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Month: February 2017

PROGRESS COMES AFTER

PROGRESS COMES AFTER

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that past mistakes have consequences and what we have been and done does not just disappear because of good intentions now.  [Sometimes it takes a long time to get back to pono.]

It seems to be a given.  We’re clumsy oafs, us humans.  Often we break things without meaning to.  Our words and our actions break hearts and shatter lives – our own and those of the ones we love.

Other times, life takes its toll.  We get lost, we fall down and we lose our way.  Bits of ourselves get lost somehow.

On the other hand, broken can become stronger and more beautiful.  It does take time.  It does take care.  It takes patience and gentleness.  It is not likely to be an easy fix.

One metaphor that points the way to repairing brokenness beautifully can be found in a Japanese pottery technique called “kintsugi” or gold-joinery.

The following video, “When Mending Becomes Art” published by Kintsugisouke, is an introduction to this ancient art form.

AN OLD WAY TO REPAIR POTS

“Kintsugi” is an old way of repairing broken pottery developed by the Japanese using lacquer or some other resin laced with pulverized gold.  The story goes that a samurai broke his favorite tea bowl and sent it off to China to be repaired.  When it came back there were ugly metal staples all over the cup firmly holding the cracked bits together.  This was unsatisfactory.

The cup was sent to another artisan, an old Japanese goldsmith, who worked on perfecting a new way to heal the broken cup.  He made each crack in the cup a thing of beauty.  He honored and emphasized every flaw.  And the gold in the cracks caught the light and threw it back each time the old warrior drank his tea.

 I got to thinking about kintsugi and about all the ways we humans get broken.  I ended up writing a poem about it.  Here it is:


KINTSUGI MUSINGS

 ‘Kay.  Try this:

Take this clay tea bowl.

Now throw it on the ground…HARD!

Go for it!

Okay.

Look at those clay bits scattered all about.

Is it still a bowl, do you think?

Sure doesn’t look like it, huh?

 

Okay.

Now, say “sorry” to it.

Go on.

Apologize.

 

Did it go back to the way it was before?

No, huh?

Come on…

Put some SINCERITY into it.

LEAN on that remorse.

Say, “PLEASE forgive me.”

Say, “I didn’t mean it.”

Say, “It was an accident.”

Hmmm.

Try pulling out the big guns.

Say, “I LOVE you!”

Yeah, really…

Say it from the heart.

 

So…

Did all that saying work?

Not really, huh?

Broken’s broken, ain’t it?

And words don’t do a thing.

 

The pieces are still lying there,

Looking all forlorn.

They will not hold together.

The integrity is gone.

When you try to make them fit,

Try to press them into place,

The pieces fall apart.

Sad, huh?

 

Try pouring some tea

On all those broken bits

And the wet just runs down

All over your feet.

Hmmm…

 

Now, what?

Oh, wait…

Here’s some sticky resin stuff.

And, look at this:

There’s this shiny golden powder sitting there,

Right next to you.

 

Let’s try something.

Here, take this brush.

Now pour a dollop of that goopy stuff on this plate.

Swirl it around with the brush.

Right.

Now mix in some of that powder.

Just stir it right on in.

Slowly, slowly, slowly.

Mix it all up.

No lumps, no bumps.

Mix it all up smooth.

 

Okay.

Now, grab up one clay piece

And turn it so the broken edge faces up.

Brush the glop – all golden now – along that ragged edge.

Carefully, carefully…no slopping allowed.

Then grab up a second clay bit

And fit together the edges.

 

Resin oozes out of the crack, huh?

Okay.

Run your brush along that golden bleeding line

Along the front, along the back.

Make it smooth and smoother.

Gently now, like a dream.

Now…repeat, repeat, repeat.

 

You will mess it up, you know.

You’ll get impatient and you’ll push too hard.

The glop will spread and splotch

And you’ll have to start it over.

 

Again, again, again.

You’ll have to keep on mixing,

keep on brushing,

keep on smoothing,

On and on and on

Until each clay edge is touching a matching other

And every crack glimmers golden.

 

Oh-oh.

There’s one piece missing.

(It probably got pulverized,

Or maybe it got lost.)

No matter.

Glop some of the gloop into that empty

And smooth, smooth, smooth it on out

Over the edges, front, then back.

There.

 

Okay.

Now, set it aside.

Wait.

It’ll dry in the bye-and-bye.

 

And…

Oh!  Will you look at that!

The bowl is resurrected,

But it really is NOT the same.

Oh, no.

Now it’s something other.

Now it’s something more.

It gleams now in all the broken places.

Gold shines in all its cracks.

When you pour some tea in it

None of the wet runs out.

 

And when you hold what once-was-broken,

Healed now after all your gentle care,

Maybe then you will understand:

Fixing what you break

Is not supposed to be easy,

And words alone won’t get you there.

By Netta Kanoho

The following video about Kintsugi and the philosophy behind it was published by The School of Life in collaboration with Mad Adam Films and is part of a weekly series of offerings.

The School of Life is both a YouTube channel and a real-life school for adults that focuses on how to live wisely and well.  They are bent on asking the important life-questions that you never got to ask in regular school.  There are ten physical hubs in cities around the world including London, Melbourne, Istanbul, Antwerp, and Seoul.

Picture credit:  Sunrise Over Maui by April Schultz via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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YOUR BEST ADVISOR

YOUR BEST ADVISOR

I am re-reading life coach and best-selling author Martha Beck’s 2001 book, FINDING YOUR OWN NORTH STAR: Claiming the Life You Were Meant To Live.  One of the running themes in the book reminds me of Marcus Tullius Cicero’s thought that “your best advisor is yourself.”

The only problem with this thought is that for many of us, there is a civil war happening inside us and it’s hard to hear the advice from yourself when there’s all that shouting and contradicting going on.  The war is on-going, apparently, for most people.

Who’s in there arguing?  Beck has an explanation.

Beck bases her life-design and career counseling on the premise that each of us have two sides.  One she calls the Essential Self.  The other is the Social Self.  (The capitalizations are mine.)

THE ESSENTIAL SELF

Beck says the Essential Self is the essence of your personality, the “basic you.”  It’s the personality that comes from your genes and includes your characteristic desires, preferences, emotional reactions and involuntary physiological responses.   All of these are gifts from your ancestors and from the Universe.  The gifts include your talents and predispositions as well.

The Essential Self is you as fetus.  It’s the you that came into the world trailing clouds of glory before the world stuck add-ons onto you.

fetus
Fetus (from “The Miracle of Pregnancy” exhibition at the London Natural History Museum, 2011) by Nathan Rupert via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Essential Self is attraction-based.  It knows what it likes.  It prefers to be unique, spontaneous and playful and it is often surprising and inventive.  Beck’s Essential Self sounds like it’s a lot right-brained.

According to Beck, the Essential Self doesn’t change.  It is like the North Star, “Stella Polaris.”  This star is a fixed point that doesn’t move around in the night sky the way the other stars do.  Because it doesn’t move, Polaris has been used by seafarers to figure out which way they’re supposed to go in the middle of the trackless sea.

Beck believes that your Essential Self is your own North Star, pointing the way toward your own “right life,” the one that will lead to the ultimate realization of your own happiness.

THE SOCIAL SELF

The Social Self is the part of you that developed in response to the people around you.

crowd
Crowd by Amy West via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

As Beck points out, human babies are born knowing that their survival depends on the goodwill of the Big People around them.  We are literally designed to please other people.

Cute and adorable is a pretty straightforward human survival mechanism.  On a pragmatic level, cute and adorable is more likely to get fed and nurtured.

Social Self is avoidance-based.  It wants to avoid making trouble, making waves.  It prefers to be conforming.  It spends a lot of time imitating other people and is hardworking, predictable, and really big on making set-in-stone plans.

The Social Self is a fast-talking nagging presence that’s kind of sergeant-major-ish.  It sounds like it’s a lot left-brained.

Your Essential Self cracked your first baby smile, just because.  Your Social Self noticed how much Mom liked it.  Charming Mom with your most endearing smile became a major strategy for getting everything from that extra cookie to convincing her to loan you the down-payment for your new car.

During your lifetime, your Social Self has picked up all kinds of skills from the people around you.  In our society, you learned how to talk and read and dress yourself.  You learned how to dance and drive and share stuff.  You learned how to win social approval.  You learned to display traits that are politically and culturally correct.  (If you belonged to a headhunter tribe or to a yak-herder family, you probably learned other useful skills as well.)

If you were diligent as a youngster, Social Self helped you learn how to be Normal.  If you got really good at it, maybe you even made it to Cool.

BATTLE OF THE SELVES

Social Self’s job is to know how to override Essential Self’s core desires. Social Self is very good at raining on Essential Self’s parade and stopping all that impulsive, giddy-making behavior that might upset other people.

After a while, Essential Self starts feeling squashed and fights back, rebelling against all the strictures and structures and rules and regs.  Passive-aggressive behavior is not unusual.

One interesting theory Beck cites is that so-called “self-sabotage” is very often actions taken (or not taken) by your Essential Self when your Social Self insists on moving in a direction that your Essential Self does not want to go.

Falling asleep in the middle of working on some interminably boring, “very important” report, or “forgetting” to pack that report when you are supposed to be meeting that “very important” client might be examples of this phenomenon.

Then Social Self pours on the pressure and the two selves get locked into a battle that leaves you feeling exhausted and drained.

It doesn’t have to be like that.

RECONNECTING YOUR TWO SELVES

The other thing your Social Self is very good at is working with your Essential Self to sustain relationships with people who are important to you, to finish school, to hold down jobs and to meet your goals, realize your dreams, and all that good stuff.

According to Beck, that can only happen if your Essential Self and your Social Self are on the same page, if they can work together as a team.  When you get to that stage, then, yeah:  Cicero’s right.  You become your best advisor.

After telling you how your two selves came to be working at cross-purposes with each other, Beck’s engaging book takes you through the process of reconnecting your two selves so the old stuffed-shirt Social Self can pay attention and help to meet the needs and desires of your Essential Self, who is, after all, your true North Star.

There’s a plethora of case studies, questionnaires, exercises and very good information  in Beck’s FINDING YOUR OWN NORTH STAR.  Get the book and check it out.

In this YouTube video published by Aspeakers and featuring Martha Beck, the author recalls how she came to write the book.  She is a wonderful storyteller.

FINAL THOUGHT

If you do the work and talk it over with your own selves and pay attention to the thoughts you think and the feelings you feel, your two selves can help you navigate your way through the choices and opportunities you encounter, leading you toward a more joyous and meaningful life for yourself.

How do you tell if it’s working?  It’s easy.  Your energy level increases exponentially when you’re paying attention to your Essential Self and honoring the course-corrections your Social Self makes in the process.

And that’s a very good thing….

I have personally used many of the exercises in Beck’s book to help me suss out the direction that holds the meaning and mana for me in my own life.   My copy has all the blanks filled in and notes in the margins.  I’ve bent my head around her concepts and tried to do the work she suggests.

The book has a place on my reference shelf.

Here’s a poem:


GEE, THANKS

You tell me you’ve been noticing

That I’m just not

As bubbly as I was,

Not singing on the wing

Like some demented lark,

Spiraling up into the sun.

 

You’re right.

I’m not.

 

You tell me

It caused a disturbance

In your contemplation

Of the mountain of

Your desires and

You’ve interrupted

Your own climbing flight.

 

Oh, wow.

I’m surprised.

 

You tell me

That you feel for me,

And wisdom-words come

Tumbling out of you

As you try to pat me

Back into the shape you remember.

 

Gee, thanks.

You care.

by Netta Kanoho

[A colleague of mine at a real-estate office where I once worked awkwardly tried to give me “sage advice” during one of my down-periods.   Her platitudes were so completely off the mark that I had a hard time not laughing.  But, hey…she did try, and I truly was grateful for that.]


Picture credit:  Polaris by Julian Schugel via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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HEART, PASSION AND THE WORLD

HEART, PASSION AND THE WORLD

“Follow your passion”…”take the path with a heart.”  We hear that a lot, those of us who are looking for meaning and mana to add to our ordinary lives.

Are they the same thing?  Do they mean what we’ve been told they mean?  Does this advice make sense?

A PATH WITH A HEART

The “path with a heart” entered the public arena for consideration back in the late 1960’s, when an anthropology student Carlos Castaneda began writing a series of books recounting his experiences as an apprentice sorcerer under a Yaqui Indian “man of knowledge” Don Juan.

The exchanges between student and teacher are humorous in a way.  Carlos, the linear left-brained thinker, keeps trying to unravel and straighten out Don Juan’s circular, right-brained way of dealing with the world.  It never goes well for Carlos.

At one point, Don Juan tries a number of different ways to explain to the slow learner about the “path with a heart.”  Don Juan tells Carlos all he has to do, before embarking on any path is to ask the question, “Does this path have a heart?”  He tells Carlos that just asking the question will give him an immediate answer.

Carlos cannot get it.  He keeps wanting to know how to know for sure that the answer he gets when he asks the question is “real.”  After all, Carlos says, maybe he is just lying to himself.  Maybe when he asks the question, Carlos tells Don Juan, the path is enjoyable, pleasant.

Exasperated, Don Juan tells him, “A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it.”

Carlos, poor man, still didn’t get it.  I’m not sure he ever did.  Most of us who were not raised to listen and trust our hearts don’t.

The following YouTube video is a reading by LucidMaui of Castaneda’s book, THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.

That’s a far cry from the advice you get from the career counselors!

The iconic Maker Patti Smith, after forty years on the planet being a musician, singer, poet, painter, actor, photographer, and even a fashion focus,  shared some secrets to her success in a 2013 interview with THE GLOBE AND MAIL.

patti-smith
Patti Smith by Phil King via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
At one point, she described an instance when, early in her career, a producer who had seen her doing a “musical poetry reading” wanted to shape Patti into a 70’s-style Cher. Patti was flattered and, perhaps, even tempted by the offer.

She said, “Of course it was an honor that someone wanted to invest time and money in me, but this guy had a specific vision for me and it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

She turned him down and walked away.  After all, she figured, Cher was already being Cher and there was no need for two in the world.  As Smith pointed out in the interview, it’s wise to dodge opportunities that are not in keeping with your own personal vision.

She said, “Everyone has to make a living – I worked in a factory, I was a really bad waitress – but in terms of your art, that’s not something you should compromise. You might think you will only compromise for a while, but that’s not the way it works.”

And that’s the thing, isn’t it?  “Heart” is purpose.  “Heart” is the why you do what you do.  If the why of a particular path is not aligned with your own self-definition, what is the point of taking that path?

DO YOUR PASSION

Life and career coaches keep on telling you that you absolutely must, “follow your passion,” and just do only what you love.  You’ve got to believe in your dreams, they say.  It’s the very first step.

They get you doing all kinds of exercises that are meant to show you what you really love and in among all that stuff you like, there’s going to be the one thing that will skyrocket you into the stratosphere of $ucce$$.  Uh-huh.

You know what the major problem with following your passion is?  You can be caught up in a love affair with a something for which you are particularly unsuited.

Maybe your passion is playing the piano and you’re tone-deaf.  Maybe your passion is cooking, but your tastebuds don’t register (or even notice) many flavor nuances.  Whatever.  You can train yourself to do it, right?  Ri-i-i-ight.

Yes, you can, but it will be a long, hard road just getting to square one.  Your chances of success, however you choose to define it, are probably not going to be very high for a good bit of time.

This YouTube video, published by PragerU, features TV personality Mike Rowe, star of “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” shares his “Dirty Truth” (his opinion) about the whole concept.

This video was a commencement address for PragerU, which is an online educational organization who says forthrightly that they want to “help millions of people understand the fundamental values that shaped America.”  It was founded by syndicated radio talk show host Dennis Prager.

ANOTHER TAKE ON IT ALL….

Nathaniel Koloc is the co-founder and CEO of ReWork, a highly successful mission-driven talent firm that connects professionals with hiring managers at companies who are attempting to be change-agents on social, environmental and cultural levels.  He writes a blog on his website, The Muse.

According to Koloc, finding and holding onto meaningful work is a bit more complicated than most career coaches and other advisors tell you.

Yes, you do better if you know what your passion is and what you are driven by.

But figuring that one out involves more than locking yourself in a room and pulling out a pen and some paper and writing reams about how and what you’re feeling.  He outlines a process that does work.

CREATING A LEGACY

Koloc points out that before anything else, it would be a good idea to ask yourself what change you want to create in the world, for yourself and also for others and for future generations.   You need to figure out the shape of what Koloc calls your “legacy.”  It’s the old question:  “When you’re dead, how do you want to be remembered?” 

You’ll find some of your answers by talking to other people and finding out what lessons they’ve learned so far in their own walks.  Maybe you can use the brain-pickings to up your own game.

You’ll test your long-held assumptions and your personal theories of how the world works by actually designing products or systems or services that make use of your theories and then implementing them in the real world.  These tests will help you figure out whether what you “know” is drek.

Will your balloon fly?  Or is it just going to be an empty bag spread out on the ground?

HOW DO WE EAT?

You need to take a hard look at this next question:  Would you do this passion of yours every day to make money?  Or is this passion-thing too pure to be “sullied” by commercialization?

If your passion  — whatever it is — is too pure for doing the marketing dance, then you have to ask yourself the Mommy-question:  how do you plan on eating while you pursue this?  And how do you plan on feeding your children and other dependents?

MAKING IT COME REAL

You’ll also need to ask yourself whether you have at least the start of the skills you need  to pursue this passion of yours.  Are these skills things you want to continue developing?

Most importantly, you have to ask yourself whether you willing to put in the time and the all-out effort that is demanded for getting to becoming a master in matters about which you are passionate?

It takes time and it takes work, mastery.  Are you up for it?

If you’re not going for mastery, why would you bother?  If you are okay with just being okay, are you sure that this thing you love doing is a passion?

And then you have to go do it. 

There may already be a market with a multitude of folks panting for whatever you and your passion produces.  Will it still be there when you’ve finally gotten the skills you need?

Maybe not.  Then you’ve got to be prepared to also do the work of building a market for your own unique productions.

Regardless of what the market is or isn’t, you will still have to work on making the transition from doing the dreck-work and sweeping out the stables to soaring around with eagles or whatever.

FINAL THOUGHTS

To get to where you love doing everything you do, you have to get through the part where you do the set-up so you can.

It’ll take time.  It’ll take effort.  You will be frustrated.  You will feel trapped.  You will go broke.  You will fail.  You will fall down and stand up and fall down again.  That’s all normal.  According to Koloc (and many other guys who did it their own selves), it is well worth it.

As Koloc says, “It may not be as easy as quitting your job one day and living in eternal bliss the next—but the things we value most in life tend to be the things we fought hardest for anyway. So, let’s drop the “follow your passion!” mindset and get to work.”

Here’s a poem:


PASSION

Passion is vital energy:

Used to combat entropy

And turbocharge creativity:

Passion.

 

Doesn’t matter what the focus.

It can be used for hocus-pocus,

Keeps one from being a diplodocus:

Passion.

 

Passion’s more than lovers’ schemes.

Passion fuels the wildest dreams,

Straps rockets onto hopes, it seems:

Passion.

 

What a great discovery!

A cure, a hope against apathy

That makes the heart go flying free:

Passion.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit: Passion by Patrick Garcia via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

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KAHIKINUI PRAYER

KAHIKINUI PRAYER

Kahikinui is a land district that is approximately 22,860 acres between Kipahulu and Kaupo on the southeastern side of the island.  It is bound to the north by Haleakala National Park,  to the west by Ulupalakua Ranch and to the east by Haleakala Ranch.  The Pacific Ocean laps along its southern boundary.

This YouTube video, “Kahikinui,” was published by Jeremy Johnson using his drone and gives a taste of the sheer expansiveness of the place.  (The music is “E Nihi Ka Hele” by the legendary Hawaiian musician Gabby Pahinui)

THE MANY-STORIED LAND

Kahikinui can be a harsh place, a dry and rocky place full of thorns, feral goats and axis deer, and it is, to my mind, one of the most beautiful of Maui’s treasures.  The land is mostly undeveloped because of the shortage of water there.  Some see it as a good place to put up huge windmills for energy.

Kahikinui is the back of beyond…a hinterland that was inhabited since the early fifteenth century by na kua’aina, the country people.  Later planters transformed it into what was called the “greatest continuous zone of dryland planting in the Hawaiian islands.”

It sits mostly empty of people now, but at one time there was a fairly large population.  Ruins of old houses, trails, small farms, and a complex system of temples and shrines are scattered throughout the area.

kuaaina-kahikinui
KUAAINA KAHIKINUI by Patrick Vinton Kirch (via University of Hawaii Press)

Kahikinui was the subject of a 17-year-long study by anthropologist Patrick Vinton Kirch and his students.  He wrote a book about it, KUAAINA KAHIKO, Life and Land in Ancient Kahikinui, Maui.  It is an amazing book.

One reviewer calls Kirch “an academic archaeologist who tried to be pono at a time when to be an archaeologist in some circles was to be a social pariah.”  Interwoven throughout the book are stories about his relationships with a dedicated group of passionate homesteaders, Ka ‘Ohana o Kahikinui, who were allowed by the Hawaiian Home Lands Commission to set up for a bare-bones homesteading effort.

The Hawaiian Home Lands Commission is a State agency that oversees the distribution of (usually third-rate) farming land to Native Hawaiians, as mandated by the Federal government.  That’s a whole, other, very long story fraught with controversy and politics.

The members of the Kahikinui ‘Ohana were willing to do what they had to do to bypass the long, long wait for the government resources to become available to develop the infrastructure that is officially deemed necessary for the people to move back onto the land.

pueo
Pueo by pmm3 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

LAND CONNECTION

My husband Fred and I were interested in becoming homesteaders there.  Two years after Fred died, the land became available.  I was offered a chance to acquire a lease for land there, a posthumous award to my husband.

I had to refuse the offer.  By myself, I did not feel able to do it.  In gratitude, however, I made a prayer/poem for the homesteaders there.

When I gave it to him, this poem made Mo Moler, the charismatic leader of the group, cry.  I was very proud of that.  Mo is one tough guy, a Vietnam veteran and a wild man.  It is not often that he lets himself cry.

pueo-on-the-fence
Pueo On The Fence by Mark Kimura via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Here’s the poem:

 


PULE KAHIKINUI

 E Akua, hear me.
This is your child who calls you.
 
Our thanks to you for this land:
For the great bowl of sky and the beauty around us,
For the cool of the mountain, the abundance of sea,
Our thanks.
 
We come together now to talk about this land,
This land that needs us as we need this land,
So the land may live,
So we may live.
 
Help us guard our mouths.
Let our words bring light, not darkness.
Help us clear our na’au and hold to our purpose,
So we can resolve our problems
In peace,
With love.
 
Let us put our minds together and pool our mana’o
And see what we will make together for our keiki.
Help us hold this land as witness to the beauty that was,
To the beauty that is,
To the beauty that can be.
 
Let us make from this land more beauty,
And with that beauty we will feed our souls.
Help us remember that we are the bridge between
Those who come before us
And those who come after us.

Let us be strong and true to that memory.
Help us remember who we are,
That we are yours as you are ours
And we are all together.
 
E Akua, hear me.
This is your child who speaks.
 
To you we offer the glory of this work we do.
It is yours, all yours.
Let the work be pono.
Let the land be pono.
Let us be pono.
 
E Akua, be with us.
We who are yours,
We ask.

by Netta Kanoho

E Akua is a calling out to the Creative and to the ancestors.  Na’au  literally means “guts” – a person’s center, where all of the emotions and subconscious thoughts and feelings are held – and where Hawaiians feel the human “mind” is really situated. Mana’o is “knowledge.”  Keiki is “children.”  Pono means being balanced and being righteous.]


Picture credit:  Kahikinui by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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DEVELOPING PRESENCE

DEVELOPING PRESENCE

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a growing awareness that all phenomena are empty and illusory and the only meaning and mana in any situation is what the people involved bring to it.  [It’s a cool thing to realize that we humans are the arbiters of the meaning and mana in our own lives.]

The search for meaning and mana is a very human thing.  It’s been going on for centuries now.  The words themselves are so nebulous that it’s hard not to head off into the woo-woo zone when you talk about them.

ANOTHER FORM OF MANA

I was reading Tobin Hart’s book, THE FOUR VIRTUES:  Presence, Heart, Wisdom, Creation, and it struck me that what he calls “presence” is really one more form of what I call mana.

According to Hart, Presence is that “tug of aliveness in the silence.”  I do love that phrase.  It’s beautiful!   However, it doesn’t really say much.  (That’s the problem with all this wisdom-stuff.  You end up spouting poetry and everybody around you just goes, “HUH?”)

Hart goes on to say that Presence is an “openness to beauty and mystery.” He says Presence requires the capacity to be silent and still, to endure emptiness in order to witness and open to the good, the beautiful, and the true.  Yeah, yeah.  I know.  More beautiful blather.

The components of Presence, according to Hart, are:

  • Appreciation (that openness to Beauty and Mystery)
  • Stillness
  • Focus and Attention, which includes things like steadying your mind, not-doing, centering yourself, and pausing in your walk to notice the World around you.
appreciation
Appreciation by mark via Flickr [CC BY-NC]

APPRECIATION REQUIRES HUMILITY

Being open to the Beauty and Mystery of what is in front of you is often called “appreciation.”  It does seem to require humility.

If you are complacent in your knowledge of the World and if you are armored in your sureness that you know what’s what and what is really going on, it’s sort of hard to get entranced by the Mystery of the World around you.

Mystery is what you don’t know.  Mystery provokes wonder.  When you think you know all of the everything, it seems to me, the World gets a lot narrower and shallower.

THE WORLD BECOMES YOU

It’s a funny thing:  the World is pretty obliging.  No matter how you think and no matter what you know, it’s pretty easy to see what you believe.   Evidence mounts up all around you that you are right, right, right.

The World is quite malleable.  It is perfectly willing to climb into the box you’ve constructed.  You can get a heck of a lot of World into a very small box, apparently.

Do you think that people are out to get you?  Guess what.  You’ll find plenty of evidence that, indeed, they are.  Do you think people just naturally like to help each other?  You’ll find lots of evidence that is true as well.  Do you find the World unsatisfactory and boring?  That, too, can be arranged….

So if you want to glimpse the Mystery at the heart of the World, then you have to be really careful that you’re not letting your mind order the World around.   Since it’s something we humans are really good at, this is a very hard thing to not-do.

IS IT ME?  IS IT I?

In his writing, Hart seems to be separating out “I” and “me” from each other.  They are both inside of you, he posits, but they are nuanced and different.

There’s a part of you that observes and witnesses the World in all its glory, trying to see what is really there.  That’s the “I” part.

Then there’s the “me” part.  “Me” is mostly just in the world, so distracted and caught up in the busy that it’s swimming around in one big chaotic soup.  “Me” gets lost a lot.

I’m not sure what to do with this.  I do know that I agree with Albert Einstein’s thought that either it’s all a miracle or none of it is.

I really think that it’s my “me” part that is responsible for most of my poetry.  The confusion that comes from immersing yourself in the World produces more interesting thoughts than the observer-“I” part that sort of stands back and keeps trying to sort out the glory and reduce it so it can fit into neat little boxes.

stillness
Stillness by criana via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

STILLNESS

This thought reminds me of my ch’i kung explorations of Mountain energy…getting grounded in Earth energy and all that. I do notice that the one thing people with mana have in common is the ability to be still.

My Si’fu (teacher) once demonstrated a particularly powerful stance to our kung fu class.  He stood there in the center of the circle, perfectly poised with his arms and hands at the ready.  He didn’t do anything….and, literally, no one could attack him.

Remarkably, the man conquered us with his stillness.  There was no opening, no invitation for an attack, and none of the students in the circle felt any sort of aggressiveness was warranted, even though we had been instructed to move against him.

It is a thing I have tried to emulate ever since with very little success.

Another kind of still focus is illustrated by this picture of a Tibetan Buddhist high lama, His Holiness Dilgo Kyentse Rimpoche.  He is displaying the vitarka mudra, a hand gesture that signifies “teaching, giving instruction, reason and preaching.”

hh-dilgo-kyentse-rimpoche
HH Dilgo Kyentse Rimpoche by Wonderlane via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Perhaps this kind of centered stillness might also be effectively applied to the way an artist and a writer goes about making art as well.  Art, after all, is only an extension of the one doing it.

It occurs to me that practicing any form of art is sort of like weapons-training in kung fu.  We are taught that any hand-held weapon is just an extension of your arm and hand.  It does things, but you’re the one directing it using your body and your mind.

The same thing happens when you use the skills and tools you’ve developed to make your art or your poetry.  Your art, your poem, your dance performance takes form as your mind and body give it direction.

attention
Attention by nofilm via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Stillness is the ground for focus and attention.  If you can’t be still you are unlikely to develop enough focus to actually finish anything meaningful.  (Mana doesn’t come with built-in octopus tentacle suckers it seems.)

And if you are flibbertigibitting around like a demented butterfly, it is unlikely that you’ll be capable of giving anything much attention.

Stillness, according to all the wisdom teachers, is also the ground for tranquility and for peacefulness, so it is probably a good thing to work on.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

Hart has a number of guidelines for how to work with the mana mindset.   Here are a trio of ideas I picked up on:

Sensations and feelings can be used as a guidance system and built-in feedback loop which can help you stay aware of the world around you.

It’s sort of like that hunter-sense of terrain and place.  If you know in your body where you are and what you’re standing on, you automatically move in ways that don’t disturb the world around you.

This one does take a lot of practice.

Pleasure is a tool for understanding what nurtures you.  That one, taken to the extreme, sounds like a hedonistic sort of thing –”It feels good, so it’s gotta be good.”

I suppose if I were an academic sort, I could probably get lost in the nuances of the differences between a pleasure like an ice-cream sundae and one like wild jungle sex or something….Hmmm.  Might-be, could-be actually fun!

Mindfulness is a way to experience the world deeply.  Sometimes I can really get behind this and sometimes not.  My problem is that Mindful-Me tends to be like that centipede lying in a ditch trying to figure out how to walk around with all those legs.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When I look at the people who I consider powerful and filled with their own kind of mana, I do see all of the qualities Hart mentions.  The work these people produce does seem imbued with echoes of their own “presence.”

They are fully human, these people, so I am guessing that if I want to produce art with mana, it means I have to keep working on just being a real human being

MY THANKS

Thank you for sharing in this bit of silliness with me.

As a reward, I offer this beautiful YouTube video, “Icheon Master Hand” that was put together by the American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA) to celebrate the exhibit, “ICHEON:  Reviving the Korean Ceramic Tradition” which was on display at the Museum in 2013.

The video features five masters, Lee Hyang-gu, Kim Seong-tae, You Yong-chul, Choi In-gyu, and Jo Se-yeon.  They live in Icheon in South Korea, a designated UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art, and are part of the city’s efforts to revive a 5,000-year old tradition of Korean ceramics.

And here’s a poem:


PFUI!

Oh, I give up!

Dragon gets me into things

And then stands there grinning

While I flounder around

Trying to find my balance again

In a space turned upside down

Or sideways or inside out.

 

I Ching nags and scolds me

All the time to be patient

And steadfast and true.

 

Archetypes wander around in my head,

Making themselves at home,

Lying on the couch, watching tv, and

Checking out the refrigerator

On the commercial breaks.

 

My inner drill sergeant revs up

At the drop of a hat.

And that stupid knight in the rusty armor

Won’t go away and leave me alone.

 

And here I am, the fool,

Trying to find my way

Back to being ordinary.

 

Why can’t I be a normal, unconscious person?

They are probably very happy.

Ignorance is bliss, right?

 

Me, I have to aim for stars

And run after rainbows.

 

Idiot!

After all the striving and trying,

I’m not even conscious yet.

Probably semi-conscious.

Definitely not post-coital.

 

All this cosmic stuff is getting me

REALLY IRRITATED!

Must be P.M.S. – Pre-Mastery Syndrome.

(Or maybe I’m just horny?)

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Presence by zlaping via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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THE PEACE POEM

THE PEACE POEM

It’s happening again.  This is the 18th year that the annual statewide Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry contest will be organized by volunteer teachers, writers and artists who call themselves “The International Peace Poem Project.”  Small donations keep them alive.

Almost every school in Hawaii is invited to participate in the contest and there is no entry fee.  Every student winner in the contest from each class gets a certificate of honor and a prize for their winning poem during spring ceremonies on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, the Big Island (Hawaii) and Molokai.

Last year more than 2,000 students in Hawaii entered the contest and hundreds of them were recognized at ceremonies held in auditoriums statewide.  In past years other schools throughout the United States have taken on the Peace Poem as a class project.

PLANTING THE SEED

banyan-seeds
Banyon Seeds by yopper via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The seed for this Maui-based Project was planted in 1996 when three friends Melinda Gohn, Frank Rich (aka Wide Garcia) and the late Lawrence Hill, who had started the Maui Live Poets Society, began compiling what they called “The Peace Poem.”

The idea was to get people from all over the world to contribute lines to the poem until it became the world’s longest poem about peace.   A six year-old girl, Libby Barker, contributed the first two lines:

“Peace means everyone loving everyone else

And we are all part of one world.”

The group has been collecting lines for the poem ever since.

The poem is hand-written by many, many hands on a scroll constructed of rag paper sheets and other papers.  (In those early years, the group considered and rejected the option of collecting the lines over the Internet.  It felt more real to have the lines laid down by all those hands.)

banyan-tree-in-lahaina
Banyan Tree in Lahaina by Bret Robertson via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
At every Live Poets gathering the people in attendance are still being asked to contribute their lines.  People who visit the islands and people who live here have been tapped to write a couple of lines.

The group has taken the poem into churches to collect lines from the congregations.  They’ve gone into prisons to get lines from the inmates in lockdown.  Contributors represent all ages, social strata and religious beliefs.

The youngest donor was a 3-year-old girl whose 7-year-old sister wrote her words, “Peace is seeing a baby’s smile.”  The oldest known contributor was a 93-year-old Maui poet.

Poetry was collected from China, Vietnam and Greece, and poetry scrolls circulated through England and Switzerland.  The poem’s mission was translated into Spanish and was sent to international Spanish-speaking organizations.  About this last, Gohn said, “There is so much unrest in South America. It’s a perfect place for the poem.”

“It’s very powerful,” Gohn says. “As soon as I bring up the Peace Poem, immediately we’re dealing on a high level. All the other stuff falls away.”

As she points out, “Everyone has a common desire for peace.”

In more recent years, the poem has gone (sort of) digital.  Anyone who wants to can contribute their two lines about peace to the poem by downloading the group’s Peace Poem Scroll Page, copying the thing onto an 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper and get friends, fans and other fellows to write their lines as well.  The sheet can then be mailed to Peace Poem, P.O. Box 102, Lahaina, HI, USA 96761.

If you’d like to do this, CLICK HERE.

GOAL ACHIEVED

By September 19, 2000, the poem had more than 15,000 lines that had been penned by people from over 120 countries.  On that day the poem was symbolically presented to the United Nations during its Millenium Peace Day celebration.  (Today, the poem has grown to over 160,000 lines.)

That was an exciting day for Melinda and Wide, who traveled to New York for the Millenium Peace Day, and made the presentation along with another member of the Project Allen Lewis.

united-nations-peace-day
United Nations Peace Day via peacepoem.org

Melinda recited poetry before a panel including the UN President Harry Holkieri and dignitaries from the UN General Assembly.   She told the assembled world leaders, “The project has been a voice for people of the world to express their hope for peace. Let us hope world leaders will listen and work toward nonviolent solutions.”

Fifteen-year-old Maeh-ki (Red-Sky) El-Issa (the tall guy sharing her microphone) read a peace poem written by Mother Teresa in honor of his late mother, Ingrid Washinawatok, who was killed on March 4, 1999, when she was on a cultural education mission to Colombia.  Allen and Wide hold up a part of the Peace Poem Scroll.

The presentation of the poem to the UN was the accomplishment of a goal set when the friends began the poem four years before.

START OF THE PROJECT

However, that event was not the end of the poem.  Instead, a new chapter in the story began when Melinda and her friends organized the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry contest and opened it to elementary school students from all over the state.  The organization even put together poetry lesson plans and suggestions for the teachers at its website, www.peacepoem.org.

Students from schools on all of the islands are invited to enter the contest.  The young poets vie for prizes and the winners are honored by island mayors or state officials at a school assembly and presented with Certificates of Honor and assorted prizes furnished by the Peace Poem organization.

Each of the student poems are a maximum of  twenty lines and “can be about any kind of peace.”  All of these poems are added to the Peace Poem scroll which continues to grow.

Lahaina Banyan Tree by Brian Ujiie via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Melinda says, “The Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Contest was started in 2000 as a way to share with Hawaii students an understanding of the need for peaceful reflection and active work toward peace, as exemplified by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

“In honor of these peace and nonviolence principles which have played a vibrant role in Hawaiian culture—and in particular the Hawaiian Renaissance—we encourage Hawaii students to contribute their poems to the contest and the International Peace Poem. ”

Every year now  thousands of students have participated in this statewide event.  Other schools throughout the United States take on the peace poem as a class project.

Here’s a poem:


HEARTSONG MAITRI

May all of our heartsongs

Foster joy in the World.

May all of our heartsongs

Foster peace in the World.

May all of our heartsongs

Foster freedom from suffering in the World.

 

And may the heartsong of the Universe

Join all of our songs

And spread through all the realms.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Maui Banyan Tree Square by Bevis Chin [CC BY-ND 2.0]

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STANDING IN AMBIGUITY

STANDING IN AMBIGUITY

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that the willingness to stand still in the middle of uncertainty without giving in to despair allows for new opportunities to show up and gives you the space you need to notice them.  [If you focus on fears and doubts, there really is no room in your head for paying attention when a new door opens.]

Apple founder Steve Jobs had an interesting take on how to deal with the uncertainty of life.  He suggested using the ultimate uncertainty, death, to get past the fears and doubts you are likely to encounter during times of change.

steve-jobs-with-red-shawl
Steve Jobs With Red Shawl by Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, ProjectRED Grouppicture, retouched by Sagredo, via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]
Jobs has been quoted as saying, “All external expectations, all fear of embarrassment and failure – all these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.   You are already naked.”

This is, I think, a profound thought, and it is probably the best (and the most difficult) way I know of dealing with “standing in ambiguity” – the whole uncertainty of just living your life, making plans and executing them, having goals and realizing them,  and so forth and so on.

WHAT IT IS AND WHY DO IT?

“Standing in ambiguity” equates, I think, with poet John Keats’ “negative capability,” which he describes as “when a person is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason….”

Wise guys through the ages have tried to get us to just sit with the uncertainty, feel the feelings, understand why they are welling up in us, and then step away from those feelings and look at where we can make our next move.  After that we can take the next step, then the next one, and so on until we get to a new place that feels more comfortable for us.

But, uncertainty and ambiguity is never an easy space to be in.

So then there’s this question:  If it makes us so uncomfortable, why would we even go there? 

One answer is that it is in this space that Creativity happens.  All that discomfort produces new ways of looking at things, change-making moves, and products never seen before.  (It also produces a lot of crazy people…but that’s another story.)

Here’s a short YouTube video, “Embrace Ambiguity,” by IDEO.org, an organization that works with nonprofits, social enterprises and foundations to design solutions for social impact around the world.  It explains some of the benefits of standing in ambiguity that creative people can use.

 

CULTURAL AMBIGUITY TOLERANCE

How much ambiguity you can tolerate is a personal thing.  Each person has his or her own level of tolerance.  The same is true for different cultures.

This YouTube video by Mary Rowland explains about the “ambiguity tolerance” of different cultures and what it means to you in practical, nuts-and-bolts fashion.

(I’m not sure who Mary Rowland is.  I couldn’t find anything about her on Google and her other YouTube offerings are not particularly helpful.  Still, this video is a lovely schmooze about an important topic.    Thanks, Mary Rowland…whoever you are.)

If your own ambiguity tolerance doesn’t match that of your culture, it’s quite likely that there will be friction.  If your own high ambiguity tolerance clashes with your culture’s lack of tolerance for ambiguity, you’ll have to deal with being labeled as a troublemaker or a ne’er-do-well.  If your ambiguity tolerance is low and you’re in a culture with a high tolerance for ambiguity, then you might be labeled as a ‘fraidy-cat, a worry-wort, or even a coward.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to figure out how to work with your culture’s level of tolerance for ambiguity as well as your own.  If the mismatch is too great, then perhaps you will need to go find a more supportive environment for yourself.  This, of course, will add to all the uncertainty.

JUST DO IT

Another take on how to deal with the uncertainty of life is in this YouTube video by Bob Miglani who exhorts, “Dealing  With Uncertainty?  Stop Waiting.  Move Forward and Embrace the Chaos.”

(Bob Magliani is the author of EMBRACE THE CHAOS: How India Taught Me To Stop Overthinking and Start Living.  In 2012, it was a Washington Post bestseller.  In it Magliani addresses how to deal with facing major uncertainty and stop doing the deer-in-the-headlights freeze.  He tells you that you have to let go of trying to control the chaos all around you and focus, instead, on what you can control — your own actions and your words and thoughts.  An interesting read.)

FINAL THOUGHT

The irony in all of this is that standing in ambiguity is…well…ambiguous and also very personal.  There are no final answers, no right or wrong way to do it.  There is only you and what you feel you can or must do.

About a year after my husband died, this poem came.  It  was a signal to me that I was ready again to turn around and face future.

After Fred died and the world I knew changed, I was very lost.  One of the first steps was getting through the grieving intact and through the acceptance and letting go.  And then there was the learning how to stand up strong in the middle of a heck of a lot of ambiguity.

When you’re already naked and the illusions in which you used to dress the world have all melted and dribbled away, when you no longer have anything obscuring your look into the Void, it does tend to free you up to do lots of other things.

I went and did a lot of other things.  Many of them turned out pretty okay.


I CAN TELL YOU GOODBYE

I can tell you goodbye now

And mean it, in my heart of hearts.

Your passing nearly killed me,

The pain squeezing me into

An otherness that whimpered

Helplessly against the loss

Of you and of the world

I thought I knew.

What is it somebody said?

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional….”

Something like that.

 

I decided not to suffer.

I don’t know what I’m doing

And no ultimate answer rises up,

No banner or signpost

To show me where to go.

I am lost in ambiguity,

Lost in the illusions

That keep swirling

Through this shadow-play.

And I cannot find my way

Back to the surety

I once knew.

 

You’re the one who was sure.

I thought you knew the way.

I only had to follow you.

Then you left me

Standing lost on this

Mist-covered mountain

And the world has changed

And changed and changed.

No visible landmarks –

All gone, along with you.

And your assurance that all of this is real.

 

You lied to me.

(Or maybe it was only to yourself.)

You were so sure that

I believed you.

I followed your lead

Because I thought I had no

Guidelines of my own.

And now I have to make them up,

All by myself, all over again.

Every day I make it all up.

 

It’s been good, you know.

I like it just fine now.

I have to thank you

Even though you brought

So much pain and confusion in your wake.

You taught me about a world

I had not known and made me

Play to its many faces.

 

Now I’m going back to what

I used to know,

Richer for having known you.

I loved you the best I could.

You loved me too, I know.

 

Good-bye, ei nei,

It was all good.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Sunrise by blese via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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MAMA MINE

MAMA MINE

A few years ago, I was dragooned (tricked!) into participating in a theater production of the “Mama Monologues,” an evening of dramatic readings and performances by assorted creative folks on Maui that was put together by a friend of mine, Pat Masumoto.

Pat, who was a force of nature, strong-armed all of her friends to participate in this annual production that she organized and produced at the ‘Iao Theater in old Wailuku town.  It was actually a part of a national effort and she managed to keep pulling it off with the help of her loyal crew of fans and friends for a number of years.

The “Mama Monologues” thing was one of the ways Pat dealt with being the primary caregiver for her mom, Florence, who was another force of nature.  Florence was a feisty, sharp cookie who was pushing on 100 years old and still going strong at the time this took place.

Talk about “Living Out Loud”!  Pat was one of those who literally made productions out of all of her issues!

There was a poem I had written about my own grandmother who raised me and about our running argument that lasted until she died. (That argument still continues in my head.)

Pat liked it and she spent weeks wearing down my resistance to the whole scary concept of standing up on a stage in front of a for-real theater full of people and reading a poem to them.

We did it!  It was good.

Pat died about a year ago, a few months after her mother’s death at 104.  I still miss the ladies.

Here’s the poem:


MAMA USED TO TELL ME

Mama used to always tell me

“If you want the rainbows,

You gotta put up with the rain.”

“To get to the glory,” she said,

“You slog through the pain.”

 

Me, I’m just a silly git,

But I’m not at all sure

Mama had the right of it.

 

I’ve been thinking:

Rainbows also need the beaming sun,

And glory may be the price we pay

For this goofy race we run.

Smiles are frowns turned right-side-up…

Then, laughter bubbles over…

Foaming from a too-full soda cup.

 

It occurs to me:

In this illusory world of mists and dreams,

Nothing is really all it seems. 

So…come on now…let’s go!

We’ll dance through all the changes – ho!

 

And…

I just remembered something:

 

Mama sure did like dancing and prancing.

She knew:

The music grabs your feet and pulls you out of bed

And, always, there’s the magic

That tingles in your head.

 

Smart woman, my Mama.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  ‘Iao Theater, Wailuku by 293 xx.xxx.xx (own work) via Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain]

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