Interested in having a meaningful life and healthier relationships? What can I say? I could talk about the importance of developing excellent communication skills and knowing how to express your emotions maturely. Or, I could listen to you talk about your problems, and we could explore the deeper meanings. But, I find myself saying less and less these days. I haven’t given up speaking, but I can imagine becoming monosyllabic. What would that one syllable be? Stop—Stop.
Stop trying so hard. Stop trying to find the right answer, as if there is a right answer. Thinking there is a right answer is one of the causes of conflict and suffering. Stop searching for more, as if there is more. Well, actually, there is always more—more stories, drama, excuses, desires. But doesn’t searching for more reinforce the idea that we don’t have enough?
Do you not have enough? What is it that you’re lacking? Before you answer that, read the next two paragraphs, which are from a new novel I’m reading:
“Up in the private residence, I open one of the dresser drawers, which contains only a single item: a picture of Rachel. I have plenty of those around here, photos of her vibrant and happy, mugging for the camera or hugging or laughing. This one is for me only. It was taken less than a week before she died. Her face is blotchy from the treatments; she has only wisps of hair on her head. Her face is almost skeletal. To most people, this would be hard to look at—Rachel Carson Duncan at her absolute worst, finally succumbing to a ravaging disease. But to me, it’s Rachel at her best, her strongest, her most beautiful—the smile in her eyes, her peace and resolve.
“The fight was over at that point. It was just a matter of time, they told us—could be months, but more likely weeks. It turned out to be six days. It was six days I wouldn’t trade for any others in my life. All that mattered was us, our love. We talked about our fears. We talked about Lilly. We talked about God. We read from the Bible and prayed and laughed and cried until our wells of tears had run dry. I’d never known intimacy so raw and cathartic. I’d never felt so inseparable from another human being.” *
Appreciate. Presence. Along with “stop,” these are a couple of other words I imagine muttering as I grow older and continue working with people. People travel far to find answers, some visiting our land in Hawaii in hopes of finding the solution. And this particular piece of land is remarkable —taking away not only my breath, but my thoughts. Being on this land is more healing than any words I can offer. Yet, people wait patiently for their appointment with me. They walk into my office. I’m staring out at the ocean. They sit and start telling me their stories . . . what’s wrong, what’s not enough, how things should be.
I mumble, “Stop.”
“Stop, what do you mean? I really can’t help myself. When I was a child my mother ignored me and made me feel like a . . . “
“Well, what do you mean? I’m just trying to explain why . . . “
“Okay, I’ll stop. I mean I flew all this way to get some help. So I guess if you want me to stop, I could do that. Maybe you’re getting ready to tell me something and that’s why you wanted me to stop. Okay, yeah, I get it. I’m listening.”
“A . . . appreciate?”
“Okay, what do I appreciate?”
“Appreciate presence. Appreciate presence. Do you mean like mindfulness? I’ve done some mindfulness training and what I learned is that my mind tends to wander because I’ve got a compulsive need to . . .
“I’m not sure we’re getting anywhere. I think . . . “
“Hmm. Is there more to this therapy than . . . “
“Well, I was expecting . . . “
“Okay. Now what?”
“Go sit on the land.”
“Great, an assignment. What do I do?”
If you don’t get the point of this article, I can’t explain it. I mean, I could, but if I did, then I would be contributing to something I don’t want to contribute to.
If you do get the point of this article, you might be interested in joining my next Thrilled To Be Alive group. The purpose of these groups—this will be the fourth one I’ve conducted—is to introduce people to a new level of consciousness in which we stop working so hard on ourselves, stop endlessly processing our feelings, break free of our stories and appreciate being alive.
If you’re interested, fill out the form below. And if you do join the group, you can expect to hear me say a little more than “stop,” “appreciate,” and “presence.”
* Excerpt from: The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson