This blog was originally posted by Tamarack Institute.
I recently attended an extraordinary conference hosted by the Tamarack Institute. I met wonderful, warm and interesting people, the workshops I gave were well-received, and to top it off, my mother came to see me present and she was very proud of me. Really: I couldn’t imagine a better work week.
As I was flying home, relishing my experience, I thought: “Uh oh… After the ecstasy, comes the laundry. Time to prepare for the crash.” And sure enough, the following week was one of the roughest since starting my own business, with self-doubts and obstacles blocking my way at every turn. How predictable.
“After the Ecstasy, the Laundry” is the title of a book by American Buddhist Jack Kornfield, in which he explores how to incorporate the high points in life – those exotic experiences that heighten ones sense of purpose and direction – into our daily life. For Kornfield, these high points are periods of “enlightenment” and they don’t last. They provide important insight into the reality of the world, and they can bring transformation, but they pass.
Our work is rooted in the daily to-dos of meetings and memos, misunderstandings and re-dos. Occasionally we have an uplifting conversation or attend a conference like I just described – experiences that elevate our sense of what is possible.
As I slogged through the laundry of my return, I wondered, how can we better integrate these transformative experiences into our daily lives? As importantly, how can I avoid the crash in the first place? These are a few of mine – I’d welcome learning about strategies you use.
To better integrate the new insights and possibilities that can emerge from awesome experiences, I try to do three things the first week I return to my “real life.”
- I thank people. I make a point of thanking the people who organized the event – it’s a lot of hard work – and people I learned from. (The Tamarack Institute staff are awesome, by the way.)
- I reflect. I look through my notes, review the participant list, and commit to doing a few things differently, or better, based on what I’ve learned.
- I extend the experience. People often share suggestions for books, articles, websites and videos at conferences. I make a list of them, and try to check out a couple each week. The really good ones I share with friends and colleagues back home.
As far as strategies to avoid the crash in the first place – that sinking feeling that life is too busy to be able to do anything other than dive back in and hope for the best – I have found that practicing patience, humility and compassion with myself is sometimes the best I can do.
Kornfield begins his book where I end this blog: with a bow to appreciation and acceptance. Kornfield describes coming to recognize that it is not the extraordinary experiences that define our path – it is the work we do each day, here in the present. It is both the beauty and the suffering, our “entanglements and confusion” as much as it is our ambitions for justice and progress. We bow to accepting the highs as well as the lows that come with our work, seeking insight and hopefully a bit humor along the way.