ego

Lessons from A Game of Solitaire

The other evening I learned something really fundamental about business - or at least business as I'm doing it, which is definitely not "business as usual." 

shuffle cardsI was going to hunker down for another hour or so of work when I was inspired to play a game of cards. Yeah, I know. Cards? It felt a little weird to say "yes" to that impulse when I had so much to do and was feeling really guilty about not staying focused. But the message was clear - I was supposed to stop what I was doing and play a game of solitaire.

So I got out my deck of cards, sat down, shuffled them and dealt them out. And, as soon as I saw them, I knew the way the cards were laid out that it was not going to be fun to get to a "win." I could see that it was going to take far too much thinking and "figuring out." But I've tended to be one of those people who "sticks it out" at all costs, even when I know I should have let go a long, long time ago…. So I hunkered down for a not-so-fun game of cards, wondering why in the world I wasn't sitting at my computer.

But just as I had that thought, another came in a flash - "Pick them up and re-shuffle." Woah, that was not what I was expecting. What I was expecting was, "Hang in there, figure it out and stay the course." This was a clear message to start over - reset.

To be honest, my ego was kicking and screaming because it wanted to get the "goodies" of having gotten through finishing it the hard way (even though there's no one here to brag to if I'd stuck it out and gotten the "hard win," so it wouldn't even have been very satisfying). The thing is, I had seen, as soon as they were laid out, that I would have ended up gathering all the cards together in a pile without winning anyway. My "mission" of winning would have been unaccomplished because I was being attached to doing it the hard way. Anyone ever done that before?

Lesson #1:  You can always reset - any time… and that is okay.

 

So… I reshuffled the deck, laid out the cards again, and, as soon as I had, I knew I would win. I would accomplish my mission. Here's where lesson #2 began to unfold.

Before I go on, though, let me be completely transparent. I have spent much of my life going from point A (a bunch of cards staring me in the face) to point B (rearranging them into the winning configuration) either by working hard and figuring it out, or just "going for it," willy-nilly, blind to any strategy at all and letting the chips fall where they may. There's rarely been an "in between" with me. Until lately. The more I listen to my deep, inner wisdom (or higher guidance or voice of God - whatever you want to call it), the less I listen to my ego (you know, the voice that says, "I have to prove myself!" or "Who cares? It's just a game [job, relationship- fill in the blank]."). In other words, the more I tune in, the less I tune out. At least that's what I'm finding is far more workable.

So, as I sat there facing this new layout of cards, I realized I could do the same here. I could choose a middle ground - a delicious middle path some call the "sweet spot." So I simply sat for a while, just looking at the cards, letting the pictures and numbers kind of swirl around in my field of vision. In other words, I took a few minutes to just be with what was in front of me.

 Lesson #2: Be with what is.

 

What unfolded after that was a beautiful dance of sorts, in which I just began moving cards around without really thinking about it too much. In other words, I listened to my intuition - my inner compass - about where to move the cards. As I did, I realized something magical was happening. Because I was choosing to be present to the moment and allow opportunities for solutions to unfold instead of imposing my egoic will on the situation, I was being far more "loose" in my tactics than I usually am, the game was much more dynamic, and I ended up winning far sooner than I expected.

 Lesson #3: Listen to your intuition.

 

Now, let me tell you, it was not a linear process. It felt like walking the dog (not just a simple walk around the block but more like down the street, stop at this shrub, cross the street for the squirrel, cross back, walk around your person 3 times and get tangled up in the leash, wag your tail a lot, get untangled, stop to pee, cross the street again, cross back again… you get the picture). The thing is, because I chose to give up my attachment to how I was going to get there, I did accomplish my mission - and far sooner and much more enjoyably than if I'd stuck it out.

 Lesson #4:  Give up attachment and trust the process.

 

As I got closer to winning, I realized that this whole game represented my dance with Get That You Matter as we make our way through the process of becoming a new paradigm business. There are no models for what we're doing - just like there was no model for me re-arranging those cards. Just as realizing that the easier path to accomplishing my mission in the game would be revealed by saying "yes" to resetting, saying "yes" to the preposterous notion of a worker-owned cooperative in which we are all co-CEO's, equally responsible for the success of the company is allowing our team to move more powerfully toward a win for ourselves and our mission.

 

What I learned, and what I'm continuing to discover, is that the more I listen deeply to my inner wisdom and trust the process, the more we are all empowered to create a "win" together. The more I align myself with my life's mission, the more I co-create space for the rest of our team to do the same… and that is a win for everyone.

 

 I look forward to your comments and a conversation about this. What has been your experience with "resetting"? Which camp have you landed in more often- the "stick it out at all costs" camp or the "woohoo! just go for it" camp? What happens for you when you let yourself "be with what is"… are you comfortable with that or not? How much do you listen to and trust your intuition? What's it like when you do? When you last chose to trust the process, was it a "winning" experience for you or not? Why? What are you learning about your own card game?

Questions about Willingness and Surrender... Learning to Fly

Recently I watched The Visitor again and wondered what it is that is so compelling about this movie for me personally. I mean, obviously, it touched my heart in a very profound and powerful way- how could it not? The subject matter is entirely timely, every bit of acting is flawless, and a sweetness flows throughout the film which greatly appeals to my personal sensibilities. But that's not what I'm thinking about. What struck me this morning as I was meditating was that the main characters in this movie surrendered to God's (or Universal- whatever you want to call it) Will for them.

I think what really struck me about that movie was that the main characters, particular the older man and woman, knew that they could choose differently than they did; they were not so much the victims of their circumstances, but the momentum of their situations propelled them in the directions they eventually chose. I witnessed their struggles with desire, with their egos wanting things to be different; but in the end, they made the choices that were the best for themselves and the greater good, even though they had to make deep personal sacrifices. At the same time, the younger couple had to deal more with "the system," were unwitting victims of their circumstances; but they, too, made choices in how they responded to the situation at hand.

This movie has kept coming back to me again and again… and, as I've pondered it more and more, I've realized that every one of the four main characters in that movie, albeit sometimes struggling with it, was willing to surrender to God's Will for them. They had no choice- either because they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time or because they knew that it was in their highest good to choose a particular course of action.

Earlier this year I graduated from a course in which "willingness" was a key concept, so I've been asking myself questions like: How or where am I willing to do what I need to do to move forward in my life? What stands in the way? How or where am I being stubborn? We were asked to notice these things at a profoundly deep level, to actively seek out the places where we bump up against our old stories and beliefs that keep us from living in a place of total willingness.

As I look more and more, I begin to see it everywhere in my life… and I have some further questions: What does it mean to be willing? What is the difference between stubbornness and having good boundaries? What is God's Will for me? How do I know I'm not just fooling myself and creating a really good rationalization that's coming from my ego to make myself believe it's "God's Will"? What's the difference between willingness and surrender?

These questions baffle me from time to time, and sometimes I feel extremely clear on the answers. Sometimes I feel like they're just out of reach, along with my willingness, and sometimes I feel like I have them in my back pocket and the world is laid out before me like a beautiful red carpet. All I need is the dress!

The thing is, we often have to make hard choices, to struggle internally with what we want versus what is in our highest and best interest, or more importantly, what will serve the greater good.

I guess that is what I struggle with most of the time- is what is in my best and highest interest also serving the greater good? OR do I have to sacrifice what's in my best and highest for the greater good? But if I'm doing that, am I not just really being a martyr, acting from my need for attention and approval? Is it possible for my own good and the greater good to coincide? Is it possible for the greater good to actually be my greatest good, even when it doesn't seem or feel like it? So many questions!

So, here I sit, thinking about this movie and the willingness these characters exhibited, while considering what is going to be in my very best and highest. In other words, what will pay the bills and what will move me forward in my vision for contributing to the planet as a whole? Can that be one and the same thing? It is not easy to balance all of this stuff… not easy at all!

Unless… (What a wonderful word), unless (the key word in Dr. Suess' The Lorax) we make a choice, a conscious choice for an easy, loving, non-dualistic outcome. Perhaps, then, it would not be difficult at all to "balance" all of this heady stuff. Unless… I'm just thinking way too much here and all I need to do is drop into my heart, listen to the small, still voice within and trust the answers I receive…. (It's kind of like "stop, drop and roll," but a little bit different- one is for a fire in a building, the other is for a fire in the spirit.) Maybe all I have to do, like the people in this movie, in order to really surrender, is let go of all the questions, take a deep breath, and go inside…

So I go inside and say, "Thank you for sharing," to the crowd of voices, take some nice deep breaths and listen. And do you know what I keep hearing, over and over? "Let it all go… all of it, every expectation, every thought of good or bad, right or wrong, what you need to or should do. Be willing to let it all go." It's like this great big neon sign on the inside of my forehead- it's absolutely un-ignorable, undeniable and ever-present. So, why do I persist in staying stuck in the mire of my ego, worry and struggle? Basically- fear. No, wait, abject terror. That's it, really. Terror.

The thing is, I've done this before. I've taken many leaps, and continue to take leaps, and every time I do, I'm always fine. So, what's up with this "stinkin' thinkin'" as they say? What about all of these questions? As I look back over them, I realize that there is a thread through all of them, through all the doubt, and that thread is this fear.

My ego wants to cling so desperately to what it knows. And rightfully so - its job is to help me survive; any good citizen would talk someone back from the edge of a cliff, right? It makes perfect sense my ego would be doing everything it can to keep me safe; it makes perfect sense to my ego. But, in the questioning and the doubting and the living out of my fear, what is actually dying is my spirit. I believe that, on some level, my ego, always the eager achiever, wants to win… at any cost, even the cost of that which keeps it alive.

In a way, our egos are like a cancer or a virus. Our egos believe that they are growing and getting stronger by feeding off of the host, the spirit; but, in fact, the stronger it gets, the weaker the host and, eventually, the ego can end up killing off the very thing which keeps it alive. That's when we die with regrets, with unfinished business, without harmony and peace. That's when we haven't said, in the words of John Mayer, "what you need to say." I know that it seems like we are these bodies walking around housing our spirits, but what if, instead, we looked at it like our spirits are actually the houses for our bodies and the body is simply the matter-result of the desire to learn and grow in human form? If that's true, then all of my worrying and stress are simply illusions and I could just be... right here, right now.

Ah, but there's the rub! We do live in the world, we are embodied of flesh and bone, and we have responsibilities. Is this just a privileged person's conversation? I mean, how do folks who live with the daily threat of deportation like the characters in The Visitor or who are dealing the lack of clean water in Sumatra handle these issues? Do they have the luxury of pondering these questions or are they so busy surviving that they are just putting one foot in front of the other trying to get by? And, maybe, just maybe that's all I need to do- all any of us needs to do- put one foot in front of the other and see what happens. What if I stopped thinking about it all so damned much and simply did what needs to be done? How would that be different? What kind of results would I get?

So, after all that, this circular little conversation comes back around to willingness... even more, to surrender. And, in the end, I think that what it's about is being willing to surrender. If we can do that, let go of standing at the edge of the cliff with our toes curled over the corner, arms stiff at our sides, maybe we won't fall. But maybe, if we take a deep breath, spread our toes, lift our arms from the center of our being, put one foot in front of the other and jump… we'll fly.