This week I spoke at yoga brand LuluLemon’s national conference. It was a room full of people comfortable in their Lycra and a yoga hairstyle (bun up high on head; enables headstand and backbend poses). I was in comfortable company!
I spoke about How to Build a Good Life, based on advice gleaned from interviewing the Dalai Lama, tap-dancing from a plane with Sir Richard Branson, crying with Oprah’s life coach, and more, across 758 blog posts and 130 Sunday Life columns. As well as from almost 39 years on the planet. At the end I boiled things down to this: what makes a good life is the struggle to find a good life. It’s the striving, not the arriving.
At the end, one of the Lulu people asked me a pearler of a question. She pointed out that I’d mentioned a number of experts and gurus I’ve interviewed over the years had life coaches, or spiritual mentors whom they employed to guide them. She then asked: who checks in on you?
I immediately got what she was asking. She wanted to know how I remained accountable. It hit me as all truly challenging propositions do: with a thud.
I’m a loner. I live, work and float about on my own, most of the day, most of the days. Therefore, my life can become very one-dimensional and self-referencing. I could kid myself I’m a generous soul…because who’s going to question it? I can
go about my various habits and indulge my foibles without ever being challenged to confront them or grow them or question them. I have no mirror held up to me. Or, rather, the only reflection I get is of myself.
By stark contrast, when you’re in a relationship you have a mirror constantly held up to you. When the other person’s behaviour shits you, it’s generally more a reflection of what’s shitty about yourself. And so you’re forced to grow. To be frank, I admire people in relationships for being able to endure this process on a daily basis. I truly do.
So who checks in on me? How do I ensure I’m held accountable? Who or what do I rise up to? The answer I gave was partially true: meditation holds me accountable. Also, I check in with my meditation teacher when I get wobbly – he’ll always tell me straight what might be going on.
My best friend Ragni also keeps me on track. She’s blunt and keeps me real. She sees through my crap to the raw “me” and will tell me if I’m off course.
But the full answer is that I probably don’t check in enough. You don’t need a partner or a spiritual guru to do this. You just need people with an interest in seeing you be your best. Who won’t tolerate your shit and will toss your reflection right back at you.
As I write this, I’m realising I actually do have these people around me. I know who they are…they often frustrate me, and I’ll sometimes run from them. I lean on my reputation as a loner to do so and leave dinners and parties early and cut off phone calls. But I’m now realising these people are actually challenging me (whether they intend to or not).
Perhaps it’s not about finding someone to check in on you…but not fleeing those who do? Do you relate? Do you have someone who holds you accountable?