Sit Down

google "Chicken Little" and this one will come up. www.homesforsaleinlascruces.com

Google “Chicken Little” and this one will come up. http://www.homesforsaleinlascruces.com

Many years ago I was feeling disoriented in my life. I told my friend Rob that I was lost in the woods and looking for my way out. He replied, “Sometimes when you are lost in the woods the best thing to do is nothing. Just sit down.” His message was clear: no one gets oriented or reoriented by spinning. Running in circles, although it might feel useful, will only make you dizzy. Sit down. Get quiet. Listen. It was great advice and at the time nearly impossible.

Orientation to life comes from getting quiet. In one of his books, Deepak Chopra wrote that an important practice on the path to success is a half hour of meditation in the morning and another half hour at the end of the day. Make a practice of getting quiet. Exercise the muscle of stillness. Listen. Clarity will ensue. That way, when the inner compass goes awry, the right tool for the job will be more readily available.

Sitting down can be hard. Stillness and disorientation are not natural bedfellows. The impulse is to action, any action. I was once in a car on a remote mountain dirt road. The road collapsed and the car slowly rolled into a gully. My friend and I spent two days trying unsuccessfully to build a road out. It was only after we gave up and sat down that we were capable of thinking things through. Disorientation generally inspires panic. Panic-driven actions, like running in circles or hauling stones to build a road, are generally comical and make for great stories after orientation is restored. We’ve all turned the wrong way down a one-way street when lost and panicked. Pulling over would have been better but much harder to do when dedicated to forcing an outcome.

Beneath Rob’s message to me was a more important lesson: let go. Let go of the need to do. Let go of the need to solve, fix, or find. The path to orientation always leads through a necessary disorientation and the disorientation comes from hanging on to old ideas, old roles, old baggage, old heroics. The cycle is perfect as hanging on necessitates letting go and letting go often means to sit down, surrender, and breathe. To sit down always affords the opportunity to see where you are as distinct from where you think you should be. To surrender is to open. To breathe is to invite in the new. No one is lost when they stop trying to be some other place.

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Determine The Value

The Lost Boy (one of many) sitting on a mule.

The Lost Boy (one of many) sitting on a mule.

Last year Skip taught me that crowd sourcing sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo were great ways to test the viability of a project or product. If an idea is valuable, people will invest in it. If not, not. If an idea is viable it will attract support.

As an artist I’ve had a wonky relationship with the valuation equation. Generally, the economics of art live outside the norms of the marketplace. For instance, I’ve run or consulted with many theatre companies; it is virtually impossible for the product of a theatre company – the live performance of a play – to pay for itself through ticket sales. Unlike other products, things like cars or bananas, arts organizations and the products they produce are made possible through grants, donations, patrons and this weird mechanism called “non-profit” status. The costs of producing the play (the art) usually outstrip the capacity of the “product” to generate a profit.

When I first met Skip he asked me a question for which I had no capacity to answer: “How can you scale up?” His question brought me to the concept confusion that lives at the very heart of the economics of art: bananas, cars, and iphones can be mass-produced. They are meant to be consumed on a grand scale. They are built to break down, to be replaced by the newest, latest, and greatest. The arts, to be living, to be vital, are rarely capable of mass consumption.

The arts serve personal (and, therefore, communal) transformation. They are not meant to break down, to be replaced by the new; they are meant to sustain, to renew from a deep irreplaceable wellspring. If the iphone, banana, or car is the fruit of the vine, the arts are the root system, that which brings nutrient to the fruit, that which holds the identity of the culture. Pluck the fruit and the vine will replace it. There will always be more. Pluck the root and you kill the plant. There is only one root. The fruit is meant for consuming. The root serves a different purpose.

Places of worship and education face the same value confusion. The sacred stuff, like art, is not consumable so how does a consumer culture determine its value? Learning is an ongoing personal process, an irreplaceable relationship with the world. Both education and worship, like a living art, are experiences rather than products. They are meant to be valued differently than a new countertop or a pair of shoes.

Some forms of art are capable, through the miracle of technology, of mass consumption: movies, music recordings, art posters and prints. Technology can do many things but it cannot replace presence. It allows us to see. It cannot replace touch. It allows us on a mass scale to see a reproduction of a painting by, let’s say, Van Gogh. We can appreciate the painting through the print. However, we cannot experience it. Nothing can replace direct experience, the personal moment of standing with the painting. A live performance is…live. It is alive, inclusive, and meant to transform through presence and participation in a shared moment. The economics of valuation confuse the greater valuation.

I am testing Skip’s notion with the viability of a project. I’ve launched a Kickstarter – my first – to fund a play. It is a heart project, personal to me and I think relevant to my community. Take a look. If it looks like it has value, you’ll know what to do.

Go here to check out my kickstarter for THE LOST BOYDSC_1196 copy

 

 

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Be Kind Now

Kerri with her mom, Beaky

Kerri with her mom, Beaky

On Beaky’s refrigerator there is a colorful poster with this quote by Gerald Jampolsky:

“How simple it is to see that we can only be happy now and there will never be a time when it is not now.”

Bruce told me of his children. He related a few simple anecdotes: a moment of confidence on the stage, a gentle moment caring for an old dog. His voice quaked as he said, “David, my children are considerate and kind.” I wanted to tell him that they get that from their father. Bruce has always been kind though he does not know it.

Judy and I were talking about community. She lives in a supportive intentional community. She said, “I think we do our selves a disservice by placing so much emphasis on the individual. No one does this alone.”

We entered Beaky’s room at the rehab facility. Lying on her side, flat on the mattress with no pillow beneath her head so she can see the notes she is scribbling, she writes in her journal the chronicle of her life. “You’ll never be able to read this!” she exclaims, and then without taking a breath, “Did I ever tell you of the time when….” We sit with her, deep in story, for the next several hours. “This is the stuff that matters.” Beaky says. Not the stories themselves; she means the sharing of stories.

In our phone call Judy also said, “When you are in trouble it is not your money that will save you. It’s your relationships that matter.”

The nurse wheeled Beaky to the car. We gathered from all around the country to be with her. At 93 years old she is going into a radical surgery that is the best of bad choices. As we progress down the hall, an entourage of family following a woman in a wheelchair, nurses kneel and kiss her. They hug her. They tell her that they loved her. “She is special to us,” they say. “She does more for us than we could ever do for her.”

Kerri said, “Momma, see how many people love you?” Beaky replied, “Everyone is so kind.”

There will never be a time when it is not now.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Check out my kickstarter campaign for my play The Lost DSC_1196 copyBoy

 

 

 

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Look At The Pictures

photoH’s wife passed after a long illness. This afternoon we went to the vigil and Kerri sang Amazing Grace for the service. We looked at the photographs of her life.

This summer, at my grandfather’s funeral, there was a similar board of photographs showing the span of his lifetime. They are a record of moments. He posed for some of the shots. In some, he had no idea that a camera was pointed at him. We are different when we know a camera is aiming our way. We put something on, a kind of mask, an attitude or assumption.

The photographs on the board served as a history of technology, black and white to color film, and then a jump to the proliferation of digital images. What was difficult became easy. What used to need chemicals and processing became instantaneous. This capacity to snap photographs and see them in a moment has changed us. Selfies abound! Once, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, I watched with fascination as people posed to have their picture taken with Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night. They rarely looked at the painting. They just knew it was famous and wanted their picture taken with it. They primped. They smiled. They mugged for the camera or looked serious. Proof of life? Just like a handprint on the wall of a cave, those photographs shouted, “I was here!”

We are among the first people in the history of humanity to have this extraordinary window into our lives. I looked at the photo board of H’s wife and saw H at age 30, at age 40, and 50 and 60 and 70, 80, and I know him now at age 90. In the photographs I can see the cocky young man, the father, the achiever, the dreamer, the man who stopped resisting, the surrender,…each phase of his (and his wife’s) life. More to the point, he can see it. He can see the progression.

Two hundred years ago a photographic record of a life span was impossible. No one posed because there was no need. An old man remembered his life but did not have the window to see his path. No one had the opportunity to see the growth and process of age through the phases of their life. It changes us. And, it is a sword that cuts both ways. We can see. We can record. We can story ourselves like no other time in history. We can be known to future generations. We can talk to the future and the future can hear us. We were here. We had something to say. We had so much to share, so many rich experiences of living! And, we can miss our moment in the recording of it.

Kerri asked H what was his favorite photograph on the wall and he laughed and said, “I don’t know. We had happy times. Look at how much I weighed back then!”

“You need to eat more, H!” Kerri admonished and gave him a hug. He began to cry.

“I’m trying,” he said, laughing through tears. “I think I just need to drink more Frosties!”

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

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Peel Off The Laminate

An illustration from my children's book, LUCY AND THE WATERFOX

An illustration from my children’s book, LUCY AND THE WATERFOX

Last week in a fit of frustration I climbed a ladder and scraped the damaged paint off the kitchen ceiling. The paint was compromised a few years ago and needed repair. The peeling paint was on my summer list of things to fix but we were traveling most of the summer. Autumn arrived and the to-do list remained. Scraping and sanding always leads to the necessity of new paint and Kerri said, “If you paint the ceiling it will make the walls look dingy. We better paint the walls, too.”

So, standing in the kitchen, fists filled with paint chips, discussing color possibilities, we realized that all of our color choices were defined by the fading yellow of the ancient kitchen countertop. The counter was at least 50 years old, laminate, and held in place by some well-placed packing tape. We’ve talked often of the day in some distant future when we could afford to replace it and that day seemed very far away.

In that moment, hands filled with paint chip possibilities, we realized that the countertop had became a metaphor. We were defining our choices based on a limitation. Or, said another way, we were limiting our possibilities based on our belief in an obstacle; what we could or could not do.

How often is that the case? What self-imposed limit defines the choices we see? How often do we unwittingly shrink our field of possibility? How often do we allow the things we don’t want to define our actions?

It took less than 30 minutes to pull off the old laminate, break it into pieces, bag it, and get it out of the house. As I wrote in an earlier post, the spontaneous kitchen remodel began when we realized we had the power to remove the limit. We had the capacity to make choices based upon a different set of criteria. Before the spontaneous remodel we believed we couldn’t afford to change the kitchen countertops. The moment of paint-chip revelation made us understand that we couldn’t afford not to change them.

Life is great at applying belief-laminate to us: what we think we can and cannot do. Something profound happens when, in a moment, we understand that we are capable of challenging the limit, of pulling off the laminate, of being forced to step into a greater field of possibility (known from henceforth as the “Now What?”)

It is worth noting that our new countertop, the old plywood support and made exceptionally beautiful with chalk paint and wax, has transformed our kitchen and our actions. We hang out in the kitchen. The colors we are considering using for paint are now based on what we want to create and not on what needs to go with the old yellow laminate.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

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Step Into Your Sanctuary

An oldie simply called ANGEL

An oldie simply called ANGEL

It is night and I am hanging out in the sanctuary while Kerri attends a meeting. I never in my life thought I’d hang out in a sanctuary but I quite like it. It is quiet and I am by myself. It is a good place to meditate or just get still. I am sitting with my stain glass window wondering if there is a conversation in the offing. I’ve spent many nights in my life sitting alone in dark empty theatres and always felt the same sense of peace that I feel at this moment.

I like the word “sanctuary.” It implies a safe place, a resting place. If all the world is my studio then it is also my aspiration to live as if all the world is my sanctuary. I’ve always understood my studio to be a holy place, a place of creation and presence. Going to my studio has always been a step into a safe space. It is where I rejuvenate. Tonight, sitting here, it occurs to me that “studio” and “sanctuary” are very similar words. They are very similar places just as “theatre” and “church” have, for me, been mostly interchangeable: where we go to affirm the stories that identify and transform us; where we go to find our community. My sister finds her community in a church. I have, until lately, found mine in the theatre.

This rambling path begs the question, “What is sacred and what is not?” Yesterday Diane told me that she is a spiritual teacher and I believe that is true. This morning while walking I remembered her words and wondered if we are all spiritual teachers to each other. Some of my greatest teachers had no idea that they were teaching me.They had no intention of teaching me. One great teacher was sweeping a floor and had no idea that I was watching him. He was one of the happiest people I have ever seen. He was shining. He was doing a job that most people would deplore. Everyone who saw him smiled, myself included. He was not his job. He was not his body. He was…connected and alive in his moment. He was living in his sanctuary and helped me know that all the world can be a holy place. He helped crack my understanding of what is possible.

These lines we draw between the sacred and profane are mostly imagined. They are convenient and sometimes useful but they are illusions that I am beginning to understand as destructive. Us and them. A divided house begins in a belief of divisions – a need for division. I’ve often told the story of the executive, red in the face, pounding the table with his fist, shouting, “I know how to compartmentalize my reason from my emotions!” I remember thinking, why would any one want to cut off their emotions from their reason? A better question might have been, who, in their right mind, willingly cleaves themselves into pieces? What delusion is necessary to entertain the notion that reason and emotions are distinct and separate? Separations are generally an indication of not-right-mindedness and a dedication to controlling the uncontrollable.

The angry executive was also a great spiritual teacher for me, too. He taught me to check my assumptions and step over the lines of false distinction that I draw. I can connect the dots directly from his table pounding exclamation to my desire to define my studio as all the world; to live consciously in my sanctuary all of my days.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

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Ask, “Now What?”

photo-1On one of the many Post-It notes that line our idea wall is written, “Say ‘I Don’t Know.” It is especially relevant today as a few days ago, in a fit of spontaneous remodeling, we tore the five-decade-old laminate off the countertops. After the moment of deconstruction we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and asked “Now what?”

I delight in moments like this for two reasons: 1) the first action (tearing off the laminate) always comes from years of wanting change but seeing only obstacles. In what feels like a spontaneous moment, the focus shifts from the obstacle to the action. 2) When the focus shifts only a single step is visible and that step is always some variation of, “I don’t know but I’m going for it anyway!” Second steps are generally invisible until there is a committed action, until there is a first step taken.

These two steps together are a good working definition for the creative process. Shift your focus from the obstacle to the only action you can see. Take the action. Repeat until the action takes hold of you.

The first step generally feels like deconstruction. It feels like breaking things or breaking out of things (like a focus on obstacles). A committed step into, “I don’t know” creates motion and motion begets motion. Rip off the old laminate without a plan and a plan will emerge. Or a mess will emerge followed by a new plan.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Go here for all digital forms of The Seer.

Or, go here for fine art prints of my paintings (and other stuff, too)

Eve, by David Robinson

Eve, by David Robinson

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