This Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks for the ability to give to others, which sounds like a rather sappy Hallmark card kind of sentiment, so bear with me here.
Let me tell you a story about Andy. Andy was one of the people in one of my year-long Intention Masterclasses, where I place people in Power of Eight groups so that they can intend as a group for each other for an entire year. While others in the groups were experiencing amazing transformations, Andy’s life was still stuck.
Over the last six months, she’d tried everything to remove old patterns that had interfered with her ability to make a good living. When she joined the group, she shared with them a very specific intention she wished to put out about finding a dream job that would also provide ample income: “I am easily and joyfully allowing $20,000 or more a month net to flow to me in many joyful ways,” she set as her intention.
When that didn’t work: “I am being highly compensated for doing the work I love which feels like play to me.”
When no jobs were emerging, she set an intention to try to “get clear on my new business, speaking, teaching, and healing” after closing her retail gift store of eighteen years in 2013.
She’d even attempted, as I suggested, to go back to her “seed moment” when she first experienced limiting thoughts about herself, and imagine changing that situation in some way. Andy remembered one very specific moment as a child when she had a very visceral feeling about just not having enough money.
Nothing she tried, no intention no matter how worded, was bringing about any big change in her fortunes.
So finally, I just told her – and other members of groups who were stuck – to get off of themselves.
Get off of yourself.
Andy started shifting her intention to others outside her group, particularly a boy of 15 who’d tried to commit suicide after breaking up with his first serious girlfriend.
Suddenly she got the breakthrough she needed. “Two days after that, I got an unexpected offer to do product development and strategy for an online organization involved in human development, a job that would joyfully bring me money doing work I love, which feels like play to me!” said Andy.
When she realized this might not be an ideal fit, she had the courage to draw “boundaries” with the CEO, turn it down, and accept a another job that quickly showed up, coaching for a well-known and highly respected coach “with great integrity and alignment with my values.”
“At times, focusing on one’s own intention may be the metaphysical equivalent of a watched pot not boiling,” Andy later wrote me. “Focusing on the good of others and being of service takes the focus off ourselves in a way that allows movement without noticing the passage of time. Perhaps altruism is the secret way of both consciously and non-consciously NOT observing so the desired outcome can occur.”
It is clear that altruism brings out all the loftier emotions in us; it might be the emotion that most defines our humanity—our sense of a life well lived—and gives our life a sense of meaning. It may even be the key to whether we live or die.
But the powerfully transformational mechanisms at work in my healing Power of Eight intention groups appear to be the unique power of group ‘prayer’ coupled with a deliberate focus away from the self.
The power of not-me
It had been there all along, in the early Christian teachings, all those homilies so familiar that they also sound like words on a Hallmark card: Do unto others. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Focusing on someone else heals the healer.
All this research has led me toward a heretical thought.
I’ve been thinking about how dangerous some tenets of the “self-help” movement might ultimately be. All
that focus on the self could ultimately be terrible for your life, and highly unnecessary. The quickest route to rewriting your own life’s script was simply reaching out to someone else.
And if that is true, the entire New Age premise of intention—using the universe as essentially a restaurant with you the customer ordering whatever dinner you happen to fancy—was wrong.
Getting what you wanted in your own life started with the readiness to give.
As my husband once wrote, Jean-Paul Sartre was mistaken. Hell is not other people. Hell is thinking there are other people.
Bryan was talking about the fact we are simply a single consciousness and the falsity of thinking that we are separate.
I would just add a little coda. In seeing yourself in the other, in joining together as one, other people, it turns out—particularly a small group of them praying with you—are your salvation.
Happy Thanksgiving, and may you enjoy the abundant mirror effects of giving.