Sleeping (and Waking) with the Cult of “Not Enough,” by Pearl Mattenson

March 13, 2012

My awakening has not been of the “alarm-clock-ring-snaps-me-into-action” variety. More like the “waking-up my-16-year-old-son-for-school” variety.  I hear his alarm go off and I wait. Then I gently rouse him to consciousness and say, “Time to get up. You don’t want to miss the bus.” He looks at me and nods. A little later I am back, this time lifting him into a sitting position or tickling his toes or knocking his legs off the bed. “Come on. You have to be out the door in 10 minutes! Now or never.”

The awakening I have been resisting is pretty radical. It means dropping societally sanctioned definitions of success and questioning the fabric of my (and our) societal norms. And oh, by the way, might force me to stop doing what I am doing and choose an entirely different path. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Leza and Peter have been trying to wake me up.

Leza Danly is the founder of Lucid Living. Some messages from a class I am taking with Leza have been disturbing my comfortable sleep.

  • You don’t make success happen you allow yourself to experience success.
  • Real world definitions of success are an illusion. Money doesn’t give you security.
  • Success comes when our deepest soul/self is given form in our lives. This is deep work that comes with intention and commitment.

This (and so much more) put a kink in my general conviction that my earnings are the juicy fruits of my success. Inconsistent to be striving for a more soulful existence even as I pursue the pot of gold? MMM… yes. (Because clearly I am acting as if I believe there is a pot of gold.) I would attend a class. Do the meditations. Journal. Feel moved. Sense a deep stirring. And all the while plan new products, reach out to new prospects and watch the bottom line. It was my version of hitting the snooze button.

Peter Block is a transformational leader. I have been reading his work obsessively. In his latest book The Abundant Community co-authored with John McKnight, he gently and kindly tickled my toes and warned that I might miss my bus. You see I am a certified leadership and systems coach. Here is what he had to say.

Professionalization is the market replacement for a community that has lost or outsourced its capacity to care…What my uncle once knew is now a secret known only to my therapist. What this produces is a hollow neighborhood that does not value coming together around troubles. Neighbors pay professionals to process their troubles.

He goes on to say that the commodification of care also means care-givers need to continue to see people’s deficiencies to justify their own existence. (And by the way, companies need you to believe you need what they are selling- i.e. you are not enough.)

Holy bed knobs and broomsticks! I am out of bed and shaking in my pajamas.

Never mind that I am all about people’s potential and dignity. Never mind that I bring people together to create community that is conscious and intentional. Peter is right. I need them to need me! I need them to be dysfunctional! Why else would they be calling me (and paying me)?!

I don’t want to go to school!


Wake-up calls, lessons…they are not fun. If I am to get dressed and get going with this new consciousness, I am going to have to make big changes and make some people profoundly uncomfortable.

May I just say, I am not out the door—yet. I am savoring my coffee and looking out the window. I am working my way up to it.

I don’t know what it will look like yet:

  • Start a bartering system to offer my gifts and receive the gifts of those around me?
  • Re-educate my clients to rely on each other?
  • Scale down our lives so we have fewer material needs?
  • Refocus on the love and laughter and real emotion I bring to my life as the currency which enriches me.

Here is what I do know. Pema has it right: “one person and the next, one community coming into consciousness and then the next.”


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Pearl Mattenson is a writer, leadership and systems coach. We met while writing for Danielle LaPorte’s pre-FLAME incarnation, Carrie and Danielle, and have kept in touch following each others’ work, and meeting when our tips of the globe unite. Pearl plugs IN. You can read + learn from her journeys on her blog.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronna March 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Such goodness, Pearl. And…so you know…thoughts that have growing energy and force to them. You are not alone in your questions – or your hunger for answers. New answers. Different answers. Wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee-answers.

Sipping right alongside you, woman!


Pearl Mattenson March 14, 2012 at 3:33 am

thanks Ronna–good to have fellow ‘sippers’–
And I know you get that place of deep discomfort that signals something important. I am sitting with the question of “what is the action or way of being that I am meant to claim now? “


Bob Beverley March 14, 2012 at 1:09 am

Hi Pearl,

I read your blog with its arresting thoughts from colleagues
about soul and community and money. I pass on the
quotation below as further food for your waking….and I
will say to you–watch out for the most common logical
mistake where people pose only two options and you have
to reject one or the other.

As a person who has worked in soul most of my career,
I can tell you that a soul gets tired when there is not enough money
around. And it is not that you keep people needy or broken
because you need their money–they are broken and need a
helping hand. Money makes us available to help them. They
pay for our time, not our skill. Or our love. If they did not pay for
our time, we would have to dig ditches.

all the best,

bob beverley

“When men are rightly occupied, their amusement grows out of their work, as the colour-petals out of a fruitful flower;—when they are faithfully helpful and compassionate, all their emotions become steady, deep, perpetual, and vivifying to the soul as the natural pulse to the body. But now, having no true business, we pour our whole masculine energy into the false business of money-making; and having no true emotion, we must have false emotions dressed up for us to play with, not innocently, as children with dolls, but guiltily and darkly.”
– John Ruskin, from one of the lectures collected in Sesame and Lillies.
Ruskin died in 1900.



Pearl Mattenson March 14, 2012 at 3:36 am

Bob- thanks for expanding the perspectives here! It is part of the process for sure. Fascinating quote. What an interesting phrase to unpack, “faithfully helpful and compassionate.”


L'Tanya March 14, 2012 at 5:10 am

Hi Pearl,
I can identify with the anxiety of sitting at the crossroads. It’s as exciting as it is unsettling. So glad to hear from you.


Pema March 14, 2012 at 8:49 am

Pearl, I’ve read this again for probably the tenth time, and am newly inspired by this idea of yours:
Re-educate my clients to rely on each other?

There’s balance here, a suggestion of professional service and a community you have fostered that exercises new knowledge together.


Pearl Mattenson March 14, 2012 at 9:01 am

Pema thanks for pointing me back to that idea. It has a lot of resonance for me too. I have always chosen professions in which if I were really successful I would put myself out of business.
Needs more noodling but some of the thoughts that are percolating around that for me–
1) to truly rely on others and create a community of mutual reliance we need to be reliable ourselves.
2) we need to be reminded that self-reliance will only take us so far.
3) there is strength in making ourselves vulnerable.


Helen House March 14, 2012 at 9:47 am

HI Pearl,

First of all, thanks for asking us to come and read your post. I so appreciate the invitation, and the bold and vulnerable spirit that makes such a request!

I adore the work of Lucid Living – Leza and Jeanine, with Lazaris as inspiration. I also have huge respect for Peter Block, though I have not read his most recent book. The way I’ve understood Leza in the past is that part of the success equation is we CREATE success and the other half is that we ALLOW it. I’m sure Leza or Jeanine could give it the perfect language, yet I’d hate to see you throw out the part where you get to be a powerful, pro-active creator of your success, part of which includes products, ideas, services etc that are a part of that ability to allow your self to experience it.

I had an interesting reaction to your Peter Block quote, like Bob and others have said, I don’t think it’s an either/or. As a coach and trainer of coaches, I’ve always loathed the notion of marketing to a ‘need’ or to the pain people have that they want to go away. I partly loathe it because I don’t want a practice full of people who see themselves that way, people looking to me for help in that way, or me looking at them in that way. Yes, it would be wonderful to turn to my neighbors for the sort of amazing conversations I can have with my coach and clients, but most of my neighbors are at work, watching TV, or shopping at WalMart while I’m contemplating the sort of questions you pose. I want to live in a neighborhood that’s diverse and has people that live differently than I do, and part of that means that not all of those people will want to, much less be able to, meet me at the edge of those conversations. I will gladly pay people who can dance there with me for their time, wisdom, collected skills, and dare I say it – their love. I don’t pay them to love me, but I do pay them to direct the love I already know they have towards me for a specified period of time. And, I will gladly accept money for doing the same with another. Granted, I have plenty of places I give that time to others at no charge as well.

I love the questions you’re asking yourself and us! We DO need to rethink community, how we relate with one another, and how we care for each other. And, in the meantime, those of us who are in the ‘care commoditization business’ need to reorient ourselves to create a more sustainable world – inner and outer.

Looking forward to more responses. GREAT writing, Pearl!!




Pearl Mattenson March 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Love the wisdom you are bringing here Helen. Thank you for bringing up the word: Creator! That is a word I can get behind — I see us all as creators of one kind or another-partners in the divine creation in fact so YES.

And you raise an aspect of all this that I had not fully worked through. Being engaged in the kind of thinking and talking that our particular coaching work enables. Not everyone wants to. Not everyone should. But I want to. And I feel particularly gifted in that arena (there- I said it!). The sticking point for me is the energy behind it. The possible hammer I am carrying that sees the world as nails.

Anyway….I am so tingly alive with this conversation and full y grateful to all!


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