The Good Life Project

In Search of The Bona Vita

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I stumbled on this piece of wisdom from something written by Breneé Brown and found it quite important and helpful as a perspective setter:


These are anxious and fearful times, both of which breed scarcity. We’re afraid to lose what we love the most, and we hate that there are no guarantees. We think not being grateful and not feeling joy will make it hurt less. We think if we can beat vulnerability to the punch by imaging loss, we’ll suffer less. We’re wrong. There is one guarantee: If we’re not practicing gratitude and allowing ourselves to know joy, we are missing out on the two things that will actually sustain us during the inevitable hard times.

What I’m describing above is scarcity of safety and uncertainty. But there are other kinds of scarcity. My friend Lynne Twist has written an incredible book calledThe Soul of Money. In this book, Lynne addresses the myth of scarcity. She writes,

For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enoughoccurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of … We don’t have enough exercise. We don’t have enough work. We don’t have enough profits. We don’t have enough power. We don’t have enough wilderness. We don’t have enough weekends. Of course, we don’t have enough money—ever.

We’re not thin enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not pretty enough or fit enough or educated or successful enough, or rich enough—ever. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to the reverie of lack … What begins as a simple expression of the hurried life, or even the challenged life, grows into the great justification for an unfulfilled life.2

As I read this passage, it makes total sense to me why we’re a nation hungry for more joy: Because we’re starving from a lack of gratitude. Lynne says that addressing scarcity doesn’t mean searching for abundance but rather choosing a mind-set of sufficiency:

We each have the choice in any setting to step back and let go of the mindset of scarcity. Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don’t mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.

Sufficiency resides inside of each of us, and we can call it forward. It is a consciousness, an attention, an intentional choosing of the way we think about our circumstances.3

Scarcity is also great fuel for the gremlins. In my earlier shame research and in this more recent research, I realized how many of us have bought into the idea that something has to be extraordinary if it’s going to bring us joy. In I Thought It Was Just Me, I write, “We seem to measure the value of people’s contributions (and sometimes their entire lives) by their level of public recognition. In other words, worth is measured by fame and fortune. Our culture is quick to dismiss quiet, ordinary, hardworking men and women. In many instances, we equate ordinary with boring or, even more dangerous, ordinary has become synonymous withmeaningless.4

I think I learned the most about the value of ordinary from interviewing men and women who have experienced tremendous loss such as the loss of a child, violence, genocide, and trauma. The memories that they held most sacred were the ordinary, everyday moments. It was clear that their most precious memories were forged from a collection of ordinary moments, and their hope for others is that they would stop long enough to be grateful for those moments and the joy they bring. Author and spiritual leader Marianne Williamson says, “Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”


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Flowing water

Here is another of my favorite quotes that has been in my life for at least 25 years. It comes from the I Ching which is one of the oldest classic Chinese texts. To me it speaks of patience and getting ready for change:

When flowing water…. meets with obstacles on its path,
a blockage in its journey,
it pauses.
It increases in volume and strength,
filling up in front of the obstacle and eventually spilling past it….

Do not turn and run,
for there is nowhere worthwhile for you to go.
Do not attempt to push ahead into the danger…
emulate the example of the water:
Pause and build up your strength
until the obstacle no longer represents a blockage

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PAR…?? What’s that?

One of my patients sent me this clipping a few weeks back and I thought it was worth sharing:

“Today’s thought from Hazelden is: The reasonable man encounters circumstances and adapts himself to them. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt circumstances to himself. All progress depends upon the unreasonable man.–George Bernard Shaw

….Everyone has a dream. Everyone has a purpose or mission, something specific he or she is called to do. You are on this earth for a reason. Although you can temporarily hide from yourself, you can never lose your connection to your purpose. It is always with you, beckoning to be uncovered. You just need to listen and let it speak to you. When you do decide to follow your dream, be prepared for resistance. The old beliefs and messages from the past that say it cannot be done will come rushing to the surface. How will you respond to these voices of fear and doubt? Will you allow them to immobilize you? Or will you tell them who is in charge and move forward in spite of your fears? …”

Great questions. Not so easy answers. This reminds me of an important concept that some call Progressive Abreactive Reaction. PAR describes the phenomena that unfold whenever we take the next step in committing to our vision (someone or something). Let’s take the example of the process of buying a house. We look and look and finally put in a bid. When the bid is accepted we are elated or relieved. Then, out of nowhere, our doubts pop up, “Is this the right house?”, “Can I really afford it?”, “Am I moving too fast?” “What about….”etc. Another classical example is the couple that is living together for years with a great relationship that decides to finally legalize their bond and get married. POOF!!! Up come the doubts, “I hate how he eats!” “Her laugh is too loud.”, they begin fighting more and having less sex. Why is that? When we move to the next level, our “stuff” comes to the surface. Sometimes we can work it through and sometimes it makes us step back. The problem is that we can’t always trust what we “feel” in that moment because it is a fear reaction. Here is where the work begins. How do we tell the difference between a fear reaction as part of PAR and one that is based on a real internal danger alarm? Comments?