Elizabeth Lesser is a bestselling author and the cofounder of Omega Institute, the renowned conference and retreat center located in Rhinebeck, New York. Elizabeth’s first book, The Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life A Spiritual Adventure, chronicles her years at Omega and distills lessons learned into a potent guide for growth and healing. Her New York Times bestselling book, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow has sold more than 300,000 copies and has been translated into 20 languages. Her latest book, Marrow: Love, Loss and What Matters Most is a memoir about Elizabeth and her younger sister, Maggie, and the process they went through when Elizabeth was the donor for Maggie’s bone marrow transplant.
We are living in a time of accelerating change and uncertainty, which can feel chaotic and threatening. Animals, including us humans, have an instinctive tendency to automatically react to sudden changes as threats. Throughout most of humanity’s existence, life-threatening dangers were prominent and a hair-trigger reactivity served to protect us in a world that included saber-toothed predators. Humans haven’t changed much biologically in the last hundred thousand years. Our nervous systems are wired to fight, flee, or freeze at a moment’s notice.
When triggered by fear or anxiety, we react as though we are face-to-face with real danger even if there is none. This may be our automatic way of operating, but it is not the only way. We can learn to intervene with a beam of conscious awareness and interrupt our automatic reactions. We can train our tricky brains to go beyond fight-or-flight. There is another way, however.
The situations we face nowadays rarely, if ever, involve life-or-death, split-second decisions. In the absence of real life-threatening danger, we are free to become more creative and develop potentials that go beyond merely ensuring survival. Rather than feeling threatened, we can come to regard change as a friendly force. “Change is my friend,” is a visionary belief that is promoted in the Belief Engineering chapter of my book, Great Decisions, Perfect Timing.
People who see change as a positive force are more optimistic and can enjoy the up-and-down flux of life. In order to embrace change, we need to develop a more fluid relationship to time. People who fear change essentially want time to stand still. Their subconscious wish is for the illusory safety of a fixed and stable universe. The mechanical division of time into hours, minutes, and seconds – brought about by the recent invention of clocks – clogs the spontaneous flow of life energy. In order to fully relax, visionaries find ways to free their minds from the domination of linear time. They understand the value of “time outs” to intentionally loosen that domination by society’s over-controlling mechanical approach. This is good, but in actuality, there is nothing to escape, because if we take our eyes off the clock, our experience of time has a natural plasticity to it.
When we enjoy life, time seems to go too fast. When we are in resistance to circumstances, it seems to crawl. As so many great teachers have shown, the secret of joyful living is to maintain awareness of what is happening in the one time that is real – the present moment – and forget about future and past. To improve our strategic thinking and decision-making, we need to let go of trying to control things long enough to give our intuition a chance to be actively receptive.
Visionary decision-makers stay aware of how life is always in flux. The ultimate solution to “time management” is to develop a lifestyle where we can better transcend the measuring and parceling of time, and strengthen our intuitive sense of timing. Good timing, a fundamental component of every strategic decision, is the secret of surfing unpredictable waves of change. When we come to regard change as a friendly force, the success brought about by our improving sense of timing will provide encouragement to cultivate intuitive intelligence all the more … and life becomes an adventure rather than a hunkering down.
Jaimal Yogis is author of the book, All Our Waves Are Water: Stumbling Toward Enlightenment and the Perfect Ride. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, Jaimal’s magazine reporting has won awards like the 2005 Leslie Rachel Sanders Award for Social Justice Reporting, a 2007 Maggie Award for “Best Magazine Feature,” and two Scripps Howard reporting scholarships. In 2010, The Common Wealth Club voted him “The New Face of San Francisco Media” for his popular writing in San Francisco Magazine. His stories have also been published in ESPN Magazine, AFAR, Runner’s World, The Surfers Journal, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and many others. He has been a guest-lecturer at UC Berkeley, Columbia University, and San Francisco State. A few years ago, Jaimal was on Pathways for an interview about his first book, Saltwater Buddha — a coming of age memoir about running away from home to surf then nearly becoming a Zen monk.
Bob Kull discusses his adventures and his book, Solitude: Seeking Wisdom in Extremes-A Year Alone in the Patagonia Wilderness. Years after a motorcycle accident left him with one leg, Bob traveled to a remote island in the Patagonia wilderness with supplies to live completely alone for a year. He sought to explore the effects of deep solitude on the body and mind and to find answers to the spiritual questions that had plagued him his entire life. Bob has spent years wandering North and South America, working as a scuba instructor, wilderness guide, construction worker, dishwasher, truck driver, bartender, painter, firefighter, and professor. He began undergraduate studies at age forty and now holds a Ph.D. from University of British Columbia. He lives in Vancouver.