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Category: Walk Your Talk

living pono, congruence, authenticity, presence and mana

RESIGNING AS GM

RESIGNING AS GM

One day I stood up bravely and told a bunch of my friends that I was resigning as General Manager of the Universe.  They laughed so hard they were crying.  (Sigh!)  Nobody believed me.  I didn’t believe me.

CONTROL-FREAKING

My way through the world seems to attract a lot of control freaks of one sort or another, as well as people who seem to want  to be told what to do, so it seems that maybe there are lessons there that are mine after all.  Maybe it’s ’cause I do have “issues” about Authority-with-a-capital-A.

It seems to me that the need for control arises out of the fear that what you want is never going to happen unless you, personally, ride herd on the thing and keep it going towards your own personal vision.

It turns your whole road into a battleground, full of other people stepping on your toes, getting in the way and not doing what they’re supposed to.   And you go into battle mode because your fears keep telling you yours ain’t gonna happen.

You waste a whole lot of energy on that one, expending it on trying to get all these people to get out of your way!

The other part of that, of course, is that all the other guys are also trying to get to their desires and trying to do their vision, and you are in their way.  It makes this big, old roiling ball of crisscrossing strings that is an incredible tangle.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT’S SOLUTION

I suppose you could do Alexander’s Gordian Knot move where you whack the thing with a big old sword and bully your way on through.

The problem with that solution is you leave behind broken strings all over the ground and those strings are, every one of them, aka threads — the connections between everything in the Universe with everything else in the Universe.  They lie there writhing like a whole bunch of dying worms.  Not a pretty picture.

alexander-the-great-mosaic
Battle of Issus Mosaic (from Pompeii) [PD-old-100]
Alexander, called The Great, left a mountain of skulls wherever he went.  He died early, having attained his vision, and failing to come up with some other one to take its place.  He brought great changes to his world and people learned new ways of walking as a result, and the world kept on going, growing, developing.

CATALYTIC CONVERSIONS

Alexander was also a catalyst that shook things up good, and maybe that was the gift he carried into the World.  The aka threads that Alexander cut reconnected, grew together in other ways and kept on keeping on.  Alexander, of course, was still dead but he got written up in all kinds of history books and like that and his life story gets inflicted on every wannabe billionaire who lives today.

I’m still working on it.  So’s the rest of the world…..

Here’s a YouTube video featuring the thoughts of philosopher Alan Watts, “Let Go Of Controlling Everything.”  It was published by HDvids101.

And here’s a poem:


TITA RISING

 

He says he’s ready to quit:

He’s tired of the b.s. heaped on his head,

Tired of your issues and your wah-wah-wahs,

Tired of chaos and confusion.

 

He wants off this job that drags on and on,

An interminable rondel that goes ’round and ’round,

Apparently without end.

 

He’s tried, he says, tried and tried,

But it feels like he’s herding lemmings,

Trying to keep the little guys

From throwing themselves off some high plateau

Onto the rocks edging the shining sea below.

 

Every time he gets one cluster of lemmings headed right,

The other guys make a break for it…

Aiming for that seductive edge of nihilistic angst.

 

Oh, yeah.

It’s come to a head all right…

(Or some more earthy organ that’s

unmentionable in polite company.)

So, he comes to me…

‘Cause I’m Da Boss, right?

I am in charge – Big Mama to the forefront…

Little “g,” in control…uh-huh.

 

The job’s three-quarters done and he’s feeling done-in.

And me…I’m standing here flat-footed,

Looking at this thing that’s becoming

A cut-rate model for some stupid government contract –

Complete with asinine road blocks,

Replete with meaningless detour signs and side-trips into the absurd.

 

I am NOT dancin’ now.

I am standing here scratching my head.

I’ve gotta wonder:

Do I LOOK like a branch of Head-Trip International?

Am I the Bureau of Eat-Shit or something?

WHAT?!?

This is NOT the How!

 

Me, all I want is Done.

And it is on you, my braddah…

I backed you, and it looks like you are playin’ games!

You do not have my back

And that wind blowin’ up it is getting COLD.

 

So I’m just sayin’…and I’m saying this LOUD:

WHASSUP?

Tita is risin’…and it ain’t lookin’ good!

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture Credit:  Defying the Gordian Knot by GollyGForce – Living My Worst Nightmare via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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PROGRESS COMES AFTER

PROGRESS COMES AFTER

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

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

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

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

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

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

AN OLD WAY TO REPAIR POTS

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

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

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


KINTSUGI MUSINGS

 ‘Kay.  Try this:

Take this clay tea bowl.

Now throw it on the ground…HARD!

Go for it!

Okay.

Look at those clay bits scattered all about.

Is it still a bowl, do you think?

Sure doesn’t look like it, huh?

 

Okay.

Now, say “sorry” to it.

Go on.

Apologize.

 

Did it go back to the way it was before?

No, huh?

Come on…

Put some SINCERITY into it.

LEAN on that remorse.

Say, “PLEASE forgive me.”

Say, “I didn’t mean it.”

Say, “It was an accident.”

Hmmm.

Try pulling out the big guns.

Say, “I LOVE you!”

Yeah, really…

Say it from the heart.

 

So…

Did all that saying work?

Not really, huh?

Broken’s broken, ain’t it?

And words don’t do a thing.

 

The pieces are still lying there,

Looking all forlorn.

They will not hold together.

The integrity is gone.

When you try to make them fit,

Try to press them into place,

The pieces fall apart.

Sad, huh?

 

Try pouring some tea

On all those broken bits

And the wet just runs down

All over your feet.

Hmmm…

 

Now, what?

Oh, wait…

Here’s some sticky resin stuff.

And, look at this:

There’s this shiny golden powder sitting there,

Right next to you.

 

Let’s try something.

Here, take this brush.

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

Swirl it around with the brush.

Right.

Now mix in some of that powder.

Just stir it right on in.

Slowly, slowly, slowly.

Mix it all up.

No lumps, no bumps.

Mix it all up smooth.

 

Okay.

Now, grab up one clay piece

And turn it so the broken edge faces up.

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

Carefully, carefully…no slopping allowed.

Then grab up a second clay bit

And fit together the edges.

 

Resin oozes out of the crack, huh?

Okay.

Run your brush along that golden bleeding line

Along the front, along the back.

Make it smooth and smoother.

Gently now, like a dream.

Now…repeat, repeat, repeat.

 

You will mess it up, you know.

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

The glop will spread and splotch

And you’ll have to start it over.

 

Again, again, again.

You’ll have to keep on mixing,

keep on brushing,

keep on smoothing,

On and on and on

Until each clay edge is touching a matching other

And every crack glimmers golden.

 

Oh-oh.

There’s one piece missing.

(It probably got pulverized,

Or maybe it got lost.)

No matter.

Glop some of the gloop into that empty

And smooth, smooth, smooth it on out

Over the edges, front, then back.

There.

 

Okay.

Now, set it aside.

Wait.

It’ll dry in the bye-and-bye.

 

And…

Oh!  Will you look at that!

The bowl is resurrected,

But it really is NOT the same.

Oh, no.

Now it’s something other.

Now it’s something more.

It gleams now in all the broken places.

Gold shines in all its cracks.

When you pour some tea in it

None of the wet runs out.

 

And when you hold what once-was-broken,

Healed now after all your gentle care,

Maybe then you will understand:

Fixing what you break

Is not supposed to be easy,

And words alone won’t get you there.

By Netta Kanoho

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

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

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

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YOUR BEST ADVISOR

YOUR BEST ADVISOR

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

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

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

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

THE ESSENTIAL SELF

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

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

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

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

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

THE SOCIAL SELF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BATTLE OF THE SELVES

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t have to be like that.

RECONNECTING YOUR TWO SELVES

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHT

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

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

And that’s a very good thing….

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

The book has a place on my reference shelf.

Here’s a poem:


GEE, THANKS

You tell me you’ve been noticing

That I’m just not

As bubbly as I was,

Not singing on the wing

Like some demented lark,

Spiraling up into the sun.

 

You’re right.

I’m not.

 

You tell me

It caused a disturbance

In your contemplation

Of the mountain of

Your desires and

You’ve interrupted

Your own climbing flight.

 

Oh, wow.

I’m surprised.

 

You tell me

That you feel for me,

And wisdom-words come

Tumbling out of you

As you try to pat me

Back into the shape you remember.

 

Gee, thanks.

You care.

by Netta Kanoho

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


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

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HEART, PASSION AND THE WORLD

HEART, PASSION AND THE WORLD

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

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

A PATH WITH A HEART

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

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

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

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

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

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

This YouTube video, “Path With a Heart” features a slide show of photography by Bill Caldwell of ABeautifulSky Photography with music by John Mills.  The paintings are Caldwell’s.  It was published in 2014 by EverSound Music.  Bill Caldwell and John Mills, unlike Carlos, do get it.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

DO YOUR PASSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANOTHER TAKE ON IT ALL….

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

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

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

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

CREATING A LEGACY

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

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

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

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

HOW DO WE EAT?

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

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

MAKING IT COME REAL

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

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

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

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

And then you have to go do it. 

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

Here’s a poem:


PASSION

Passion is vital energy:

Used to combat entropy

And turbocharge creativity:

Passion.

 

Doesn’t matter what the focus.

It can be used for hocus-pocus,

Keeps one from being a diplodocus:

Passion.

 

Passion’s more than lovers’ schemes.

Passion fuels the wildest dreams,

Straps rockets onto hopes, it seems:

Passion.

 

What a great discovery!

A cure, a hope against apathy

That makes the heart go flying free:

Passion.

by Netta Kanoho

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

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DEVELOPING PRESENCE

DEVELOPING PRESENCE

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

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

ANOTHER FORM OF MANA

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

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

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

The components of Presence, according to Hart, are:

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

APPRECIATION REQUIRES HUMILITY

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

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

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

THE WORLD BECOMES YOU

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

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

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

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

IS IT ME?  IS IT I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

STILLNESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOME TAKEAWAYS

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

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

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

This one does take a lot of practice.

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

MY THANKS

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

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

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

And here’s a poem:


PFUI!

Oh, I give up!

Dragon gets me into things

And then stands there grinning

While I flounder around

Trying to find my balance again

In a space turned upside down

Or sideways or inside out.

 

I Ching nags and scolds me

All the time to be patient

And steadfast and true.

 

Archetypes wander around in my head,

Making themselves at home,

Lying on the couch, watching tv, and

Checking out the refrigerator

On the commercial breaks.

 

My inner drill sergeant revs up

At the drop of a hat.

And that stupid knight in the rusty armor

Won’t go away and leave me alone.

 

And here I am, the fool,

Trying to find my way

Back to being ordinary.

 

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

They are probably very happy.

Ignorance is bliss, right?

 

Me, I have to aim for stars

And run after rainbows.

 

Idiot!

After all the striving and trying,

I’m not even conscious yet.

Probably semi-conscious.

Definitely not post-coital.

 

All this cosmic stuff is getting me

REALLY IRRITATED!

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

(Or maybe I’m just horny?)

by Netta Kanoho

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

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THE PEACE POEM

THE PEACE POEM

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

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

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

PLANTING THE SEED

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

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

“Peace means everyone loving everyone else

And we are all part of one world.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’d like to do this, CLICK HERE.

GOAL ACHIEVED

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

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

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

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

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

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

START OF THE PROJECT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a poem:


HEARTSONG MAITRI

May all of our heartsongs

Foster joy in the World.

May all of our heartsongs

Foster peace in the World.

May all of our heartsongs

Foster freedom from suffering in the World.

 

And may the heartsong of the Universe

Join all of our songs

And spread through all the realms.

By Netta Kanoho

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

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THE TEN THOUSAND HOUR THING

THE TEN THOUSAND HOUR THING

Everybody’s heard about how putting in 10,000 hours  working on a particular skill-set pretty much “guarantees” that you will be very good at using those skills.

The number makes the “rule” easy to remember.  It’s so nice and round.

It’s also more than a little intimidating!  Ten thousand hours apparently translates to about ten years, after all, and I’m not sure whether that includes time for eating, sleeping and doing all of the other stuff humans do.

On top of the sheer immensity of it all, there is a caveat hooked onto that number:  any self-improvement and skill development that occurs after you’ve reached a certain level of skill is actually tied to how you spend your time practicing and expanding on what you do.

WHAT IS IT REALLY?

The 10,000-hour thing bounced around scientific circles since the 1970’s.  Why, the Big Brains wondered, did some people achieve an extraordinary mastery in some discipline while others did not?

It was in 2005 that a research team headed by Neil Charness, a psychologist from Florida State University, published the results of a decade-long investigation of The practice habits of chess players.

Their findings were popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book, OUTLIERS, and all of a sudden every man- and woman-in-the-street was urging their offspring to put that nose to that grindstone.

THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY

Throughout the 1990’s the Charness team placed ads in newspapers and posted flyers at chess tournaments, looking for ranked players to participate in their project.  They eventually recruited over 400 players from around the world.

For each player, the scientists collected a detailed history and created a timeline of their significant training and practice events.  The players were asked questions like these:

  1. At what age did you start playing chess?
  2. What type of training did you receive each year?
  3. How many tournaments have you played? When?  Did you win or lose?
  4. Were you coached? By whom?  How?

And so on…

The Charness study not only asked the players how long they practiced, it also asked what the players did when they practiced.  What the Charness team found was that chess masters dedicated five times more hours to serious study of the game than the players who plateaued at the intermediate level.

THE HOW OF THE MASTERS

The grandmasters focused on what Anders Ericsson, a colleague of Chandress, called “deliberate practice.”  These players chose to do activities that stretched their chess-playing abilities where they most needed stretching.  As Ericsson would say, the grandmasters challenged themselves “appropriately.”

The grandmasters studied the moves of historic gamesmen.  They memorized important game strategies until they could recognize the start of a game-winning gambit.  They studied counter-moves and practiced blocking or subverting their opponent’s efforts as well.

In this YouTube video, “Deliberate Practice,” calligrapher Esteban Martinez allows his viewers to watch as he practices writing his kanji.  It is a beautiful thing to watch.

COMPETITION DOES NOT FURTHER

An interesting sidelight was the finding that, after a certain point, tournament play really did not significantly improve playing skill.

The better guy wins.  Period.  If the better guy is you, you’re just using your skill well.  If the better guy is not you, then you lose the game and probably don’t learn much that is new.  The improvement to your game playing, if any, is a small “don’t-do-that-one” insight.

Hundreds of follow-up studies in a diverse array of fields validated the Charness team’s finding that deliberate practice is the key to excellence.  If you practice deliberately, you do get very good.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Assorted life-coaches and other advisors will usually give you the following pointers after they’ve explained about the hours.

  •  In order to get past “good” you have to take on projects that are beyond your current comfort zone. You have to bite off more than you can chew, but not so much that you choke on it.
    • Because the project is an exploration of new territory, you are going to have to shift into high gear and pick up chops. Hustle becomes the order of the day as you try to keep all those spinning plates going on that forest of sticks on your stage.
  • At some point you will go into overwhelm.  If you keep on going past that point, you will break through your  former comfort zone barriers.
    • That’s when your “comfort zone” gets bigger.  That’s when you’ll succeed at pushing back the fences and walls that enclose your zone and all of a sudden you’ll have more space to move.
  • It is a good idea to measure and get feedback on everything when you’re heading onto new territory. Measure, track, and listen your way to a new understanding.  Then you’ll be able to repeat your successes and avoid the potholes and bogs into which you’ll probably fall the first half-dozen or so times you do this.

WHAT MOST ADVISORS DON’T SPELL OUT

All of that practical advice is good and righteous.  They are very likely to work just fine in real life if you actually do them.  However, most of the advisors do tend to touch on (and then bypass) a most important point.

It seems to me that what you are really doing during all the rest of the 10,000 hours as you work towards mastery of the skillset of your choice (after you get “good enough”) is deliberate practice.  No matter what other skills you are refining and perfecting, the one that is the meta-skill, fully transportable into every endeavor, is that one.

maui-trees-at-sunrise
Maui Trees At Sunrise by Derek van Vliet via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that mastery requires practicing deliberately over time.  [Doing something over and over without conscious thought (like a caged hamster running around a wheel) is not deliberate practice.]

As you work your way towards becoming a superb artist or a magical performer, a superlative farmer or a business-magus extraordinaire, you will also be learning how to pay attention to details without drowning in them.

You will be learning how to focus down on the essentials of a thing, learning to suss out what matters and what does not.

You will be developing the capacity to turn your hand to any task, even when it is outside your comfort zone.

More importantly, you will be developing grace and agility, the confidence and the trust that you will be able to deal with anything that life throws at you because, like the chess grandmasters, you will develop a very large repertoire of mindsets, strategies, and moves that work as you move along your way to your own mastery.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Real is “deliberate practice” is just another phrase for what the wise guys call “mindfulness.”

To me, it’s a cool thing to know that a person can get to that without having to sit in a corner folded up like a pretzel, trying to breathe right.  I have a hard time sitting still and have spent a lot of my life failing at that one.  It’s good to realize I won’t actually have to.

What do you think?  Your comments are always welcome….

Here’s a poem…


WAITING

Waiting properly, not stagnating,

Not caught in indecision,

Patiently doing what is essential,

Right, real, and true,

Letting time work its changes

One by one by one.

 

When the time comes to move,

You will know it.

There is no need for haste.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Chess by Bob Vonderau via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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WHAT DO YOU OFFER?

WHAT DO YOU OFFER?

When comedian Steve Martin was interviewed by radio host Charlie Rose, the funnyman was asked to answer the “how” question aspiring performers always ask those who have made a success of their career.

Martin said nobody liked hearing this answer, but he did it anyway:  Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Here’s a YouTube video published by Suzanne Pope with that segment of the Charlie Rose interview:

Cal Newport used that quote as the title for his 2012 book , SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU:  Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You LoveIn the book,  Newport shares the journey of exploration he made in response to his own confusions about finding work that would add meaning and mana to his life.

The current mono-focus on “following your passion” was particularly unsatisfactory to him.

THE PASSION MINDSET

Often, when we go looking for answers, we are spoon-fed thoughts like those in this beautiful YouTube video, “Finding Your Life’s Purpose – Passion” by The Journey of Purpose TJOP, featuring words by Randy Pausch, Steve Jobs, Will Smith and Stuart Scott.

Newport found that what he calls the “passion mindset,” where (he says) you focus exclusively on the value your job is offering you, to be both simplistic and misleading.

He noticed that this stance, which is pretty much a staple cliché handed out willy-nilly by assorted career advisors and life design coaches, often leaves you at a crossroads, trying to hear a heart that is confused, mumbling and stuttering.

The passion mindset, he says, also sucks away your head into fantasies and daydreams of “better” choices that exist “out there.”  Instead of focusing on what is on your own plate, you spend all of your time dreaming about what is on some other plate somewhere else.

It does work.  This mindset can help you soar.

If you’re just starting out, however, holding on to the passion mindset is above your pay-grade.  You haven’t finished building out your wings yet and soaring just doesn’t happen when all you’ve got are stubby wings.

AN ALTERNATIVE MINDSET

Newport’s book is a reminder that there is another, more traditional approach to your working life that has been in existence for centuries.  He calls it the “craftsman mindset.”  In this one, your focus is on the value of what you are offering to the world.

In this TEDxKC YouTube video, “Stop Searching For Your Passion,” writer and branding specialist Terri Trespicio argues for letting go of the passion search in favor of “just doing.”  Passion, she says, is the fuel you run on.  Doing is what you spend the fuel on.

WHY DEVELOP CRAFTSMAN MINDSET?

One of the most useful things Newport does in the book is delineate the traits that defines “great work”:

  • Creativity
  • Impact
  • Control.

Somewhere on everybody’s list of the things that make their heart sing these items show up.

Being able in your work to use and stretch your innate creativity, work that results in your having a decided impact on the people in the world around you, and being able in your work to control how you use your time to get things done are among the most desirable attributes for a job and work you can call “great,” Newport says.  Most people would agree, I think.

The deal is, though, these job attributes are in high demand.   Everybody wants them.

Work that actually has all of these qualities all together is in short supply.  They don’t get handed to you as participation trophies when you show up at the door.

As Newport goes to some lengths to explain, these job traits are rare and they are valuable.

He points out, “Basic economic theory tells us that if you want something that’s both rare and valuable, you need something rare and valuable to offer in return – this is Supply and Demand 101.”

ANOTHER KIND OF CURRENCY

The author goes on to explain “career capital” – what it is and how to develop it.

Career capital is the key currency you will need to exchange for the “great” job you want.  It is an assorted set of skills and abilities you develop and own – what Hawaiians call mana’o – the unique knowledge and experience that are yours as well as your own ways of using them to product the results others find valuable.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION:  YOU

Developing and owning these kinds of skills takes time.  It requires making choices and decisions that hone your focus, that require commitment.

Along the way, as you develop these skills, opportunities will be offered to you because you have developed these skills.  You will be given chances to develop other related or complementary skills.  You will meet people who can and will help you along your way to your “great work.”

Newport spends the rest of his book expanding on strategies to help you choose your moves well as you build your life on this foundation of the craftsman mindset.

The following YouTube video, The Road Home to Craftsmanship,  is part of a 4-part series published by GOOD Magazine which is put out by Carharrt, Inc., a family-owned company in Dearborn, Michigan.  Carharrt makes durable work clothes that have become almost iconic.  Their motto is:  “Hard at Work Since 1889.”

 FINAL THOUGHTS

My own thought is that SO GOOD THEY CAN’T IGNORE YOU is a great blueprint of a plan that has worked (and continues to work) for people who have found their own “great work.”

As always, you still have to go do it your own self….

Here’s a poem:


ROOTS AND WINGS

Papa was a drinking man,

A happy-go-lucky guy,

A laughing, gambling, good-time Charlie,

With a twinkle in his eye.

 

‘Twas Mama made him toe the line,

‘Cause all those kids had to be fed,

And every time he tripped and fell,

She poured rage upon his head.

 

Papa was a bootlegger

During Prohibition days.

“Party” was his favorite word

And he frolicked and he played.

 

And Mama sold the liquor

At 25-cents a shot;

All the girls could dance and sing,

Food was always in the pot.

 

‘Cause Papa loved his chickens

And he trained them into the night

And in the camp his fighting cocks

Were famed for winning every fight.

 

He grew the corn and ground it,

He built and cleaned the coops,

And when his roosters won the day,

Their rivals made good soups.

 

Mama kept Papa working hard:

He’d work the live-long day

In cane fields, then in pineapple fields,

And Mama saved the pay.

 

He grew a big old garden

And went fishing for more food.

Mama and the girls took in laundry

To help care for the brood.

 

And Papa was a joy to me,

On my head, the sun rose and set.

I was a marvel in his eyes.

I was his favorite pet.

 

He taught me love and laughter

And reaching way up high.

He showed there are no limits for

This one who would touch the sky.

 

Mama was the strict one

Who taught me all the hard:

How to work and when to fight,

And duty as its own reward.

 

The training that she gave me

Has stood me in good stead.

Responsibility and family

Got drilled into my head.

 

She set me firmly in the ground

Made sure that I sat strong.

She patted the earth all around

And scolded me long and long.

 

Making sure I stood up tall,

For all that was true and right,

Making sure I’d always keep

The real within my sight.

 

And Mama gave me roots

That go way down deep.

She it was who gave me strength,

So the course I set, I keep.

 

But Papa was the one who made me brave.

He gave me the wings to fly

His love was a celebration of

A promise none can deny.

 

He showed me that anything I want

I can have if I just try.

That I am all I have to be

And all I was glowed in his eyes.

 

He told me that inside the bad

All the good can still reside,

Waiting to be noticed,

Waiting to be recognized.

 

I bless them still, my tutu,

Every day that I draw breath.

My thanks and blessings always

For my course that they did set.

 

Because of them, my heart still dances light and free,

One gave me roots and the other wings,

In gratitude I bow to them,

Because of them my heart still sings.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture:  In Love With Clay by Carol Von Canon via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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WHAT MOVES YOU?

WHAT MOVES YOU?

Meaning and mana are the pillars that hold up the gateway to life lived as poem-fodder.

Oregon’s late poet laureate William Stafford once said, “Poetry and other arts come from acceptance of little signals that immediate experience contributes to beings who are alive and fallible and changing.”

Actually, meaning and mana are probably the pillars for the gateways to all the different lives a human can live.

Life lived by humans is almost never simple, even when the moves we make appear to be straightforward.

According to ancient wisdom teachers, our moves arise out of a mixed bag of needs and motivations, desire and goals that form the matrix we call “self.”  The motives and needs and desires are pretty much standard-issue, they say.  It’s just the mix that differs.

Science agrees.  Daniel H. Pink’s popular book, DRIVE:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, lays out the results of a wide variety of scientific studies about human behavior.  Pink lists the “three primary elements of true motivation”:

Autonomy (which is about understanding oneself and cultivating self-direction, a large part of developing mana or personal power)

Mastery (which is the other part of developing personal power)

Purpose (which is another word for “meaning”)

Says Pink, “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another.  And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”

In his book, Pink goes on to present assorted ways and means for achieving that liberation in your own life by working with your own particular mix of motivations.

A PARABLE OF SORTS

Need an example of the wide variance in human motivations?

Imagine that you’re a time-traveling researcher gathering data for some scientific study or other research project about why people do the work they do.

Your subjects happen to be laborers working on a cathedral.  Not just any cathedral.  Make it a big one, like the Notre-Dame de Chartres.

Chartres Cathedral by anthony rue via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Four journeyman bricklayers are among the people who’ve agreed to take part in your study.  You ask them why they are engaged in this work they all do.

The first one says, “It’s hard work, but it’s my job.  I do this for my family, to provide for them.

The second one says, “It’s hard work, but this is my career.  I do this because someday I shall be a master builder and I will be the one in charge of a project like this.”

The third one says, “It’s hard work, but this is a part of my family tradition.  For generations now, my family have been bricklayers and builders.  I do this because I am carrying on the legacy of my ancestors and I want to pass it on to my children.

The fourth one says, “It’s hard work, but this is my calling.  I do this for the glory of God.  I do this because even when I am gone, this cathedral will still stand, and it will be beautiful.”

Each one of the bricklayers is doing the same hard work.  Each one looks at the work with different eyes.  Each one does the work for a different reason.  And each one of them are probably living very different lives.

Motivations — the “why” of living your life – vary.  So do the results.

This YouTube Video by the Great Big Story video network, “The Lone Man Building a Cathedral by Hand” is about 90-year-old Justo Gallego who has spent 53 years of his life building a cathedral on the outskirts of Madrid in Spain.  It is amazing….

THE EXAMINED LIFE

Life lived as poem-fodder requires a particular mindset – one that begins by looking at who and where you are now.  Poets, artists and storytellers are particularly prone to examining life-as-we-know-it.

We look at the messy chaos of it all, focus on one specific thing that catches at our hearts, and we unpack and tease out the meanings contained in this ordinary slice of life.

We roll all of these meanings and metaphors up into a ball that makes some sort of sense to us and we play with it.

Sometimes by doing that we can discover new worlds to which we can invite other people to come and play.

Here’s a YouTube video, “For Those Who Dream.”  It’s a heart-felt spoken poem by Osric Chau.

THE MEASURED LIFE

Scientists, engineers, technicians and other more linear sorts also look at the world with special eyes.

They pull out their tape measures and calipers and use them to tally the height and width and depth of some part of life.

They gather together far-flung bits of data and throw them into a funnel that moves the bits through a series of filters that have already been set up.  These filters have names like “hypothesis,” “premise,” and “theory.”

All of the data gets compared and correlated according to preset or already established ideas and ideals.

They hope, these smart guys, to suss out how the “rules” are supposed to work.

They take the little bits they’ve sifted out of the whole thing and press them into molds made according to older, established constructs to make more bricks.

With these  bricks they build other rules and constructs and edifices as they trundle right along making their visions “real.”

This way of seeing and doing can also be quite exciting.

This YouTube video, “A Day In the Life of An Oxford Physics Student” was published  by Simon Clark.  What is most evident is the young man’s passion for his field of study.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Very different ways of seeing become divergent ways of making.  Each one is a perfectly valid way to build a life with meaning and mana.

Here’s a poem:


NOT MY WALK

Oops!  Sorry!

I forget sometimes, you see…

Your walk is not mine,

You are not me.

You’re headed off in

Some direction that

Makes no sense to me.

 

Maybe it’s ’cause your horizon’s set

At an odd angle from mine.

Maybe your gravity well’s

Located in a different place.

I don’t know.

 

It really looks peculiar,

That way you’re standing,

But, mostly…probably…that’s just me,

Just the way I see.

Looking at your stance from here

Gives me the jimmy-jams!

What is holding you up?

 

Do you get dizzy from that levitating thing you do?

Does standing sideways like that

Feel to you like hanging your head backwards

As you pump your swing up higher?

 

Maybe not.  If that’s normal for you….

Hmmm….

 

There must be cool stories

Sandwiched in there somewhere

In all that precarious-looking

Crane-stance thing you’re doing.

There must be things

That I can’t see

From where I’m standing.

 

So tell me, please….

How’s it going for ya?

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Gateway by George Redgrave via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

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LEADING BY FOLLOWING

LEADING BY FOLLOWING

Here are some thoughts from E. Thomas Behr, Ph.D. in THE TAO OF SALES: The Easy Way To Sell In Tough Times.  First published in 1997, it attracted a lot of interest until it went out of print.  It’s since been re-issued.  (A great book.)

The major thought Behr had was this:  if you lead by following your principles and your own authenticity, then it makes room for good things to happen….

1.     DON’T JUST DO SOMETHING, STAND THERE.  If you take a stand on values and principles, perhaps others will develop the courage to do the same. Sometimes it leads to you being street pizza, when you try to face down assorted steamrollers, but I notice it does tend to be true that you can get a lot of the pettiness out of your life by doing this one.

This leaves a lot more room for creativity and for beauty, so what’s a little flatness here and there?

2.     SIMPLIFY ALL ACTIONS AND BEHAVIORS TO A FEW CONCRETE PRINCIPLES.  Let the values guide the results.

This one works really well.  Mostly, if you always follow a few basic principles that mean a lot to you, then people know where you are standing and they tend to allow you that space.

Maybe they are just being kind about not wanting to disillusion you and all or maybe they just don’t have the time to start shoving your head into other spaces, but who cares?  It works.

3.     TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MEASURING YOUR OWN INTEGRITY YOURSELF.  You are not the only one who knows whether you’re walking your talk.  It shows.  It’s a good idea to pay attention.

4.     CONFRONT YOUR OWN CONCERNS AND FEARS ABOUT AUTHORITY IN AN OPEN, CARING WAY.  I do have major “issues” with authority.  However, I have figured out that scorched-earth war tactics really don’t leave much for anybody to work with.

It’s a lot easier on everybody if I can be gentle.  This is a lot harder for me than coming out swinging so I have to be really gentle with my own self as well.

5.     MEASURE WHAT MATTERS.  That’s a problem I have with bean-counters:  They are so busy counting beans when other things matter so much more to me and I often cannot get my head around their concerns.  I do try because it is important, I suppose.

I just prefer measuring things like room to move and heart-space and stuff like that.  (I probably drive the bean-counters crazy.)

6.      IF IT AIN’T BROKE, BREAK IT.  The best thing about this one is that it helps me forgive my own klutziness.  Calling the stumbling around I do “re-inventing the world” is a lot cooler than saying, “Oops!”.

7.     REPLACE “CONTROL” WITH “ORDER.”  The neat thing about this one is that there are all kinds of order.  Some of them are quite lovely and meaningful to the people who are in them.

It’s a very cool thing to be able to see other people’s “order” as wonderments rather than as them being wrong because you are so right, right, right….

In this YouTube video, Art – Life Made Me Do It, Simon Birch, an artist who has gained some renown in Hong Kong, tells about his life and how his art grew out of it.

That is the thing, isn’t it?  Following your life, letting your days lead you to your best place, is often the best way to get to authenticity and gives your life its own meaning and mana.

So, hey…what are you doing to get back to you?

Here’s a poem:


GETTING BACK TO GRACE

 

Getting back to grace is Job One.

(It says so right here.)

So…

What happens when you’ve run out of cheek to turn,

And your back is to the wall,

And you’re looking at yet another transgression,

Another incursion, another this or that?

 

Getting back to grace is gonna be tough

When you’re bucking the gale-force winds

Of somebody else’s stubborn,

Of somebody else’s stupid

And somebody else’s something-or-other.

 

It gets even rougher when you’re leaning into

The tropical storms of your own blindness.

 

Hmmm….

Let’s do it step-by-step.

If Grace is a place where I can stand,

Then, probably, it doesn’t need ME to make it real, right?

It’s just there.

I mean…I didn’t invent it.

It’s THERE already…

Like, say, Haleakala, maybe, or Pu’u Kuku’i.

 

And if that’s so,

Then all I have to do is find it again.

Hmmm…okay.

Maybe I just have to take off this stupid bandana

That’s worked itself down over my eyes….

 

There!

Got it!

Oh…well….

Wouldja look at that:

I’ve been standing in Grace all this time!

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Follow the Leader by ehpien via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.

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