The Gathering Room: 2020 As Your Teacher
- Hello. It's not going on. It's not going. Hello. I think we're good. I think we're live.
Yes, we are live. Hi everybody. It is I, Martha- Oh! People are coming! Hooray! How are you people? Anne Marie and Jessica and Florence, right in, right at the beginning. Just like usual. Just saying it's - Hi, Cathy and Donna. Hi, Anne Karine.
How you doing up there, Lily Hummer? It's so wonderful to see these amazing places all come up here. All of us together. I got my hair cut.
Some people are noticing I just got my haircut. I didn't even know they cut hair on Sundays. Well, they do. Hi Michelle.
Hi Emily Elizabeth. Yes, haircut. I don't even know how to like mess with it yet. So. Oh good, we have more than a hundred people. So I'm just going to start.
Welcome to The Gathering Room. I'm Martha Beck, because I am the person who decided to call something The Gathering Room and then show up. Ah, I'm going to arrange my camera differently and everything. Hahaha. Okay so how you doing guys? It's almost to the end of 2020. And all the puns are going around the internet about 2020 hindsight.
And did you have a vision for 2020 and what's your 2020 vision? So I was going to do all of those and then people told me they were cheesy and cliche. So instead I happened upon actually a wonderful writer who writes for my company often for my coach training. Her name is Sally McGraw and she's a brilliant writer. If you want to hire a brilliant writer, hire Sally McGraw. But she wrote a beautiful thing on Facebook about how it's getting harder and harder for her to feel okay about the world.
That 2020 made it very hard for her to feel okay. And that she's been actually coping by bringing in lots and lots and lots of houseplants. And she said she actually walked out of her bedroom and looked at her living room and said, I have officially lost my mind. Because it's completely filled with houseplants.
And she put a picture of it in there. And it really, it's almost like stepping into a jungle. It, there really are a lot of houseplants. I agree with you, Sally that there are a lot of houseplants in your house. I do not agree that you've lost your mind. I think you may be getting your mind back.
You know, you guys know that one of my big obsessions is the transformation of consciousness that I believe must come to change mankind's or humankind's way of being on the world. So that we can continue to be on the world and not fry ourselves to tiny crisps. And people who feel the onset of this transformation tend to do things that by our culture's standards are somewhat anomalous. And I always position culture as the compliment and opposite to nature.
Culture, nature, culture, nature. So what I see Sally doing is that as culture breaks down, her usual way of being has been broken. And it has for all of us for a long, long period of time. At first, there was just this sense that this is going to be a blip and then we'll get back to normal. And then, oh, good, we flattened the curve in the summer. Oh, this is wonderful.
And then it started to rise again. And as you know the pandemic numbers right now look worse than ever. In the middle of which we had a huge political showdown of a type, an intensity never seen in American history. And we had, people rising up to address systemic injustice all over the world in all kinds of cultures against all kinds of marginalized groups.
So it was this big thing that was all happening while we were locked up at home. Culture broke down. And what I see Sally doing is something that if you follow my adventures, I like to go to a place in South Africa called Londolozi where, so just one family of people took land that was a barren desolate cattle farm. There weren't even cattle on it anymore. There were no animals. There were just thorn scrub and they repaired the landscape and it repaired, they repaired the river systems and then the animals came back.
And that's where I like to go to take people on adventure retreats when it's not COVID times. To me, looking at Sally McGraw's living room, I felt that she was going back to nature and reforesting her world as much as those amazing people in South Africa have restored even in their neck of the woods. It's almost like where culture was breaking, nature was starting to rise. And Sally just is caring for these living things and thinking with her acculturated mind, I've lost it, this is crazy. Because the culture doesn't- in the terms of the culture, it does look unusual.
But what's coming through as culture breaks is our true nature. When you're left in a room alone, as Pascal said the pandemic has left a lot of us alone in rooms. Then you start to find out who you are, what you are.
And he says, the majority of all our misery comes from the fact that are unable to sit quietly alone in a room. So I wanted to ask, as we get to the end of this whole amazing, weird year, what has been happening to you where the culture has broken? Where is your nature starting to show through? And are you thinking of it as I've lost my mind and I have to stop this or can you see it as I'm getting my sanity back from culture and I'm following my nature now and it looks anomalous but that's okay because the culture is kind of in tatters right now, all around us. So I was thinking about the way Joseph Campbell the great anthropologist spelled out his hero saga. in his book called The Hero with a Thousand Faces. He looked at all these different legends from around the world and he saw that they had common elements.
And not just a few, 17 to be exact. And he said that there seems to be a kind of psychological drama that we enter when a time of great learning is approaching. And stories always begin with the hero just living a normal life. Everything's fine. And then something changes. And the first phase is called the call to adventure.
That's the first stage of every hero's saga. And then comes stage two, which is the hero refuses to go. So the gods or the fairies or fate or whatever says, it's time for you to have an adventure. And the adventure will be scary and it will be long and it will wear you out and it will break you. And the hero says, no, thank you very much. I would like to stay where I am.
And the third stage of the hero's saga is that the call won't stop coming. It just keeps pressuring the hero until the hero finally says, okay, I'll do it. I'm on the ride. Let's do this.
Which we all sort of had to do this year in one way or another. In my book that's coming out in April, The Way of Integrity, I follow Dante, his particular hero's journey through the divine comedy. And one of the things that I talk about is that when the hero starts moving there's a magical moment when a teacher appears and this is in all the hero sagas, right? In Dante's case, it is the ghost of the poet Virgil. He's just sort of wandering around in this dark forest. Doesn't know how he got there. And here comes someone and it turns out to be his favorite poet, Virgil.
It's Virgil. And I love the way Americans say it, Virgil. So that's his soul teacher, there's a word for it. It's called psychopomp. Psycho meaning the soul and pomp meaning teacher.
But it's a silly word and they wouldn't let me use it in my book. So I just ended up with the word soul teacher and I wrote about how sometimes a soul teacher is a person who shows up for us. It can be a teacher, literally in a school somewhere. It can be a love interest. It can be a wild animal or a tame animal. It can sometimes be a situation.
And I'm writing this up, you know, in 2019, tippy, tippy, tippy, and I'm saying, you know, there have been times in my life when events kind of piled up like cars on a freeway, having a chain reaction. There was just a clump of stuff that happened that put so much pressure on my life that I had to become a different person. And I was writing this out not realizing that by the time the book was published we would all have gone through the same thing. And we would have had a situation show up that has so many things wrong with it that it has to be a soul teacher. And it's a call- we were called to adventure and we are in the middle of what is now called the road of trials.
So the hero is, goes through a series of difficult challenges, which change him. They take him to, or her, we'll say them. The hero ends up going to the underworld. The dark places, the secret places of the soul. And it's terrifying and it's hard, but there, they find a gift.
A gift that cannot be made in this world. It has to be in the world of spirit. It has to be in the world of the metaphysical.
And at first the hero resists this and then realizes how powerful the gift is and starts to become very comfortable living with the gift in a different place. But then, then the hero has to come back out of that world into the world where they started and guess what the hero does then. They refuse again.
They didn't want to go on the adventure and they don't want to come home from it. That's just the way people are. So we are right at the place where the teacher has appeared. And the situation, if we think of 2020 as the situation that came to teach your soul what to be.
when I read Sally's post, what I saw was a reforester a restorer of Eden who has that in her metaphysics, in her psyche. And she said, I don't know why, I just keep buying these plants to fill the hole in my soul. And she goes through all the things she misses and all the things that have been so hard. And I'm not saying that houseplants are necessarily the answer.
But what I am saying is that when the familiar is gone and you begin to do unfamiliar things watch yourself with great curiosity. Don't judge it. Don't stop yourself.
You know, unless you're hurting yourself or others. Watch what you're doing. And then think how you are being transformed and how you're being pulled into the other world to receive a gift.
'Cause when I looked at Sally's living room it wasn't like a normal living room. It was like a jungle. And I felt that if I went into that jungle something inside me would change. There's tons of research that shows that just being around plants and breathing- they breathe out oxygen and they breathe in carbon dioxide. And when they breathe out, the oxygen is laced with pheromones that come only from plants.
And if we're exposed to those pheromones for three hours our natural cancer killing cells in the body double, our blood pressure goes down. all our vital statistics actually get better when we're exposed to plants. Sally's been creating a new world around her that's very, very nourishing to her body and her- when she says, I don't even know what this is, she's kind of saying she's not really recognizing even consciously how powerful this might be. So I was thinking, what did 2020 teach me. And then I'd like to talk about it with you. I've thought about it all day.
And I thought about it while I got my haircut. And here's what I thought. I have learned two things. I've mentioned them before here, mindfulness and equanimity. From being cooped up with my loved ones, and I say that very lovingly but they were cooped up with me. I mean, I'm much harder to be cooped up with.
But I learned something about my ADD. I have severe ADD, which you could look at either as a curse or a blessing. And I didn't know that when my attention gets distracted which it often does, that I disappear energetically from the space I'm in. And I didn't, nobody ever really told me this. I knew I was kind of ditzy and scatterbrained.
I knew that. But I finally sat down with my loved ones and said, what am I like? And they said more than other people who don't have any- other people kind of look at their phone and you say, hey, and they look up and they're still there. But they told me, you leave, you leave the building.
And I was like, I had no idea. And my whole- all the meditation and all that stuff I do is to remain mindful, to remain present. And until I was, until my loved ones were stuck with me so long that they basically had to tell me about it.
I was unaware how different I was. So I've been trying to be more present, more mindful and notice when I scatter off. And I still think it might be a blessing. And I still don't think it's a bad thing.
But I'm really really mindful of how it affects other people. The other thing is equanimity and this is the big one. What I've learned, the election, the pandemic, the protests, the murders, everything that's gone on has taught me something. And that is when we're scared, we're scary. And we feel legitimate in going into fight or flight in either running from people or fighting them, with argument or whatever. And that that terrifies them.
And that puts them in a state of reacting. And when they do that, we feel justified in our fear. And so it goes up. And it becomes an echo chamber of fear that escalates very, very quickly. And what I really realized about two weeks ago I thought, I was watching people on TV doing protests and they were really enraged at each other. And I was like, I would never behave like that.
But I would, if I were in that situation and I got scared. And I thought, well everybody gets to act that way sometimes. I mean, if I were really put upon. If I were the victim of something and I thought, no, like if I look at the people that I admire and that I look up to, if they allow themselves to go spiraling into fear it would really unseat me. I need them to be very stable equanimous, right? Equanimous.
And if I ask that from other people, from leaders, I must generate that in myself. So what I learned is that there is every reason to be afraid and I must find a way to be in equanimity. Even if things are really, really scary. And this is a chance to practice, practice, practice, practice.
It's like playing the piano, staying calm is what I need to practice. So those were my lessons from 2020. And I was just wondering what some of you would have to say about it. So Katie wrote, Martha coached me on our quarterly call two weeks ago about leaving my job that's been sucking at my soul to life coach full-time and guess what, I resigned. Oh my God, Katie, I'm so proud of you. Oh my goodness.
From the outside, this might look like I've lost my mind, but my body, heart, spirit know this is the right thing. I have found my mind. Oh, that's just beautiful.
You haven't lost your mind, you've found your mind. And she said I'm excited to apply for master coach training. Whoo, yes. This is going to be exciting. But that's another, another whole thing but I'm really glad that you got that from 2020.
That your job got so soul murdering that you actually decided to quit. Okay, Larence says, I stood up in the truth and had to sever ties with all family, got divorced and I have lost pretty much everything linked to culture. That happened to me too about 30 years ago. It was amazing and horrifying and terrible. And I have cried seas, oceans of tears about it.
And if I hadn't done it, I would be in a terrible, terrible place right now. One of the things I wrote in the- in my book is, if you commit to your integrity completely, which just means committing to your own wholeness. It's not, ooh, somebody's god is up there making black marks when you sin. No, it's just about being like instructional integrity being the same person in all aspects of yourself. If you do that, it will give you everything that could possibly make you happy.
Everything that could ever, everything you ever wished for. But it will cost you absolutely everything else. And I put that at the beginning of the book and everyone who read it was like, Whoa. I mean, not everyone, but my best friends were like, yes! But other people were like, Ooh, no, no, no.
And I said, but you don't understand. It means you're losing everything that won't make you happy. And they're like too much.
I can't lose all that stuff. But it's making you unhappy, cannot lose it. Culture does- I mean, we were, we are designed to need culture, to need people to fit in with.
We are social primates, right? And sometimes to serve our integrity, it means severing ties with a lot of people and it looks weird. There is no Hallmark Christmas movie about someone severing all their ties with their dysfunctional family. But Jesus himself whose birth Christians celebrate said, if a man will not leave his mother and his father to follow me, he is not worthy of me. Which I don't think he meant himself.
I think he was speaking as the truth. So if we are not willing to leave even our family for the truth, we can't have the truth. We're going to end up in the cultural lies. And it's not that we're being punished by God when we hurt for those reasons.
It's just that when we're pulled out of integrity it's like a machine being out of structural integrity. We break, we just break. So it's worth, I'm so proud of you, Larence.
I think that's the right way to pronounce your name, for doing that. And I promise you, it gets so much better and there are wonderful things in store for you. Okay so Donna says 2020 has taught me, I longed to play. As a rather serious person who's always trying to fix herself and understand suffering, I found that when I play, whether on Zoom or with a dog, I feel free. I feel free to experiment, to fail, to take on a new persona and to let go. That's something we can all learn.
How playful can we become when we've got a lot of time to spend. It's kind of like being a kid again, in some ways, when you- you can't go out to play because it's raining or there's a pandemic and you're sort of forced into your inventiveness. I know I've been pulled back to drawing and coloring and also having a baby around just like sitting and grinning at each other. (laughs) It's like one of the best things that's ever happened to me and that just happened to fall in 2020. But yes, playing, I think paradoxically, you'd think a hard time would teach us to be serious.
That's what the culture says. But the way to cope is to play, play, play. So thank you, Donna. So Kat says 2020 told me to remove those I put on pedestals and stand in my truth and let go.
Wow. We're all pretty much hearing the same message. Aren't we? It is, it's the breaking of the culture. Do you know, on the solstice which is coming right up, I think it's tomorrow. I've been told, I don't know this. So tell me if I'm wrong, but not right here.
That Taurus officially ends as the ruler of the solar system. And the age of Aquarius actually begins tomorrow. Like, it's this huge, huge shift. If you follow astrology, which I do not. But it's like 2020, giving up the way the culture has been for so long and going into a new age is asking all of us to be iconoclasts, to knock everything off its pedestal and to put truth there instead.
And that, I mean, here's the thing, when the chips are really down like they have been, the fairytales don't work. Like being told the pandemic will magically disappear. It's so interesting that that was the president's reaction early on in the pandemic.
It will magically disappear. That's the opposite of the hero's saga. That's the ordinary fairy tale, where the fairy godmother comes and just makes it okay. A real hero's saga means that we have to go to find the magic ourselves. We have to become the magic ourselves.
And that is actually weirdly the opposite of magical thinking. It's magical thinking to say, if I just close my eyes, it will all disappear. It's real magic to say, I am going to go and learn so much science that I can deal with invisible particles and engineer something that will create a vaccination that will make people well. That's so mind blowing that for people who didn't know the scientific process it would look like magic. It's real magic.
I've seen a Peruvian shaman make medicine from plants that told him how to make the medicine. And the medicine worked. That's magic. And that's the magic that's happening all around us as people find out that truth and not magical thinking are necessary for really moving forward, for the real hero's saga.
It is a road of trials. It's not close your eyes and it goes away. It's figure out a vaccine, go. That's real magic.
So Judy says, if the virus is my teacher I think what I've learned through spending so much time alone is that I like myself. For some reason, my inner critic has quieted down a lot. I- that's wonderful. And I would hazard a guess that the reason the inner critic has quieted down maybe for Judy, certainly for me, for people I know, is that the less we're out among people who are, for example judging how we look and how we act.
I mean, there's plenty of that. If you check the internet there's a lot of judgment still happening out there. But the times when we're in our rooms alone, as Pascal said, the voices of the culture aren't as loud because we aren't as interactive as we typically are. And what happens then is we stop criticizing ourselves in order to fit in with other people.
So we stop thinking about other people's thoughts about us. I was saying that a couple of weeks ago, we spend- even when we're thinking, we're thinking about what other people will think about what we're thinking. That's how social we are. But when we're by ourselves and we have solitude, it quiets down. And we can be like animals just enough in ourselves.
And I hope that's what's happening to you Judy. I hope it's happening for all of us. So Kira says 2020 taught me to enjoy the present moment. Amen. The turning point was when I didn't even make the long list for a literary award that I'd felt certain I would win.
LOL. I spent six months visualizing the moment of hearing I'd made the short list, only to find out I didn't even place. Lesson, never again will I waste six months of my life so focused on a future goal that I miss the present.
Well, that is so- that's so vulnerable of you and brave of you Kira to tell us that. And when a lot of people would curl up and hide it if their dreams didn't come true, you're coming out and telling us and saying, here's what I learned from it. So that was a whole different drama that Kira went through on top of everything else that showed her to stay more present.
And the irony is, Kira when you actually do not care much anymore you may start winning awards. I'm just saying. Because that's another thing I've learned that the visualizations I put out to try to manifest things, they work. But their timing is very different from what I'd expected.
So a lot of things had happened to me this year, when I stopped trying and I stopped manifesting things, It was like they all came in and kind of presented themselves. It's been a weirdly, amazing good year for me. I feel really bad saying that. One thing I've also learned this year is how privileged I am and how deeply my life is different from the lives of people who are not born by pure happenstance into positions of privilege and the culture. I really did not get that as much as I get it now. I hope I keep getting it.
But yeah, we're all learning to be more present. And when we put our dreams out and fail and realize, oh that didn't work, the grasping didn't work. And then we relax. Foom.
Often rewards start to manifest themselves. Yeah. Elizabeth says 2020 is teaching me how much I love my people and how much I long for each of us to live in wholeness, integrity, curiosity, and trust, individually and together. That's so beautiful, Elizabeth. That really is it. Right? That- when I started doing my coach teaching calls and my information calls, there may be one coming up.
We started doing them on Zoom instead of just the phone. And when I see the faces of the people on the Zoom screen, it's like something just bursts open inside me. And even though I'm such an introvert every single face is so precious to me. Because I haven't seen them. I don't even, you know, I went out and about today didn't see anyone because everybody was in a mask as well they should be.
I was very grateful to everyone for wearing a mask. But when I then see the whole face of a person, that I love especially, it is the biggest gift in the world. It is so sweet. And I didn't know it before this year. So thank you, Elizabeth.
Tracey. I learned to love my body. If I listen to her, she usually knows the answer.
Ain't that the truth. Also that I already live exactly where I want to be. That's a fantastic gift, to learn to want what you already have.
Or that what you already have is what you wanted most. Wow, what a relief. And loving your body, because it knows.
And we're watching this, so many people's bodies are suffering in so many ways and to listen to the body more deeply at a time when disease is so prevalent, is especially poignant. And I started this years and years ago when I got a bunch of chronic auto-immune illnesses that ended up bringing me right here. So whether you are lucky enough to be well or whether you haven't been well, loving your body and tuning into it is massive.
Yeah, this is so great. Okay last one, Cheryl says 2020 has taught me the truth of that Maya Angelou quote that when people show you who they are believe them the first time. Believe them the first time and move on. Yeah, that's the thing. We're all on the heroes adventure.
The call to adventure has come. We all said, no, it came again. Here we all are on the road of trials and the situation itself is our teacher. And look at all the ways the teacher has been teaching all of you, all of us.
And now we've got to share it. I really believe that if we keep learning from this strange teacher and we keep sharing the lessons, we really are going to come into a new age. We really are going to permanently break the culture and we are not going to lose our minds and grow a bunch of plants. We're going to find our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hearts, and each other. And just maybe re-nature the world. So that's it for today.
Love you guys for showing up. Love you for living your lives out there, for being the heroes on the hero's journey. And I'll see you next week. Oh no, will I? No, I'm taking next week off because it's going to be a holiday week. But I will see you the next week. And I will be sending much love until then.
(makes kissing noises) Bye for now. Oh, end live video.