So this ‘mental toughness’ starts to come into focus as a possibility… I catch remembrances of the notion. It’s a reassuring notion, seemingly saying, ‘Remember? You’ve got the capacity to rule your world.‘ It feels promising, tantalising, inviting. As I write, I’m laid low with a cold, from having over-cooked myself with a huge amount of work and travel in the last few weeks. So, it’s not that I haven’t got staying power or resilience… In many ways, I’ve got the mental stamina of an ox when it comes to sticking to my commitments to others. No, the type of mental toughness I’m moving towards is the type which involves sticking to commitments to my own self. This is the antidote to the Obliger type (see Gretchin Rubin’s 4 Tendencies). This is about holding my own self to account with regards to my rules for me and my life, for my own wellbeing, safety, health and fulfilment. This is about holding my sceptre in hand, donning my own crown, and attaining sovereignty over my world.
‘I rule my world.’ What does that statement mean to you?
- I am in charge of what I say yes and no
- I don’t acquiesce to requests I don’t want to fulfil
- I am able to follow my intuition without hesitation
- I say no without fear or apology
- I thus create enough margins of energy that I can do what I feel is ‘primary’ for me to do
‘Primary’. That’s a useful term. What is ‘secondary’?
Others’ whims and wills and desires which don’t in truth mesh with mine.
And what is your barrier to leading a ‘primary’-driven life?
I’ve noticed I have a fear that people will find my ‘flakey’ if I say no to them, or worse say yes and then change my mind.
What does ‘flakey’ mean to you?
Unreliable, untrustworthy, difficult, unwilling…
Are you those things?
Only when I’ve said yes to things I never wanted to say yes to in the first place… Only when I haven’t followed my intuition earlier on…
Let’s play with this idea of sovereignty. What is a sovereign being?
‘A supreme ruler, especially a monarch.’
If you were monarch of the kingdom of your life, what would your rules be?
My rules for my queendom would be…
- Love is all
- Take care of one another
- Speak your truth, kindly
Stop there… What would it look like to apply those rules to your days..?
It would be amazing! So simplifying!
And what would it look like for people in your days?
Their interactions with me (and each other) would be… fair… true… nourishing… uncomplicated… There would be a balance of loving care and attention to others and to self. We wouldn’t need to rescue, fix or solve, as much as communicate our love and our truth in the moment. Much simpler.
And how would this fit with the idea of attaining ‘peak experiences’?
We would remain closer to the higher frequencies of thought. There would be less rollercoastering.
Help me understand that which I need to absorb.
The Queen of England spent her childhood preparing to be sovereign. She had 25 years of life to absorb the inner state of sovereignty. You too need to take time to absorb the inner state of sovereignty.
Tomorrow (assuming I’m well enough), I will meet the man who has spent 70 years preparing to be monarch! What a challenge to feel oneself ready for sovereignty and not attain the throne.
Sovereignty is an entirely inside job. We are each invited to attain the throne of our own queendom at any moment.
How do I attain my throne?
By sitting on it, in your own mind and heart, consistently.
If you like.
Mindfulness practice is the practice of sitting on our own throne, isn’t it?
If you like.
I want to be clear that this sovereignty business is not about egoic vaunting…
We know that. We know that you are seeking self-mastery, and that is an admirable purpose. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. This is the first route to harmony and peace. Understand that self-mastery is entirely available to you at any time, but that it requires a softness of thought…
My aspie thinking can be a little full-on, and even black and white.
As we say, a softness of thought is the way of the gentle sovereign being.
I’m reminded of the way of the bodhisattva, as described by (the brilliant and complicated) Chogyam Trungpa whose writing I so love. And of course, beloved Pema Chodron, his student and an important teacher of mine over my hardest years.
‘A softness of thought.’ I can cultivate that, as a way to rule my world… It’s funny, I seem to be trying to find the balance between mental toughness and mental softness.
This is it. This intertwining of toughness and softness of thought is the kernel of the opportunity before you.
Beautiful. So, today?
Say: “I am cultivating softness of thought”
Lovely. I can aim to catch myself in hard or judgmental thinking, which is to say, I can practise mindfulness. I imagine this non-judgmental softness of thinking is the foundation for the mental toughness. I think of the Zen nun who is able to withstand all kinds of physical privations because of the exquisite quality of non-judging awareness she has cultivated.
Oh, angels of my heart and mind, bring softness to my thinking and my being. May I develop this toughness via the path of softness. May gentleness make a warrior of me.
I am cultivating softness of thought.