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« Pondering the Spaces In-Between... | Main | Journey of the Heart »
Monday
Apr222013

The Art of Possibility - Rule Number 6

"Angels fly because they take themselves lightly." G.K. Chesterton

If you thought this week's foray into "The Art of Possibility" would distract me from dreaming (or writing) about my recent European adventure, then think again. Having just returned from Vienna where angels wings' whisper at every turn, I am brightly reminded of this week's chapter, "Rule Number 6"... or the practice of lightening up. Adeptly placed within the book at week 6, this week's theme actually takes its title from an old joke about two prime ministers.

Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in, apoplectic with fury, shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him: "Peter," he says, "kindly remember Rule Number 6," whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws. The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by an hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: "Marie, please remember Rule Number 6." Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology. When the scene is repeated for a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: "My dear friend, I've seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of Rule Number 6?" "Very simple," replies the resident prime minister. "Rule Number 6 is 'Don't take yourself so damn seriously.'" "Ah," says his visitor, "that is a fine rule." After a moment of pondering, he inquires, "And what, may I ask, are the other rules?"
"There aren't any."

(quoted from "The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life" by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander)

Lightening up (or following Rule Number 6) is easier said than done. As I recall our first chapter on the book blog tour, "It's All Invented," I stop to pause and ponder how the two practices so beautifully fit together. I mean... if I'm going to make up a story, I'd much prefer to create something that feels light and buoyant rather than heavy and burdensome.

Rule Number 6 can help us find some distance from the part of ourselves that tends toward the heavy and serious... the overriding voice in our head developed to "measure up" in a competitive environment. The Zanders call this our "calculating self" which is overly concerned for survival in a world of scarcity. It's that petulant voice that wails and cries and says, "Take note of me!" (with much literal and figurative foot stomping following the outcry).

"The calculating self" relates to the part of our brain that's been adapting for survival since the cave man days when letting down one's guard could mean becoming lunch for a saber-toothed tiger. It's also deemed useful during early childhood when it's necessary to understand one's safe and identifiable niche in the family and community. Anxiety is the primary regulator of this behavior and alerts an individual to the dangers of being one-down, unattended to, or at a loss. When this anxiety follows us into adulthood, our brain works overtime making up stories necessary for our survival like: I've got to work harder. She's better than me. I don't have enough money, status, time.... (Notice the scarcity and comparison).

Hidden beneath the buffoonery and bluster of the "calculating self" lies the incredible diamond of our soul which the Zanders refer to as the "central self" — a term used to embrace the remarkably generative, prolific, and creature nature of ourselves and the world. While the "calculating self" is frantically looking out for numero uno, the "central self" always appraises the truth of the whole situation without guile or agenda. It's the softer, brighter, lighter self.

"The central self is neither a pattern of action nor a set of strategies. It does not need an identity; it is its own pure expression." The Art of Possibility

The central self is fluid. It's the one that walks through the street and hears the whisper of compassion for each person it meets. There is no need to control. No guile. No competition. It is its own unique voice, an expression that transcends the fear-filled calculating self.

"Under no illusion that it can control the movement of the river, the central self joins rather than resists its bountiful flow." The Art of Possibility (btw - this quote is dedicated to our dear river specialist, Betsy Pearson.)

So... How do we choose to go with the flow and lighten up? Like I mentioned before, it's often easier said than done, but with practice it is clearly possible!! Here are a few suggestions that I find helpful.

Awareness is the first step, so I invite you to begin today by being mindful of the times you try to "control the river" or anxiously feel compelled to look out for numero uno. (Hint: when scarcity outweighs a sense of abundance or possibility... or you feel isolated-from rather than connected-with the world around you).

Imagine yourself as an angel tucked into the cornice of your ceiling or perched upon a tree branch outside. Allow this angel to simply observe your actions WITHOUT JUDGMENT. You might consider keeping a notebook and pretend you're a scientist taking notes on this creature's (your) behavior. Jot down when and where "the calculating self" is most present.

Re-read the story of Rule Number 6 and apply it. Lighten up!

If you're having trouble taking yourself less seriously or your calculating self kicks into high gear, try this:

Imagine you're in a tug-of-war with the calculating self (a huge anxiety monster or control freak). You've got one end of the rope, and the monster has the other end. In between you there's a bottomless pit. You're pulling backward as hard as you can, but the monster keeps pulling you ever closer to the pit. What's the best thing to do in that situation?
You might consider pulling harder, because that's what comes naturally, but the harder you pull, the harder the monster pulls, so you're stuck. What do you need to do?
Yep, Drop the rope!! When you drop the rope, the monster's still there (because hard as we try, our "calculating self" will always be there), but now you're no longer tied up in a struggle with it. Now you can do something more useful like lightening up and allowing the "central self" to arise!***

That's it for this week... Thanks for reading and joining this session of "On the Same Page"! Be the angel that you are. Lighten up! Practice Rule Number 6!!! Leave a comment here, pass the post along to your friends, and join Amy Steindler next week for the 7th practice, "The Way Things Are."


***(adapted from "ACT Made Simple - tug of war with a monster metaphor" by Russ Harris)

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Reader Comments (5)

Lovely -- just right, in fact.

Thank you for the shots from Vienna (including your shadow of... almost 6! Perfect!). And the river quote:)

I love the image of playing tug-of-war with the inner calculating self... of dropping the rope. It can/will fuss over there but that doesn't pull us into the pit of despair. Phew.

This whole section brings me such peace -- I have already read it through several times and shall do so again as needed:

"the "central self" always appraises the truth of the whole situation without guile or agenda. It's the softer, brighter, lighter self.

"The central self is neither a pattern of action nor a set of strategies. It does not need and identity; it is its own pure expression." The Art of Possibility

The central self is fluid. It's the one that walks through the street and hears the whisper of compassion for each person it meets. There is no need to control. No guile. No competition. It is its own unique voice, an expression that transcends the fear-filled calculating self."

Thanks, Kayce.

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBetsy

Agree with Betsy--drop the rope!--and I love the reference to what we've invented for ourselves. A good reminder that when "anxiety is the primary regulator" of our behavior, we've submitted to the one-down, unattended to, calculating self, and left our central self out in the cold. Beautifully written, of course, and a wonderful description of the primary point of the chapter.

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

thanks betsy and amy - it's a delight to hear what whispered (or shouted) to you in this piece! i love imagining little angels everywhere (including the two of you ;) xo

April 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterKayce S Hughlett

Very nice....I like rule #6 very much:)

April 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDianna

Just reread this last night because I needed a reminder about lightening up.
It's May - which is the ramp up to wind down - for school aged kids. I'm tired and the list of May/June stuff is getting longer.
I just dropped the rope (thanks, Betsy) - volunteered for the stuff I actually ENJOY doing at my kids' schools - and then read an US Weekly.
Yoga later to help me push my mental reset button - and then however else the day unfolds.
Thanks for taking me to Vienna, last night, Kayce. It's nice to take a 10 minute vacation during the full-head traffic jam.

May 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKanesha

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