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October, 2017

Inside a Sunflower   Photo by Martha Clark Scala

Calling an Audible

I must give credit to the game of football for a phrase that serves as a blueprint for finding more joy in our lives. The phrase is “call an audible” and here’s how it works: a suggested play is typically relayed to the quarterback. The quarterback then conveys this to the players on the field during the huddle. They all step up to the line of scrimmage to execute the play. But, wait! The quarterback takes a look at the way the opposing team is lined up and realizes the play that was called will not be successful. The quarterback has the latitude to call an audible, which means he can change the play on-the-spot and call it out to his team. An audible play does not always work but it holds the potential for skirting obstacles that would have foiled the initial intended play.

This is an example of adaptability. In football, calling an audible is adapting to in-the-moment circumstances. It can lead to the joy of a first down, or even a touchdown. In life, the more we hone our ability to call an audible when circumstances do not align with our plans, the more joy we might experience.

So what makes us reluctant to call an audible? Cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien offered a quartet of principles to live by in her book The Four-Fold Way. One of those principles is “be open to outcome, not attached to outcome.” If a quarterback is particularly invested in using the play that was called during the huddle, the ability to call an audible and be open to an outcome that was not part of the original design might be compromised.

Don’t we get attached to our playbooks too? We think this is how a day should turn out, or how a planned vacation should go, etc. We also expect those we love to have nice, long lives, and that isn’t always the outcome, either. Of course, we may need to protest when things don’t go according to plan: an understandable response! But ultimately, we must adapt to the outcome or our suffering may persist. As the Buddhist saying (attributed to Haruki Murakami) goes, “pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”

I wish you many audibles. Many first downs, too. And a lot less suffering.


Embracing Change

“Above all, the truth of Nature is simply change and impermanence.” ~ Patricia Donegan

You might not object to the above assertion. But notice what happens if you change one word: above all, the truth of LIFE is simply change and impermanence. When the sentence is about life, do you notice more resistance? I do. When faced with impermanence or outcomes not envisioned in the playbook, a “Grrrrr” response emerges. I suppose an “Ahhhhh” would be an improvement.


Middle Ground

If an “Ahhhh” is just plain asking too much, is there a middle ground that will help us embrace change? How about “okayyyyyy …?” For example, “okayyyyyy, I’m not liking what has happened but I will remain open to seeing what lemonade might emerge from these lemons.” Or “okayyyyyy, I’ll choose to adapt to this outcome because I really want to choose not-suffering.” Or “okayyyyy, I’m utterly baffled about where the silver lining is, but I’ll keep my eyes, ears, heart and soul open.” Okayyyyyy?

Comments on this blog post are welcome — see the bottom of this page.


Prompts for Joy

Click here to see someone whose adaptability after surviving a plane crash is absolutely inspiring. (Perfect timing, Michael Sally!) Click here to see how a new pair of glasses rocks a father’s world.

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.


Pictured Above

Transfixed by the inner workings of a sunflower!

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