When my daughter was about two, and it was time to leave the park, she had an enormous tantrum. She was wailing and crying and stamping her feet and flinging her arms around. Then all of a sudden, in the midst of all that outrage, she caught sight of her hand and in her hand was a piece of toast. She abruptly stopped crying. Standing in composed silence, next to the swing, she calmly ate the toast. And when she had completely finished, she started, with the same intensity as before, tantrumming again.
Recently seven or eight clients have talked about having a strong emotion and wanting to get rid of it. For some it has been fear or anxiety for another it was anger, for another frustration. With all of them, I asked, in different words but essentially the same question: ‘What if it didn’t matter?’
One client looked at me initially with a mixture of incredulity and pity as if to say, ‘Really…? That’s it? That’s all you’ve got…?.
Another looked me right in the eyes and didn’t say anything. She kept looking right at me. Slowly she started to smile. She nodded. Then her gaze moved into the distance and I could see she was imagining moments of discomfort and what it would mean to be comfortable with that discomfort, how those moments would transform. The reach of her gaze became infinite. She laughed. ‘Wow’ she said. ‘Wow.’
This is the very heart of the coaching I do. And at face value, it can be taken as the most ridiculous, insulting fobbing-off. Something like:
Client: ‘I’m here to sort out my discomfort.’
Coach: ‘OK. Your discomfort doesn’t matter.
That will be £100 please.’
This is what the first client saw. In his mind was, ‘I have this terrible fear. This coach is telling me to not care that I have it. I really do care though. I hate having the fear. I can’t pretend I don’t so this is going nowhere.’
The second client saw the truth. And that glimpse of the truth will change her world forever.
I care deeply about my clients finding the truth of our experience of life. What I want for them more than anything is that they see through the illusion that is keeping them suffering. And at the same time I know that it doesn’t matter if they are suffering.
And in this paradox of caring/not caring lies the truth of our existence.
We are here to suffer because without the suffering we could not experience joy. We could also not experience suffering.
We are here to worry and be concerned. Without the worry and concern we would not know calm. We would also not know worry and concern.
We are here to experience anger. Without the anger we would not experience peace. We would also not know anger.
We are here to experience the whole beautiful kaleidoscope of human emotion. That is one of the two magnificent gifts we received when we were born.
And life transforms when we realise that this roller coaster is simply a wonderful gift of human experience. It is the most glorious technicolor, 4D film. It is the novel to end all novels.
And it is not the truth of who we are or how the world is. It is not the guide to our life.
The second gift allows us to realise this. The second gift is that we are capable of seeing both sides of the coin at the same time. And we are capable of this because we are both sides of the coin. We are reality and illusion. We are both the generator and the experiencer of what we generate.
We can be at ease with being uneasy, calm about being in a panic, settled about being unsettled, relaxed about being terrified. And we can hold this paradox because we are a living, breathing, conscious paradox.
We are love even while we are hating.
We are truth even while we believe an illusion.
We are unlimited even when all we see are limits.
We are not suffering even while we are suffering.
This is the ultimate freedom, the ultimate truth. (And now my first client is seeing it too..)
The realisation of the truth of this doesn’t really change anything and at the same time it changes everything.
When we don’t see it we are just living, experiencing, being.
When we do see it we are still just living, experiencing, being.
We just get to do it with more lightness, more grace, more fun.
And with lightness, grace and fun, we live from the purpose of our soul. We seek out the truth. We love deeply. We discover how we can serve the world. We move through our lives with curiosity and fascination.
And along the way we will have a tantrum. We will eat some toast. We will have a tantrum again.