Friday, June 15, 2007

The (W)hole In Your Heart

Have you ever had a dream that was so wonderful and so magical that you didn't want to wake up?

And then, when you did wake up, you tried to tell someone else about it, you couldn't make the words fit what you had seen and experienced, and in fact you began to doubt that it had ever happened?

Not too long ago I had an experience that changed me, deeply.  But my first attempt to write this article almost made me lose what I had gained from the change, because in the process of trying to understand it, I destroyed it.

And in order to get it back, I had to first realize that it was not something I could "get" at all!  In fact, it is something that you can only find by losing yourself entirely.  Indeed, it's...

The Very Opposite of "Getting" Something

And I read something a while back, written by some historical king or emperor of some sort.  He wrote how in fifty years of ruling his kingdom, seeing victory after victory in battle, and having his fill of all the women he wanted, he had counted the days of true happiness he had experienced in all that time.

He said there were but sixteen.

I don't pretend to know what he meant by "true happiness", but I do know that the number of days in my own life where I have been completely satisfied, have been similarly infrequent.  I don't mean merely feeling stuffed with food or having my other bodily desires satiated, but feeling actually at peace with the world, not needing or wanting anything, nor finding any fault in myself.

In other words, I have spent most of my life striving for one thing or another, even just to find a rest from work or to get away from boredom.  Most of all, I have strived to "make something" of myself.  To improve, to change, to be somehow worthy or deserving of some vague concept of "success" -- or perhaps simply...

To be loved and accepted!

Over the last month or two, I have been studying many things, trying to find -- and fix -- this "hole in my soul", as I had come to realize that it was the true source of my "remaining" troubles in life.

You see, although I've been through so many breakthroughs and changes just in the last three years, I've been noticing that each breakthrough seems only to lead to new challenges.  In many ways, I'm very different from the person I was three years ago -- and yet, deep down, I hadn't really changed all that much.

After I completed the Seven Days To Live Your Dreams workshop series last year, I thought I had really "made it", and that I could now embark on a path to financial independence through my writing and workshops.

But somehow along the way, I ended up scared and confused.  This year, I was staring at my dream...  and I blinked.  Instead of aggressively pursuing customers and carrying out my "change the world" ideas for self-improvement, I've limped along without doing any advertising, let alone putting my bigger ideas out on the table.  Heck, I let You, Version 2.0 sell out without putting anything up to replace it!

And the more time passed, the worse I felt about all this.  I started feeling like, "who am I to coach people when I can't even get my own act together and make this thing work".  I began writing less, and what I did write often felt less connected to my life, and more like I was "faking it".  At bottom...

I Felt Weak And Empty

So I began reading and viewing everything I could get my hands on, about the nature of self and personal boundaries; of approval-seeking and weakness and healing the soul.  I came to understand the difference between desire and desperation, and I learned how to create and sustain personal boundaries.  (That was in fact the topic of last month's newsletter for Owners' Circle members: "How Not To Be A Victim".)

In the process of doing this, I had significantly increased my confidence and centeredness, but I knew there was still something missing.

I realized that I was chickening out of my life and my dreams by not really "going for it", but I still didn't know how to engage my fears.  I was still trying to perfect myself first.

That is, instead of diving in and letting the experiences change me,...

I wanted to become a person
who would find them easy!

The unexpected turning point came when Amazon.com recommended that I buy a book called The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.  I didn't really see what it had to do with any of the other books I was reading at the time, but it sounded entertaining, so I went ahead and got it.

The book read like a combination of a thriller and an expose, filled with cameo celebrity appearances (including Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Courtney Love).  But the really interesting part was the author's personal journey of self-discovery.

He had entered the world of the "PUAs" (pickup artists) in order to get the confidence to talk to women, but ended up learning that the real secret was inside himself all along.  He met dozens of gurus giving often-conflicting advice, became a guru himself, and finally left it all behind when he realized that he didn't need to get validation from women (or other men) in order to live.

And not long before the end of the book, I reached a similar enlightenment.  Something he said -- I don't remember what -- touched off a realization in me that the hole in my soul was self-created.  I realized that I didn't have to "be somebody" (outwardly) in order to "be somebody" on the inside.

All my live I've been striving to be this organized, disciplined, successful, confident, and attractive guy, but something I read in this book showed me that...

I didn't need to be that guy!

Now, I'm not saying it wouldn't be useful to be more organized, disciplined, etc.  But that's not the point: I never wanted those things because they were useful!

No, I wanted them because I felt I was the opposite of those things: disorganized, lazy, shy, fearful, and unattractive.

And that was the hole in my soul.

Whatever you think you aren't, and strive to be...  that's your true weakness.  Not the thing you fear you lack, mind you.  But the fear of lacking it, and never being able to get it.  All of the PUGs ("pickup gurus") in the book had all the women they wanted, but were still unhappy because they feared being unlovable.

They could never fill the holes in their souls, because their increased skill with women didn't change their inability to feel loved.  Just as I could never fill the hole in my soul, because my improved abilities to write and speak and help others and market products...

Didn't change my inability to feel competent!

And when first I realized all this, a weird feeling came over me.  After an hour or two, I realized this strange feeling was probably acceptance.  Perhaps a bit of self-assurance as well!

Later on that evening, when my wife was talking about her problems at the store, I found that for the first time I could really listen -- and care -- without getting stressed.

I realized that I had always been too caught up in how things affected me, or too busy trying to demonstrate my "competence" by helping her find solutions to the problems, to really listen to her.  And now, I was actually curious and interested... supportive, even!  I wasn't yet sure how it happened, but I was starting to really  like the "new me".

Over the next few days, I spent a lot of time clearing junk out of my office, just for the heck of it.  Not to be "organized" or anything, but just because it was nice to get things cleaned out a bit.  I went places and did things for fun, and read books just for the enjoyment of it all.  (I even tried to read some self-help books at one point, but found them surprisingly boring from my new perspective!)

In fact, everything was going great until earlier this week, when I first sat down to write this article.  I wanted to share this incredible secret, this state of seeming enlightenment that had released me of all my worry and striving, but...

I hadn't a clue how I'd done it!

I threw out half a dozen false starts for how I'd write this, before I realized I had two problems.  First, I didn't have a clue how to get to the state I was in, because frankly, I'd gotten there by accident.  And second, I didn't have a clue how to relate to anybody who was still in the "striving" state, because I myself was no longer in touch with it.

But the first problem ended up solving the second.  On Monday, the more I racked my brain trying to figure out how to explain the transformation, the more I began to doubt myself, and the "striving" began to creep back in.  By Tuesday I felt like an idiot -- which put me squarely back in the place of "striving for competence/fear of incompetence".

And by Wednesday I was freaking out, worried I'd never find my way back.  I reread The Game, trying to figure out what part of it had tumbled me into paradise, but it was no use.

I had almost given up, when it happened again -- by accident, just like the first time.  I was looking out the window, and for whatever reason, it occurred to me that it was the very act of striving that was the problem.  There was nothing I needed to do in order to get the state I wanted.  Instead, all I needed to do was...

Give Up Striving For It!

You see, it is the very idea that something is outside yourself, that makes it so!  I had stumbled into happiness the first time around by realizing I didn't need to be that organized, disciplined, successful guy; I was already okay as I was.

And I had just as easily stumbled out of that happiness, by striving to understand and explain it.  I'd made the understanding into something outside me, and thus re-entered the world of striving.  Then, realizing that my happiness was gone, I put happiness outside me too!

In other words, your heart is wherever you seek it.  If you look for it outside yourself, it goes there, leaving a hole behind.

But if you know that you are okay and complete as you are, with nothing to strive for, nothing to do or have or be in order to "deserve" your happiness, well then...

You Will Find The "Whole" In You, Instead

Indeed, just as Neil Strauss (the author of The Game) found his natural confidence when he realized he already had it, I too found that my "competence" was here all along!

When I was afraid I was incompetent, I would use my accomplishments to fend off the fear, but it never lasted.  I was always on the lookout for what I'd accomplished lately, using any gap between achievements as evidence of procrastination and imminent failure.

But now, even a brief mental review of my life shows me that I've got a lot to be proud of, a lot I can feel good about.  Not as a temporary reprieve from fear, but as an ongoing part of my self-esteem and self-image.

Of course at this point, I still don't know that much about all this.  But I believe I know how to get back to this wonderful place any time I want to.  And I have a general idea of how I got here, and which of the tricks in my tool bag I could use to help other people get here, too.

But I also have a new sense of humility regarding my own abilities as a teacher!  So far, what I've been doing is mostly dragging other people along my own path of self-discovery, even if there might be shorter (or longer) routes that they personally need to take.

I now find I want to learn a better way of doing things than just offering myself up as an example, and making myself available to solve problems.  I think that perhaps there's a more active role I can and should be playing as a coach, so that's something I'll be working on in the months to come.

The World Beyond The Hole

There's a whole lot more I learned from my recent experience, but it will all have to wait for future articles, newsletters, and workshops.  This weekend, for example, I'm doing a group coaching for Full members of the Owners' Circle, where we'll be talking about "holes in the heart" and how to refill them.  I'm personally looking forward to finding out what I can do besides tell people that "true happiness lies within you".  After all, that never worked for me!

However, I do know that I'm skilled at taking people from one mental "place" to another, using artful questioning -- as long as I've "been" to the place I'm "taking" them to.  So it ought to be interesting and fun -- for them and me both! -- to discover where the path leads.

And next week, I'll probably be posting an article about "The Secret" and the so-called "Law of Attraction".  Whether you're a believer or a skeptic, you'll probably find something to love -- and hate -- about what I'll have to say.  And if you're a conspiracy theorist, you'll find it interesting to speculate with me about why certain critical pieces were left out of that movie.  (Here's a big hint: you can't attract something to you, if you believe it's outside yourself!)

And all of this is of course leading up to this month's issue of Life Without Struggle and Life-Changing Secrets CD, as well as my June 30th workshop, "The Reality Next Door".

If you'd like to participate in any of these events, you can sign up here.  Level 1 membership gets you the monthly newsletter and CD, while level 2 gets you into monthly workshops like "The Reality Next Door".  With level 3, you also get monthly group coaching, like tomorrow's session on "The (W)hole In Your Heart".

Most importantly, what you get with all levels of membership is me.  Somebody who's been in a lot of places in life, both good and bad.  So you know I'm not going to give you a bunch of rah-rah baloney that doesn't really work.  Help me fulfill my dreams, and I'll be happy to help you with yours.