Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Martha Beck Interview: Finding Your Way in a Wild New World

We’ve proliferated and thrived because we never stop playing, and the way to cope with the increasing complexity of the wild new world is to play more.

 Like many of you, I know Martha Beck from her O Magazine column (it's the first thing I read), and her many self-help books (e.g. Finding Your Own North Star, The Joy Diet). She always delivers good advice with a healthy dose of humor.

When I signed up for her mailing list in the fall of 2010, I received a PDF of the first chapter of her book-in-progress with the working title, The Team: How to Live an Abundant Life by Healing Yourself and the World. In the 24-page PDF, Martha describes "The Team" as people who are, "seekers with Big Dreams and a huge sense of mission about healing the earth and its people."

As I read, I found myself nodding yes, yes, yes.  I'm on the Team.  I bet you are too.

As soon as I saw that the book was coming out (it's now called Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want) I requested a review copy and an e-interview. I was *beyond* thrilled to receive both!

So, without further ado, enjoy this 8-question e-interview with Martha Beck about Finding Your Way in a Wild New World!

1. What metaphor would you use to describe the "Wild New World" we're living in now?

My favorite metaphor for this time in human history is a stormy sea, or possibly a very fat white-water rapid. Everything is changing very rapidly: industries are disappearing, methods of production and transferring wealth are being upended. And the change is accelerating so quickly that futurists now say they can’t imagine what will happen by 2050. Ray Kurzweil calls that year “the singularity,” because, like the physics of singularity in a black hole, change will become so rapid that it can’t be meaningfully measured. Whoo-ee!

2. You wrote about the importance of living within an infinity loop of play and rest. Why is that important?

We can’t stop the waves of change, so we’d better all learn to surf them. And surfing is fun—not easy fun that gets boring quickly, like tic-tac-to, but the kind of “deep play” that requires total attention in the present moment, and makes every moment feel incredibly full and rich. That’s the ONLY way to be successful in the world that is emerging now. And people who play in this way require plenty of rest. Without the rest period, neither the physical nor the mental energy to stay responsive and flexible can continue to develop. We should rest and play as if our happiness depended on it, because it does.

3. What tips do you have for people who have trouble resting and/or playing?

Stop thinking in words. That’s the first step to entering the zone of creative and rewarding “magic” in all traditional wisdom cultures. Without that nagging voice telling us we have to work and work and work (hello, Calvinist ethic), we’d play and rest as naturally as animals do. I recently tried to take a nap, and was absolutely tormented by the thought that I should get up and work, though I was extremely tired. I was just giving up on the nap idea when a very successful friend called and told me, “I just took a nap. To keep producing well, I have to listen to my body.” It’s truly bizarre how quickly the holomovement (that’s what some physicists call everything that exists) sends its messages to us. We should listen. But first, get some sleep!

4. How does having fun and doing good fit into our Wild New World?

It’s a time of increasingly drastic opposites, so if we’re not having fun and doing good, we’re absolutely wretched and creating misery. It is our duty to find a way of living joyfully. Somebody’s gotta do it.

5. You also wrote about how one way we can each find our purpose in this Wild New World is to look at how our greatest suffering connects with our greatest joy. What is your favorite example of someone who is healing themselves, and others, by connecting their greatest suffering with their greatest joy?

I’d say my entire squadron of coaches—so many magical and devoted people! But if you want me to select one individual, I’d probably do the trendy thing and pick Oprah. It just blows my mind that someone born into such an unfairly disadvantageous life set about creating such wild abundance for herself and others. All of us, at some level, can say that our life is our message. Her message is one of infinite possibility. Love it!

6. The foundation for your book seems to be dropping into "Wordlessness." Meditation and things like that are easy to do when our lives are going well, but can be easily pushed aside when we are stressed, or busy. What is the easiest way to drop into Worlessness in a hectic, public situation (e.g. waiting in line at the DMV)?

Actually, Wordlessness is no more important than the other three “technologies of magic,” Oneness, Imagination, and Forming. But Wordlessness is ALWAYS the first step to using the other three well, and it’s the one our culture has almost entirely lost. Just the idea that we have to meditate to drop into Wordlessness shows our cultural bias. Dropping into the nonverbal part of the brain happens whenever we’re very focused on a physical skill, from playing the piano to skiing, when we get lost in enjoying music, and often when we laugh. In fact, humor is one linguistic function that calls on the right hemisphere, so along with poetry and paradox, it’s a way to achieve Wordlessness by using words. The key is to get out of the narrow, merely verbal part of the brain and into the much bigger, broader, more sophisticated hardware that is the nonverbal brain.

7. Is there anything else you'd like to share with Have Fun, Do Good readers about Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, or about anything else?

Just that since I wrote the book, things keep getting wilder and more magical. In some strange way, I only expected to experience miracles while I was actually writing—when I finished this odd book, I thought, I’d go back to “normal” life. Turns out there really is a new normal! I keep meeting more and more people who feel themselves to be part of a transformation; wild animals keep treating me like a friend; information and circumstances keep aligning to help all of us create positive change. Buckminster Fuller wrote that “there are two kinds of resignation; one rooted in despair, the other in unconquerable hope.” The first half of my life, I felt the first way. Now I feel the second. Against all odds, there is abundant hope that the damage to nature—and humans—can heal.

8. How can folks connect with you and your work (online and offline)?

My website is staffed by incredible people who try to respond to email and make sure I get messages that need my personal response. Book groups and reading circles are forming to actually work through the processes I describe in the book. And I’m making a video workshop that will have downloadable video, so people can actually see and hear many of the things I describe in Finding Your Way. We’ll keep the public posted, via, each time we think of a new way to connect. Let’s use those magical technologies AND the technologies of magic to keep creating a more cohesive, joyful, inspiring gathering of world-healers!


Full disclosure: The links to Martha's books are linked to my Amazon Associates account. If you buy things on Amazon after clicking on the link, I get a small portion of the sale.

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  1. Really enjoyed your interview! I've been a long time fan of Martha Beck and always read her latest articles in O but had no idea she had a new book out. Must find a copy ASAP.

  2. So glad you liked the interview, Marie. Enjoy the book!


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