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Category: UN-SEEING

questioning assumptions, cliches and group-think, different perspectives

JOIN THE LONGEVITY REVOLUTION

JOIN THE LONGEVITY REVOLUTION

In America, dating since the original Social Security Act of 1935, retirement and making it intact to the “Golden Years,” (when you are supposedly free to stop working and “enjoy” lazing around in the little bit of life span you have left once you stop working) has been a gold-standard goal.

gold-watch
“Gold Watch” by Tim Ellis via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
The paradigm among the “human resource” contingent of the time, was that you’d be a tired, shopworn bit of humanity and could be sidelined like a piece of obsolete old equipment that was still in working order but kind of irrelevant.

It made a horrible sort of sense, that — especially after the rise of the Industrial Revolution when people were often seen as interchangeable parts in an ever-more-efficient system of production and productivity.

Young people were encouraged (and even brow-beaten) into going for and hanging on to “secure” and possibly meaningless-to-them jobs and to diligently squirrel away the nickels and pennies that were left over from paying for the lives they were living in order to build up a retirement fund for the winter of their life.

THE WHOPPING BIG ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

There is only one problem.

Since the retirement thing was first conceived in the early 1880’s by Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck of Germany – the first-of-its-kind social insurance program — all the smarty pants in labs and such have been pushing our physical envelopes.

We are now living longer and longer lives thanks to all of the advances in medicine and technology.  People are living decades after the official start of the “Golden Years.”

It has been one of the major societal goals of every culture, after all.  Who doesn’t want to live long and prosper?

god-of-longevity
“Shouxing – Chinese god of longevity” by Anne Petersen via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When the then-new concept of “retirement” was first proposed, our human lifespans were not much more than three-score and ten.  It was expected that your body’s expiration date was about 70 or so years after you checked into this world.

Therefore, it was assumed that if you retired at 65 it was quite likely that you’d fall over dead very shortly thereafter.  The social program that helped you live your life as an old person was sustainable, it was thought.

It sort of worked for a while, but that’s no longer happening.

Now there’s a whole generation of older folks wondering whether whatever stack of money they’ve hoarded (if they ever got around to it during their “active” years) will last long enough and, for sure, the government subsidy thing keeps on shrinking as the cost of living heads on up.

The bills don’t stop during the “Golden Years.”  You still have to eat and you still need a roof over your head and your body…well, it’s been lived-in.

It breaks down.  Maintenance costs.

And, even more depressing, we’ve all figured out that people can really get bored spending twenty-some years slouching around doing nothing much.

Frankly, the so-called freedom of not-working sucks.

A new freedom is beginning to replace it as the Ultimate Goal:  the freedom to find and keep working at something that holds meaning for you.

ON TO ANOTHER PLAN

For the past twenty years and more author and social entrepreneur Marc Freedman has been working on fostering the idea of the “encore career,” a second vocation in the latter half of one’s life.

The idea dates from 1997 or 1998, when Freedman’s San Francisco-based nonprofit called Civic Ventures (since renamed Encore.org) introduced the notion.

Freedman’s non-profit developed into an innovation hub bent on “tapping the talent of people over 50+ as a force for good.”

By the time he gave the following talk at TEDxDrexelU in 2013, Freedman had co-founded “Experience Corps,” mobilizing thousands of Americans over 55 to improve the education of low-income elementary children.

He was spearheading the presentation of the Purpose Prize, an annual $100,000 award for social innovators in the second half of life.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) now runs both of these programs.

Freedman was also the author of four books about encore careers and the longevity revolution and a tireless proselytizer about the value of utilizing skills developed over a long career to help society.

In his talk, which was published in 2013 by TEDxTalks, Freedman pointed out that people are living longer and the old Golden Years plan is no longer working so well.

Since that talk, Encore.org has developed the Encore Fellowships program, a one-year fellowship helping individuals translate their midlife skills into “second acts” focused on social impact as well as the Encore Network, a coalition of leaders and organizations that help people turn those longer lives into an asset.

Freedman and his colleagues have written other books and continued to develop programs.

The concept has taken off.  Millions of older adults, aged 50 years and older, are working on delving into and developing a “second act” as the end of their primary careers draws closer.

A 2009 video published by Encore.org, “Timothy Will, 2009 Purpose Prize Winner” is a moving presentation by one of the winners of the organization’s Purpose Prize who leveraged his experience and skills into a way to help his Appalachian neighbors get back to the land.

The video was one of many.

The encore career has become a way to combine personal passion, social purpose and a paycheck, as Freedman is wont to say.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE RESOURCES GATHERED TOGETHER AND DEVELOPED BY ENCORE.ORG:

click-here

The upshot of all of this is that Freedman has been marvelously successful at instigating the Longevity Revolution.  Many others have taken up the banner as well.

Opting for an encore career has become a trend, even a movement.

Many baby-boomers and others who’ve reached (or are approaching) retirement age choose to do some other thing that fulfills their need to grow and to continue to engage with the world as well as to help pay the bills that just keep on coming.

A CONFESSION:  I GOT SIDE-TRACKED

Instead of getting more deeply into the nuts and bolts of this very interesting topic, I was side-tracked — sucked into a book written by master storyteller Jim May, TRAIL GUIDE FOR A CROOKED HEART:  Stories and Reflections for Life’s Journey.

This quintessentially human book is soul-satisfying, meandering through stories from May’s personal life (with lots of old wisdom-tales thrown in) that present us humans in all our glory and flat-footed stubborn.

More than anything else, it illuminates the value and the uplifting power of Story in our human journeys.

After working in construction, then becoming a teacher and a counselor, May gave in to his passion for telling a good story, following a family tradition that produced many a fine raconteur.

For more than 25 years, as a professional storyteller, May presented stories at story-telling festivals and events that drew tale-spinners from around the country together in the United States, Canada and Europe.

He’s appeared at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee four times and has participated in England’s oldest and most respected folk festivals at Towersey and Sidmouth.

One of his favorite things was appearing on the Studs Terkel radio show in Chicago.

In 2000 May was named by his peers to the Circle of Excellence, the highest of honors for the storytellers in the National Storytelling Network.  Before that, he won a Chicago Emmy for a WTTW-Channel 11 production of his original short story, “A Bell for Shorty.”

The man is good.

The following YouTube video, published by JustStoriesVideo in 2012, features Jim May remembering the day that Holocaust survivor and president of the Illinois Holocaust Memorial Foundation Lisa Derman died of a massive heart attack onstage at the Illinois Storytelling Festival while she was telling her story of survival.

It is a moving tribute as well as a testimonial for the power of Story.

ON-TRACK ONCE AGAIN (SORT OF)

It occurred to me after I had digested all of this, that May is also a fine example of a person who developed a personally satisfying encore career that worked well for him.

The thing he exemplifies is what happens when you look for (and find) another Why to live, and then do it well.

In the video honoring Lisa Derman, May mentions in passing his belief in the value of the wisdom of elders – wisdom that is part and parcel of the stories they tell.

Throughout history, in every culture, the stories the old people tell link the young ones to the procession of ancestors.  They present ages-old human dilemmas as well as solutions and guidelines about strategies and actions that have worked in the past.

an-elder-speaks
“An Elder Speaks (Whaea Kātarina Daniels, Te Ū Hui-ā-motu),” by New Zealand Tertiary Education Union via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
These wisdom stories can be an enormous help to someone who is looking for clarity or a new direction.

One of the chapters in May’s book starts with a quote from James Hillman in his book, THE FORCE OF CHARACTER: And the Lasting Life, a stunning reflection about life’s second half:

“The final years have a very important purpose:  The fulfillment and confirmation of one’s character.  When we open our imaginations of the idea of the ancestor, aging can free us from convention and transform us into a force of nature, releasing our deepest beliefs for the benefit of society.”

That chapter in May’s book is titled, “Signal Trees.”  In it he tells stories about the mentors and elders that he is grateful to for their stories, their wisdom and their support.

THE THING ABOUT SIGNAL TREES

Signal trees are said to be a Native American way of shaping tree saplings to mark significant locations.

According to the lore surrounding the signal trees, they are a part of a navigational system through the forests and waterways of northeastern and southeastern tribes throughout North America.

The manipulated trees, we are told, mark sacred gathering places, trails that were important, a fresh water source off a main route, indications of deposits of flint, copper, lead and other minerals important for medicinal and ceremonial purposes as well as portage points and linkages to other major trails

The three-tonged bur oak tree in the header picture is considered to be an Indian Signal Tree.  It’s even labeled by a bronze plaque, even though there is still some mystery surrounding its purpose.

The button below takes you to a Summit Metro Parks article that explains more about the tree and about signal trees in general.

click-here

As May points out in his book, if you’ve lived your life well, age gives you gifts – patience, tolerance, resilience, a long-term perspective, varied life-experiences and well-developed skills — that are worth sharing with those who come after you.

And that is the point of this new Longevity Revolution:  You, too, can become a signal tree.

An encore career has been described as “a new chapter of work,” something you move on into after you have spent many years at one kind of work, often quite successfully.

The encore career can be a deepening and broadening of the career you’ve already built, using the stockpile of skills you’ve mastered and the lessons your experiences have taught you that will allow you to reach a different level in your field as a self-employed freelancer and entrepreneur, a consultant, a coach, or a mentor.

It might be about you finally starting out doing your own passion your own way and finding ways and opportunities to keep on playing in this new field that enriches your life and fills it with meaning.

An encore career could be a position as a volunteer supporting some solution to the social ills around us or toward fostering some good thing you want to see grow.

It can also be a way to stay active and to feel useful.

And, of course, an encore career very often is a way to help fund your “Golden Years.”

For whatever reason, the encore career has become a significant and growing economic trend and movement that the baby-boomers are spearheading these days, it seems.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The following YouTube video, “Encore Careers:  From Social Trend to Social Movement,” was published in 2012 by NextAgenda as a promotional piece.

What’s even more interesting is the more recent development featured in this next video, “Encore Careers: How to Find Your Perfect Job At Any Age,” published by The List Show TV in 2018.  It features Jared Cotter of The List, the national Emmy award-winning show that looks at pop culture and currently trending ideas.

The Longevity Revolution continues to grow and spread.  It’s even crossed generational lines.

Here’s a poem I made honoring a friend who wandered through a series of foster homes in her youth.  She made her baby dreams come real and her life is now one of great joy for her and for the ones she embraces.


ORPHAN CHILD

Orphan child stands apart,

Always the stranger,

Unfettered, untied.

The wanderer has

No place to lay her weary head,

No place that enfolds her, no warm, no light.

No one tucks her away from the cold, the dark.

 

She tells herself she’ll make her own place,

A place where all the dispossessed,

The abandoned ones,

Can come and find

Someone who sees them as they are,

Someone who is not afraid to hold them in the dark,

Someone who loves them even though they are not like

All the other ones – the orderly ones who march

All in a line, step by step,

Trying really hard to all be the same.

 

In her place, there will be no fear

Of hard eyes and cold mouths,

Tearing your heart to bits,

Unerringly finding the sore places

With tongues of ice and fire.

All of those demons will be exorcised away.

She’ll send them to some other place

Where they can play their games

With others of their own kind.

(She won’t leave them to wander

Like refugees in the night.)

 

Cruelty will be banished

In the laughter and the joy

Of seeing ones who reach out

To hold you warm and safe.

That’s what she says, anyway.

And we will play, she says,

Oh, how we will play:

Games of beauty, games of grace,

Gales of laughter and soft, loving tears

From hearts that overflow.

 

It could happen. 

Yes, it could.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Akron Signal Tree” by Greg Habermann via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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ROCK THE BOX

ROCK THE BOX

They told us wrong, you know.

All those guys who kept exhorting us (for decades now) to “think outside the box,” urging us to forget about our limitations and be “free-free-free” didn’t give us the real story when they touted that ‘Unbound” mindset as the panacea for all of our gnarly problems.

In fact, I think they were blowing sunshine up the nether parts of our anatomy (with the best of intentions, of course).

I suspect they don’t even know what that “box” they keep talking about really is.

You can tell that they’re playing their air-guitars because they all seem to be enamored of that silly nine-dot puzzle where you’re supposed to join all of the dots that are arranged in a square with four straight lines.

Every one of those guys present the very same solution….as if it’s the only solution there is.

Really?

Do it their way and you get a gold star, I guess.  Whoo-hoo!

thanks-for-the-gold-stars
“Thanks for the gold stars” by Jeffrey Zeldman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
What does all that tell you?

Mostly it tells me that Da Guys have taken what some acknowledged expert has said and they’re passing it on to me without really thinking on it.

The best riff I’ve ever seen on coming up with solutions to that classic nine-dot puzzle is this YouTube video, “Thinking Inside the Box.” It’s a short thing published by TEDxTalks in 2012 and features designer and marketing strategist Magnus Berglund at TEDxGöteberg.

See what I mean?

This guy plays inside the box.  In fact, he makes it rock!

ANATOMY OF “THE BOX”

So, what IS this “Box” thing?

Every one of Da Guys will tell you it’s all those nasty, hard-rub limitations and constraints that handcuff you and bring you down and hold you back from realizing your True Potential.

Without all those stupid restrictions, prohibitions, obstacles, obstructions, and impediments to progress, you could soar, you know.

The thing is, they are right.  We could all fly if there was no gravity holding us down.

flight
“Flight” by Allegory Malaprop via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Hey…us humans, we’ve got super-powers:  Imagination, Ingenuity, Innovation, Inventiveness.  All those good “I” words.

The problem is, we’ve also got a brain that’s set up to “fix” stuff.  We are all hard-wired to be alert for ways to mitigate the irritation factor of the things in the world that make us uncomfortable or rub us the wrong way.

However, if there is absolutely nothing wrong with anything in our lives and if everything is all hunky-dory, then we just sit there.

Why not?

Everything is FINE.

the-world-of-my-wild-river
“The World of My Wild River…!!!” by Denis Collette via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When our world is beauteous and beyond lovely, when it’s all going our way and there’s a cherry pie in the oven with our name on it, there really is no need for us to gear up, grab our trusty sword, gather our True Companions, and set off out of Hobbit-land on some weird-ass quest.

There has got to be some REASON for us to move our booties.

The End of The-World-As-We-Know-It is a Reason.

So is an irritating hang-nail.

So is some dumb tool that doesn’t work right or a rule or customary practice or system that makes no sense and is ultimately counter-productive.

These are the kinds of things that lure us into action.

And taking action automatically turns our lives into a movie or, if you want to be low-tech about it, the actions we take become the start of another story, song, or poem.

So, really, that “Box” all our wanna-be advisors keep urging us to “transcend” is actually The-World-As-We-Know-It (also known as TWAWKI).

Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe not.

Only you can decide.

REDEFINING THE BOX AND HOW WE CAN USE IT

My own theory is that TWAWKI is actually like the big old refrigerator box my cousins and I got to play with one summer.  That box was cool.

Before it fell apart, we built awesome worlds with it and got to go on a lot of adventures prominently featuring bad-ass truckers, pirates and one stuffed parrot, paladins and gunslingers, knights and dragons, really cool and crafty American Indian dudes and dudettes, super-heroes and other-worldly alien spiders, and things like that.

(We sat on the one cousin who just wanted to play “house” or “store” or “tea party.”  He really was no fun.)

This 2015 video, “World’s Biggest Box Fort” by Family Fun Pack sure does bring back some sweet memories….

The thing we have to remember is that TWAWKI is what it is.  We can do things with it, but first we have to make sure we are seeing it right:

The Box is the Box is the Box…but what ELSE could it be?

Not having the right tools or the proper materials for some project and faced with inadequate funding plus a fast- approaching deadline breathing down your neck as well as a clueless colleague or two and an assortment of dorkheads who are sabotaging your efforts from on high are all examples of the kinds of limitations, obstructions and constraints that define the parameters of TWAWKI.

They define the parameters of our Box.

These sorts of conditions help us see where we are standing.

If we look around within this space, we can begin to make an inventory of the resources that are available to us that we can use to resolve our problem.

bay-of-saronikos
“Illuminated Manuscript of The Bay of Saronikos…” by Piri Reis, posted by Walters Art Museum, Baltimore via Flickr [Public Domain]
With a map of the territory that has notations about the various obstacles and dangers marked on it and a list of available resources in hand, plus some sort of time-frame to work in, we can begin.

And, if we do it right, because of our inherent super I-powers, we humans can, indeed, change TWAWKI.

Maybe the changes we make will mitigate the problem.  Maybe not.  But, it’s possible that the action we take or the thing we make will be at least one step in the right direction.

If our solution sort of works, we’ll have a new starting place from where we can keep working on the problem until it is gone.  (Then we can go find some other problem.)

If our solution falters or fails, we’ll know for sure that what we tried does not work and we can figure out why.  Then we can go explore in some other direction.

In either case, we can go on.

Boxing ourselves in and defining the boundaries of that box are the first steps to breaking out and making breakthroughs, it seems.

(We already know that just sitting there in the middle of the road really does not work.)

Technology blogger and startups analyst Thomas Oopong, the founding editor of Alltopstartups, a resource for news about top internet startups and technological companies, wrote a cogent article for Inc. magazine in 2017, “For a More Creative Brain, Embrace Constraints”.

In it he delineates the whys and hows for using constraints and limitations to change TWAWKI.  You can access it by clicking the button below.

click-here

ONE MORE TAKE

Innovation and leadership advisor Navi Radjou is a great believer in what he calls “frugal innovation.”

In this short YouTube video, “Big Questions, Big Ideas:  Frugal Innovation with Navi Radju,” he gives a small glimpse at how working with limitations and constraints can lead to very real innovations that solve everyday problems for people who are not living in abundance.

The video was posted by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2018.

The highlight of this video is a refrigerator developed by a potter Mansukh Prajapati.  It is entirely made of clay and needs no electricity.

Radjou, expounding more on his ideas in a post on the ideas.ted.com site, quips,

“If an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty, then the developing world must be filled with optimists. There, people have learned to get more value from limited resources and find creative ways to reuse what they already have.”

Besides Prajapati’s refrigerator, Radjou points to the resourceful entrepreneurs in Africa who recharge cell phone batteries with their bicycles.

Another successful project was a giant advertising billboard designed by students of the engineering and technology college, UTEC, in the city of Lima Peru, a city that is extremely humid but also very dry.  (It receives only one inch of rainfall a year.)

The billboard the college designed absorbs the humid air and converts it into purified water.  It generates more than 90 liters every day.

Radjou says, “In India, we call these kinds of solutions Jugaad, a Hindi word that means an improvised fix, a clever solution born in adversity.”

When basic resources are scarce and living is hard, there will be people who fall back on their own ingenuity and use it to solve their everyday life problems which can be truly fearsome.

Whatever else may be missing, human ingenuity is boundless.

And that is a very good thing.

Here’s a poem:


GONNA BE IN THE MOVIES

I just saw one more comic-book movie

Where the apocalypse comes

Riding in on mighty metal steeds.

Buildings blow up spectacularly.

People get squished like bugs.

Everything’s knocked flat.

The super hero wins.

The villain loses.

The world is safe for Humankind.

Again.

 

But, then,

In the fare-thee-well,

Next-to-the-last scene,

There’s the super-hero (in disguise)

Walking through a bright and

Shiny, spanking-new building,

Full of bright and shiny people

With no flies on ’em.

Just another day in a workaday world.

 

The rubber band stretched…

And snapped right back into place.

 

Okay,

I know, I KNOW…

It’s a dumb movie.

 

But, I have to wonder:

How’d those guys get things rebuilt so fast?

We are talking BIG buildings here,

Streets of them,

All busted up and shredded.

I mean, where’d they get the funding?

 

And I have to wonder:

Where’d they put all the dead people

That had to be lying around

All over the landscape.

Did the street pizza evaporate?

Did anybody cry?

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah….

It’s just a movie.

The good guys won.

The bad guys didn’t.

And it all just goes away…

Like mist when the sun comes out.

 

Right.

 

So…

I got to thinking

How the whole thing ’bout “forgive” and “let go”

Has gotten tangled up with

“Nah-nah-nah,”

“Ne’ min'” and

“Fuggetaboudit.”

 

Yeah?

Lemme run this one out.

(My warped brain just won’t wrap itself around this.)

 

Okay,

Here’s the deal:

You can stomp around

Doing scorched-earth moves,

Littering the landscape

With toppled, twisted dreams

And ooka-pile-plenty street pizza

As long as you can

Strike noble poses in the sun,

‘Cause, hey, you did what you had to do.

The rest is…well…”collateral damage.”

 

Yup!

It’s your nature.

You can’t help it.

That’s how you are.

Your back was pushed against the wall,

So you blew up the world around you.

 

Ummmm.

Okay.

Right!

 

So then there’s the second half of this screwy equation:

All the REST of the people in the world,

They are NOT super-heroes.

They are helpless, civilized ninnies

Whose destiny, apparently,

Is to be street-pizza and cannon fodder

When the good guys and the bad guys have their tiffs.

And when it’s all done,

When all the dust settles,

Then everything just…kinda…goes back to regular.

 

HUH?

HOW?

WHY?

 

‘Cause the fodder-guys,

They’re civilized.

They are chock-a-block full of

Mommy-understanding, of empathy and sympathy.

They are the embodiments of loving-kindness,

Of unconditional love

Or at least they’re supposed to be….

(Or maybe they’re brain-damaged and concussed….

No short-term memory.)

 

Hey,

They’ll forgive ya ’cause they understand:

It’s your Nature.

So, they’ll all forget about it,

They’ll just pull together

And get this place back in shape

So all the good guys and all the bad guys

Can blow it up again.

 

Hmmm….

I don’t know, guys.

Don’t make a lick of sense to me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

I know…only a movie….

 

So, tell me then…

How come our real-life leaders

Act like they are super heroes

Engaged in a battle against the wicked forces of evil-most-vile?

Does that mean WE are the cannon-fodder?

Are WE the evaporating street pizza?

And now I’m wondering

Just HOW are we supposed to rebuild our world

Once the dust settles?

How are we supposed to forgive, to forget?

 

Hmmm….

Sure doesn’t look good to me….

By Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Boxes” by oatsy40 via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
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MAKE THE ORDINARY SACRED

MAKE THE ORDINARY SACRED

I am reading a book by a man I admire greatly, Edward Espe Brown.  He was the first head cook at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center back in the 1960’s and later founded Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.

His earliest book, THE TASSAJARA BREAD BOOK is a classic.

More than one dear friend remembers their well-thumbed, flour-coated and oil-stained go-to copy of the book and the loveliness that flowed from their hands and the kitchens of their youth.

Brown’s latest work, NO RECIPE:  Cooking as Spiritual Practice, is a distillation of the wisdom he has gained after more than 50 years of feeding many people, of running large kitchens, and of following the path of Zen Buddhism as a monk, as a teacher, and as a philosopher.

I devoured it in one big gulp and am re-reading it slowly and picking out the best parts to savor.  It will undoubtedly have a place on my bookshelf for a long time…just so I can dip into it again.

The following YouTube video, “Awaken In the Sacred Space” was published in 2018 by the publisher Sounds True just after the book came out.

Try look!  You might like it!

YOU START WITH YOURSELF

Brown’s root teacher was Shunryu Suzuki Rōshi who was the Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States and who founded the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia.

One of my favorite Suzuki Rōshi videos is this one “Sandokai – Sound and Noise,” posted by semillas de bambu in 2007.  It gives you a glimpse of the man and the way he talked and how he thought.

In a 2013 interview for a blog post put up by the San Francisco Zen Center, Brown pointed out, “I still appreciate Suzuki Rōshi saying, ‘When you are you, Zen is Zen.’ He didn’t say when you get to be Zen enough, then you’ll have really gotten somewhere. So much of Suzuki Rōshi’s way was to find out what’s appropriate for the occasion and what works for people.”

It is that practicality – connecting the sacred to the ordinary and grounding it there — that shines throughout Brown’s book.  It takes your head and your heart away into a peaceful place.

brussel-sprouts-before-roasting
“Brussel sprouts before roasting” by John Sullivan [CC BY-SA 2.0]

MUSINGS ON MAKING THE ORDINARY SACRED

As I was thinking on what to share with you in this post and shuffling through notes and jottings and other stuff, I rediscovered an old bit of writing from when I was focusing on developing a “manifesto” – promises to myself of how I wanted to proceed with my life.

more-abundance
“More Abundance” by Netta Kanoho via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I thought I’d share this thing with you.  Maybe you’ll find something useful in it.  (I know I still have a grand time playing with it.)


One of the choices I delineated for myself was this one: I make and maintain room in my life to make the ordinary sacred.

In order to do this, I figured that I had to do the following:

  • I give myself time to play.

Without the time to play, it all sort of mooshes into “gotta, gotta, gotta,” and it starts feeling like one giant treadmill.   Somehow, I can’t feature hamsters being real into “sacred.”

  • I help make the structure of my life a better vehicle for enhancing Creativity.

When I have spaces built in where I can play with making a Little Something out of the Big Nothing, then I start feeling like I can stop to appreciate all the wonder there really is in the world.

Everything’s a little more sparkly, a little more special, because it’s not just ME doing Little Somethings, it’s EVERYBODY doing Little Somethings.

This is a great space to be in when you’re trying to make it all sacred.

  • I ask the hard questions and I develop rituals that remind me what is Real.

Hard questions are like, “What am I doing be-bopping along here on this road to death?”  and “How am I making my space sparkly?” and “Why do I care whether so-and-so is a dorkhead?” and “What can I let go of now?” and “What do I want to keep now?” and so on and so forth.

Making rituals include things like lighting a bit of incense before I work on reconciling my checkbook so that I remember that I am working with the abundance in the universe that is flowing through my life.

It includes cleaning up the stack of the day’s dishes before going to bed so I wake up without leftover messes in my face.

It includes doing my ch’i kung routine every morning so that I feel the energy that’s out there flowing all around, just waiting for me to join in the dance.

It includes moving stuff around and checking out how the feng shui moves helped (or not) as I go through my day.

It includes writing quick notes to heart-people just because it feels good to have them in my life.

  • I make room in my life to focus on Creativity.

I always seem to get caught up in doing, doing, doing.  It is a cool thing to be able to stop and step back from it all and see where it is going.

If I can do that, it seems, that there’s automatically more space to do something that is heartful.

It also helps when I can step back and look at what I am doing and see where I can do it in a way that fosters more creativity.

I want open-ended avenues, not cul-de-sacs, I think.

I want mountain passes rather than ruts and grooves.

I want bridges rather than dead ends.

Working on it.

  • I develop creative projects and products that help other people open their hearts and play.

Part of that process is stopping every so often to see whether what I am doing is still useful or if I need to be doing some other thing.

  • I develop skill and facility in using story, symbolism and metaphor that feed and enhance my communication skills.

There is so much power in the Word, but there is also power in the non-verbal.  I am working on that one a lot right now and seeing where that takes me.


Looking at the thing now, I can see it was still a lot of half-baked ideas.

I also see that through the years since I first wrote this thing, I’ve continued working on and developing these mind-constructs.  It’s turned out okay as I keep on working them through and I’ve been mostly pleased with the results.

The whole of this, I think, is the notion that the Creative IS what is sacred in the ordinary.

Being able to slap together a sandwich or a salad depends on having the space for the fixings and for making what you want to make.  That’s honoring and making room for the Creative.

Being able to dance to your heartsong means you’ve got to have the space to turn around and move your bootie.

And, it seems to me, the only way to get to the Creative is by embracing your own self and how you feel about the way the world is working as well as what you do to recognize and honor the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary.

The best part is this: I’ve found that the more I pursue finding the Creative and the sacred in the ordinary the more my life feels like a wondrous thing.

 Here’s a poem….


SEEKERS

Seekers seek:

It’s what they do….

Looking for what is over there or over there…

just anywhere but Here…

searching for what was then or what will later be,

but never, ever, what is Now.

 

Only one problem –

take it as you choose….

Seekers are always in their Here,

they are always in their Now,

and that eclipses all the rest, ya know,

reveals the fool’s gold of their wanderlust lives and

sets them off…on the road again.

 

I daresay that’s why

Seekers track down some long-lost riddle

or pursue a thing that runs on ahead,

giggling, as it wisps off away into the Unknown –

tantalizingly close…then gone.

 

And, I guess, that’s why

Seekers beat the bushes,

chasing down some truth or other,

leaving no stone unturned,

rooting around in all that detritus and mud,

ferreting out byways and bypasses,

checking out trails and paths,

tracking down yet another cliché

that turns to dross in the sun of their eyes.

 

I suppose that’s why

Seekers quest,

seeking high, looking low,

investigating – delve and dig –

teasing forth yet another wisdom,

finding one more sacred talisman,

throwing out their old dragnets,

pulling them back in,

and then they stand around watching as

their catch (glittery and gleaming when freshly caught)

dries out and morphs into everyday, ordinary pebbles…

over and over again.

 

They say they’re looking for happy, the Seekers,

They say they want to find the Real, the True,

But, it’s a funny thing:

It seems you can only find the Real in your Here

and your Now contains the only True,

and you only get to Happy (or a reasonable facsimile)

when you notice that.

 

I suspect that if your heart is busy yearning

for far-away and some other when —

baubles and bits like a cave full of a dragon’s stash

or the resting-place of a once-and-future king,

like the ancient conundrums of a long-gone people

or the someday-visions of some mystic’s dream —

then, maybe you just cannot see your way to the Here,

maybe you cannot catch the scent of the Now,

and so you’re doomed to keep on looking,

condemned to search, to quest.

 

One day you are old.

The will-o-wisps no longer tantalize and tempt you

and the long road fades off away in the distance

as you sit there in your clown suit watching the sun set,

inventorying your memories, one by one.

And maybe ’cause you’re sitting there all quiet

Your here-and-now comes and sits by you,

Snuggling up against you,

and maybe that’s when Happy has a chance to find you,

and Real and True stop by to have a chat.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:. “Prehistoric Rock Engraving” by Merryjack via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Thanks for your visit. I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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PLAY WITH THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

PLAY WITH THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

I’ve been noticing that much of the advice being bandied about by the guys trying to help us ordinary folks improve our dud-ly selves is to reach for innovation, to grab onto the Creativity Rocket and hang on for the sure-to-be-exciting but sometimes silly (and possibly dangerous) ride.

For example, vlogger John Spencer published this YouTube video in 2016 that tells us, “We Need a Bigger Definition of Creativity.”

Everyone who studies on these things will tell you that the world-in-all-its-glory is capable of extraordinary change.

Us humans, as the pushiest parts of this world and the ones most likely to move things around and tinker and build and re-purpose stuff, are all nascent agents of change, they tell us.

And they are right.

BUT, ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO BE A CHANGE-AGENT?

There’s just one problem with all that:  Change-agents are very often disruptive sorts.

They don’t mean to be.  They’re just exploring their own fascinations and pursuing their own obsessions.

However, they do tend to confuse and upset and irritate people who are just going along and getting by.  They rock the boats of the ones who are liking the way the world is already set up just the way it is.

Change-agents can be especially unpopular with people whose power is based on the world being how it is.

Change-agents are likely to be the guys who get ridiculed and vilified and stomped down by their peers and the others around them.

If their ideas are particularly change-making, change-agents are the ones who end up getting denounced from assorted pulpits and beat up by fearful mobs of folks or burned at the stake by the ones who don’t like the possibilities to which the new ideas point.

This may make you uneasy.

fear-of-the-dark
“Fear of the Dark” by stuart anthony via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
It is also why people who are inclined to be innovative are admonished that they do need to learn how to connect better with the people around them.

This helps them find other people for whom the fascination of where the next new idea will take them is exciting.

Being a change-agent is lot more fun when you hang out with others who are also looking to change the world…or who are at least willing to change their mind.

WHEN AN IDEA IS “AHEAD OF ITS TIME”

Ideas and ways of walking and doing things that are very much more “advanced” or just very different than what has gone before are likely to meet resistance of every kind.

Infant ideas that are “ahead of their time” often get killed off before they can turn into anything tangible.

Either the necessary supporting technology is not yet part of the agreed-upon consensus-world that the change-agents share with the other people around them or else the prevailing, existing mindsets just can’t take in (much less digest) these new baby ideas and squishes them flat.

When these very good change-inducing ideas get re-discovered by innovative sorts living in friendlier times, the things take off running, dragging the whole reluctant, resistant world along.

This happens in science and technology; in art, music, literature, theater, fashion, design, and the rest of the creative milieu; in the business and working world; and in the lifestyles of people who work on transforming themselves into something other than what they used to be.

The whole point of knowing this is that you can aim yourself at looking for the “ideas whose time is now, ideas that excite many other people in the world.

Perhaps one of those ideas will take you to the new places that will ring the world’s chimes.

so-it-begins
“So it begins” by Phototropy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

In 2002, physician and theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman (a free-thinker who has a tendency to confuse the heck out of a lot of his more mundane colleagues) figured out and developed a mind-map of the way real change works in the natural world.

Kauffman’s work was so esoteric and bound up in the evolutionary changes that occur in his unique mash-up, interdisciplinary world of biology, physics and astronomy that it had to be explained to us ordinary folks by science writer Steven Johnson in his 2010 book, WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM:  The Natural History of Innovation.

As Johnson explains, Kauffman discovered a theory that he called the “Adjacent Possible.”

Basically, what the thing says is that at any given moment the world is capable of extraordinary change, but only CERTAIN changes can actually happen.

What determines which changes CAN happen is the fact that other, supporting changes to a particular situation have already happened.

And then, if new changes happen because of the work the change-agent puts into making his or her new idea tangible and if others continue iterating and developing the idea, then other “adjacent possible” changes become available and so on.

“The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore these boundaries.  Each new combination ushers new combinations into the adjacent possible,” says Johnson.

Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open.

You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room you have not visited yet.  These four rooms contain what Kauffman calls “the adjacent possible.”

room-with-doors-2
“Room with Doors (2060-2)” by Brent Eckly [CC BY 2.0]
Okay.

So you open one of those four magic doors.

You stroll (or possibly sneak) into the new room that appears when you open that door and you notice that in that room there are three or more other new doors you can open.

room-with-doors
“Room with Doors (IMG_8881)” by David Bramhall [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Repeat the process and you come to another room with more doors.

exploration-2
“Exploration” by Flavio Spugna [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Each of these doors is way the heck and gone across this very large room and each one of those doors leads to yet another brand-new room….and so on.

The mind-boggle is that you would not have been able to reach any of the possible brand-new rooms from your original starting point.

If you keep opening doors, who knows where you might end up?

urban-exploration
“Urban Exploration” by Patrick BAUDUIN via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
One interesting riff on the way the world has been disrupted by all the ones who are busily exploring the adjacent possible was published by Heidrick and Struggles International.

The company says they are “a premier provider of senior level Executive Search, Culture Shaping and Leadership Consulting services.”  (The capitals are all theirs.)

The factoids they present in their video, “A Disrupted World,” are amazing.

This video is particularly interesting because it shows the mindset of one of the top headhunter companies in the world….a definite indication that exploring the adjacent possible is an especially valuable way of walking.

CHANGE HAPPENS STEP BY STEP

The thing to remember in all this door-opening and wandering around in the weird places you discover behind all those doors is that most real changes are a gradual process.

The thing just keeps trundling along:  If this happens, then that can happen.  When that happens, then this next thing becomes possible and can happen.

All you have to add is water – your blood, your sweat, and your tears.  (The changes you’d like to see probably doesn’t come with zippy high-velocity elevators and escalators.)

You can, of course, choose to step off a very high cliff, figuring that you’ll build wings on the way down.  After all, that looks like a great short-cut and you’re creative, right?  Sure….

gentle-journey
Gentle Journey” by Domy Kamsyah via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND]
I have to tell you, though, this is not a really good survival strategy — especially if you have the mechanical know-how of a toad and no floating workshop or friendly flying dragon or roc who will rescue you from your Stupid.

HACKING THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE STARTS AT THE THRESHOLD

Unlocking a new door and bravely going where nobody has gone before (and surviving to tell the tale) is tricky.  Ask any Trekkie.  They’ll tell ya.

continued-exploration
“Continued Exploration by skagitrenee via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Basically, you need to figure out ways to explore the edges of the possibilities that now surround you once you get the durned door open.

This can be as simple as changing the physical environment you work in, cultivating a specific kind of social network, or maintaining certain habits in the way you do your work or play your way.

From there you can develop the skills you’ll need to take you to the next level and beyond.

Be aware that you will probably have to shovel out manure and sort through mountains of “nope-doesn’t-work.”

Be aware that there are cliffs and thorns and probably hungry predators in this brave new world of yours.

In the middle of this process of exploring the adjacent possibles you encounter, you may have to re-think your expectations and aspirations and re-vamp your mind-maps yet again in the face of the “not-yet-possible” which is the shadow-side of all this playing around with possibility.

You might also find an utterly amazing adjacent possible that grabs you and everybody else around you by the throat.

As you get good at navigating through the adjacent possibles in your world, you may even figure out how to use those navigational skills to further your dream in more tangible ways.

Here are some cogent thoughts on that by engineer-turned-deep-thinker and skill-development coach Yazan Hijazi in his 2017 video, ‘Innovation vs Creativity Demystified.”

Hijazi explains the difference and the relationship between innovation and creativity beautifully.

Creativity, he says, is getting lots and lots of ideas.  Innovation is about making some of these ideas real and getting people to buy into them or adopt them.

Hijazi tells you innovation comes in two flavors: “incremental” and “disruptive.”  He explains what they are, what they do and what they are for.

In the video he explains how you can use these two types of innovation to explore the edges of the adjacent possibles that surround you (and how to survive and thrive while doing it).

THE DOING IS ALL THERE IS

One of my favorite books is A PATH OF MASTERY:  Lessons on Wing Chun and Life from Sifu Francis Fong by Jim Brault.

In it, Brault reminds us, “In nature growth is gradual.  It takes time, it can’t be forced.”

He asks, “Why are you in such a hurry anyway?  Don’t worry if it takes a long time to learn.  The longer it takes to learn, the longer it will stay with you.”

When you’re playing around with possibilities, it’s good to remember that you have to be able to take action, to do things.   More importantly, you need to learn what to do and what not to do and when.

Learning about how you can do what you want to do is what gets you through that magical room you’re facing and how you get to the next door.

A VISION OF WONDER

This next video, published by The Culture Marketing Council in 2015, is a treat.  It features film-maker, public speaker and television personality Jason Silva, who The Atlantic dubbed “A Timothy Leary of the Viral Video Age.”  Enjoy!

Here’s a poem:


LEVELS

It seems to me always

That there are levels

And levels and levels.

And when you’ve slogged

Your way to the top of one,

And mastered every step along the way,

You find that you are standing

On the threshold of yet another

That beckons you to enter into

Other wonders, other nows.

 

Sometimes you stand there

At this next gateway and sigh,

Knowing that again here is the choice:

You can stay where you are

And be a master, strong and whole,

The one on whom others depend,

Or you can step across the line

And lose it all, become an egg,

A useless chick, fresh-hatched,

Peeping and cheeping potentiality.

 

And that next step

Is the hardest one to take.

It’s not easy, sloughing off

The tried, the true.

And it’s a painfulness to lose

The you that you have made,

An impregnable mountain tower,

High above the world,

A beacon shining, beckoning,

And leading the way.

 

It’s through the birth canal again you go,

So it’s no wonder if you take it kind of slow.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Exploration” by Riccardo Cuppini via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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SHIFT TO IDLE

SHIFT TO IDLE

This Patreon-backed YouTube video, “The Power of Imagination” published in 2015 by Claw Mountain, got me thinking…..

MY BIG CONFESSION

I am an incorrigible daydreamer.

When I was a kid, of course, there were those Bigs around me who kept predicting dire consequences for the disrespectful, lazy Space Cadet who was not listening, who could not focus, who had the attention span of a flea.

I was told to concentrate.  I was told to go do something.  I was told I had to develop my Work Ethic.  I lost count of the number of times I got the Buckle-Down-and-Soldier-On speech.

I had a hard time as a kid explaining that when I was staring out the window at that rainbow, I was trying to figure out exactly where the thing began and ended and how I could get it to actually stand still so I could, maybe, race over to see what was there at either end of it.

(And, for real, which end is THE end?  Which end is the beginning?)

I was wondering how come trees just know what shape works best for them and they grow that way all by themselves (except for those cool, gnarly-looking bonsai things Mr. Matsumoto played around with).

And I was wondering whether gnats really have brains.  I mean, gee, those gnat brains must really be small, right?

And how come Mama says this, but Aunty says that, and neither one of them agrees with Uncle, but Uncle agrees with Papa and…oh, boy!

Or I wondered what would have happened if I’d been raised by animals like Mowgli or how I would survive if I was shipwrecked on a desert island like the Swiss Family Robinson and what if dragons were really real and on and on.

It was hard for me to articulate that when I was sitting there just staring off into space, I was busy figuring out things, and mostly what I wanted to know about wasn’t exactly what the Bigs said I needed to learn.

And, frankly, what those Bigs thought I needed to know was sort of…well, BORING!  Their tick-tock everyday world just didn’t sparkle all that much.

lil-daydream
“Lil Daydream” by Evan Lavine via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
These days, I’m one of the Bigs.  I know a bit about the Three R’s:  Reasoning and Responsibility and Rationality.  I know some stuff about concentrating and focus and goal-setting and persistence and follow-through and all that grown-up stuff.

I even do it…a lot.

And, still, I daydream.

daydreaming
“Daydreaming” by Paulo Valdivieso via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Anthony Carboni is featured in the YouTube video. “Don’t Stop Daydreaming!” published in 2014 by Seeker.  Carboni is a cool video-maker extraordinaire who has an…ah-hem…werewolf-thing happening in his down-time moments.

The video’s part of a series of DNews (Discovery News) videos on TestTube.

See, it ain’t such a bad thing, this daydreaming.

THE DAYDREAM BELIEVER’S WAY

Smarty-pants Scott Barry Kaufman, co-author of WIRED TO CREATE:  Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, is featured in this YouTube Video, “Mindful Daydreaming Enhances Creativity, Not Meditation Alone.”  It was published in 2016 by Big Think.

In this video Kaufman explains about the two main modes of thought – the planning and strategizing part we exalt in our ever-busy, get-‘er-done world, the executive attention network,” as well as the stealthier, more intuitive part of our mind that  the guys in the lab coats have named “the default mode network” which lets your mind play with possibilities.

The second one is the mode that kicks in when you’re not actively putting out fires or dodging bullets or whatever.

Guys who are into studying ancient wisdoms call it “being in the Now” sometimes or maybe “mindfulness” or “detachment.”

Regular people just call it “daydreaming.”

reflection
“Reflection” by Simon Turkas via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Kaufman points out that you need both in order to do your best creative work.

He argues that if you can balance the two ways of thinking and can toggle back and forth between them, then you break into what Kaufman calls “the imagination network,” where you can use the focusing and planning powers of your executive mode to play around in the world that lies within your very own DMZ (default mode zone).

WALKING THROUGH YOUR DMZ

Walking around inside this edge-state, where your inner world meets the world around you, is the best place that interesting, world-changing breakthroughs can happen, studies have shown.

Ancient wisdom seekers agree.

timeless-bliss-timeless
“Timeless Bliss Timeless” by Hartwig HKD [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Buddhist teacher and author Joan Halifax constructs an analogy between the various mindsets and thought-construct places in our human minds and the areas in the natural world where one ecosystem meets another.

Examples that come to mind are the areas where the edge of the forest meets the leading edge of the wetlands or where the sea meets the shore.

Standing on a high cliff overlooking a canyon is an even more dramatic example.  From that high vantage point, maybe you can even “see forever,” as an old song tells us.

As Halifax points out , “Edges are where opposites meet.”

And then she says,

“Our journey through life is one of peril and possibility—and sometimes both at once. How can we stand on the threshold between suffering and freedom and remain informed by both worlds?”

You can click here to get more of her thoughts:

click-here

 

The Lion’s Roar article is an adapted excerpt of Roshi Halifax’s book, STANDING AT THE EDGE:  Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet.

On a less esoteric level, there are all kinds of examples of how accessing your personal DMZ can lead you to major insights.

Think of that goof-off Isaac Newton, his falling apple, and his Law of Gravity and all the other “aha,” lightbulb moments that produced awesome-good ideas and insights.

Think of the young space cadet Albert Einstein working in a boring civil servant job in the Swiss patent office and his Theory of Relativity.

Think of that champion daydreaming single-mom J.K. Rowling, stuck on the Manchester to London train, and the birth of the Harry Potter books that took the world by storm.

Apparently wondering minds wander and their wandering ways produce incredible insights, understandings, and piles of creative thinks.

DAYDREAMING PRACTICE

In his book, AUTOPILOT:  The Art and Science of Doing Nothing, artificial intelligence scientist and engineer Andrew Smart makes a strong case for spending more time idling.

The only thing not so great about it is that he doesn’t tell you how to “do nothing.”  He just explains what it is and why it’s good.

As Smart says, “Through idleness, great ideas buried in your unconsciousness have the chance to enter your awareness.”

It’s ironic.  After years and years of being told to quit being such a daydreaming lazybones, it turns out that if you want to be a card-carrying creative and meaningfully productive member of post-modern society, you need to be able to climb back into that hazy, small-kid, do-nothing space where playing is the thing.

Learning how to attract prettier butterflies is the new Holy Grail.  Whoo-hoo!

Even guys in business suits have jumped on the bandwagon.

Daydream” by VOFAN via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Brian DeHuff, the co-founder and CEO of Aha!, a roadmap software company that helps products managers create business strategies and keep track of them, presented a five-step program that’s supposed to help you do daydreaming in a purposeful way to Venture Beat.  (Venture Beat is an American technology website that focuses on what they call “Tech News That Matters.”)

Here are DeHuff’s suggestions:

COMMIT TO A TIME.

DeHuff suggests blocking off a distraction-free day during your work-week and holding to it assiduously.  If you can’t devote a whole day to this, then you need to at least set up “dedicated distraction-free times” on your calendar.

You tell your team you’re unavailable during these blocks of time and then, he says, you “keep yourself accountable to the time for creative thinking.”

MAKE IT COUNT.

DeHuff says he prepares for his dedicated daydreaming day by choosing what he’s going to be tackling ahead of time.

He also measures whether the time was a success by figuring out how far he has gotten towards the preset goal.

 ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS.

DeHuff tells you to “create the ideal environment for yourself” that will help you zone-out better.  Everybody’s different, he points out, so your way won’t look like his way.

STAY DISCIPLINED.

DeHuff feels that making a habit of setting aside the time and making a supportive environment for daydreaming isn’t easy, but it will help you reach into what he calls “the flow of deep-thinking” if you keep on persevering.

CREATE SPACE FOR OTHERS.

DeHuff recommends encouraging your team members to set aside their own blocks of time, including coordinating their schedules if necessary.

Hmmm….

My own self, I think that one’s a bit too organized and focused for me.  Aren’t daydreams supposed to be more like that half-sleepy place when you get up from a nap and you are still surrounded by dream-clouds?

daydream
“Daydream” by Dome Sekoser via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
I’m not sure battle-planning a daydream would actually work for me.

Hmmm….

Try this:  Look at a blank wall.  Just stare at it.  Don’t move.  Don’t do anything for five minutes.  (You can time it with a timer if you like.)

Okay.  THAT’S the space you want.  It’s where us poets go when the world has been beating us upside the head again.  Cool, huh?

You can induce and expand that space by doing some routine task or activity like washing the dishes or making a cup of coffee or by taking a warm shower or staring out a window or going out to sit on a grassy hill and watch the clouds go by.

If you need to get up and move, you can go for a meandering walk or go for a slow jog around a block.  You might prefer to do a very slo-mo ch’i kung session or do a wild and crazy dance and spin yourself silly.

sunset-reverie
“Sunset Reverie” by John Nakamura Remy via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Let your mind go wherever it wants to.  Just do that.  Don’t work on making any sense out of the wanderings.  Just let them happen.

Practice doing that and a funny thing will start happening.

If you’ve been beating your head against some obdurate problem and making yourself run around crazy, the thoughts will go swirling around in there, bumping into each other.

Let them.

After a while, if you’re lucky, you’ll fall into a reverie, where all the thoughts quiet down and the only thing left is a kind of white noise roaring in your head.

That’s when you’ll find that hazy space.  Take a breath or three.  Rest yourself in there.

Sometimes, after you’ve been there for a while, an idea will pop up.

Grab it.  Quick!  Write it down.  Maybe it’ll be just the thing you need to get you past all that nose-to-the-grindstone slogging.

And wouldn’t that be a wondrous thing?

Here’s a poem:


WIND THOUGHTS

Wind carves into mountain faces

Sculpting them into fantastic forms.

Wind pushes towering clouds all across the sky,

Or decorates it with pretty feather-clouds that

Settle into thick cloud duvets after a while.

Wind twists and bends trees into macro-bonsai shapes

Or wanders through meadows barely brushing against

The flowers in the grasses.

Gentleness of the breeze ruffling wavelets,

Across the face of still water;

Power in the hurricane,

Uprooting and tossing around anything in its path.

Wind makes changes,

Sometimes slow, sometimes swift,

But ever and always.

Wind can be blocked,

But it is never really stopped,

And the stirrings of butterfly wings, they tell me,

Can start the spinning of a hurricane someplace else.

Wind is the breath of the World,

Circulating through its body

In never-ending patterns,

Always changing, always the same.

 

Gee….

I wonder if the World

Knows how to do ch’i kung?

by Netta Kanoho

Photo credit:  “Midwinter’s daydream” by Natalia Medd via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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CHOOSE YOUR DELUSION WELL (Another IPS)

CHOOSE YOUR DELUSION WELL (Another IPS)

Yeah, I know.  It’s what I tell myself all of the time, echoing the I Ching and assorted other wise guys and smarty-pants, ancient and new:  The goal is getting to clarity.

Right.

The problem with that one, of course, is that I’m such a little thing and the Universe is really, REALLY huge.

What are the odds that I’m ever really going to be able to know enough to make sense out of it all?

How likely is it that I’ll be the know-it-all who can suss out the Whopper Mystery and the All of Everything – even with the help of all these electronic devices and beaucoup-pile of databases and stacks of books and that?

Uh….hmmm….

IT’S A DILEMMA, ALL RIGHT.

As far as I can tell there are just two basic stances you can take when you start dancing your Tao Dance.   There are ongoing, long-standing arguments for either one.

  1. Everybody and everything is against you and they’re all out to get you.
  2. The world all around you is conspiring to do you good.

The first stance is so old it has an established name.  It’s called “paranoia.”

paranoia
“Paranoia” by katie weilbacher via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Google will tell you that “paranoia” is a noun that means, “a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system.”

The entry warns that this “may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder, of drug abuse, or of a serious condition such as schizophrenia in which the person loses touch with reality.”

The second one has a made-up name that’s slowly making its way into dictionaries and such: “pronoia.”

little-hand
“Little hand” by ePi.Longo via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Wikipedia credits a psychologist, Dr. Fred H. Goldner of Queens College in New York City, as the probable official coiner of the name.  The good doctor wrote an article in 1982 that was published in the academic journal Social Problems. 

That article, titled “Pronoia,” detailed a phenomenon that is the positive mirror-image of the more established social delusion we call paranoia.

Goldner said that there are those among us who take the social complexity and ambiguity we encounter in the modern world and rearrange the events and circumstances that we all encounter in our lives into a story of support, connection, and well-wishing.

They carry this story with them and the actions that arise out of it are very different than the ones engendered by the paranoia paradigm.

The ideas in Goldner’s article resonated (and continues to resonate) with a lot of people.

Just six years later, in 1988, author Paulo Coelho came out with a novel, THE ALCHEMIST.  In it the protagonist, a young Andalusian shepherd boy, dreams about traveling in search of an extravagant worldly treasure that will fulfill his every wish.

From his home in Spain, Santiago journeys to the markets of Tangier and across the Egyptian desert and has a bunch of adventures before encountering an old, wise man called “the Alchemist.”

The wise old magic guy encourages the boy on his quest telling the boy, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” 

And so Santiago goes on.

Thirty years later, the book is still going strong.

This YouTube video, “Paulo Coelho on Luck, Coincidence and Faith” was published in   2008 by HarperOne (an imprint of HarperCollins) to celebrate the book as a “modern classic.”

At the time, 22 million copies of the book – two million of which were in English — had been sold worldwide.

Nine years later, in 2017, Jubilee published the next YouTube video entitled, “How the Universe Is On Your Side” as part of their Patreon campaign called Dear Humanity.

The idea continues to gain ground, it seems.

MY OWN THINKING

All of this stuff got me thinking about how each of these two seemingly opposing and (equally delusional) systems of thought-constructs might affect the way you walk through the world.

Which point of view colors your days with rainbows and fills it with bouquets of sweet-smelling flowers?

Which one peoples your world with smiles and laughter and kindness all around?

Which filter would be likely to lead you to view the world with brighter eyes and more joy?

We humans are lucky.  We get to choose the glasses we want to wear.  It is, more than anything else, our birthright – just because we’re human.

In my perambulations through the multi-versal Internet, I ran across yet another YouTube video, just published in 2018 by EntertainHumorousVlooper.  It’s called, “When You Want Something All the Universe Conspires in Helping You Achieve It.

So that’s why I came up with this thing:

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an increasing tendency towards radical trust in the Universe.  [It’s a cool thing to feel that there’s a conspiracy afoot to enhance your well-being.  Hawaiians say, “Akua take care.”]

Here’s a poem:


PUNAHELE

 

Punahele, a precious child of the heart…

That’s me, a favored child of the Universe.

(You are one too.)

We are made of the same stuff as

Rainbows and stars and mighty butterfly wings.

For us, the all-there-is

Opens its arms in welcome,

An invitation to dance

In the abundance that is the Universe.

 

Come on…

We can go

Stomping in all the mud puddles

Down some long dirt road…

We can lie quiet on some hillside

Watching the clouds roll by

In a stately dance. 

We can ride the biggest wave,

Fly so high, delve so deep

That we break into another space

That’s every bit as fine as this one.

 

We can turn our hands

To all the tasks the world requires

And at the end of a long day,

We can rest in the peace

That settles over us,

The peace that comes from Done.

 

We can hug and love and fool around all warm,

Holding hands, all of us together

As we walk each other home.

We can brave the deepest shadows,

Spending our light on

Helping each other see the

Sparkles hidden in the deepest depths,

Clambering over crystals grown

Bigger than the oldest trees.

 

We are punahele,

And all of this…

ALL of this

Is our birthright.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Half the Trouble’s In the Asking,” by Thomas Hawk via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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SET UP YOUR OWN RULES

SET UP YOUR OWN RULES

I am fascinated by rules.  I haven’t run across a rule yet that doesn’t make sense or have some relevance in a particular circumstance or situation.

Rules are always relative.  They depend on who you are, where you are, what you are doing, and how you want to do it.

Rules are, I think, a fundamental part of every structure, every process, every game, and every lifestyle.  Humans have used the power of rules to build religions and construct philosophies and organize sciences.

If you set them up right, rules are a way for you to just do it – whatever it is – without having to re-think every step every time.

Ideally, you should be able to use your rules to remind yourself of the choices you’ve already made so that every time you come to a crossroads the direction you’re going to take has already been predetermined.

rules
“Rules” by Marcin Wichary via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Rules are a kind of shorthand for all the choices you’ve made among the various ways you can (or want) to act when you interact with the world around you.

The biggest benefit to you in having well-defined set of rules connected to a variety of situations is that you don’t have to waste brain power trying to decide which way to go whenever you come across something you’ve done before.

You don’t have to power up your brain neurons.  They’ve been there; they’ve done that.  All you have to do is go.

Look all around you and all you see are rules, rules, and more rules.

Ancient wisdom guys just pile on the rules, assuring us that following this or that set of rules will get us to a good place.  (They know this works, they say, because of all the precedents and traditions and stuff which are just other names for rules.)

The guys in the lab coats will all tell you that making up rules are how us humans make sense of this very confusing world.

If we didn’t make up rules for ourselves — belt ourselves up and box ourselves in — we’d be so overwhelmed by all the incoming data from the world around us that we’d just stand there paralyzed and unable to move.

We are hard-wired to cringe away from uncertainty.  The chance that our very next step is likely to pitch us off a cliff or into some very toothy predator-mouth makes us want some guidelines, some maps…something or somebody telling us what to do.

follow-my-leader
“Follow My Leader” via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
It’s an important survival trait for us humans.

Whether any of the rules we adopt as our own are effective or not will often depend on the people around us (also known as Society or Family or Friends) and how well their sets of rules mesh or interact with our own.

A LEGACY OF RULE-MONGERING

My fascination with rules does not mean that I’m going to follow every durned rule I encounter.  It just means I like looking at them, deconstructing them, seeing the why behind them and watching where following them takes you.

I think this is probably a legacy from my Grandma, the Rebel-Without-A-Pause, who raised me.

It is ironic in a way.

The woman was a force of nature who did what she wanted when she wanted and how she wanted.  There was not a rule made she could not dismantle by using some other rule as a lever.

She was an impossible woman and I loved her dearly.

our-get-along-shirt
“Our Get-Along Shirt” by James H. via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
For me, growing up, she was The Rule Factory.  Mama had more rules on tap than anybody else I knew.  I was the wild child she tried to impose them on.

Her ground rules were very simple.  There were only two.

  1. Stay safe.
  2. Do no harm.

From that foundation flowed an incredible variety and array of rules and sub-rules and precepts and corollaries and such that could make your head spin if you actually stopped to consider them.

Living and dealing with Mama and her rule-making propensities taught me one very important lesson:  In any game, if you set up the rules, you can always win.

THE THING ABOUT RULES

For most people, their life-rules are just a given.  These rules are subconscious — unexamined bits of an assortment of hints and allegations, life-hacks and commandments — often imposed on us (when we are way too young to defend ourselves) by the people around us.

Somebody or other once pointed out that most people live from rules and standards and expectations they received before they were six years old.

These rules are rarely systematic and are often contradictory with little built-in flexibility.    Sometimes these rules can be self-sabotaging and self-defeating.  Sometimes they can be positively toxic.

(Hey, when you’re little, what do YOU know?  Everybody knows better than you, right?)

There’s an old Jesuit maxim that goes, “Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man.”

follow-me
“Follow Me” by Lestexian via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
This saying is widely attributed to Ignatius of Loyola, the Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian who founded the Jesuit religious order.

Saint Iggy lived from 1491 to 1556, but the idea that by the time a child is seven he or she has been loaded up with all the rules and such that will pretty much determine how that individual will behave and react to the world is an ancient concept.

Everybody you will ever meet carries around a whole backpack of rules – ideas of how the world works that determine and dictate how they (and you) are supposed to act and how they (and you) are supposed to feel as you make your way through the world.

Few people recognize what most of the rules they live by are.

They hardly remember that many of these hard and fast rules are actually ideas and constructs imposed on them by other people.

They probably don’t even notice whether these rules support or prevent them from experiencing emotions they consider most important or living the life they want to live.

Often, because they don’t even know the rules they are living, these people will do things that are detrimental to how they say they want to be walking.

Even if they are feeling the need to change the way they do things, they keep making the same old moves that they’ve already found to be ineffective over and over again.

After all, they tell themselves, this is the way the world is supposed to be, right?  Acting this way and not that is supposed to work, right?  So, why isn’t it working?

living-in-a-box
“Living in a Box” by cristian via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Good questions, huh?

SO, WHAT’S THE ANSWER?

If you feel life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for you, maybe those rules you are following are like a badly fitted pair of shoes.  They may be excellent, high-quality shoes, but they just aren’t right for your feet.

Let’s parse it out….

  • Let’s say the life-rules you are currently following arise from other people’s ways of seeing the world.
  • Now let’s say that the way you see the world is not the same as those other people’s perspectives.
  • Okay, now think about it: How likely is it that all of these rules you were gifted with or that you inherited are going to be the ones that will get you to where you are doing what you most want to do?

Hmmm.

FINDING THE RULES THAT FIT

Maybe it’s time to go take a look at all those rules you’ve been following (probably from early childhood) that have not worked for you.

I do have to issue one caveat:  Nobody else is going to be able to do this part for you.  It’s your rules, after all, just as the stupid shoes that gives you blisters and bunions are your shoes.

A shoe salesman can make suggestions, but you’re the one who puts on those things and checks out how they feel on your feet.  You’re the one who decides whether they look good on you.

shoe-store-in-trinidad
“Shoe Store in Trinidad” by Bud Ellison via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Also, be aware that this rule-finding expedition is an exploratory process that won’t get solved by taking a 15-minute quiz.

You didn’t grow your rules in a day, and there’s probably a whole pile of them in there, all gnarly and tangled-up in a mass.

[Look at that.  Even making your own rules has rules!]

It’ll probably help if you set up a notebook and grab something to write with when you’re doing this.

That way you’ll notice when you start repeating yourself and when you get stuck in yet another tangle of thoughts.

First, just notice the rules you are following.  Look for the default set of actions you take in certain situations.

When you’ve got a pile of them stacked up, start asking yourself why you do this and not that.  Try to find the underlying reasoning behind your actions.

When you start finding a common theme running through several sets of default actions that you take without thinking very much about it, you’ve probably discovered one of your hidden rules.

  1. Do you like how following this rule make you feel?
  2. Are the actions that you take as a result of following this rule congruent with the values and principles that you hold most dear?
  3. Do the results you get from following this rule make you feel good about yourself and the world?
  4. Do you like the places that following this rule are taking you?
  5. Are you satisfied with the life you live when you follow this rule?

If you answer “yes” to these questions about a rule, then the rule that you found is keeper.

If the answer is “no” to each of these questions, dump the rule.  Look for alternative options.

If the answer is, “it depends,” then you have probably found that the rule you are following is layered and nuanced and you’ll need to dig deeper to ferret out all the whys and wherefores for each of the connected pragmatic moves.  It’s a sign that you haven’t reached down to your layer of ground rules yet.

Keep on running each new rule discovery through this process – dump, keep, dump, dump, keep.

Eventually you’ll start to see the shape of the rules that work for you.  You will begin to refine the collection of the ground rules that you want to govern your actions and your life.

explored
“Explored” by Ahladini Alapati via Flickr [CC-NC 2.0]
The funny thing about all this is that as you focus on what works for you and what does not, the process will start to snowball.

You won’t even have to worry about making new rules.  They’ll just show up all on their own without fail.  (Remember my Grandma, the Rule Factory?  Rules are really easy to make up.)

more-rules-for-the-teacher
“More Rules for the Teacher” via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
When these new rules arrive, you’ll be better able to decide whether the newbies might be an effective way for you to move.

Then it’s back to asking the questions and dump, dump, dump, keep, dump, and so on.  After a while it gets to be automatic.

When other people suggest rules to add to your pile, you can just run them through this process and decide for yourself whether the proposed rule would work for you and not against you.

Lori Deschene has an excellent blog about the rules she has developed for her own life walk that she first wrote published in 2009.

Click this button and you can enjoy her thoughts on the subject.  (I agree with them wholeheartedly.)  click-here

FINAL TAKE

This YouTube video, “In Unorganized Baseball Games, Kids Play By Their Own Rules” was a “Sunday Closer” published by TODAY.com in 2017.  It’s a lovely reminder of one of the greatest benefits of playing by your own rules.

Here’s a poem:

__________

RULES FOR ASKING

Ask and it shall be given,

Seek and ye shall find.

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

Just manifest what’s in your mind.

 

Yeah, right.

Except….

 

When you ask Dad for the keys to the Universe,

It’s good if you already know how to drive.

You have to really mean it, really want it,

‘Cause the old guy just won’t take your shuck and jive.

 

The asking has to be wholehearted,

And the granting of your wish comes at a cost.

Before you ask, be sure you know the price tag.

Is the treasure gained worth the asset lost?

 

You cannot ask for something that’s not righteous,

For something that will harm some other one.

If you’ve given all your heart for a falseness,

Then the Real will eat you up just for fun.

 

Making ultimatums and Or-Elses,

Trying to dictate how and what will be,

You’ll be all misaligned and nothing you will find,

For you guarantee your hands will come up empty.

 

Your arrogance will boomerang back on you

As you watch your dreams evaporate and die.

Without humility, your wants will never be

And every path you take end in a lie.

 

So…

If you really want to see your heart’s desire,

Be kind and stand upright and true.

Talk softly from the heart, and really mean it,

And maybe the Real will listen to you.

by Netta Kanoho

___________

Header photo credit:  “Anne’s Boots Rock” by Mike Baird via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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UNLOCK BEGINNER’S MIND

UNLOCK BEGINNER’S MIND

Back in the ‘70’s I ran across a small book of distilled teachings taken from talks given by Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki, ZEN MIND, BEGINNER’S MIND.

There was this quote in it:

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

It spoke to me, that quote, and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to unpack the thing.

I’ll probably do other posts about Beginner Mind, so all I’ll say about it right now is that Beginner Mind is an ancient wisdom teaching that helps you develop what educator Barbara Oakley dubbed a “growth mindset.”

This way of thinking keeps you from locking into fixating on the same-old “shoulds” and “musts” and “that’s-the-way-it-is” that all of us humans tend to create as we experience life.

Beginner Mind is expansive.  It’s not cluttered up by a lot of specious assumptions, expectations and preconceptions.

miksang-level-2-space
“miksang level 2 – space” by V via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
A gear-head analogy for Beginner Mind would be something like attaching a satellite dish to some receptor or other and having access to a whole bunch of channels.

Martial artists wax poetic about standing receptive to whatever comes at them when they talk about Beginner Mind.

Whatever.  Beginner Mind is a very cool tool to have in your Life Toolbox.

That’s been my take on Beginner Mind for a while now.

It may be why the YouTube video, “Nurturing a Beginner’s Mind,” that I’ll be sharing with you towards the end of this post caught my attention.

The video is a production of INKtalk, an off-shoot of the TEDtalk phenomenon.  INKtalk is organized by Lakshmi Pratury, who put together the first TEDIndia talks in Myosore in 2009.

(The reason the video’s at the end of this post is mostly because it introduced me to some other fascinating side-trails that I think are also worth exploring.  Come take a look!)

TALKING ABOUT INK

The video I’m going to share with you (after a bit of dancing around) is an INKtalk published on YouTube in 2013.

It is one of a series of talks that have happened during the annual conferences, mini-conferences and salons coordinated and produced by INK, self-described as “India’s foremost platform for the exchange of cutting-edge ideas and inspiring stories.”

Click here for more information about INK and the talks:

click-here

Pratury wants the world to see INK as “a curator of contemporary oral history.”

The organization, she says, searches the world looking for people with stories and missions that center around innovative solutions for the broad scale problems that plague young economies, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

The stories they have gathered together are about innovative, world-changing ideas that address problems in recurring societal issues like education, governance, energy, health, poverty, and infrastructure.

The stories make for very interesting reading.  Check them out.

ANOTHER WAY OF SCHOOLING

In the upcoming INKtalk video, Saba Ghole, a former architectural urban designer who became an education and technology entrepreneur, talks about the work she and the members of her team do at the NuVu Studio at Cambridge University.

Ghole is one of the co-founders of the NuVu Studio, which was a brainchild of fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus Saeed Arida.

As part of his Ph.D. dissertation while at MIT, Arida explored the concept of a learning place modeled on the apprenticeship and project-based learning and hands-on problem-solving that is characteristic of an architectural studio.

Before he graduated, Arida implemented an on-campus pilot program at the Beaver Day Country School in Brookline.  This pilot was so successful that it led to an even larger project.

Arida collaborated with Ghole and another fellow MIT student David Wang, an engineer  and technology enthusiast, to launch NuVu Studio in 2010.

Wang collects degrees, it seems.  He’s got them in aeronautics, astronautics, electrical engineering and computer science.

beginning
Photo credit: “Beginning” by Aftab Uzzaman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The three friends have a penchant for collaboration and they continue to gather people together so they can help other Makers build cool stuff.

NuVu Studio has become an amazing “innovation studio” that is an alternative full-time, trimester-length schooling experience for middle and high school students — baby Makers who want to learn how to grow their spirit of innovation and to experience hands-on, real-world problem-solving of the finest kind.

More than 3,000 students – mostly from the local schools in the Boston area — have gone through the program since it began.

It is a far cry from your regular school experience, as this short video, “What is NuVu,” published by HarvardX in 2017 illustrates:

Capitalizing on the immense resources of MIT and Harvard University, the Studio facilitates the participation of the students in multi-disciplinary collaborations with Studio-trained “coaches” who are themselves architects, engineers, or experts in science, leading-edge technology, music, art, photography, fashion, and more.

Many of the coaches are MIT or Harvard students who are excited about doing hands-on work in their fields as well.

They work in large open-space studios and workshops using state-of-the-art tools that include things like laser cutters, 3D printers, as well as more mundane tools and assorted building materials.

Here, students don’t get grades – they have portfolios showcasing their work and progress. Problems are tackled in weeks-long blocks rather than hour-long classes.

The students are challenged to learn in new ways.

Analytical thinkers are inspired to explore their creative selves while creative students expand their capacity to think and learn analytically.

Whole-brain thinking is nurtured and encouraged.

The goal for these students is to make products that solve real-life problems that the students have defined with the help of their coaches using “themes” selected by the organizers.

In 2017, NuVu Studio received a Core77 “Notable Design Education Initiative Award.” 

AND NOW FOR THE VIDEO (AND SOME THOUGHTS)….

In the video, Ghole presents a collection of wonderfully clear insights about the components that make up the Beginner’s Mind stance.

(By the time she did the talk Ghole had already been working on helping to grow creativity and innovation for a number of years.)

The three big ideas are as follows:

THE POWER OF MIXING

Mixing together people (experts and neophytes), combining assorted themes that relate back to the real world, and tinkering – also known as breaking and re-making (which includes repurposing and reusing, collaboration with other minds and making use of open sourcing platforms to find ideas) – are the foundations that the Studio uses to encourage and support the students in their efforts to produce novel and effective solutions to problems they have chosen to pursue.

WHAT MAKES THE HEART OF A BEGINNER?

Ghole says the Beginner’s heart is an intriguing mix of Trickster, Craftsman and Poet.

Each of these are archetypes that come with sets of behaviors that are often focused on seeing the world in ways that are different from group-mind and consensus.

NOT 2, NOT 1 (BOTH 2 AND 1)

This is the best iteration I’ve ever seen of the concept of wu, a really esoteric and dizzy-making ancient teaching that proposes that when two ideas (or people) come together, the dynamic interaction, relationship and flow between them produces a third idea or concept or way of moving that combines aspects of both.

She explains the three pairings that the Studio uses to try to ignite new thinking among their students:  Process + Product, Mindful + Mindfulness, and Fiction + Reality

I found the whole thing mind-blowing.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Here’s a poem:


WHERE IS THAT KNIFE?

If I rehash the old stuff,

They come alive again,

And I make the threads

Into strings,

Into cords,

Into cables,

Just by adding

Strands of thought –

Little, tiny thoughts –

Like fibers crowded together,

Twisting themselves

Tighter and thicker,

Turning into one heavy-duty rope,

Turning into one huge knot.

 

Hmmm….

 

So…

Where’s that knife?

I had it a minute ago.

I need it to cut through this stupid knot!

 

Back to beginner mind….

Again.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Photography In The Garden” by Olds College via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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FIND THE SAVOR

FIND THE SAVOR

One of my favorite Einstein quotes is this:  ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’  Of all his theories, I think, it’s the best one.

Life is either sacred or it isn’t.  Life is either amazing, just as it is, or it’s not.

You don’t even have to be a big brain to figure out that acting as if everything is a miracle and trying to respect and celebrate that premise as a “fact” will probably have different consequences than acting as if nothing is a miracle and, therefore, it doesn’t really matter what you do.

Our moves that arise out of each of these basic premises are very different.  The life that results from making moves predicated on them are also very different.

Of course, most of us are not as “either-or” as Einstein or the assorted wise guys and smarty-pants who offer guidance on these things.  For us, Life-Its-Own-Self mostly runs through a spectrum of “meh” with an occasional off-the-scale event featuring fireworks and other significant joyousness.

perspectives-of-a-waiting-story
“Perspectives of a Waiting Story” by Omar Sharif via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The daily grind and our jam-packed calendars and too-full to-do lists roll right over our days and leave us feeling flatter than street pizza.

We often end up moving faster than the speed of everyday miracles.

It shows.

Our discontents blossom even as we accumulate all the touted “good stuff.” They grow as the pile of accomplishments and achievements increases and sprouts new projects and initiatives and so on and so forth.

It’s like we continue to cultivate the kudzu vines that got away from us and are even now taking over the landscape.  YEEP!

call-me-up
“Call Me Up in Dream Land” by Mike Bitzenhofer via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

SAVORING = MOVING AT THE SPEED OF MIRACLES

Countering the ubiquitous Meh Creep is not really hard to do and all of us can do it.  With a minor investment of time and attention we can get so good at it that we can let the miracles in our life catch up with us.

It’s called “savoring,” described by dictionary.com most beautifully as, “giving oneself over to the enjoyment of.”

Fred Bryant, a social psychologist and professor at Loyola University in Chicago,  wrote a very detailed and learned book, SAVORING:  A New Model of Positive Experience in 2006His co-author, the late Joseph Veroff, was a researcher and a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

That book grew out of his work analyzing a wide range of studies that focus on “being mindfully engaged and aware of your feelings during positive events”.  It lists the benefits that come to you when you savor (i.e., enjoy) the good things that happen in your life.

The smarty-pants have figured out that paying attention to enjoying yourself helps you build stronger relationships, improve your mental and physical health and find more creative solutions to problems too.  The wise guys always said that as well.

A beautiful illustration of “giving oneself over” is this YouTube video, “Far Leaves Tea:  Slow Down.  Pay Attention.  Savor Life.” was published in 2017 by Far Leaves Tea as an explanation of the company’s mission.

BUT, WHERE DO I FIND THE TIME?

Considered as an abstract concept, “giving oneself over” may seem like an impossibility in the face of that overfull and ever-growing To-do List.

Sure, we’d all love to have huge blocks of time where we can devote ourselves fully to the moment.

A few hours on a quiet beach to gaze into the waves rolling in?  Yes!

A whole weekend devoted to doing whatever we most love to do?  Sure!

How about a sabbatical in the mountains with time enough to spare for exploring and dreaming?  Yum!

And what happens?  The latest crisis/trauma drama whirls us around and we get caught up yet again in the rough-and-tumble.  ACK!

notebook-collection
“Notebook Collection” by Dvortygirl via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I suppose the thing to remember is what Sarah Breathnach says in her book, SIMPLE ABUNDANCE: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.”

While it’s true that you may not have weeks or days or hours of time to focus on the touchy-feely stuff, you do have moments.  You do have spaces between and within the busy bits.

You can use those spaces to help yourself do some very small, very powerful things.

BUILD SOME SAVORING RITUALS INTO YOUR DAY.  Find a few things that you do every day and make them into a special ritual for savoring.

  • You might want to copy the Far Tea guys and build a ritual around your early morning tea or do one in the mid-afternoon. (Coffee works for this as well.)
  • Taking a tub bath can be a ritual to savor.
  • Reading to your child or snuggling with a loved one are others.

SAVOR THE FOODS YOU EAT.  Don’t just cram stuff in your mouth.  Pause for each bite.  Give the food in your mouth space.  Notice the taste and the texture.  Think about where the ingredients of a dish came from, who made it, what went into it.

  • It’s a funny thing. Several studies have shown that speed of eating may be a factor in the problem of being overweight.  Apparently, people who quickly shovel food into their mouths are more likely to overeat.  By taking the time to pay attention to and enjoy what you are eating, there is less of a tendency to speed through a meal, gobbling up more and more and more.
  • Taking the time to taste and feel the foods you eat also allows you to develop a feel for the kinds of foods your body really likes. Very often these foods are good for your body.
  • Also, slowing down and paying attention to how your body reacts to the food you eat allows you to notice when you are full. You stop eating.

SAVOR THE CHORES YOU DO Slow down and pay attention to what you are doing, especially when it’s some task that you dread.  When you’re writing that stupid report, when you’re cleaning the bathroom or doing your taxes, slow down.

  • Ask yourself what is enjoyable about it.
  • Notice how you position your body, how your hands move, how you breathe as you do the task.
  • Enjoy your skill at getting the surfaces you’re working on super-clean. Appreciate your ability to work with words or numbers or the tools you are using.

ENJOY LITTLE PLEASURES The French culture emphasizes the value of little treats, “petits plaisirs.” They understand, the French, that taking the time to indulge in small pleasures add a little bit extra to an ordinary, mundane experience.

  • A scented candle or a single gardenia floating in a dish can add a little bit of richness to the air around you.
  • A special pen or fine papers can make writing a letter to a special friend a pleasure that beats out a post on FB or yet another Tweet.
  • Looking for and indulging in little joys like this consistently can change the pace and the flavor of your days without a lot of huge money outlay or massive planning. Their effects are cumulative; they can add up.

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN WHAT YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW.  Avoid thinking about what else you could be doing.  Just do what you are doing and when it’s done, enjoy the doneness of it.

  • If you can pay attention and savor what you are doing right now, then eventually you will be able to give many of the moments of your life the space and attention they deserves.
  • No moment cannot be savored. Even the ones when you are stuck in a not-so-pleasing routine can be given your attention and your focus.  Perhaps you might come up with some new ways to make the everyday routine more pleasurable if you do this.
  • Savoring the way you are spending your time and feeling what is happening when it is happening helps you appreciate how you are spending the time of your life. That awareness and appreciation and reveling in the moments of your life can lead you to growth in a direction you find more pleasing.  A good thing.

These are all little things, it is true.  The Real is, however, life is actually made up of little things.

ONE MORE TAKE

This video, “Savor the Coffee Not the Cup” was published in 2017 by Rushabh Dediah.  It presents a little bit of wisdom that I wanted to share.

Here’s a poem:


CHEMISTRY LESSON

There are days when nothing grabs

At the heart and the complexity

Of a life lived large scoots

Around inside your head like

Those quicksilver drops that scatter into

More globs when you poke them.

 

The best way to gather the

Skittering blobs is to poke the

Space next to each one so it

Scoots away from your finger and

Then you can shepherd it to

Another glob and they will stick.

 

Zut, zap – yes, just like that:

They’ll make one tiny bigger blob

And if you keep after them,

You’ll get them all herded together

Into one big shiny, flowing whole.

Poking the middles doesn’t work, though.

 

So, I guess, the spaces next to

Blobs are the key to making

Them move, just as playing with

The spaces between life things like

Duty and responsibility and having fun

Connects them all into one life.

 

And if you slam your way through

The middles of your life things

Then they scatter outward in

All directions like quicksilver and you have

To start all over again, herding

All those silly things back together.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture:  “Wild River With Lighting Effects” by Camille Bouliere via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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FIND YOUR OWN VOICE

FIND YOUR OWN VOICE

Probably every wanna-be Creative has been told (at some point or other) that in order to reach their full potential as a writer, visual artist, musician, performer or whatever, it is imperative to “find your own voice.”

Now, in the Age of Social Media and Self-Branding — when the “Creative Mindset” is supposed to be The Way to $ucce$$ and Happiness — we are told that we must go looking for our individual, unique voices.  Our success depends on it.

I confess, I almost lost it when a pragmatic, more literal-minded friend snarked, “I KNOW where my voice is.  It’s right here in my mouth!”  Gales of laughter came bubbling up.

Explaining this “voice” thing gets confusing because even people who are engaged in developing themselves in a craft or an art or some other skill that doesn’t use words and doesn’t engage the mouth’s ability to make sounds can get all tangled up in trying to figure out how to find their own “voice.”

Now that the business world has turned on to getting creative, it seems that everyone wrestles with the idea of developing a voice.

There are Titans out there – the guys who built empires using their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses by surrounding themselves with people who have other, complementary strengths.  Lots of people admire them and want to be them.

There are Mega-Stars and Rainmakers and Heroes and Idols and Headliners and Leaders and Big Cheeses and High Muckamucks and Household Names and Treasures and Wonders and Leading Lights and so on and so forth, ad nauseum.  

Every one of them will probably tell you that they reached the stratosphere of massive accomplishments because they were successful in finding their own unique “voice.”

WHAT IS YOUR VOICE?

This concept of the elusive “voice” all wanna-be Successes are supposed to be nurturing is the crux of a story I encountered in a blog published by a flamenco dance teacher, Rina Orellana.

She relates how students come to her asking, “How do I find my voice?  How do I allow myself to become the dancer I want to be?”

When dancers ask her this, she says, to her it’s an indication that the dancer is “not quite comfortable in their skin.  They’re thinking too much and not feeling or allowing themselves to be in the movement.”

Her advice to these students is particularly insightful, I think.

Orellana tells them that they “need to allow themselves to be the bad-asses that they are” and she reminds them to “look at themselves in the mirror not to correct any physical part of the dance but to CONNECT with themselves as the person dancing.”

She assures them that looking at themselves in the mirror with acceptance will ultimately lead to their being confident in their movement and in their skin.

flamenco-dancer
“Flamenco Dancer” by Natalia Ba via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Being comfortable in your own skin is how you tell when you are speaking with your own voice.

Your “voice” is how you’re recognized by others.  It’s the “tone” and the themes of your body of work (whatever it is).

Every time you do anything that other people notice, whether you’re an artist, a businessperson, an intellectual, a scientist or a geek, you are also putting your values and the unique perspectives and skills you bring to your work on display.

What is on display is the meaning and the mana that you have developed so far in your life.  Your work shows how you are standing in the world.

Like every other human thing, your “voice” changes as you grow and evolve.  It develops nuances and layers.  It deepens.  It may develop greater clarity or get muddied up by life-induced confusions.

TWO TEACHERS

As an accomplished dancer and teacher, Ornella says, she cannot help passing along her own ways of moving and styling as well as the basic theories and techniques surrounding the craft.

However, in the middle of all that, her aim as a teacher is to encourage each individual dancer to find and focus on the movements that feel “right” for the dancer and to explore the rhythms that resonate.

Kevin Fitz-Gerald, a professor at the USC Thornton School of Music, in this YouTube Video “ARTS: Finding Your Voice,” which was published by the school in 2007, agrees with Ornella.  The video was produced by artistshousemusic.org.

As Fitz-Gerald points out in the video, the things that his students point to as things they don’t like about themselves are very often what sets them apart and makes them unique individuals.  It is those things that can help them move beyond being “average” or “mediocre” and generic.

Both of these teachers advise their students to discover and develop their own natural strengths and make allowances for their inherent weaknesses and limitations by working on improving their techniques and by choosing a framework within which they can reach for their best work.

Both of them say that you will only be able to discover and use your own voice to present a message that is unique to you when you are able to explore and accept the whole package that is you.

VOICE, AUDIENCE AND YOU

All performers (and businesspeople are performers too) need an audience.  It’s part of the dynamic of this self-expression jones Creatives have. They trip out on the reactions they can engender in their audiences.

Every Creative understands that their audience will have an effect on how the artist does what he or she does.  Often the audience will determine whether the artist can continue to do it.

As a performer you want your audience to actually see who you are.  You want them to pay attention to what you have to say.  The audience doesn’t have to like what you say.  They don’t even have to like you.

Getting these others to pay attention to what you need to say can be the most important, life-affirming thing a human can do.

As a young girl who was a victim of sexual abuse by a trusted adult, acclaimed poet Maya Angelou had to choose between going silent and remaining trapped in an untenable situation or finding and using her own voice to get the help she needed to escape and to transcend this soul-shattering thing.

The girl chose to speak, and she kept on speaking and affirming life throughout her long and productive time on this earth.

In this YouTube Video, “Finding My Voice,” published in 2010 by visionaryproject, she tells how she brings herself out of her inherent tendency to go silent and closing herself down by deliberately making herself speak and speak and speak.

As Angelou points out in the video, mutism and freezing when overwhelmed by the circumstances in your life can be a very dangerous thing.  It can become too comfortable.

You become invisible.

Angelou was acclaimed as a poet, story-teller, and writer.  At one point she became an actress, playwright, producer, and director.  She was renowned as an educator and as a civil rights activist.

Angelou died in 2014, at the age of 86.  Throughout her long life, she was not invisible.

THE SHAPE OF THE SELF YOU SHOW

Your audience – anybody who’s watching what you do – will respond to the You that you present to them in your performance.  They can only know what you choose to show.

Maybe you’ve decided to spend your time imitating what those who have become the icons and the “best-of-class” in your field do. Maybe, you think, if you do what they did, then you will glow with their kind of shine.

There’s only one problem with doing this:  The You that you are showing to your audience will never be more than just a copy of somebody else.

For example, there are excellent Elvis imitators out there.  They serve a useful function:  They help keep the legend of that good ole boy alive.  But, really…off the top of your head, can you actually recall the names of these performers?

fat-elvis
“Fat Elvis (#2)” by allison via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The same is also true in any other field of human endeavor.   Imitation is its own reward.  Maybe you win a lot.  Mostly not.

I suppose, “finding your voice” is all about choosing the You that you want the World to know.  And, probably, you do hope that the You that you choose to show will not be ignored, dismissed or mocked.

Let’s be frank here.  You really do want at least some of the other people in this world to like that self you’re showing them because, basically, you do need to win enough support for what you are trying to do so you can keep on doing it.

Part of that is a matter of survival.  You have to eat.  You need a place to lay your head that’s more comfortable than a piece of cardboard under some highway underpass.  You need to take care of the people you love too.

And you have to achieve all that among all these other people (seven billion and counting) who are wanting to do the same thing as well.

However, it seems to me that if you’re any kind of a Maker, what you really want out of all this dancing around is to get to a place where you will have the freedom to get on with doing what you like to do best.

fountain-dance
“Fountain Dance” by Diana Lee Photography via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

HOW DO YOU GET ON THE BUS?

The biggest problem with all this head-scratching and mooning around trying to hear your own voice is, as jazz great Miles Davis once pointed out, often a matter of spending enough time just doing what you want to do.  Miles said, “Sometimes you have to play for a long time to be able to play like yourself.”

For one thing, there are a lot of different “selves” inside every one of us.

All the wise guys and smarty-pants agree.  All of us humans are pretty much assemblages, made up of the bits and pieces we’ve picked up over time from the other people around us as we continue to wander through the world.

These assorted bits get glued onto the basic package. Sometimes all those life-bits turn us into lumpy messes.

To find the self that best encourages other people to respond positively to your spending your days in ways that resonate with that self you actually started out being can be a bitch of a project.

Every hour of every day and night you’re dealing with the pressures and demands of all of your dailynesses.  Work, and the needs of your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, and your stuff eat up your time.

Trying to deal with satisfying other people’s priorities, goals and expectations and maintain the life you’ve become accustomed to is often simply overwhelming.

Now, on top of that, we’re supposed to dig out our true selves and find our own voice as well?  Ri-i-i-ght….

dizzy-wood
“Dizzy Wood” by Marco Nürnberger via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a company that works with people and companies all over the world to foster creativity, productivity, leadership and passion for work.

His book, LOUDER THAN WORDS: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice, is a good one to explore if you choose to accept this latest mission:  finding out who you are and what you want to say and do and then figuring out how to get other people to buy into that.

Besides explaining why finding your voice is important if you are looking for the meaning and mana in your ordinary life and in your work, Henry puts forward questions to ask and ways to find your own answers to them.

Here’s a list that he put together:

  • What angers you? What triggers an urge in you to rectify a great wrong?
  • What makes you cry?
  • What have you mastered? What do you do well?
  • What gives you hope? What do you look forward to?
  • As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • If you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do?
  • What would blow your mind?
  • What platform do you own?
  • What change would you like to see in the world?
  • If you had one day left, how would you spend it?

YET ANOTHER 30-DAY CHALLENGE SERIES

It occurred to me that Henry’s question list would make good 30-day challenge material.  Here’s the how-to:

  1. Grab an ordinary small-kid kind of composition notebook and a pen and label it “The Voice Project.” (No need to get fancy with this.)
  2. Now, choose one of those Henry questions or make one up that’s your own, then make a commitment that for just ten minutes every day for the next 30 days, you will think on that one question and write down your answer to it in that notebook you’ve labeled. (If the time you take to answer the question stretches past the five minutes, that’s fine too.)
  3. Do this notebook thing every day for 30 days.   Be honest with yourself.  Nobody else is going to see this thing.  Just you.
  4. If it starts to get boring, you might want to use colors and drawings and other stuff to illustrate the thing. Cut out magazine pictures and stick them in there.    Write a poem.  Whatever.  Have fun with it, but answer the question.
  5. By the end of that time, you’ll at least get some idea about the kinds of thoughts that arise when you ask yourself this one question.
  6. After you finish the first 30-day challenge with the question of your choice, do it again for the next question, then the next, then the next.

Ten minutes a day for thirty days equals 300 minutes – a minimum of 5 hours total in a 720-hour time period.

It’s less than the time spent attending yet another workshop or working your way through one more online course.

It’s less time than the time spent participating in networking events listening to everybody else’s pitches and slinging some your own self.

In between the question-answering sessions, you might want to go back and read over and look at the stuff you’ve produced.  You might ask yourself whether you really agree with all this blather and B.S. you’re shoveling.

That’s when you really start figuring out what you actually think about the thoughts you think.  You find the shape of your own basic self – the one that just sits there waiting for you to notice.

It gets to be quite fascinating after a while.

composing
“Composing – 67/365” by Andreanna Maya via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
I notice that the weirdest result of this little exercise is how just answering these questions and others like them affects you in your daily life.

You might start doing things that surprise you:  accepting an invitation to a gathering that you might normally not consider, taking on some project or supporting a cause that resonates strongly with you, or trying something you never tried before just to see whether you might like it.

These things may have some pretty amazing results.  It can be a very good thing.

Here’s a poem:


THAT IS THE SAD

Melancholy sits, a knot at the small of my back,

My companion as I walk through sunshine and through rain,

As I do my days,

Charging at windmills,

Taking in the wonderments,

Drinking down the joyousness,

Choking on the tears.

 

Maybe I’m understanding now:

The sadness is only the residue

Left behind as a flood flows

Through my heart cave yet again,

Leaving behind a high-water mark.

 

You know, of course, that all that shiny stuff

Running through all of our heart-caves are

Tributaries that merge together into a great river

Running through this ancient universe,

Pumped out by the jostling masses of living creatures,

Flowing all together like the notes of one grand song.

 

The birds singing their morning hosannas as they greet the sun

Go on through their day with the sound of that

Mighty chorus sounding in their ears,

Content that they’ve established their place in the world.

 

I am thinking we humans are no less connected than they,

But ours is a darker richer song,

Its complexity woven into our days and nights like a subsonic rumble

As we delude ourselves into believing we are immune –

Apart somehow – from the music we are making,

That grandiloquence that touches the edges of our own universe and beyond.

 

We fool ourselves and think we can sidestep the consequences

Of our myriad tiny choices,

That we can stand apart and inviolate, away from the all of everything.

And so we stand uncertain, unsure that this how, this place is righteously ours…

Unlike the bold birds who understand otherwise.

 

That’s the deep sadness, I am thinking,

The “suffering” wise guys ponder – this forgetting that is uniquely human –

The disremembering that, one and all, we are

The favored children of this old universe…

Welcome, gifted and alive,

Swimming in the same golden stream.

 

That willful denial keeps us grabbing at the silly, glittering flotsam,

That awful lostness rasps and scrapes us raw,

Dogging our days and trotting us around all crazy.

That’s the sad, I think.

That’s the suffering.

By Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit: “Who Is Speaking?” by Daniel Horacio Agostini via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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