Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Art of Letting Go

So I think we're going to declare this Radical Thinking Week here at Shrinking Violets and I'm going to follow Mary's lead and talk about marketing and promotion from a very unconventional standpoint. Just as an idea to try on and see how it fits.

The concept of the law of attraction and abundance is really popular right now; envisioning success and riches (both material and spiritual) as well as actively trying to invite those into one’s life.

I, however, find that a more Zen approach works better for me, and, most importantly, allows those very things I’d be trying to attract, into my life. So in case there are others out there who find that the law of attraction isn't a comfortable fit, I wanted to present this alternative.

Now, I am not a Zen master by any means, but my favorite Zen analogy is one that was told to me by Barbara Samuel. It’s about the student who was assigned to wash a bowl. He wasn’t to worry about which bowl came next, or what happened to the bowl once he’d washed it, his sole task was to wash that bowl to the very best of his ability. The Zen message that I extract from that is to focus on living in the moment and the process. By adding our desires into the mix, we simply weigh down the process and risk sullying it.

I think the act of letting go of our desires is part of what allows amazing things to happen. Part of it might be that since we’re not expecting anything, whatever does come our way is a truly amazing surprise—one we greet with full gratitude and no sense of disappointment because we weren’t expecting anything else. But I think it can be more than that. Oftentimes, wanting something creates an energy field around us that sort of gets between us and our heart's desire. That very act of wanting puts one more barrier between us and what we want. Think of that girl in high school that so desperately wanted a boyfriend; there was nothing wrong with her, she was cute, nice, and had a great sense of humor—but on some level that desperation seeped through and repelled the very thing she desired.

That’s why, a few weeks ago when Mary invited us to state our marketing wishes for 2009, I had to pass. I’ve worked really hard to not think in those terms—to not wish for those kinds of things, because wishing and envisioning them doesn't help me, it distracts me. (But that's me--I know it works spectacularly for some people.) And while I felt a tinge of guilt for not participating, something very interesting happened the moment I reaffirmed my decision NOT to engage in that sort of thinking: three amazing PR plums fell in my lap—and all in one night, no less. I received news that my most recent book had been featured on Boston Tonight, it had been selected for the Today’s show holiday book segment, and had been short listed for a state award. Clearly NOT wishing worked really well for me.

I think this Zen approach is especially something to keep in mind when making big decisions about one’s career or life. There is something very spiritual about getting to a place where whatever is, is enough; if I only am able to enjoy writing, get this much joy out of the process, that is enough. If I am only able to gain enough recognition/success in my books that it allows me to get the next contract, that is enough. There is something very magical in taking that leap of faith and doing something for its own sake.

My guess is that each of us have different lessons we’re learning in this life and I suspect that which works best for you, Zen or abundance, has a lot to do with that. I do think the Zen approach is worth trying, though. It can be very freeing.

This doesn't mean that we should be reckless or incautious or give up on all marketing and promotional activities. But it does mean that we should focus on what we can control, the blog, the myspace page, the school visit, and do that with all our heart and soul and energy, and then let go. Don't fret, don't gnash your teeth, don't beat yourself up for not doing more than you are capable of doing--do what you can to the best of your ability and then let it go.

So as you plan your new year, consider the possibility of letting go of some of these desires, plans, and resolutions—especially the ones you can’t control. Focus instead on mastering the craft even more, or giving yourself the gift of writing a book “just for yourself,” without weighing it down with your expectations. By letting go of these weighty preconceived ideas of success—you might find yourself surprised by a different kind of success—one you hadn’t anticipated, but one that is more satisfying than you ever dreamed of.


Dorothy said...

Robin, after reading this, I'd like to just give you a big hug. Thank you for re-affirming me.

Anonymous said...

Splendid advice! It would work fine if I use it for small things about which I worry unnecessarily. For bigger things, yes, I'm ambitious.

Yat-Yee said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I would like for the law of attraction to work for me, but at some level, I am not too sure about that whole idea. Being content with what we have, being mindful of what we do: this works much better for me.

jama said...

Beautiful post. Just wanted I needed to hear. Thank you so much!!

Anonymous said...

This is a very wise post. I also think that being Zen, I'm in a much better position to hear that small still voice when it whispers, "Do this." The small still voice is wiser than I am, so I try to pay heed to it, which means hearing it in the first place.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

What an uplifting post! Thanks.

Jane Kennedy Sutton

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, Robin. I love the "Zen approach". Getting too focused on achieving and on things that are really beyond my control robs me of joy. Fortunately I'm a pretty laid-back do-my-best-and-have-fun-doing-it kind of person.

caryl said...

A friend of mine died yesterday and I found myself asking what people would say about me if it were me. "She didn't live up to her potential," is what I imagine. I've been more focused on my goals, but your post adds another layer of inspiration.