do, I was the passenger and I let the boat do the floating.
I made it through the rapids unscathed and with a newfound understanding. As the adrenalin of the rapid run wore off, I knew that this was about more than just a boat. This was a lesson for life.
Here’s a spiritual truth – if you try to push, resist or control anything in your life, it’s going to be much harder. If you simply trust “the boat” of life and follow where your experiences, intuition and karma lead you, it’s much easier.
One of the secrets of a peaceful life is to respond to what’s in front of you rather than trying to push, resist or control. There are so many aphorisms that teach us this: “What you resist persists” or, “People make plans and God laughs.”
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have goals or go towards what makes you happy, fulfilled and inspired. It means that you should detach from HOW it’s going to happen.
When I was in my boat, I knew I wanted to get through the rapid. But HOW to get through – which path I take – that’s better left up to the boat, the boat knew how to stay afloat.
I started to use this perspective shift in my life when I got home from my kayaking trip. “Trust the boat,” I would think as a new obstacle came my way. I would lean into what felt right, or what was the easiest path forward right in front of me, and just do that, without overthinking it.
It was so much easier.
Now, the easiest path forward wasn’t always how I’d wanted things to go. I had to release a lot of feelings of control or preference about how things unfolded. But knowing that there was a larger force in my spiritual self that knew how to stay afloat through this “life” thing and having faith in that awareness was simpler and felt more right than trying to push and control.
As I’ve learned more about myself and the nature of our existence, I now know that the reason I can trust the boat is because not only am I the passenger, I AM the boat. And the river. And the rocks, and the sky and the birds and the trees. I am all of it, one consciousness.
As you deepen your intuition and your ability to communicate with your spiritual self, you can feel this too. It’s not difficult, it’s just a matter of switching from trying to control and plan to sitting and listening.
Feel into what your life wants for you.
It’s right there, waiting for you to listen.