Safe Spaces

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When I feel like things are going well for me, when the book sells, or when an article is published, or the hits on my website are up, my mind feels free to wander wherever it would like. It can wander into the past where all my suffering, all my doubt and fatalism, were the consequence of a harmless misunderstanding. I just didn’t know that everything was going to be fine, like I do now. It is also free to wander into the future where everything will surely keep being fine because everything works out in the end, as life has now taught me once and for all.

When I don’t feel like things are going so well, when nothing is selling, or when the numbers on my website dip, or when a workshop doesn’t sellout, I must be very careful where I let my mind wander. The past becomes a sad storybook full of tales whose lessons went unheeded. If only I had learned from my many, many mistakes I would not find myself where I am now. And the future – oh, the future is most treacherous of all. There my imagination, sick with pessimism, dreams a life of endlessly unspooling disappointment.

The only safe place for my mind then is the present. The darker and more hopeless I feel, the more present I must be. If I drift even a little backwards or forwards I fall into a hole with no bottom. This usually requires some discipline because the present seems to be the source of all my woe. That’s where the stuff that I don’t want is happening. Why would I want to be there?

Except to be absolutely present I can’t judge anything as right or wrong. I can’t judge the rejection letters or bad reviews or lousy sales as evidence that I got it wrong or life got it wrong. I have to bring my mid to the same place I go when I begin a story, a blank page where there is no such thing as good and bad writing, only what belongs in the story the story I want to tell, and what doesn’t.

If I can get there, if I can let life – all of it, including me – be exactly as it is, I soon discover that I am fine and everything is fine. But this does not fully capture it. Of all things I have tried to describe in my writing life, the present moment remains the most elusive. After all, it’s a kind of heaven on earth, where from one moment to the next the fires of misery are extinguished, their heat and destruction having been transformed into light. It’s true, but you can never quite believe it until you’re there – and once you are you wonder why you would ever leave.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.