Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom): a tendency to choose to do what is important to you. [If you know what’s important to you, you can free up your time to consider how to get THAT just right by letting go of spazzing about your trivia.]
One of the best visual metaphors I’ve ever seen about time management is this one that involves stacking sand, pebbles and big rocks in a jar. This YouTube video was put together by 7 Big Rocks Productivity System, a company that sells websites and computer hosting services, and was inspired, they say, by Stephen Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.
When Stephen Covey first presented this metaphor at a workshop he said the point of it was this: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you won’t be able to get them in at all.
MAKING IT A PRACTICE
The way to turn the metaphor into a practice basically takes four steps:
Decide what is important to you. Write them down. Starter ideas might include spending face-time with family or friends, learning a new skill, putting time and effort into a side-hustle, experimenting with new ideas…whatever. These are your big rocks.
Choose your “jar” – day, week, or month.
Place your most important things – your big rocks — within that framework first. What one action will move each of your important things forward? Put that in your jar. Make the time for the one action you can take that addresses each of your important things. The rest of your day or week or month can fill up with other stuff, but you’ve got your big rocks covered.
Do the big rock moves first.
Each time you finish each of the important big-rock actions you’ve put in your jar, find the next action that will move that big rock forward. And so on…repeat, repeat, repeat.
DOES IT WORK?
Does it work? Sort of. The real is that there will be times when “urgent” trumps “important.” The manure hits the fan and you’ve got to pull out the buckets and mops and clean up the mess before the stench reaches major proportions. That one is very likely to take a bunch of time away from your important stuff.
But, once the mess gets cleared up and the mops and buckets are put away, then you can go back to filling your jar with your big rocks and doing the actions you’ve chosen to do.
The little steps you make working on your big rocks do accumulate. The things that are important to you get done, eventually. You can call yourself to order when you go off-tangent.
There is one other reason to try this thing. When you do this, you will have a ready-made system that can help you re-think what is important to you.
If you’ve made the time and the room for the things you call big rocks, but you never complete any of the moves you want to try, it may be an indication that the “big rocks” you’ve chosen really are not yours. Maybe they are other people’s big rocks that you have adopted as your own.
If the big rocks you’ve targeted are not really yours, you won’t do them, even if you’ve set aside the time for them. Try to avoid beating yourself up about that. It’s okay to choose other big rocks if you find that the ones you thought were big for you are really not.
Look at what you’re doing instead. Maybe that’s where your real big rocks are hidden. Or maybe you just haven’t found anything yet that is important enough for you to give up the trivia. Keep looking.
Here’s a poem. It came in response to a quote by philosopher Alan Cohen, who said in his book WISDOM OF THE HEART, “A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you’ve forgotten it yourself.” I have had so many of those. Lucky, me….
In these posts of mine, I talk a lot about mana. It is a Hawaiian term for inherent personal energy. Hawaiians thought that such personal energy was partly genetic — certain families and lineages were believed to have more of it available to them than others — and partly the result of personal development.
On one level, according to Hawaiian thinking, the World is energy — flowing, flowing, flowing — energy interacting, and energy always moving. The world as we know it is really just a space where energy flows.
Since humans are a part of the world they too are a part of this space where energy flows. Humans can become vessels for the energy and they can become conduits for it as well.
MANA AS CHARISMA
One definition of “mana” is “personal power.” Some people would call it “charisma” and, according to Hawaiians, it is an inherent part of every human. Some people have bus-loads of mana. Other people, not so much.
The following YouTube video by Between The Lines Animations is the first of two whiteboard animation book reviews of the book. (The second part includes some exercises that help you develop more charisma.)
MANA FROM THE HEART
According to Hawaiians, the seat of this personal energy they call mana was thought to be in a person’s na’au (gut). It flowed into the world through a person’s pu’uwai (heart).
This YouTube video by The HeartMath Institute, “The Heart’s Intuitive Intelligence” has an interesting take on the Universe and our connections to it and to each other.
[The HeartMath Institute is a group of scientists who are conducting research on the power of the heart, the heart/brain connection, heart intelligence and practical intuition. The Institute views the universe as a large network of information that each person can tap into. The video explains how every person’s heart contributes to this “collective field environment” of knowledge and wisdom.]
If nothing else, the video is a lovely starting point for thinking on how you affect the world and how it can affect you.
YOU CAN’T SEE IT, BUT IT’S THERE….
It’s impossible for you to see the whole picture because if you’re in the flow of the Universe-energy and there really are no limits to the power of it all, then you’re just too small to be able to get a clear overview of the whole thing. You’re a fish swimming in an ocean. (Fish probably don’t even know that they’re swimming in water. It’s just there, all around them.)
The cool thing about this way of seeing the world is that there is an implied possibility of your being able to tap into the energy that is flowing all around you. However, as with every other power-source or power-system, your tapping into the energy that is available to us in the world will probably have consequences and effects that may not be readily apparent.
Hawaiians say that if you are wanting to live a life with mana, it is better if your actions and your interactions with the world become a prayer and an offering. Being careful to make the offering shiny honors the Creative and helps you keep the light on.
Otherwise, it is way easy to spiral down into the dark.
One of my own thoughts about all of this is that if you really are a conduit for the energy of the Universe, one of the appendages of a vast intelligence, then you’re pretty much obliged to make yourself a worthy vessel for the energy, aren’t you? I mean, who wants to try to harness the power of the Universe using a sieve?
ANOTHER HEAD-GAME TO TRY
I forget where this exercise came from, but this head-game did produce some interesting results. Here’s what you have to do: Make a phrase about power and see where the thought leads you. The one I chose for exploring this idea about being a conduit as well as a vessel for the Universal power is “All power comes through you.”
You might want to try doing the same exercise to see what you think about it.
ALL POWER COMES THROUGH YOU. If the Universe is about energy and you are the vessel or conduit for that energy, then probably you’re like a rechargeable battery that is plugged into some appliance which is also you. (Hmmm….sounds like you can be a perpetual motion machine when it’s put like that.)
The only thing that matters, it seems to me, is the meaning underpinning the way you use that available energy.
As a conduit the way you bend and direct the energy coming through you will probably stem from a choice you make. That choice will be your chance to foster Light or to allow the Dark to swallow up the World. Heavy thought! You, too, can be Luke Skywalker. Sheesh!
ALL POWER COMES THROUGH YOU. If you are a vessel or conduit for the flow of energy that animates the Universe, you should be able tap into the mana of it all. The way you use that power depends on and informs how you continue to grow as a vessel or conduit for the energy flow.
I then had the thought that personal power has to be filtered through the human heart, the pu’uwai. Ignoring your heart in all this stuff can lead you down some very dark roads, it seems to me.
While a human heart sounds like a really puny thing, if the HeartMath guys are right and we’re actually connecting to the collective field with our hearts, then it makes sense to pay attention to the things.
ALL POWER COMES THROUGH YOU. My original phrase for this exercise actually was: “All power is within you.” I changed it because I couldn’t help thinking that each person is a really small thing. I couldn’t get my head around how all the power in the Universe could possibly come from inside some teeny little thing like a human.
I think the thing you need to keep in mind as you play with this is that the energy, the mana, comes from the Universe/the Creative. It’s not your power — any more than the energy stored in a battery “belongs” to the battery.
ALL POWER COMES THROUGH YOU. The more free you are of restrictions and obstructions the easier the flow of power and energy through the conduit that is you. This one needs more thinking on, it seems to me.
It sounds pretty spooky when you think about where “no limits” might lead you in this situation. It may not be such a bad thing to have limits in place when you are dealing with unlimited power.
All kinds of people have studied how power flows. The ancient Chinese philosophers who developed the I Ching oracular system counseled the world leaders they were advising about the need for developing self-control, autonomy, and responsibility. The important thing, they seem to say, is recognizing how you hold the power and where you are directing it.
When you’re being an energy-conduit, they ask, what kind of conduit are you? What are your motivations? Where are you wanting the available energy to go?
When you are being an energy-vessel, how strong are you? Are you impermeable or do you leak?
(There are many different books about the I Ching, which translates literally from the Chinese as “The Book of Change.” One of my own favorites is THE I CHING WORKBOOKMit by R. L. Wing. My copy is falling apart despite having been re-taped together over and over again. I keep the thing because I’ve made so many notes in it that it would be a major project to transcribe them all.)
ALL POWER COMES THROUGH YOU. One of the consequences of that last thought about embracing limits is becoming aware of the need to develop an under-structure that is strong enough to HANDLE the flow of power. Even enormous transformers get fried when too much electricity flows through them. The I Ching can help with that one too.
Playing with power-thoughts can be an interesting exercise in creativity. It does seem to expand your way of looking at the world, and, who knows? Perhaps if it is done with the intention of helping to make the world a more harmonious place, then that could become more real as well….
Here’s a YouTube by asapScience, “The Scientific Power of Thought.” It was put together by Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown and inspired by the bookTHE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF by Norman Doidge, M.D.
And here’s a poem that grew out of playing with the Power exercise. It echoes with my own affinity for Tao-ish thinking.
Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom): a tendency to practice Life De-stale-inization. [What’s so good about same-old anyhow?]
THE RISE OF RE-PURPOSING
Re-purposing is one of the latest post-modern trends, it seems. When you re-purpose something, you adapt it for another use. Most re-purposing gets done to things, probably because there’s so much stuff just sitting around. The stuff’s still good. It’s usually under-utilized or obsolete or redundant or otherwise superfluous, but, for one reason or another, nobody wants to haul it away.
So, the deal is that you take this existing thing that’s no longer quite so spiffy and deconstruct it, reconstruct it, or manipulate it into something else that’s more useful or interesting or fun.
The cool thing about the re-purposing mindset is that you look at something and then figure out what else it can be. You could develop some seriously artful or surprising projects that way…like these, for example:
TURNING THE RE-PURPOSING MINDSET ON YOU
You could also use the same re-purposing mindset to develop a different sort of life for yourself. If you’re feeling stuck or stale or under-utilized, then re-purposing might be the way to go for you.
This inspirational YouTube video, “Finding Your Meaning of Life,” was put together by TheJourneyofPurpose (TJOP).
Basically the video tells you that you get to create your own meaningful life. It’s one of those human “super-powers” each of us is issued. All the people who appear in the video are folks who took up the challenge to give their own lives meaning and mana. They did okay with it. Maybe you can too.
LIFE DE-STALE-INIZATION HACKS
These ideas come from James M. Kilts, the author of DOING WHAT MATTERS. I think they’re good ones for when you’re facing situations with a lot of moving parts….like re-inventing yourself, for example.
VISION. Adopt a straightforward vision of what you want to do and how you want to do it. Make it actionable and easy to understand. That way anybody who wants to join in your dance knows what they’re supposed to do in it
FUNDAMENTALS. Don’t get caught up in the fad theory of the day. If you stay focused on the fundamentals and apply them rigorously and across the board, many problems become less likely.
Mostly, A-B-C and 1-2-3 helps prevent !@#.
I remember a story a friend of mine told me about his uncle Howard’s most memorable champion collegiate wrestler. The guy won state collegiate wrestling championships even though he only knew three fundamental wrestling moves. The wrestler was very strong and he knew those moves very well. He won match after match when he performed each of the moves excellently every time his coach told him to do them.
FLEXIBILITY. Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to problem-solving.
Templates work within limits and they do not travel widely with the same effect. Study each situation and make sure the solution custom-fits the problem.
It’s also wise to remember that f’r real, there is no such thing as a “foolproof” system. (The creativity of fools is legendary.)
INNOVATION. Just because something worked in the past does not mean it will work in the future. Kilts says, “Things change, nowadays, very quickly and fundamentally so beware that superficial similarities aren’t hiding some deep differences.”
For some reason, this one reminds me of that 1984 comedy-horror movie, GREMLINS. Those little furry mogwai guys were really sweet…until they got wet.
The movie was directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg. Chris Columbus wrote the screenplay. It was a huge commercial success and the critics loved it. However, the film was heavily criticized for some its more violent bits.
Another very popular blockbuster adventure film that came out around the same time, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, also received similar complaints and Spielberg suggested that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) change its movie rating system so that concerned parents could be forewarned about a film’s more controversial content. The MPAA did change the rating system within two months of the film’s release.
TIMING. Process is never a substitute for excellence of actions even though it is an important element for its success.
Process has its own requirements but an excellent action taken at the wrong time won’t work. A fancy, beautifully done flying kick is easily avoided by one well-timed step to the side.
One visitor to our Southern Style Preying Mantis class told us an amusing story. He said that because his dad was a top-notch instructor in Tae Kwon Do he had been trained in it from an early age. By the time he was a teenager our visitor had developed a big head about it all, strutting around with a major bad-ass attitude. He said he was especially good at delivering powerful flying kicks and he terrorized his competition. His dad set up a sparring demonstration that featured the boy’s spectacular kicks. Every time the boy tried the move, however, his father stepped to the side and everybody watched as the teenager went sailing past the master and earned another whack. It was humiliating. It also shrank the boy’s head considerably.
MEASURING. Kilts says, “If you can’t measure it, it’s not real.”
This is an old and hoary piece of advice and it’s a good one. Measuring a thing does indeed make it more real.
I always do wonder, however, what the measuring stick is. With one action, you can save a child’s life. With another action, you kill that child but you make a heck of a lot of money.
The question comes down to this: What are you measuring for? That thing you are measuring for is what illuminates and defines the meaning of any action, it seems to me.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON IT ALL
Re-purposing yourself is a big, long-term project, but if you’re feeling stuck, starting on making a change may help get you moving again. Also, if the results you are currently getting are unsatisfying to you, re-purposing yourself can help you achieve more of what you really want in your life.
Either one might be the impetus you need to begin the process of de-stale-inizing your life.
A natural consequence of being in the world for a while is that you tend to assume things are this way or that because it seems like they always happen the same way every time you notice them. Assumptions accumulate.
HOW ASSUMPTIONS COLLECT IN YOUR HEAD
When you were an infant, you were always amazed that the sun rose and set, that the wind blew things around and that rain fell down from the clouds. After a while, though, you noticed that these things kept happening and pretty soon you just figured that was the way those things worked.
As you moved out into the world more, all the stuff bigger people shared with you out of their store of assumptions that they called “wisdom” also seemed to explain how things worked in the world. You absorbed them all.
Some of that stuff helped to keep you safe. The one about not sticking your hands into a fire because if you do then your hands will get all crispy and they do not feel so good comes to mind. There’s also the one about not stepping off a high place unless you’ve got a better plan than just flapping your arms.
Often the big people around you also threw in their opinions about how people should behave, how the world should work, and what every right-thinker should do along with the safety tips and hints on how to get on in the world. Bet you thought all those opinions were for-real truths too.
Over a lifetime, you fill up a whole warehouse of this mish-mash of opinions and rumors and hints and allegations. Maybe you even called them Truths.
ASSUMPTIONS ARE SEEDS
Assumptions are great time-savers. If you have to think, think, think every time you try to do anything, it’s likely you will end up just standing there vibrating. Over-analysis causes paralysis. Nike says “Just Do It,” but you’re still stuck on…”ummm, what do I do?”
It’s a puzzlement, that. Whole libraries of books have been written by wise guys on this very subject. Masses of motivational talks and sermons and yammering have been built on sharing how to get your lead bottom moving.
And they work. (If they didn’t work, nobody would do them.)
The thing is, if enough people believe in an assumption, then that consensus-opinion as well as all the time and effort all of these people put into acting as if the assumption is real does, indeed, work to make it real.
You think you know what’s what. You have this really cool collection of thoughts and you are working really hard on making them so. And, lo and behold, you do make them so. The “fake-it-’til-you-make-it” mode is built on that one.
Mighty fine things have grown out of assumptions.
THERE’S ALWAYS THE DOWN-SIDE
All this assumption-making does have a couple of down-sides.
For one thing, assumptions can make you blind. The thing is we humans can really mis-read what the Universe is telling us.
The Flat Earth theory was one mind-construct that was very popular just a few hundred years ago. One consequence of the thought that intrepid explorers would fall off the edge of the earth if they went too far in one direction was that most people didn’t travel much. Why would they?
Assumptions can be like that. They can stop us from doing things.
Here’s a YouTube video, Challenging Assumptions, by Andy Cohen, a motivational speaker who plays with magic to make his points.
(Cohen just launched a book earlier this year. It is called CHALLENGE YOUR ASSUMPTIONS, CHANGE YOUR WORLD. The little publicity blurb star on the cover says the book is introducing the Assumpt! “A breakthrough to faster, smarter business decisions,” it says here.)
Assumption-induced blindness can lead to other problems as well.
Together with our propensity for building up great mind-constructs that seem to explain everything to our own satisfaction, we humans are also capable of investing great gobs of emotions in all of these mind-constructs we build. It’s just the way we humans roll.
We dress our assumptions up pretty and then we spread them around among family, friends and other people. We hold onto and are loyal to our assumptions, through thick and thin, regardless of the empirical, real-world evidence to the contrary.
Assumptions stick in your head. They’re like squatters who refuse to leave. It doesn’t help that often we don’t want to let them go. They’re what makes up our security blanket after all. Who wants to let go of their boo-boo blanket?
Assumptions make us so sure that we are right that we are even willing to fight and die for our assumptions. Assumptions are probably a leading cause of arguments and their escalation. Two people who hold and are stubbornly loyal to two sets of assumptions that don’t mesh just can’t seem to stop trying to get the other one to admit that he or she is the one who is wrong.
Two very different people holding onto their own set of mutually exclusive set of assumptions just are not going to connect well enough to get along together.
This disconnect between them doesn’t resolve itself automatically. Like every other mind-construct, bridges take time and effort from the people involved to build.
This problem is another puzzlement that has the wise guys scratching their heads and concocting all kinds of other lists of “should” and “can’t” and “don’t.” Assumptions give birth to more assumptions. On and on and on.
You can play the assumption-busting game if you like.
Trying to step outside the other-people rules and this-is-so that are dancing in your head can lead to some interesting discoveries. Many life-coaches and other gurus tell you that it is one of the best ways to get your head outside your box.
Here are starter-questions you might want to ask: What would happen if you challenged an assumption that you’ve long held? What if you followed that exploration to its natural end?
Maybe you could start training yourself to tackle the assumptions you’ve always taken for granted by starting small. Here are a few suggestions for little challenges you might want to try tackling:
What happens if I try eating this new fruit that a friend just gave me?
What happens if I wear that fire-engine red dress that looks exciting and fun?
What happens if I take this road rather than that one I’ve always taken to work?
Challenging little assumptions could lead to your tackling bigger ones after a while, like:
What happens if I talk to this exotic-looking person who does not look or think or act like the people I’ve always known?
What happens if I learn about this person’s culture and ways of seeing the world?
What happens when I taste the food he or she likes, wear the clothes he or she prefers, or speak his or her language?
What happens if I decide to explore this place where I’ve never been before?
And then you can try challenging the really big ones:
What happens if I make a friend of someone who is nothing like the people with whom I grew up?
What happens if I choose not to be a worker in tick-tock world and choose instead to follow my own heart?
What happens if I retire first and then start doing my real work after I am sixty-five?
You can take this exercise as far as you like. You won’t come up with the Ultimate Answer doing it. What you’ll probably produce is a whole bunch of other questions to explore and maybe you’ll stumble over some way of walking that allows more meaning and mana into your life. The good part is it’ll be your own meaning and your own mana…and not somebody else’s.
Here’s a poem that grew out of witnessing other people’s struggles with their own assumptions:
REPORT FROM THE EDGE
The lady with the self-stick “victim” label is looking at me
With puppy-dog eyes, swimming in tears.
She cannot understand why I have not taken up
The “Savior” mantle she’s been trying to force on me.
It looks like she has decided I am yet another oppressor in her life.
My words are ineffective.
(They always are when ears won’t hear them.)
I am determined, though.
I will not use them as battering rams.
What’s the point of that?
I am very much afraid that a sympathetic hug
Will be misconstrued as an alliance.
So here I am, stymied, backed into a corner
And feeling an urge to run.
I swear the lady’s starting to sprout fangs.
Braddah-man has lost his center,
A warrior flailing in the middle of
The dark forces coming at him,
Legions swarming in from all sides,
Weapons drawn and hungry.
He is making promises he cannot keep,
Setting goals he will not meet.
Again and again the words float away.
They have no substance and they’re tangled up
In the lies that are taking him down for the third time.
He only knows he is drowning.
He has that 1000-yard, shell-shocked stare,
And he knows…boy, does he know…
That the cavalry won’t make it.
They haven’t even left the fort yet.
Mistah Merchant Man
Keeps looking at the dreams sliding away
On the slippery slope of numbers falling down,
And all he can see are the edges of
His paper castle starting to curl and burn.
Restructuring and renovating a burning castle
Doesn’t seem like much of a plan.
Selling lemonade to the crowd of gathered witnesses
Watching as the conflagration burns
Probably won’t help much either.
Those positive affirmations of his
All turned into curds and whey.
The Spider’s been and gone.
Little Miss Muffet’s tuffet is overturned in the grass,
And Dorothy’s gone to Oz.
The god-mad prophet, a teacher gone bonkers,
Stomps along, proclaiming the world’s end.
It’s all turned into dominoes that keep on falling down.
His voice, full of fire and brimstone, thunders on and on
But his words go unnoticed by the bustling crowd.
The masses whose attention he seeks are busy,
They’re all just doing their own.
For them the world’s still spinning and their journey’s just begun
The winds are filling sails; the seas are calling loud.
For them the frontiers beckon; for them the sun shines down.
They know, those other people…
A hundred years hence, we probably won’t be Legend.
But the world will still spin, the wheel still turn.
Some of us fall and some of us fly,
And the rest of us scoot along.
by Netta Kanoho
Picture credit: Taste the Rainbow by LadyDragonflyCC ->;< [CC BY 2.0]
“Choose things in your life that will endure, that are a pleasure to use. Classic clothes never go out of style. Furniture should get better with age. Choose things because they delight you, not because they impress others. And never let things be more important than your family, friends and your own spirit.”
In the 1980’s when Steve Jobs and friends launched the first MacIntosh, it was Marney Morris and her interactive software design company Animatrix, who put together a lively and entertaining “guided tour” of that historic machine. The guide helped the technologically challenged to bravely enter the intimidating world of computers and get good at it.
Since then Morris has continued to explore interactive design and has helped hundreds of corporations and thousands of end-users connect and engage with each other. She knows a lot about design and how it affects the way you live your life. She’s been a speaker at various conferences and teaches a popular course on Interactive Design at Stanford University as well.
I figured it would be worthwhile to take her advice: to choose to fill my world with things that give me pleasure. It’s been amazing how well this strategy is working.
PRACTICING CHOOSING PLEASURE
I’ve been working on making sure that the stuff I hang onto in my life are like the ones Morris praises: enduring things that are a pleasure to use, a joy to look at. One really good pan — beat-up and banged-up, but perfectly suited for making that special soup or the best omelet or whatever — beats out a whole bunch of handsome, copper bottomed things that just don’t work right.
I am making a practice of looking over the stuff that surrounds me and letting go of the things that just don’t delight me. The result of that one practice seems to be a much happier, warmer, softer me.
Every place I look now there’s something that evokes a fond memory or arrests my attention yet again because it is intriguing or is the most effective tool I’ve got for the job I need to be addressing. All of that seems to smooth down my feathers and makes me feel all fluffy and warm. There are no jarring notes in my immediate surroundings. It’s all good, heartful, useful stuff.
CHOOSING DELIGHTFUL PEOPLE
I can live with that, I am thinking. And if I carry that concept over and use it to look at the people in my world, and I choose to hang with the delightful ones who make me feel loved and safe and warm, well…that’s a very good place to be, isn’t it?
Maybe the quality of a life is kind of like the quality of a good stew. If you use the very best ingredients, prepare them properly and mix them all up well, then the stew is very, very good. It’s a lot harder to screw it up.
Sometimes rubbing together two truths could produce a whole other way of seeing that might lead to new ways of thinking. It’s sort of like rubbing two sticks together to make a fire, another way of Un-Seeing.
One natural progression brought on by rubbing together two equal and opposite truths is this:
CONFLICT –> PARADOX –> REVELATION
Think about it. It is how new hypotheses are formed and how new business deals (and art and poetry and all kinds of gadgetry) are made. A new construct that’s built on the tension between two or more very different or even opposite ideas can lead to a new way of walking for you and, perhaps, different results in your life.
The theory is that if you can make it automatic, then it just is part of what you do and you don’t have to spazz about doing it or not doing it and your head doesn’t seize up from all the push-me/pull-you that happens when you’re in transition and trying to change.
Here’s a YouTube video, “Tony: The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working” put together by Schwartz’s own company, The Energy Project. It’s a snippet of one of his speaking engagements, that explains the premises from which he operates.
HERE’S THE HOW-TO
Start small and build incrementally. Undertake to add no more than one or two rituals into your day a time. Once they’ve gotten set into your day, you can add a couple more.
Schwartz says, “Embedding any ritual can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. Even then, it’s possible to build several rituals over the course of a year, one at a time.”
Aim for precision and specificity. Define precisely when you’re going to do something (i.e., “It’s Thursday; I water houseplants.”)
“If you have to think for very long about doing something, it’s unlikely you’ll end up doing it for very long,” Schwartz says.
Focus is important. Make sure you’re focusing on something you are doing rather than focusing on something you are trying not to do.
A real-life example of a failure to focus properly is my 50 or so aborted attempts to quit smoking. Every time the attempt has been about not-smoking. Success has been limited to avoiding the expansion of a bad jones.
I was disappointed to learn that I am not quite Gandhi enough to “be the change I want to be.”
Recognize when and why you sabotage your own change. Schwartz says that even the most passionate commitment to a given change is always balanced by an equally powerful, often unseen commitment not to change. The only way to change it is to admit it, accept it, and then change anyhow.
One tool to use is asking a series of questions:
QUESTION 1: What do I want and what will I do to avoid getting it?
QUESTION 2: What am I currently doing or not doing that undermines my commitment to changing?
QUESTION 3: What is my competing commitment that urges me to not-change?
QUESTION 4: What’s the Big Assumption behind the competing commitments?
Schwartz says you need to take a look at your shadows.
Ask yourself what you fear might happen if you actually followed through on your primary commitment and changed your behavior.
Are these fears realistic ones?
If they are, then how can you design the ritual so you enjoy the intended benefits but also mitigate the costs you are fearing?
I am still working on this one.
Notice the positive effects of the new ritual as you continue to do it. Are other people seeing any positive changes in you? Can you ask them for help and support if you need it?
Honest self-observation is the antidote to unwitting self-deception. It’s a good thing to check out whether the new way of doing stuff is actually”better.” If you’re not happy with the results or if the benefits are not what you thought they’d be, it could be time to re-think the thing.
CHANGING UP THE SAME-OLD
Okay. So you’ve built up all your routines and are flying on automatic pilot. You make up routines as you go along because it gets to be a pain always thinking, thinking, thinking about your next move. Doing a routine makes it easier to slide through the days.
But, it also lets the days slip away from you and everything tends to get a little bit blurry as a result. After a while that gets…unsatisfactory.
Deliberately changing the routines of your life and paying attention to everything you can learn about people, the world around you, and your own self seems to make the days more real somehow. They also tend to help you find better ways to do the stuff you have to do. A different cool thing.
Maybe it can result in a thing like Sarah Kay’s beautiful spoken poem, “If I Should Have a Daughter.”
(That YouTube video was produced by So much Noise. It’s one of the more beautiful versions of Sarah Kay’s work.)
Changing up the same-old that grew out of your routine-making can lead to wondrous things.
MEETING IN THE MIDDLE….
So there it is: all I know about routines. You make them to give yourself space to do all the stuff you need to get done to get to where you want to go. But, then you need to break up the routines to give yourself the ability to enjoy your life. It just goes ’round and ’round, that.
How much routine you choose to have in your life depends on how much you can stand zombie-ing out, I suppose. Me, I get a bit paranoid when things get too routine. (That may be the result of reading too many spy thrillers. “Predictable” is never a good thing in those stories.)
I am reading my latest copy of Steven Pressfield’s book, THE WAR OF ART: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.
It is a slim thing, less than 200 pages long. It is made up of gunslinger-sharp mini-essays (some of them only one paragraph long) that examine and delineate the obstacles you will most certainly encounter every time you try to make your deepest dreams come real.
THE DARK FORCE
Most of those obstacles and hurdles on the road to your dream rise up from inside your own self. Pressfield calls this dark force “Resistance” (always with a capital “R”).
Pressfield’s rule of thumb is this: “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel towards pursuing it.” That one’s a truth.
Any time you decide to make even a small change in your life that requires some kind of long-term effort, this dark force will appear. If you are bent on doing a thing that demands that you step outside of your comfort zone or give up or forego some instantly available pleasure, the dark force springs into action.
Opportunities instantly appear to sidetrack you from your goal. The dancing girls and randy studs pop out of the woodwork all ready to party down. Your favorite boutique or parts store throws a monster gotta-get-it sale. Your best bud comes up with a truly awesome idea that is guaranteed to stack up the big bucks really, really fast.
RESISTING THE RESISTANCE
In the second section of his book Pressfield presents a mindset that helps you bypass all the glitter and go for the gold. He calls this mindset “Turning Pro.”
It comes complete with weapons and ammo – life strategies and mind-games – that you, too, can tote around and use to get over yourself and gun down the sneaky, villainous opposition that lurks in your head.
Here’s a You-Tube video, Steven Pressfield: Overcoming Resistance, posted by Positively Positive.
If the book ended with this second section, it would still be an exceptionally insightful and useful business how-to-do-it book for tackling the self-sabotage and self-delusions that distract you from your dreams.
But, then, Pressfield takes it up another notch….
TO THE NEXT LEVEL
In the third section of this little book he sets out to tell you the “why” of doing all this convoluted dancing around. Pressfield accomplishes this aim most handily. You need to read it yourself to feel and be affected by the mana it holds. (I’m not going to spoil it for you.)
WHY I HAVE A NEW COPY OF AN OLD BOOK
THE WAR OF ART first came out in 2002. I devoured the thing and then re-read it many, many times in order to get the concepts to sink down into my bones. It helped straighten my head about how to break down the resistances that (even now) I keep on putting up against following my own heartsong.
Over the years I’ve bought a replacement copy of this book whenever I notice that it is no longer sitting on my bookshelf. It goes missing because I keep lending the thing to friends and they invariable “forget” to give it back. (Sigh!)
So…here I am with yet another copy of it. As I re-read it, I am reminded again of the value of this little book. Maybe you will find it valuable as well. Give it a shot!
Here’s a poem:
WHAT’S THE POINT?
Here it comes again.
It’s Thermopylae, Masada and the Alamo all over again –
A ragtag, beat-down band of little guys stand tall
As annihilation looms,
On the brink of being overwhelmed
By the massed forces of an invading army
That ripples like the tide
Across the landscape
As far as the eye can see.
The cavalry ain’t coming, and it is NOT looking good.
So you stand at the edge of that mountain pass, that mesa, that wall,
And you have to wonder…
What is the POINT of all this?
Us humans do this stuff over and over again,
Caught up in the dark tide,
Stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time,
We give it our best shot,
And, of course, it is not enough.
And the people who come after us
Make up all those glorious, useless, blood-and-gut stories
That rise up like phoenixes out of our ashes.
And the world goes on,
Dancing in a new light that shines
On a different world than the one
We fought so hard to keep,
The one we lost,
The one they dream about.
The Tai Ch’i turns,
Light in the dark,
Dark in the light,
And maybe that is the only lesson:
The Dark doesn’t win,
And neither does the Light.
The only constant, always, is change.
By Netta Kanoho
Picture credit: via Amazon.com (book)
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Art = Process, Art = Exploration, and Art = Discovery. Playing with your materials, learning a new technique for making a something, honing your craftsmanship and your ability to go further and further into your medium….that’s the glory part. That’s the part that makes your heart fly.
One day in the middle of doing all this neat stuff you look up and, gee-wow…you’ve gotten way good at the thing you’ve been called to do. You’ve also got stacks and stacks of, well, stuff. You now own skill-sets like you wouldn’t believe, but you’re tripping over all the detritus you’ve accumulated and it is interfering with your ability to move any more.
THE DOWNSIDE OF FLYING WITH ANGELS
Novelist Umber Eco has his Franciscan sleuth William of Baskerville expound, “The order that our mind imagines is like a net, or like a ladder, built to attain something. But afterwards you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that, even if it was useful, it was meaningless.”
Art is like that, I am thinking. You work on building some sort of construct that will express or explain some phenomena you’ve encountered. Out of thin air, you make a something.
And once you’ve done it – whether you’ve been successful or not at coming close to whatever truth you think you’ve seen — it sits there. It turns into a thing that has to be named and catalogued, displayed or stored, dusted or shined up or ….whatever.
It isn’t the thing you make that is all-fired important, really. The process and the journey you make getting to that thing is actually what your heart is aiming for. The making of the thing is the Real in all this….
But then, the thing just sits there. Stuff piles up in doorways and stacks and piles of stuff cover up windows and take up floor space. Shortly thereafter your creative impulse gets a bad case of constipation and the flow stops.
To be exclusively concerned with art leads to bulging warehouses full of half-remembered insights. Hmmm. The eternal conundrum for every artist I’ve ever known – myself included.
GUT-THOUGHTS ON ALL THIS
My na’au, my gut, is a bit of a nag. It whines and whimpers and spends a lot of time making up catastrophic futures. I get annoyed with it. I have to keep reminding myself: Your gut’s job is to be hungry. Its job is to feed you and keep you safe and warm and good stuff like that.
If you can sell the thing you made and get some sort of (decent) renumeration, my gut tells me, you won’t have to make a steady diet of ramen noodles or live in some cardboard box in an alley or something. My gut points out that it’s really hard to do artwork when you’re living in a cardboard box or under a bush. It do go on….
My gut is in charge of survival scheming. My gut wants me to do marketing and turn the Beauty I make into something that other people will spend good money to get. My gut likes eating. Good money means better grinds. ‘Nuff said.
Every creative gets to do this dance. Maybe it’s part of the deal. Who knows? Obviously, there needs to be some negotiating when heart and gut are at odds. Otherwise all the push-me, pull-you action will drive you crazy.
THE FORK IN THE ROAD
Art that is new or different arises out of NOT being concerned with marketing. Probably there is no way that an artist can make new or different art while keeping an eye on marketing possibilities. Finding your own voice requires flying off into strange dimensions and risking getting lost. The edge of Making is uncomfortable.
On the other hand, traditional marketing is basically about making other people comfortable. It is a truth: The traditional marketing mindset is not likely to lead to new or different art. It mostly leads to same-old with maybe one or two not-so-major alterations so that the whatever-it-is can be touted as “new and improved.”
The theory behind the traditional marketing mindset is that people are more likely to buy something with which they are comfortable. Strangeness is not comfortable for most people.
One of the acknowledged best of the marketers today is Seth Godin. Here’s a YouTube video, “Seth Godin: The Art of Marketing,” put together by TheArtOf.com that touches on his thoughts about marketing.
(All marketer wannabes can CLICK HERE for the full interview.)
As a confused creative, you might find it more palatable than most marketing riffs. As Godin points out, marketing is no longer just about selling average products to average people. The Internet, he says, has changed all that.
Some art purists would say — in tones of high-brow disdain — that all marketing is “pandering” to what other people like, what other people know, what they find familiar (and what is similar to whatever some star in their firmament owns or possesses). The purists accuse the ones who are successful at marketing of being pimps, of “selling out,” and so forth and so on.
Mostly, I notice, the creatives who are good at marketing are really pleased when the things they’ve made have found good homes with other people who have made rooms in their lives for them. The best sign on a shop window, after all, has to be the one that says “SOLD OUT.”
“Product” has to be concerned with marketing or it ain’t product. The end-result of the process that is Art-for-art’s-sake and not product becomes like those pictures Mommy tapes to the refrigerator and like those misshapen clay ashtrays she proudly displays on the coffee table. Meh….
The thing the purist in you has to remember is this: Other people are not obliged to pay attention to anything that disconcerts them or that requires effort for them to understand. They’ve got enough on their plates already and for the most part it is not a part of their jones to make themselves uncomfortable. Because of this, they may not be ready to exchange their hard-earned bucks for your unsettling visions.
Developing your own voice, it seems to me, is a good thing. Using it to scream and rant in other people’s ears is not.
Basically what marketing for you as an artist boils down to is learning to hold another person’s hand and taking them little by little into your new-to-them, different world and introducing them to the wonderments you see a little bit at a time.
It becomes another dance. In it you explore their world as much as you encourage them to explore yours. In it, you speak heart-to-heart and try to give them a piece of your vision that they will be able to incorporate and integrate into their own world.
Then, when you’ve done all that, you can ask them for their support. You ask for their permission to keep doing what you do. If they like it, if they like you, then you will be able to keep on doing your dance (without all of the boxed detritus lying around). And isn’t that all you really want anyhow?
This YouTube video, “Neil Gaiman’s 10 Rules for Success,” was posted by Internet entrepreneur and social media marketeer Evan Carmichael. It’s part of an ongoing project of his to collect the top ten Rules of Success held by assorted successful people in every field of endeavor. He’s put together videos featuring writers, artists, musicians, film makers as well as assorted business people.
Wo! Here’s a mind-blowing discovery: all that “empowerment” stuff is basically about taking responsibility for your own actions and reactions to the World around you and the consequences that arise as a result of those actions and reactions.
This doesn’t mean you are responsible for all the crummy things that happen in the world. It just means that the way you walk and the way you dance and all of the things that happen because you do what you do are yours. You have to deal with them. If you mess up, you have to fix them.
Why? Because that’s the only way you can build up your own inner power and stamina so you can keep on doing your dance in the middle of the World which is intent on doing whatever it’s doing.
If you’re looking for some good reading (with lots of helpful exercises and mind-bending thoughts on personal transformation), you might like the classic EMPOWERMENT: The Art of Creating Your Life As You Want Itby David Gershon and Gail Straub. It’s now in its eleventh printing. Folks do find it useful….
NOT FOR THE FEARFUL
This “empowerment” thing is a double-edged sword, however. If you’re scared of the Creative, the Unknown, the World, or anything else uncertain, you might be moved to try for control rather than just walking your walk and making sure you are not doing things that cause harm to others.
You might decide that you absolutely need to manipulate and reorganize everything and everyone around you and make the world a safe and secure place for you and everybody and everything you love.
The problem with that one, of course, is that the all-of-everything is way too big for anybody to control. It’s spread out all over the place and trying to organize it all is like trying to do a 20-family garage sale all by yourself.
The chief consequence of that move is that you’re likely to end up crazy on the side of the road. F’r sure, you will not have any time left over for doing your own dance.
NO BLAME GAMES HERE
On the other hand, you can abdicate and throw up your hands and decide that it’s “circumstances” (or other people or the stars or whatever) that are really what’s causing these actions and reactions of yours. That one means you get to blame “circumstances” and “other people” and “retrograde Mercury” or whatever when the 2×4 comes and whaps you upside the head yet again.
What you do to make it work is you grab a big self-adhesive “VICTIM” label and slap it across your forehead and you spend a lot of time whimpering and whining and moaning between getting kicked in the butt yet again. If it gets really bad, you can go sit against a wall and go catatonic.
Neither of these things help you do your dance, but most people seem to alternate between the Control Freak mode and the Victim mode. They seem to prefer it to doing their own dance.
WHAT ARE YOU CHOOSING?
I don’t think you get any other choices: either you choose to be Control Freak and/or Victim, or you get to do your dance. What you choose is made manifest in the actions you take and whether you accept the responsibility for those actions.
Here’s an inspirational YouTube video, “Make Good Art.” It was put together by independent cinematographer Tommy Plesky, who says about it, ” I produced, edited and (for parts) filmed this video in order to inspire the “artists”, the creative, the adventurers, the people who do what they really enjoy doing (and for those who don’t, to keep searching), the creators … the “crazy” ones.”
He tells his fans, “If you want to share this video with the idea of inspiring people. Go ahead….” (Thanks, Tommy!)
And here’s a poem:
FOLLOWING MY DAYS
Following my day leads me to
new ways of seeing, meeting, being.
When I can let go of the marching orders
handed down from Control Central
(that part of me that doesn’t want to
relinquish being General Manager of the Universe),
I can let go of the tugs of other people’s needs
in the welling up of my own little wishes that
pull and push me hither and yon
across familiar landscapes,
leading me to new treasures,
new thoughts, new doings.
It doesn’t often happen.
The imperatives of urgent deadlines,
impeccable paper trails and
aligning picayune details
make a maze I must navigate sharply.
Days spent snarled up in red tape,
hours of blather – talk, talk, talking,
minutes spent puzzling out conundrums
and secret codes. Oh!
When I do slip away from
the crepulous detritus of everyday dailynesses,
the day turns rainbow-shiny.
I am given to giggly fits
and watermelon-slice smiles.
The Kalidasa says it best:
“A day well-lived makes
every yesterday a dream of happiness,
every tomorrow a vision of hope.”
I know this. I tend to forget.
The muddy byways of the daily labyrinth,
dotted with the piles of cow-pies and horse-apples,
Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom): an understanding that you are born with the courage to live. [Otherwise you’d never have gotten here. You’d just be the loser sperm that didn’t make it in the championship race to the egg….]
It’s a hard lesson to learn, that going through personal darkness is part of the process of developing a stronger light within yourself. All the wise guys say it’s true. They say it’s a necessary thing.
Dissolution — the dying of everything Ego thinks it is, it wants, it needs — is the prelude to realizing that, for real, what you are is just what you are, and understanding that it is enough. Right. Got it.
Here’s a YouTube video, “Losing the Ego: The Awakening by Alan Watts” published by AJ Fortuna who calls himself a “visual and electronic music artist focusing on the spiritual aspects of life.”
Alan Watts, whose thoughts are presented in this video, was a British philosopher, writer and lecturer who interpreted and popularized Eastern philosophy in the Western world. The bulk of his work happened after he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies in California in 1950.
Watts’ first book, THE WAY OF ZEN, was published in 1957. It was one of the first best-selling books about an ancient way of thought. He went on to write more than 25 books and numerous articles exploring Eastern philosophy. After his death in 1973 his son Mark kept the legacy alive. Many of the philosopher’s recorded talks and lectures are available on the Internet.
SO, IT STARTS WITH DISSOLUTION
When the wise guys talk about it, the process of dissolving Ego sometimes sounds like wiping off the thick grimy dust that’s accumulated on a lightbulb that hasn’t been wiped down in a long, long time. (Pfui! You can hear those wiseacres sniggering and snorting as you work that elbow, getting all the stuck-on gunk off that stupid bulb.)
They do warn you that the dying is not an easy thing. That old lightbulb’s encrusted, man.
What they don’t tell you is that very likely, while you’re doing all this stuff, you’re not even all that sure that somebody remembered to turn on the electricity. Maybe you’ll get the dust off and then find out the bulb’s gone bad. (SHEESH!)
ONE BIG OUCH….
It HURTS when you lose all the illusions and delusions, the protections and mind-constructs you’ve built up so carefully for so long. It really hurts when you have to let go of the security blanket that defined the you as presented to the world-as-you-know-it by Ego. The Valley of Shadows strips away all that stuff. The process is ruthless and if you’re particularly delusional, well…it rips you apart.
And you know what? You whine and winge an awful lot about really picayune things that make you cringe when you actually listen to yourself.
If you’re actually serious about doing this kind of peeling off the Ego-stuff (rather than embracing it and embedding yourself deeper into the thing) you get to worrying that maybe you’re so riddled with wormholes and rotten spots that you’re going to end up looking like Swiss cheese at the end of the process.
KEEPING ON THAT KEEPING ON
So anyhow, there you are diligently cultivating your “Higher Self” or whatever. You tell yourself that all you have to do is just keep on moving forward relentlessly until you get all the way through the thing.
You can use all the tools and techniques devised by all the wise guys through all the ages. You can do all the prescribed meditations and affirmations until they come out of your ears. You can sing the chants and songs and do the rituals, assume the postures and don the proper attitudes, do whatever you like or need to do to keep on taking one more step and then one more step and then one more step, on and on and on.
But the deal is, you have to keep taking that one more step in the direction you want to go. They say it’s the only way to get to a life that has meaning and mana for you.
I guess that what you really need to get through the dark parts is what the English call “bottom” — courage and balance, sheer stubborn and absolute faith that you ARE going to get there, despite all the “no” and “not and “not even.” All you have to do is keep taking one step. That’s all. Just one more step.
This YouTube clip, “Brave” is a spoken word poem written and performed by Kristal Serrano.
And here’s another poem:
Hanging ten on the edge of dissolution,
Staring into the maw of the Creative Dark, pō panopano.