I’ve written before about being Jewish and why I love Christmas. This past Saturday, when I went to yoga for the first time in awhile, I heard something from the teacher’s dharma talk that gave me new insight into the ‘Secret Sauce’ that makes the holiday season so special.
This may seem obvious, but stay with me. The Secret Sauce is wonder. Yes, wonder!
Obvious in some ways: Kids remind us of the bright-eyed innocence we once possessed, the lights and sights (New York City at Christmastime, a snow covered field) and the glitter and majesty of gifts, parties, and religious rites. But it’s more than that. Wonder is a state of full presence. It’s a state of connection to our greatest capacity for love and compassion.
As Jesse Prinz, a professor of philosophy at the City University of New York, said, we might feel a physical sensation like the swelling of our heart when we are in a state of wonder. Cognitively, we cannot connect what we are experiencing to something we already know or it wouldn’t be wonder. Even if we’ve seen something before, if we feel wonder, we are seeing it in a new way or as if we were seeing it for the first time. We might even gasp and utter the word “Wow!” as we process what we see and feel.
The heightened expectation, even in the face of an event we anticipate annually, puts us in a state of wonder. For there to be wonder, there must be a lack of certainty. We can’t be ‘in’ wonder if we know what is going to happen.
It’s like my yoga class itself. I go to class with a reasonable expectation of what will transpire. We’ll sit on our mats, wait for the teacher to begin, spend some time centering and reflecting, warm up our bodies, then move in to increasingly difficult movements until we hit a high point and start slowing down. Finally, we get to stretch and then lie down in savasana (dead man’s pose—my favorite —who doesn’t love lying down to nap while exercising!?) I know what’s going to happen. But I don’t really .
I have to be fully in the present to be in the poses. The endorphins kick in as the work gets harder. Fully present to breath and movement, and soon, I’m in wonder. Wonder at the simplicity that is also difficult and the collective breath that moves the whole room to a place of greeting the divine within us and each other (although late comers to class asking me to move my mat so they can find a place pisses me the hell off—divine evolution is clearly a work in progress!)
Consider this, if you will. We do this thing called the holidays every year. We basically know what to expect and yet it induces wonder. We must surrender a lot of ‘reality’ to feel the magic.
This can also be a sad time of year for so many. If the ‘secret sauce’ is wonder and not dependent on family (which most people complain about anyway!), can we create that magic for ourselves? How do we take a melancholy time and turn it into wonder? As I said, it requires surrendering reality and getting in touch with the love, the discovery, the newness of right now whether it’s fully desirable or not. It’s not easy but it is in our sphere of influence.
As we enter the final days of this year, consider how you could launch in to 2016 with wonder and do things differently than you’ve ever done before? How might you change things up to allow a state of wonder to guide you?
Ponder that with a hot chocolate or hot toddy. I’ll see you on the other side of the holiday season.
The women in these four stories are great examples of using what life gives you —even if it’s a “year of horribles” —to create something meaningful. In each case, change came by starting out small and and letting one step lead to the next.
Is there an experience you’ve come through in your life which may be positioning you to make an impact for others?
Stepping out and taking risks, whether it’s starting a new venture or launching a job search, is a big deal and it needs to be protected from naysayers and doubters. Without protection, your own fears can kick in and start to dominate, reducing the amount of action you are willing to take. No action=no results=fears confirmed=SNAFU!
What’s the answer? Training the people around you to behave in ways that fuel you and your dream and not detract from it. Sound selfish? Good. It is. And it’s exactly what it takes to make a dream come true.
People who reach the goals they set for themselves know that they need to set boundaries that keep them and their dream safe. Boundaries are a fancy word for ‘NO’. You have to say no to influences that will keep you from achieving what you want. Unfortunately, setting those boundaries means you are changing the rules in many of your relationships. This in itself takes courage, but I can tell you, you will be better for it.
For example, Marianne was an executive who made $200,000 a year. She had grown so tired of her work, where she had to live, and how much travel she had to do, that she wanted to make a change. She knew moving across the country and finding new work would probably mean a salary reduction, but she did not care. The people in her life, however, cared very much. Her colleagues, in-laws and friends accused her of losing her mind and were very critical of her. She began to question herself when she realized she had to stop talking about the change she was making with those that did not approve in order to stay on course.
She came to seek support only from those people in her life, even new people, who were willing to see for her what she saw for herself. She successfully made her move and was very happy with the results.
Pulling her dream from those that wanted to tromp on it, was a form of setting boundaries. In other cases, you might need to actually train other people on how they have to behave around you. Yes, that may mean actually telling people the truth. Like:
“When you doubt me, it makes me doubt myself, so I won’t be asking for your opinion anymore.”
“I need to hear what’s good about this, not what can go wrong.”
“I know you count on me to be here for you when you need to talk, but right now, I need to focus on a problem of my own and need you to listen to me.”
People, like puppies, are trainable, if you are kind and persistent. You can draw lines in the sand and keep negative influences away from you.
And in case you need one for your Thanksgiving gathering, here’s one more script:
“This is a time for being grateful for each other. Can we save the bickering for next year?”
Based on Chapter 11 of “Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction”, “You Don’t Have To Do It Alone”.
Today we’re introducing a new category to the blog: Now What? Q &A, where we’ll answer questions we are often asked by our clients and readers. We’d love to hear from you so please do send us your questions. Chances are if you have the question, then so do a whole lot of other people. Today’s question comes from a woman who is working the Now What? Coaching Program with Ginny Kravitz, Deputy Editor.
How do you know when you’ve moved from “research mode” to “decision made”?
This question comes up often. When you’re exploring various directions to pursue, how do you know when it’s time to say, “Okay, I’ve done enough research and my decision is made”?
When you’re in research mode, it’s important to stay open and resist rushing to judgment. The information you’re taking in will need to be sifted through and examined. Does the opportunity you’re considering line up with your Life Blueprint (Who You Are) as well as your Criteria for Happiness (Your Needs and Values)? Timing can be unpredictable and only you will know if you’re ready to declare the research “done”. At some point however, it will be time to make a decision. Gathering more and more data doesn’t culminate in some sort of guarantee that your new venture will be successful. You just need to know enough to feel right about pursuing your new direction.
Here is how Roberta, the person who submitted this question, ultimately answered it for herself: When all the clues and your intuition lead you to a conclusion, then you have to trust yourself and move to a decision. It’s a huge risk but it feels right. I found that it took a lot of courage to go from “I’m figuring it out” to “I’ve decided” —there is something final about saying it out loud— but once I realized that I had in fact decided, I did a little dance.