• joe@jhanderson.biz   
    (206) 351-5607   

  • The last few weeks have been mostly consumed with getting my forthcoming book finished. It has been a rich and exhilarating time–an experience I won’t soon forget. Along the way there have been heavenly experiences (“This book is actually going to happen! It’s actually pretty good! This is a really important step on my life journey!”). There have also been some hellish experiences (“Why did I ever think I wanted to write a book? Who am I to be saying these things? Every sentence sounds trite and awkward!”).

    Whatever your philosophical point of view, there’s no doubt that we all have experiences of hell and experiences of heaven. In the first case we feel isolated and hopeless. In the second case we feel connected and full of energy.

    What has been striking to me recently is that the heavenly experiences and the hellish ones seem to alternate with great rapidity. “Roller coaster” is not a bad metaphor–but that doesn’t quite do it justice. With a roller-coaster, you have some sense that the highs and the lows are coming (you can see them around the bend). What I’m finding in this creative process is that you never really know what emotional state lies ahead. And although it seems to me that this instability is intensified and more vivid on this project, working mostly on my own, I recognize the same basic dynamic in my experience working with teams.

    It’s conventional to think of heaven as somewhere way up in the sky, and hell as somewhere way down below the earth. But my recent observation is that heaven and hell are in fact very close neighbors. What that means is that when you’re in a heavenly state it won’t take much–a twist of fear, an ounce of disappointment, a pinch of self-doubt–to plunge you into hell. But thankfully, the reverse is also true: even when your current experience is pretty hellish, by the subtlest shift of consciousness you can find yourself in heaven.

    I have made up a series of little mantras to help me get through ups and downs (and especially the downs) of the writing process. One the most important has been, “Faith, Joe, faith.” I find that this little phrase often shows me that, even when I’m in hell, there’s a hidden doorway right nearby that can lead me back to heaven. I think the reason this mantra works so well is that it brings me back to the present moment and out of my obsessive ruminating thoughts.

    If heaven is staying in the present moment, it’s not surprising that we can easily leave it, and just as easily return. It only takes a brief act of letting go of the past and the future, letting go of good and bad, and coming back to what’s happening right here and right now.

    Image: Alex Gorzen https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/