Actually Doing Something
(Excerpts of the last chapter of Wayne's new book, This Endless Moment)
One of the more interesting aspects of writing is the effort it takes to get the thing done. I used to think that disciplining myself to write every day would do it. I’ve discovered that this is not necessarily so. It is so very easy to get distracted. As you’ve discovered, I did finally finish this one.
This book is somewhat more collaborative than my other books. First of all, I’m working with a professional editor. Ian MacKenzie of n2n Publishing (Publishing from End to End) has been a valuable resource for the content and structure of this book. After a couple of months we’d collaboratively whipped it into its present shape. I printed a pile of review copies and sent several out.
This addendum is the result of comments that started flowing in. Now, I gotta tell ‘ya, the last thing I was looking for was—more work. So, comments from two (so far) commentators that suggested that I might want to add in more stuff were met with some rather strong resistance.
Then, I thought about what I’m writing about, and realized that I could have avoided the feedback by not asking for it. Since I did ask, I thought that I just might want to get over myself (I directed my attention to page 12…) and decide if there was a way to incorporate the suggestions into the book without going back to the drawing board. This addendum is the result.
I really do want to thank David Sheedy and Debashis Dutta for their suggestions, and taking the time to give me what I asked for, instead of what I wanted. I’m writing that with a big smile on my face.
Ideas on How to Use This Book
David Sheedy wrote:
So something at the start of the book to get [readers] used to slowing down, reading carefully, and taking time to apply, might be a good idea. I could imagine three rules to reading the book being:
1. Breathe prior to each chapter (with you giving tips on breathing)
2. Reading each chapter through, then reading it again in the first person (using 'I' instead of 'him' or 'you')
3. Applying it to one situation - however hypothetical - before moving on.
You know, I get David’s point. There’s a part of me that wants to ask, “Where are the ‘rules’ for reading The Road Less Traveled? But that’s hardly the issue. David addresses one of the biggest roadblocks to making changes in approach to the issues that confront us—the refusal to take the process seriously. I’ve addressed this issue throughout the book, in the context of knowing versus doing.
As I’ve said, a lot of people will quickly understand what I’m writing. What I continue to amaze myself over, in others and in myself, is the depth of misery that continues to exist in the lives of people who get what I’m writing. I gave a review copy to my therapist, Gloria Taylor. She’s known me since 1978. She took the book, smiled and said, “So, have you read it?” She’s asking me if I’m actually doing what I’m writing about.
What I want to suggest, then, is that each of you, as you read this book, forget that you might be familiar with this material (you’re likely better off if you’ve never heard any of this before—you have less to get over) and instead focus in on how what I’m writing about applies to you and to the areas of your life you are concerning yourself about. As you read, apply David’s ‘rules.’
Breathing—the idea behind taking a breath, as I’ve written above, is that breathing well requires conscious thought, which brings us both into our bodies and into the moment. There is little point in trying to read this or any other book when your attention is scattered, or when you are having an emotional reaction to what you are reading. Getting all defensive is a great way to stay stuck.
So, on a regular basis, bring your attention to your breath. Make sure that the in breath is filling your lungs from your upper chest to the bottom of your belly. Follow the breath—in and out. Feel the breath moving through your mouth and throat. As your attention wanders, bring yourself back to a light focus on the breath—in and out.
From this place of focussed attention, begin reading, while maintaining the easy breath cycle. Periodically stop reading and check your breathing.
Pronouns—I’m going to mention this again, below, in the “Exercises” essay. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—the only useful pronoun is ‘I.’
I was thinking about this the other day, and realized that, for example, the hardest lesson to learn about relationships is that my commitment is only to what I will do. In a sense, I can’t say, “We’re going to have a good relationship.” I can say, “Here is what I commit to doing to have a good relationship, and I commit to do this no matter what my partner is doing.” And this is so for everything suggested in this book.
Nothing else is required than this—you commit to living the principles suggested here in your own way and to the best of your ability, with no excuses. To do this, you must take a general principle and personalize it through the use of the ‘I’ pronoun, and thus begin to take responsibility for its assimilation.
Assimilate by being specific—the obvious follow through. You’re not going to take any of this seriously if you refuse to see that everyone struggles with these concepts—including you. It’s far too simple to turn your attention to what everyone else is doing (or not doing) and in that way let yourself off the hook. So, have a breath, think about what you are reading, and give your imagination free reign to come up with one or a few instances where implementing what you are reading would change how you are confronting ‘sticking points’ in your life.
This book is highly practical, but the implementation is totally up to you. I can give you hints and suggest ways for you to implement what you read—in the end, what happens next is totally about what you choose to do something about.
Eight Simple Exercises for Implementing What You’ve Learned
The following exercises will be of help in implementing the overall concepts of this book. I’m modifying a suggestion made by Debashis Dutta:
I'm curious. The material might be more applicable if you could turn this into a workbook of sorts. More work for sure, but I wonder if you intersperse assignments, tasks and activities within the text, then the reader might be able to make more personal sense of what you are trying to convey. It would be more quickly taken in (potentially).
Let me add that I have written an excellent book—Living Life in Growing Orbits—and it’s a workbook filled with a year’s worth of exercises that neatly dovetail with what I’m writing about here. The book is available from us directly, most easily from our website.
That being said, the following eight exercises, most of which require someone to practice with, will go a long way toward helping you to integrate what you’ve read.
1. Find someone to talk with—
Many of you will either not be in a relationship, or will resist the idea that you can’t get this by yourself. As I’ve indicated, the problem with turning this into a ‘do it yourself” project is that we only see what we choose to see. As an example, a friend recently wrote, wondering why her life was so stuck and non functional. She asked me how I live my life—“How do you do it.....focus on discovering what you want to do for you, making plans to fulfill that and still share yourself with Dar, your friends, clients and family and live in the moment?”
I made the mistake of answering her question. She wrote back and let me know that she was looking for support and encouragement, not a direct answer to her question.
This is why it is so essential to have someone in our lives to be honest with. Let me rush in to say, my intent is not to have this kind of relationship with everyone. I have one therapist, a couple of mentors, Dar and one or two friends who are in the role of ‘feedback givers.’ The last thing I want from them is platitudes and ‘support and encouragement.’ What I want is an ongoing dialog about how I am living my life, and especially about where I am off the rails.
I’ve been fussy about who I’ve asked to review this book, or portions of it. As I noted above, I didn’t ‘like’ hearing “do more work.” I had to work hard at not defending what I’d written, and to respect the opinions of the people I’d asked for feedback. If all I want to hear is praise for my wisdom, I’m doomed to stay deeply stuck.
So, think about the people around you, and find one or two people, and one therapist with whom you feel a level of comfort. Invite them into dialogue. With friends / your principal partner, this should be a two way street. Invite honest, clear communication. If you are not sure what this looks like, reread this book, download the relationships booklets from our website and buy The Relationship Garden by Ben Wong and Jock McKeen.
2. Establish a 30 minute per day schedule—
Often, clients agree to the first suggestion, and even get around to inviting the conversation. Then, nothing.
I’ll ask what happened, and get some variant of, “She was supposed to sit and talk and she was always busy somewhere else.” Blame. And strangely, it’s always the other guy’s fault.
So, I repeat the directions. Set aside 30 minutes per day. Initially, pick a specific time and a specific location. Show up, each day, whether or not your partner is there, and sit there for the 30 minutes. Do this for a month. For each person, getting there and sitting there is your responsibility.
If your partner shows up, each of you gets 15 minutes to talk about whatever you choose. The very first thing to establish is for the speaker to say what she wants. There are really only three options:
a) I want you to listen
b) I want you to listen and ask questions
c) I want you to listen and offer suggestions.
No matter what happens, it is the responsibility of the listener to listen, not to get defensive, make excuses or explain himself. The goal of this exercise, which will go on day-by-day forever, is to provide a safe environment for each person to vent. What’s being said isn’t true or false. It’s just words. There is nothing to defend.
After 10 minutes (you may want to set a timer) the listener asks, “Do you want some feedback?” 90% of the time, the speaker will agree. Why?
See exercise 1 above.
The feedback, again, is not a defense. It is a, “So, I’m aware that you are angering yourself over this situation. I’m wondering why you’re choosing that response.” Again, see our booklets about this.
Then, shift. The listener becomes the speaker, following the pattern, above.
This differs from ‘normal’ discussions in several ways:
a. It’s about talking, not assigning blame.
b. It’s about self-exploration, not about making the partner responsible for ‘fixing things.’
c. It’s about learning to listen to complaints and blaming without biting.
d. It’s about listening to another’s pain without rushing in to rescue.
Agree to enter into respectful, engaged and present dialogue, for at least 30 minutes per day.
3. Use “I” language—
This one is part of the previous two, and yet requires its own number. As I noted above, nothing is more important than our principal pronoun. For the vast majority of people, that pronoun is ‘you.’ Blame, blame, blame.
For most of us, and especially for the crowd that thinks they get this material, there’s this odd disconnect between what’s known and what is done. Rarely do I hear, “Boy, am I ever choosing to make a mess of my life right now. I want people to think I’m enlightened and they’re not cooperating. I’m feeling crappy and it’s all my fault.”
No, it’s the partner, or external demands, or lack of stimulation, or work, or the tough cards dealt. All of this is total, unadulterated crap.
Get this through your head—your life is the way it is, and the way it is not only is the way it is—it’s the way you set it up. Or, as I’ve read, “In Zen there are no bad days. Every day is a good day.”
The pronoun of the authentic life is ‘I’. The easiest fix is personal self-responsibility—the key theme of this book—and the best way to re-mind ourselves about this is to discipline ourselves to tell the truth. The game is yours, and so is the interpretation. Dedicate yourself to speaking for yourself and only for yourself.
4. Make a personal list of things for you to work on—
Again, the goal is specificity. Most of us have a general idea of our issues and the common dilemmas we repeatedly create for ourselves. Far fewer have a plan in place for dealing with the issues. Thus, clients repeatedly say, “Hmm. You’ve mentioned that before.” As if it’s my job to remind them, motivate them, goad them into finally doing something about their situations.
Let’s dedicate ourselves to a wholehearted and whole headed effort at deeply and fully confronting the issues we plague ourselves over. Create a list of issues you know you want to deal with, and then, both with your confidants and with yourself, begin to generate actual, measurable and repeatable behaviours that will alter the outcome of these situations. Post the list in several places, carry it with you in your Day Timer and revisit the list often.
It’s never enough to simply know how I mess with myself. This is a sure recipe for feeling awful while at the same time thinking, sanctimoniously, that I’m actually doing something about my issues. Instead, dedicate yourself to shifting your stuck places by acting in an unstuck manner.
5. Spend time in meditation—
Much like the breathing suggestion, above, carving out quiet time is a discipline. You really don’t need to make a religion out of meditation. You don’t have to go to a monastery or hire a guru. On the other hand, meditating in groups is a lovely thing. Most major cities have Zen Centres, and they are only too happy to teach you how to sit.
Or, get a book or buy a DVD. Learning to slow down and quiet your mind is vital to finding the spaciousness necessary begin to see that life simply is. In the quiet of following one’s breath, there is a profound sense of contented nothingness. Without the dialogue running rampant in your head, there comes a realization—I am here and you are there and not much is really happening in this moment.
We are so used to the drama we create that silence can get scary. So, anything you can do to ‘up’ your tolerance for silence and stillness is a good thing.
6. The “chair” exercise—
(read about it in This Endless Moment)
(read about it in This Endless Moment)
8. Conversation re. what turns you on—
(read about it in This Endless Moment)