My book manuscript has been released into the world! Who knows when or where it will land? I'm sort of stunned. I set a deadline for my (53rd!) birthday, June 22, to bring it to completion and get it sent to one set of Important Eyes, and life has conspired to help me meet that goal. I've been keeping strange hours and working with a minimal client base, and it happened. This manuscript truly represents my life's work so far. I feel exhausted in a deeply satisfied, grateful way.
The book-to-be is called Scooch!: Edging into a Friendly Universe.
Here's an excerpt, though if you've been reading these monthly posts for any length of time, you've seen plenty of material that went into the book. This story (true, but with details changed to obscure identity) belongs in the closing chapter of the section on personal power. That chapter opens with these two epigraphs:
What you seek is seeking you.
Don't let your current conditions train your expectations.
— Abraham Hicks
Kyra: A Cushy Lab for a Grand Experiment
When Kyra took in the full extent of the mess she found herself in, she came up against the dead-end hopelessness she felt about her finances. Irksome irony: here she was spending most waking hours amidst luxury and good taste, working with wealthy customers in this highbrow interior design and home-furnishing store, and yet the business was discreetly going under. How was it possible she'd landed again in wall-to-wall scarcity—and in her mind was plunging headlong into some personal abyss as fast as the business headed south?
Mystifying, how they could trek in opulence daily while on the brink of failure. Find anything cotton in the store (sham, throw, bedding), and you could bet that cotton would be brushed or Egyptian or in herringbone weave; find a mirror—easy to do, with more on the floor than chairs—and it would be framed in antique silver leaf or bone. But tucked away under plush cushions, silken drapes, and sumptuous bedding was the threat of going out of business—customers grumbling, orders on hold, no money to pay the companies that had stopped delivering the goods until further payments were tendered.
When Kyra called me, she laid out the story of how she'd used all her savings to pay for a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture (not a practical degree!) then gotten this job at Posh! to make ends meet. She figured if she worked four days a week, she could find time to advance her artwork and at some point start to sell it to get past her hand-to-mouth existence. Well, it wasn't looking good.
It did before: the store was close to her home in San Diego, she loved the wares and how it felt to be there, she got along beautifully with Elsa, the store owner, and they were compatible in their ideas of design. She enjoyed the people who came in for help in redecorating and furnishing rooms, and her natural talents and sensibilities plus her education in art—despite the fact sculpting didn't figure in this reality—allowed her to truly serve Posh!'s clientele. Not to mention that Kyra was about as personable as a person can get.
By the time she understood how far gone the store's finances were, she and Elsa were the only designers left, she was sorely needed, and she couldn't imagine leaving Elsa on her own. It was getting seriously uncomfortable, though. A typical workday included putting off clients asking for the furnishings and accessories they'd ordered months before, so she made up bogus reasons, bought them little gift baskets or a nice bottle of wine, smiled until her face ached. This detracted from working with new people—how could she be in integrity promising anything?—but new orders were the only way to bring in enough money to move along old orders standing by so the women could send a few more semi-satisfied customers on their way. This was not fun.
It was beyond not fun. It felt like punishment, and Kyra's reckoning of her life suddenly boiled down to a lot of wrong choices. Perhaps she could deal with it better if she really were working four days a week, but she always brought home any number of tasks—especially the calculations required so customers could make final decisions (she was slower at this part and needed to work uninterrupted, fairly impossible in the store). Some of her time off, she just needed to drop out of the buzz and hum and bring her heart rate down. She needed to sit and stare.
Why was this happening?
I asked Kyra if she believed in a punitive Universe. This is a question that comes up often enough in my work. Crazy how many people walk around thinking they're being punished. She briefed me on her religious upbringing, the long indoctrination on slow-drip IV, the daily messages about her sinful nature and the vigilance and self-denial required to smash the ego (like a vile, crunchy cockroach under your little patent-leather Sunday shoes). We kept coming back to the question. What about now? Now did she believe in a punitive Universe?
It was hard for her not to interpret her current difficulties as a clear message she'd been grossly extravagant to lose her savings to an arts degree. She may as well have gone to a casino! How could she make that money back? Who was she to take herself seriously as an artist? No, the best she could hope for was being a glorified salesperson helping people put together some nice colors and fabrics and shapes to feel better about their living rooms. But the store hosting her modest efforts was hanging by a thread.
The more I listened to Kyra, the more I knew that she was fine. I saw her as going through one of those periods I call “when life pushes you to your walls.” I define those walls as the place where you stop applying your own belief system. Because she'd had to deconstruct the beliefs handed down by her parents, she'd given a good bit of thought to variant ways of conceiving reality. She already loved Abraham Hicks as much as I did. She knew The Work of Byron Katie. By and large, she had come to live with the trust that she could step into her dreams and show up for whatever was happening without fearing the heavenly lightning bolts. That had gotten her to art school—and despite her terror that current signs meant she'd somehow exceeded her allotment of grace, it had been a great experience. So now life had her in that place where she was squeezed again. Here—with money tight, time overfull, all her not-good-enough buttons being pushed—was she still willing to believe? Could she still find the support of a friendly Universe?
Besides reminding Kyra of a bunch of things she already knew (my job is often to remind), I helped her understand that she was going to get through this better if she treated Posh! like her lab for a grand experiment. She needed to claim her power, and this was not only as good a place and set of circumstances to do that in as any other: it was perfect. There were a number of things she could work on to move toward joy and ease, with the following representing some highlights:
As for her personal future—definitely not her business. This included how and whether she'd make it as an artist or even have this job or any other to ensure basic security. Today she had a job. She was also showing up for it with all her heart, and would end up with good experience and a fabulous reference; if Posh! dwindled away, there would be another place for her.
Checking in on her clarity, she found she was clear she didn't want to leave Elsa and the store now, so she committed to a consciousness of choice: she wanted to hang in there. She took in that it would feel better if she got 100 percent behind that choice and loved the work and people, let go of the future, gave her time willingly when she gave it (presence!), and let go of the store mentally when she wasn't there.
We talked plenty about nonresistance and letting go of outcomes. As long as she had a ferocious grip on the idea that Posh! had to stay in business, she was resisting reality. She could vote for that, and show up doing her part, then she'd best let go. That letting go would enable her to enjoy today, right now, and work with customers and Elsa in a way that actually constituted a good life.
Thus, the store became Kyra's lab. There, she witnessed in a heightened set of circumstances what she'd done all her life, which she boiled down to people pleasing. She sought to accept that if the customers were let down by the orders not coming in, this had nothing to do with her. It had nothing to do with her even if she was the one telling them they had to wait, even if their frustration or anger got directed at her. She started truthfully letting them know how open-ended the wait would be and apologized appropriately (once) and stopped giving gifts and compliments and strained smiles. Let me insert here that anytime you're doing your job (whatever's yours to do) with greater ease, you're on the right track.
As Kyra shared her process, Elsa began to look into Abraham Hicks herself. The two women discussed the teachings and homed in on the emphasis on navigating in the direction of what feels good. They made a pact to prioritize feeling good at Posh! and making it a place where people felt drawn to come in and linger. They filled it with love. They laughed with clients and focused on their joy in designing spaces with them. They gave the best service they could despite the extra wait time built in, so that people had a great experience choosing furnishings and designs with them; they loved coming in, they loved being there. The two women found it didn't take long to create just that.
Still, businesswise, it felt like Posh! was a sinking ship. Elsa went in and out of worry, and Kyra kept seeking to help her locate what she, Elsa, could do and where she needed to let go of the process and outcome, which served Kyra as reminders to herself to do the same. Kyra met her discomfort when she had to put someone off or tell a hard truth, and kept meeting it, and kept meeting it, now and now and now, and found she could get through those moments and move on—not carry guilt and worry around.
The design was fun! The interactions with customers were fun. Sometimes she'd realize she'd been working with someone for hours and really needed food. In the past, this would have meant pushing through until the task was complete. Now she let them know she needed to pause or invited them to order pizza with her—in other words, she took care of herself so she could continue offering her service, instead of shoving down her needs to keep pretending and overextending to please the customers. All of this made a tremendous difference in her day-to-day experience. It also allowed her to see that she could think of this whole reality as a friendly-Universe construct: the angels truly had outdone themselves in setting up the perfect gym for building her weak muscles, the perfect lab for experimenting with all she wanted to keep playing with in a friendly Universe.
At some point a sailor appeared to try to rescue the sinking ship. He was considering buying the business and Elsa was open to talking to him. Funny that he happened to be someone Kyra had known some two decades back in time, when she'd categorically classified him as a slimeball. Wanting to clear her old thinking before he came into Posh!, she questioned her thoughts about him. She ended up acknowledging how much she'd changed and grown in the past twenty years and decided to stay open to the very real possibility that he'd done the same. The day he came, Kyra told me, “There was nothing but love in the room.” They met with an easy embrace, and her inner sensors didn't cringe in his presence. Kyra held down the floor that day while Elsa spent hours with the sailor and came out with a plan that involved his investing in the store, but not buying her out.
The relief that came in for the two women was palpable. The store shifted again to another level of feeling like a great place to be. But here's the part that I think is actually funny, and full of juice. Nothing happened right away, and in fact the sailor was called away (far across the seas) on business, and it wasn't long before Elsa was looking at the very real possibility of being right back where she'd started. Except she wasn't. And she wasn't willing to be, which was a very good idea: no going back. Remember that it's important not to insist on specific interpretations. The message from the sailor wasn't that he was the savior. The message was that things could keep shifting, that there were options, that it was a very good idea to stay open to various possibilities and scope them out. It was a great process to be in.
Elsa had a dream that they were on a ship with winds whipping up and waters splashing into their quarters. They scurried to shut the windows, then as she gazed out into the ocean, she was struck by a vision of three massive horses standing there—in just a few feet of water, with a lush island behind them. They were so close to shore! Not there yet, still in the thick of the storm, but so close. … Kyra, having more of a connection to horses than Elsa, took the dream to heart as well. I don't know that much about totem animals, but I do love looking up creatures for their symbolic meanings for both real-life and dream sightings. (You can just google animal totems, or the specific critter plus totem.) Horse is one I've got down: it's all about power.
As I write this, the verdict on the store is still out. Kyra and Elsa are having fun and developing their skills in retail, design, and customer service, and also in trusting life while letting go of outcomes. They know that down the road there will be work for them and wonderful adventures using their talents and skills—maybe at Posh!, maybe not. To be sure, they're living in their power.
As I've said, if you're going to experiment at all, make it a grand experiment.
Love & blessings, Jaya
Curious about coaching? My availability just opened up again with my manuscript no longer claiming so much time!
I offer a free 30-minute exploration session by phone or Skype or in person (in Ithaca, NY). To get the free session, just fill out the contact form on my website.
For Facebook types, I post most days with an aim to support your growth and healing, inspire you, remind you of what you already know, keep you in touch with the magic, propose that you think big, and cast my vote for you to keep being ever kinder to yourself. Some popular posts from May and June:
Be in love with your life. Be in love with your projects. Be in love with the folks and flora and fauna in your world. If you're not in love with any of the above, what could you do to scooch that way? If there's not a whole lot of love fueling whatever it is you're up to, what's the point?
Does stress have to accrue? Even when things are super full or charged, you can keep current with these tricks: 1) stay present to now. Catch yourself in past or future and come back to what's yours to attend to now. It's manageable. 2) Keep an eye on the pain body (where emotion & stress strikes in your body). Direct breath that way. Think of those Baby Bjorn baby carriers: with a baby in one of those, you can do just about anything, but some part of your awareness is always on the baby; you do little check-ins. Do that with the pain body. 3) Stop trying to figure things out. Write down murky thoughts in quick list form and get back to them later. For now, trust it's all okay, it's all forgiven, it's all a work in progress.
When you're thrown off, get quiet. Say less. Get out of your mind & into your breath. If people talk to you, hear them fully. If you have a task, attend to it fully (do keep attending to the breath—that makes you more present, not divided). Walk, engaged with the senses, the breath—not thoughts. (So much to take in with your senses in the spring! So much more important that figuring anything out!) Sweep to clear things outwardly too. Clear clutter. Wash dishes. Sit, just to sit. Let wisdom & clarity come in through the silence, not through mullingmullingmulling in the windmills of your mind. Anything you need to know wants to reveal itself to you—get out of the way to let it in.
Keep moving toward joy! Prioritize joy. Scooch, even a tiny bit, in the direction of joy. Pair joy with NOW—you can only experience joy in the moment. Catch yourself in the future (not your business, unless you've got some clear planning to do) or in the past (no longer your business, unless you need to clear something/make amends, or go gather lovely memories as part of your quest for joy); come back to NOW. In any NOW moment, whatever your business is, it's always your job to attend to any disruptions in your thoughts or emotions, soothe yourself, and aim again toward joy. If you're not spending enough time in joy, note that you have choice in that.
I often talk to my clients about putting themselves to bed. They get curious. They refer to it using quotation marks: So I've been "putting myself to bed" ... Hey, would you ever (in your right mind) put a child to bed reciting all they did wrong today and what a loser they are; remind them of that awkward moment with what's-his-name; review what isn't done and has to be hit hard tomorrow; declare they won't ever be loved the way they want to be? ... Put yourself to bed listing all your triumphs, completions, good-enoughs; joy, gratitude, awareness of all that supports you; and a reminder that all is possible again with the coming dawn.
Make little of what you didn't get done this week. Make much of all achievements & completions, however small. Make little of disappointments & setbacks. Make much of how you face the obstacles and of the muscles you grow getting over and around them. Make little of where your courage fails you. Make much of all your little experiments and bold gestures. Make little of who's not there for you in just the way you want them to be. Make much of all that supports you, starting with gravity and clean water. Life is good, people are dear, you're in a brilliant evolution: make much of that.
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