Read an Excerpt
What Is the Compass?
Information is power, and the Compass is a source of power that puts vital information at your service. This power can put you in charge of your life and change your life.
The Compass is not intended to replace common sense, or a life and love of learning, or a spiritual ally such as prayer. Like any tool, the Compass works once you learn how to use it. It won't take you long, but it will take you a long way. The Compass will show you the right way, and it will help you leave your pain behind right away. The Compass isn't a device. It is a guide. It is a way of looking, thinking, acting and reacting.
Most of us live our lives in states of reaction to an unexpected pain that came knocking at our door. But we are certainly better served if we can be proactive in finding peace.
The Compass will help you send out an invitation so peace will feel welcome at your table. It will help you set a place for peace at your table, and it will help you find a way to show pain the door.
The heroic dignity of life is in how we deal with the day–to-day. No less important is our decision to find a way to make each day a day during which we leave pain further behind and bring peace another step closer. On all these issues, the Compass for Healing will help you find your way.
How This Compass Came About
Things don't have to be good for us to be great, and often the really good things that happen to us in life aren't seen to be positive when they happen. Good things can appear as only a passing experience, or even something painfully negative.
The Compass came about because of two different experiences that I like to think crossed my path, but I may have run into them. I'd like to tell you that I knew what was going to happen when I came heart to heart with these experiences or that I was intellectually prepared for them, but I didn't, and I wasn't. The philosopher Sartre had it right: 'Life is lived forwards and understood backwards.' And the time in between, when we're caught looking backward at a life going forward, can be damned uncomfortable.
So let me go backward for a moment and share what happened. Part one of the story goes like this:
We all live on a little blue ball spinning in space at approximately one thousand miles an hour. Finding our balance is not something any of us can ever fully achieve. It is 24/7/365 work. We can find our balance at any moment and lose our balance the next.
'God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road.'
In my own life, after a lifetime of writing and thinking and addressing others on finding their way, I hit a period when I found myself in the emotional high seas of a long-term marriage that was ending, and I was uncertain, to say the least, about how to find my own way with myself, my former wife and my kids. I was suffering from a very real fear of drowning in emotional pain and not knowing where to row or toward what lighthouse I should go.
In the middle of those dark nights, I was clearly confused and in pain. While I thought I understood what had happenedthe he said–she said, you did–you didn'tone of the most familiar mistakes that happens to people in pain is to confuse knowing what happened to them with getting better or being healed. Finding clarity in the past is not the same as finding the path ahead. Knowing where we were yesterday may be reassuring, but it is not necessarily a path for finding our way tomorrow. Old dialogues and old scripts could only tell me what to say and where to stand in a world that was no longer standing or, worse yet, might have led me deeper into the mess in which I found myself.
My situation and my own personal history were akin to the citizens of a town hearing that a terrible flood was coming in three minutes. Some of the people gave up and prepared to drown, and some of the people said prayers. But a few folks decided they had two minutes left, and they had better use that time to learn how to live under water. And that was also my decision. The problem was, I didn't know how to do that.
While the scenario I just described was playing in my life, concurrently, part two of the story goes like this:
Over the last number of years and particularly in light of the emotional distress I was experiencing, I have made several trips to Italy and in particular to a picturesque and historic region called the Amalfi coast. The best way, certainly the most beautiful way, for me to make this journey has been to take a boat from Naples or Capri , arriving in time for the sunset.
I usually stay at the Villa Maria in Ravello, which rests on the hills above Amalfi, and then take a small bus down to visit the ancient seaside city to walk in the sea at the end of the day or for dinner.
On one of these end-of-the-day visits to Amalfi, and as the day's heat began to dissipate, somehow in the town square I noticed a statue I must have passed twenty times yet had never seen. Here was a large and very old bronze-turned-green statue of Flavio Gioia, the man who, Italian legend has it, was the father of the modern compass. The statue started me thinking, and some research in local libraries in my halting Italian pushed my thoughts down this particular path:
We have now had the benefit of a rather sophisticated compass for over five hundred years, and yet even now, so long after the invention of the compass, who among us has not felt lost in life or feared we were losing itmyself included?
Who among us has not felt afraid of losing his or her way in the day-to-day, or in the dark, or in love, or at work, or in growing up, or in growing older? Who among us has not felt afraid of losing the company of others, or having only our own company, or wondering who could possibly want our company? How many among us have fears that we have lost our way or could lose our way in alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, failure, purchasing or pursuing success?
Historically, in an attempt to find their way, people have turned from reading trail signs to the stars to maps and eventually, thankfully, to a compass. All of these earliest methods helped those who were lost find their way or stay on track. However, though most of us these days can tell north from south, we still need to find our way . . . all of us, including me.
And then it hit me. Like those who came before me, I needed a compass, not a map. A map could mostly show me where I had been but not point me toward the new realities of new worlds that were unfolding overnight and in my soul's dark night. I also knew that I wasn't lost geographically but emotionally. I needed not just any compass; I needed a new kind of compass.
This book describes the compass I created to meet that need. And, in creating a compass to speak to my own pain, I woke up to realize that I was also addressing the pain that a lot of us in the human neighborhood also experience. We are all alone together, and I was not the only one waking in the night with a fear of imminent floods.
Slowlyover three, four, five yearsI began to work my ideas for a new Compass into the seminars, college courses and keynote addresses I was invited to give; into shared conversations with people who were going through tough times; and in my role as advisor to the über-wealthy and powerful, who are caught in pain as often as the rest of us. And the Compass worked. People got it, fast.
Now, after further reflection and almost nine years later, I can testify that this incredibly simple concept connected to timeless wisdom can make and has made a very real difference in the lives of many. The lab work for this Compass was done in the middle of very real lives, including my own. This Compass allowed me and others to find our way from emotional pain to peace, not just in dealing with the past, but with the present and all the new stuff that the day-to-day brings, because life is always throwing something else at us just when we feel triumphant about the past and present.
Life is not always wonderful, but it is wonder-filled. My inspiration for the Compass was emotional pain and a trip to the Amalfi coast. When these two experiences met a leap of imagination and a lifetime's work, I learned that the Compass works and will work for you. Today, after nights that knew no end and more than my share of weepings at 3 am, I know this to be true.
How the Compass Works
The advent of the traditional compass was a huge leap in finding one's way geographically. But the world has changed, and many of us who know where the sun rises and sets still feel lost on many issues and still tryoften for a long time and often frustratinglyto find our way emotionally from pain to peace.
The governing principles of the Compass work on the same conditions as the traditional compass. The traditional compass is premised on a magnetized needle always pointing to magnetic north. Only when we can establish where magnetic north is can we establish what is east, south or west. Absent of magnetic north, neither east, south nor west have meaning. They only exist as they exist in relationship. Without magnetic north we are lost. Only when we can establish north can we find our way to anywhere we want to go geographically.
Similarly, with the Compass for Healing we also have to begin with establishing where North is. Once we have done that, we can locate East, South and West and keep from getting lost.* The Compass for Healing, borrowing on wisdom from all cultures across time, offers a new directional matrix based on Humility, Honesty, Love and Faith, and throws a whole new light on how to find our way.
On the Compass for Healing the four historic geographic directions are replaced with guiding stars that offer the following directional beacons:
North is replaced with Humility.
East is replaced with Honesty.
South is replaced with Love.
West is replaced with Faith.
Humility, Faith, Honesty, Love
North is Humility because Humility needs to be our North Starthe unfailing star on which to base a journey, because pride goeth before a fall. East is Honesty because the sun rising in the east is a truth that cannot be denied, and the truth shall set you free even as humility picks the lock. South is Love because Love is passion and compassion, and the heat of the south fuels us for work, pleasures and the pleasure of caring in life. West is Faith because even when the sun sets in the west we do not lose faith that it will rise again in all its glory, and so shall we, with faith in ourselves and others.
Here is another way to look at how the Compass works and how it can work for you. Think of your eyes as a camera and each of the directions on the Compass as a series of lenses that fit one on top of the other, bringing your vision into sharper and sharper focus so you can find your way from emotional pain to peace and to keep from getting lost. If one of the lenses is absent or dirty, your vision, the picture you see of the worldyour worldwill be absent or cloudy.
In your life, if you are humble but not honest, or if you are loving but don't have faith in your partner, you will get lost somewhere along the way. The Compass keeps us on track. It reminds us that any issue of character on the directional matrix that is unaddressed or abandoned will require a revisit, a reexamination so that you can keep on track.
When the ancient compass was discovered, anyone who had the resources to have one considered themselves blessed because they knew the consequences of not having a compass.
Once you decide you want to go from emotional pain to peace, you can stop at any moment in your day or night, anywhere along the way, and take a reading on how you are interacting with the four vital character issues on the Compass for Healing. If you don't pay attention to how you are doing or where you are going in any of these four areas, you will definitely pay laterand may indeed be paying right now.
This wisdom, this character and directional matrix, and the compass points of Humility, Honesty, Love and Faith emerge from common sense and our common experience. They do not conflict with any major religion or belief system; actually they echo the basis of almost every belief system from Buddhism to Alcoholics Anonymous, from Islam to IBM, from Kabbalah to Christianity, from Taoism's Wei Wu Wei to Weight Watchers. Though I have provided the matrix from these compass points, the wisdom isn't mine. It is ours. It is yours, if you will claim it for your life, if you want to move from emotional pain to peace.
If you wonder why this concept isn't more complicated, remember that the obvious is often camouflaged by its obviousness. Two Things You Need to Know to Begin Your Healing
Alexander the Great conquered the world, and his teacher was Aristotle. Aristotle's first lesson for Alexander was the same lesson we all need to learn: no one can conquer the worldor their painuntil they are more often self-empowering and less often self-victimizing.
Emotional health does not come without emotional pain. Your pain is part of who you are. You can't treat your pain if you see it as an alien living inside of you. Pain is a legitimate part of your emotional structure and in its initial formation may have been an entirely healthy reaction. It is pain, or the fear of it, that causes us to pull our hands away from a fire. The difference is that nowhopefullyyou are ready to move away from where you were to where you want to be.
How the Compass Can Help You
Whether your hurt is new or historic, whether you are hurting from a relationship that ended or because you can't seem to make a relationship work, whether your pain comes from how you feel about yourself or how others have told you they feel about you, most of the pain we experience in life comes from being in a state of confusion. In answer to that confusion, the Compass for Healing, like the historic compass, will help you find your way. When you focus on Humility, Honesty, Love and Faith, the Compass allows you to see things inside and outside yourself more clearly than you have in the past and also how you can redirect your future. Simply by focusing on how Humility, Honesty, Love and Faith interact in your life, you can stop going in circles. If you're tired of the pain of confusion, here is a tried and true Compass to help you find your way to peace. It is a gift to those who will hold to it. Finding our way from pain to peace is honorable work in any of our lives. And in every life, it is a work in progress.
Reality is only a memory ahead of its time. On every beach there is always another wave. Change is the only constant. At its very foundation the Compass for Healing is designed to help turn you into your own best friend and help you deal with self-destructive behavior that you may have inherited honestly but which is causing too much pain to support, and certainly a behavior that isn't supporting you. Don't allow your past to kidnap your future.
You only have two arms. If you are embracing the past you can't hug the futureor yourself. The Compass will help you see where you are getting caught and show how to catch a ride on the river to emotional peace.
If you're tired of rowing, here's a chance to steer.
©2007. Noah benShea. All rights reserved. Reprinted from A Compass for Healing : Finding Your Way from Emotional Pain to Peace. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.