Last month my heart got broken into little itty bitty tiny bits. Like, the kind or heartbreak where the glass has been so shattered on impact that all you see the next day when you walk by are teensy glitters peering up at you from the asphalt.
I cried like all hope was lost, because to me it was. Or it felt like it was, anyway. After walking a path that has consumed a full third of my life to date, I had arrived, only discover I had turned the wrong way at the fork all those many years ago.
That evening, returning home, I remembered the library book I had picked up just before leaving town one week prior. The book was called “Steering by Starlight.”
I was so exhausted I didn’t think I would be able to comprehend a single word, but I was also afraid my grief would wake me up in the middle of the night and I wouldn’t be able to soothe myself and go back to sleep, which I desperately needed. I needed something – anything – that could help me make it through the long night ahead.
So I cracked the cover, skipped the introduction altogether and dove into Chapter one, which was called (perfectly for my situation), “The End.”
I found my lifeline. And I haven’t let go since.
The author, Martha Beck, was a new name to me, but as it turned out she is connected to so many other mentors well known and beloved to me, including Elizabeth Gilbert and Byron Katie, which made it easy to open my heart and let her words and her wisdom in.
The chapter “The End” started by describing an employer who was trying to decide which of two employees to hire.
Option A is qualified. And desperate. Begging and pleading, the candidate implores the recruiter “please, give me the job – I beg you – I need this job so much – you have to help me!”
Option B is also qualified. And calm. Smiling and shaking hands warmly, the candidate asks the recruiter, “how can I help you?”
Which employee would you rather hire?
This is the entire premise of beginning at the end rather than at the beginning. As Martha Beck goes on to explain, when we begin at the end, by imagining we already have what we most desire, there is no desperation to muddy up the waters or obscure the path. What we want can approach us without worrying about drowning in our desperation or being swallowed up by our despair.
But “Steering by Starlight” cautions that what we want lies a step beyond what we think we want. In other words, once we begin at the End, at the deepest level we are fulfilling our deepest desires already. It no longer matter quite so much whether we actually get “that specific thing I want” because what we want even more is that feeling we get when we get what we want!
If that makes any sense at all (I’m still quite new to this – even feeling it let alone trying to explain it to others – so I definitely recommend that you read the book!).
But here is an example from my own daily practice – because Ms. Beck recommends a daily 10-minute practice that I have been doing since I read “The End” that first night.
Imagine something you want more than anything else in the world. It can be a partner, financial freedom, health you can trust, a perfect body, your dream job, something completely different – you get the idea.
Next, imagine you have it – whatever it is. You HAVE IT! Feel how it feels at every level of you – in your mind, your heart, your body, your spirit.
Now, put a name to how you are feeling. For example, maybe you are feeling relieved. Or safe. Or grateful. Or loved. Or successful. Or confident. Or whatever you are feeling. Be very specific in naming your feelings, chasing them down with a magnifying glass if you have to to get a name out of them. (This can get quite interesting, by the way – I’ve noticed sometimes I can’t even put a face to a name in some of my emotions, and I have to really study them to figure out …. “Oh, that’s GRATITUDE!”)
From here, drop the thing that got you to the feeling – the thing you wanted that you now (in your imagination at least) already have. Just drop that part and focus in on the feeling. Marinate yourself in the feeling. Feel it so completely. Treasure the relief, the joy, the exhilaration, whatever you are feeling.
Stay in that feeling-state for as long as you can (or at least for 10 minutes a day).
Here is some motivation to actually try this. Martha Beck says that she can tell which of her coaching clients actually do their homework because when they arrive for their next session, they look younger! On occasion, she relates, a client will look so much younger the people around them don’t recognize them!
But even more motivation is that you will feel so much better so fast – I can personally promise you this. I went from pulverizing heartbreak to bliss in the snap of a finger – a state I thought would take me months or perhaps years or maybe never.
Now, every time that aching, bottomless, gut-twisting, wrenching, soul-killing sense of loss rises up in me, I automatically say to myself, “Imagine you have it.” That’s what I say to myself – really. “Imagine you have it.”
My mind (which loves to think and thus is always game for a new challenge) instantly switches over into imagining with all its might that I have it – that thing I lost that I so badly want – and before I know it I am …. HAPPY.
It is the closest thing to a miracle I’ve ever experienced in my 47 years to date. Truly.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you have something in your life – in your present, your past, or up ahead in your future – that seems impossible, unresolvable, unquenchable? How have you been trying to work with it? Have you ever tried starting at the end?