When This Moment is Enough

If you would prefer an audio version of this post, you can listen to Episode 5 of my podcast, When This Moment is Enough.

 

“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy. Even while you have pain in your heart, you can enjoy the many wonders of life — the beautiful sunset, the smile of a child, the many flowers and trees. To suffer is not enough.” –Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh

It was November 3, 2014–the night before I was to launch my first book, The Gift of Maybe, at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in New York City—and I was a suffering.  My agent had called me a few weeks ago.  She is a lovely woman and has always been supportive, but what she told me on that call sent me into a tailspin. “Allison,” she said, “If you don’t sell 25,000 copies of this book, you’re not going to get a book deal for your second book.”  Now, my second book wasn’t even completed yet, and my first wasn’t officially launched. It had been a dream come true to publish with Penguin Random House. I had been able to change careers, leaving my first profession behind for one I truly loved—working with people to transform their professional and personal lives.

Initially what my agent said didn’t bother me, but the night before my book launch, I was in agony about the uncertainty of my own future as an author. With that one comment from my agent, I had started to feel the pressure and stress of having to sell 25,000 books to continue my journey.  Instead of reveling in the moment, I was beginning to obsess about what I did not have or what might not be.  What if my path was limited? What if the seemingly triumphant moment I was in was not enough?

I sat there trying to release the thought that I needed to sell 25,000 books to be successful, joyful or to continue my journey as a self-help author. It wasn’t working. So I took a few breaths and decided to see if I could take my own advice.  I cracked open my brand new book. After about twenty minutes of doing a Maybe exercise at the end of the first chapter, I was finally able to let the maddening thought about 25,000 books go. I now look back and laugh at the image of a self-help author desperately poring over her own book to make herself feel better!

The next day, I was able to enjoy the launch of The Gift of Maybe. Still, in the year after I published, the worry about how many books I’d sell and whether my second book would ever see the light of day returned to haunt me. It became such a familiar pain I even gave it a name –“second book suffering.”

If I appeared on a radio show and did not sell a lot of books in the days that followed, or if I failed to secure an appearance on a morning television show, my “second book suffering” reared its ugly head. The Maybe mindset always helped me get out of the trap, but so did embracing the idea: This moment is enough.

I simply got tired of the suffering and the inability to enjoy what I had and what I was experiencing.  So whenever I wrote a blog, spoke to a client, or appeared on the radio, I would choose to say to myself before the event, “This moment is enough.”  When I heard from someone that my book had helped him or her, I thought, “This moment is enough.”  I still work very hard each day, I have goals and dreams, and I am still working on that second book and hoping to see it published.  Yet, most of time, I am satisfied with what is happening in this moment and this makes my heart feel open and completely joyful.

One of the key reasons we all suffer is because we believe that this moment is not enough.  We might be dealing with a problem or working on a goal and we believe if we can just get through the issue or achieve our goal, then we will be able to rest, smile and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  But what if we could see that, in focusing so exclusively on that one thing that will bring us future happiness, we are actually creating suffering for ourselves? Regardless of what is happening in our lives, we always have an opportunity to transform our suffering and experience something wonderful in the moment.   So when you hear the phrase, “Let this moment be enough,” take a deep breath. You might find that you feel immediately relieved.

It is also possible, of course, that the idea of letting this moment be enough makes you feel nervous or agitated.  You might feel that you have so many dreams or goals in your life and you want more than this moment is offering you.  These thoughts are, paradoxically, the root of suffering.  It is truly life changing to let this moment be enough.  When you allow this moment to be enough, it doesn’t mean you stop working on what you want your life to be, it just means you are opening your heart to a more joyful life right now.

Here is an exercise to help you embrace this moment as enough.

1.  What is bothering you most at this time? What is most on your mind? Now ask yourself this: what are these thoughts stealing from your life?  There will always be things in the outside world that might not go as we planned or desired. There will always be something else to do or achieve.  We are always thinking we have another day so this day doesn’t have to be our best moment. We tend to believe the moment we’re in can be “sacrificed” for another time when things in our lives are better.  But what if that day never arrives?  What if we keep putting off everything and never enjoy what is in front of us all along?  And even when we achieve our goals, won’t there always be another goal or unexpected challenge and thus a new type of suffering in our lives?  Take a few moments and consider these questions. Imagine what you could gain if you weren’t worrying about your life beyond this moment.

2.  Now name your suffering. Do you have “career suffering,” “my child is doing poorly in school suffering,” or “I wish I could be happy with a husband or wife suffering”?  When you name your suffering, it has less of a hold on you.  It is as if, in naming it, you separate from your suffering on some level.  You start to see it is not reality, just a thought taking up space in your head.

3.  Recognize that if you persist in believing that this moment you are in is not enough, even if you are able to solve your problem or achieve the goal you are thinking about, the next day you will most likely have a new type of suffering. For example, I had a client who had “my child is doing poorly in school” suffering and she helped her son improve his grades. But now she has “I need my son to get into a good college suffering.”  I also had a client that had “I want a boyfriend suffering.”  She married a great guy and now she has “marriage suffering,” worrying about all the things that might go wrong in her relationship.

4.  Say to yourself, “This moment is enough.”  How does that make you feel? Say it again, “This moment is enough.”  Does it alleviate a burden inside of you?  Remember, you are not saying that you will stop pursuing your goals or dreams and you are not denying you have problems.  You are merely allowing this moment to be and making peace with it.  You are not struggling with what this moment brings. Now you can see its beauty and its depth, which is also the depth of everything that you are and everything around you.  Say it again, “This moment is enough.”  This moment being enough doesn’t mean all your pain will go away if you are struggling, but it does bring the joy of what is right in front of you to center stage.

It is such a relief to let this moment be enough.  We add so many unnecessary layers and complications onto our everyday lives. We place conditions on what needs to happen for us to be okay, or in order for us to finally be satisfied.  But when this moment is enough, our minds can rest and our breaths can calm. We can look around us and see the beauty of being alive. We can appreciate who we are and where we are.  We can enjoy what we have accomplished. We can enjoy the book launch, the sunrise, a cup of coffee or a conversation with a stranger.  Everything becomes important and sacred—a wonder to behold.

Don’t forget – life has Maybe and Maybe, it turns out, is a gift that allows us to create the future we want…without sacrificing today!

For weekly information on how to reduce stress and worry check out my podcast, 10 Minutes To Less Suffering, follow me on Twitter @giftofmaybe or Instagram, follow my Blog or check out my book The Gift of Maybe.

Originally Published in Psychology Today

Do You Need a Particular Outcome to Be Happy?

Your new house

Although I rarely practice law anymore, these past months I’ve been trying to help my cousin purchase his family’s dream home in New York.  My cousin and his wife have one child and another on the way.  Because of my emotional attachment, it has been difficult dealing with the many bumps and challenges of this transaction.  Yet I believed that I could get this deal done for them.  It became so important to me in part because my cousin had been very sick at one time and the opportunity to buy this home seemed like a new beginning for him.  In my mind, I actually started to believe that my cousin needed this particular deal to happen for his happiness and well-being.  My cousin does not have a lot of money and this house would be stretching it but affordable.  It was located near his job and in a good school district.  Yesterday we got word that the bank wouldn’t lend them enough money to get the deal done.  I was so upset and feeling very down last night about the news and I was only able to sleep a few hours.  As I woke up this morning, I realized that I was feeling down not because they didn’t get the house; I was down because I had slipped out of Maybe.

The minute I started to believe my cousin needed this particular home for his happiness and well being, I had doomed myself to stress, fear and disappointment.  No matter what had happened, the house did not hold his happiness.  I fell out of Maybe because the bank’s rejection destroyed my high hopes and I interpreted that to mean my cousin’s dream of owning a nice home was no longer possible and what I wanted for him and his family could no longer be attained.  In reality, however, all that really happened is that life was not fitting into my plan, or my story for my cousin’s life. Once I opened my heart to Maybe again, I realized that there are always many more possibilities than the one we envision.

Just like I did with my cousin’s scenario, it is easy to slip out of Maybe on a daily basis.  How often, for instance, do we believe that we need to get a particular job or promotion for our lives to be going in the right direction? Or that a particular stock must go up for us to be financially secure, or that we need to land a particular client to further our careers?  How often have we yearned for a certain person to like us so we can be happy?  Story after story we tell ourselves, reinforcing the belief that life must unfold in certain ways to guarantee our well-being and success.  Logically, most of us would agree that there are many ways to achieve a particular goal, but emotionally we fail to live with this knowledge in our daily lives. When the emotional attachment to our stories defies logic, we fall into a trap. And stay there, and stay there.

For me, when I returned to Maybe, I realized that Maybe there are other homes to buy and other choices my cousin can make for him and his family.  As my cousin and I sat with all these possibilities today, our inner wisdom began to guide us to other ideas to qualify for the mortgage or to find another home.  In fact, there is a cheaper home down the same block that he had not considered because he thought it was too small.  We figured out today that Maybe it’s not too small after all.  We know we don’t have all the answers to help his situation, but we are open and hopeful that we will find his family an affordable home, good schools for his children and ways to reduce my cousin’s stress. In the land of Maybe, his options have no limits.

So today, try to list all the inner stories that you keep thinking what must occur in the future for your happiness and well being.  Do these stories about what needs to happen next in your life make you stressed or unhappy and are you losing sleep?  Now think to yourself: Maybe. Maybe this event will happen, or Maybe there is another way to achieve your goals or Maybe there is something else out there for you that you can’t see right now.  Let Maybe allow you the room to breathe and stretch and open up to all that is possible.

Let Maybe give you ground to stay hopeful until you find your way!

 

What Happens When We Are Willing To Wait For An Answer?

rubi

It can feel good to be able to answer “yes” or “no” to the questions about what we should do in life. It can feel good to be decisive and know exactly how we intend to resolve a problem or situation we are facing. Sometimes, however, the impulse to immediately decide “yes” or “no” to the everyday problems and situations that we face is more about playing it safe and clinging to certainty than it is about living life to the fullest.

This is why I love the idea of Maybe. Maybe allows us to contemplate the possibilities of life unfolding in many different ways without feeling the need for action the very minute a problem confronts us.  It allows us to pause and wonder if there is something else beyond what we are seeing in the moment. Maybe we have not explored how we can be more creative or more adventurous and maybe a problem can become the chance for a new direction. Maybe it is best to wait and let the situation unfold a bit more before acting in our accustomed ways.

After our pause we may come to the same “yes” and/or “no” conclusion or maybe we will try something new and it won’t work as well as we had hoped.  But MAYBE we will expand our lives and create new opportunities, meet someone new or just have an experience unlike any we have had before.

Maybe allows us to engage life full on because instead of looking only for what we “know” we expand our boundaries to an infinite playing field of all that can be. After all, are we really looking for certainty in our lives or are we looking to live a life of fulfillment, joy and abundance?

Just Maybe.

Image from: http://11even.net/2010/04/how-to-solve-the-rubiks-cube/fun/

Maybe, it is Good!!!

The other day my client Jessica, an interior designer, called me and said, “Allison, you are going to be so disappointed in me.  My largest client called me yesterday and said it was imperative that I call her back immediately.  When I could not get in touch with her, I immediately started to worry that something I ordered was incorrect or that she was unhappy with my work or perhaps she was going to fire me.” Jessica paused for a moment and after catching her breath, she continued. “I could not sleep last night and made myself sick with worry of what could possibly be wrong.  I finally spoke to my client this morning; she was calling to tell me that she wanted to introduce me to her friend who wants to hire a designer for her new home in Westchester.” After pausing again, Jessica gave a big sigh. “All that worry and emotional pain for nothing,” she said, “and the thought never even occurred to me that Maybe she wanted to give me some good news about a potential job.”

Of course, I was initially very happy for my client that she had a lead for some new work and I congratulated her.  After that, I said that I would never be disappointed in someone if they did not use Maybe. Maybe is not about handling something the right way or the wrong way. For me, choosing Maybe as a life philosophy is about living life with less emotional pain and suffering. If a situation in my life looks bad or something unexpected happens, instead of starting to worry or plan for the worst possible outcome, I pause for a moment and enter the realm of Maybe.  Maybe is a doorway for me to see that the situation that I am facing may still turn out to have a positive outcome or Maybe there is another way to achieve my goal or Maybe I will find peace with whatever I am experiencing.  This way, instead of shutting down with fear and worry, I am able to relax my mind and open up to all that is possible.

We all have many moments like Jessica had yesterday with her client.  Give Maybe a try and let me know what happens!!