Truly Powerful People (104)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I’m having the oddest experience and am a little off balance. I opened a time capsule today – a capsule that I packed with great care and attention more than a decade ago. A few moments ago, I opened the lid. There was lots of stuff in the box but nothing that I remember putting in it – instead I found many things that I remember leaving out precisely because they were not essential. What happened?

Many years ago I burned most of my paintings but before I did, I carefully chose 20 or so of my favorites, rolled them, sealed them in a box, and sent them to a friend. He promised I would never have to see them again. Recently, after more than a decade, I was ready to reclaim those paintings and my friend sent them back to me. This was the box I opened the today.

The paintings that I found rolled in the box were not the great paintings I remember selecting, in fact, most were pieces, had I not burned them, I would have painted over – only the canvas was worth saving!

I burned the paintings on a beach at a fire pit and people helped me – people I did not know, walking by, recognized what I was doing and wordlessly helped me. They held vigil with me by the flames. They helped me stack the paintings on the fire. An elderly man helped me carry a painting from my truck – it was the last painting in the truck that day – I remember it vividly – and together we set it on the flames. Today, I pulled this painting from the box.

The universe is a trickster that reminds me to laugh, to not attach too strongly to what I remember, to let my gods run like sand through my hands. Over three long days in 2000 I let go of my paintings and my idea of myself. Today, I let go of those things all over again – only this time there was no need for fire. I can laugh.

Truly Powerful People (103)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Last week Patti and I had an extraordinary week working with educators. Among the many deep pools we explored together, there is one that is troubling to me: the tendency (or is it a bias) to separate life into compartments. These are just a few of the separations I noted: teachers are taught to think of content as separate from method. They are steeped in a tradition that abstracts learning from application, mind from body, and body from spirit. And spirit from any serious consideration (thus, the arts are neutered).


This is a rhetorical question. I know.

Here’s the big separation, the one that dismembers the entire western world: the notion that doing is separate from being (of course, this is the epicenter of the belief that content can possibly be distinct from method). Is it any wonder that teachers are beleaguered and students are bored and frustrated? As one teacher so aptly noted, “the students are going around us; we are the impediment.”

We are our own impediments. How could it be otherwise when separation is the organizing principle and expectation? I work with people in a variety of circumstances and most, if not all, believe that they are missing a piece of themselves – or perhaps looking for peace anywhere but within themselves. They are searching for something and in the mean time their lives roll by. They are losing this moment hoping that in some distant moment they will achieve…something; presence, completion, peace, unity (add your word here).

Many years ago my friend Roger told me that somewhere in his middle 30’s he realized that he was no longer becoming someone; he was someone. Patti reminded the educators that children are already complete. They are someone. Yes, they are becoming. Yes, they are already whole. Nothing is missing. Nothing needs fixing, nothing needs adding.

Good words to consider: nothing is missing. Nothing needs fixing. Your “doing” can’t possibly be separate from your “being.” Your content can’t possibly be separate from your method. Those cubicles in your mind are…in your mind. They are infinitely removable.

Truly Powerful People (102)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I know why there are so many artists and poets in Nebraska. It is the sky. There is a lot of it and it changes dramatically by the minute. I’ve been here almost a week and I can no longer count the times that I’ve been stopped in my tracks by the ballet that happens there.

All the way down 2nd Avenue, P-Diddy and I screamed like we were kids on a roller coaster, the lightning storm was a terrifying and brilliant ride. The clouds help me understand the Greek plays, the grey roiling angry power of Zeus and moments later all is forgiven, pink roses blossom and I am breathless. The base thunder shook my hotel and by the time I got outside to stand in it the sun was on my face and I wondered if I had imagined it.

Patti and I stood by the rental car long after the gas pump had turned off and watched the sky flicker and crackle with lightning too far away to hear. It went on and on and on, I held my breath for several minutes of sky dancing. It was the best fireworks display I’d ever seen, so brilliant, in fact, that we didn’t speak a word. We couldn’t. It was beyond words, beyond our capacity to capture or contain. It demanded our presence.

It is the sky, this “beyond” quality, this requirement of presence that inspires so many artists and poets in Nebraska. Presence and Beyond; It is the artist’s job to stand in the midst of such awesome power and open the trail for others.

Truly Powerful People (101)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

There is a term I learned in the theatre that I have grown to appreciate the more I work with organizations and the education system. The term is, “save-your-ass-theatre” and applies to plays that have weak or no direction so the actors have no choice but to save their asses.

In a well directed play the actors are in service to something greater than themselves: a specific story that is illuminated through the clear actions of the actors. The actors pursue specific intentions; their focus is on the pursuit of the intention (not on the audience, not on how they appear, not on “being liked”). The honesty of the actor’s pursuit is what opens the door for the audience to participate. My favorite definition of acting is, “the honest pursuit of intention in an imaginary circumstance.” The honesty of the pursuit allows the audience entry to the story.

In a play with weak direction, the actors are unclear of their intentions, less clear of their story, and are in service to not looking stupid. Said another way, they are in service to themselves. They are in front of an audience and do not know what they are doing so they do the only thing they can do, the thing we all do in a dangerous situation: they save themselves. They diminish the other actors, they hide, they upstage, they lie. The audience has no access to the play because the actors are not present, so they, too, pretend that something worthwhile is happening.

When an intention is clear, people are generous in their support for each other. They are in service to the same thing and do not get confused in games of power or territory. When an intention is not clear, people default to survival mode and save their asses.

Systems go awry when they no longer serve the purpose for which they were created – or when the purpose for which they were created is no longer relevant. The public schools are a perfect example. The system was created to produce minimum competency for a world 150 years ago. It is an antique. And, because it no longer knows the story it is telling, brilliant, dedicated teachers are being forced into a production of save-your-ass-theatre because we as a nation have confused passing tests with learning. We blame them because we don’t know what to do (proof positive that we, too, are in a production of save-your-ass-theatre). Brilliant, dedicated students are suffering in a production of save-your-ass-theatre because we as a nation have confused answer-regurgitation with ferocious inquiry.

Learning is not testing. Answer-regurgitation is not inquiry. We can clarify this play when we choose to stop pretending that what is happening on our stage is worthwhile, when we stop denying that our Model-T is the machine that can get us there.

Truly Powerful People (100)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

If you’ve ever doubted the power of the arts it is worth your time to investigate the Mark Morris Dance Group. In addition to being a world-class dance company, the MMDG has started a unique collaboration that began with the Brooklyn Chapter of The National Parkinson Foundation and is now in 40 communities around the world. It’s called Dance For Parkinson Disease.

These are not professional dancers dancing to raise awareness of Parkinson disease. These are people with Parkinson disease dancing, taking dance classes, with the members of the Mark Morris Dance Group. And, while dancing, the symptoms of the disease lessen or in some cases go away.

The body loves to move. The human spirit loves to express (or, perhaps love is the human spirit expressing). In this dance there are no limits.

There is no better example of empowered people empowering others. Visit their site and take a look at the short PBS piece. It will lift your spirits.

Truly Powerful People (99)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

DeMarcus Brown was one of the pioneers of the theatre in the 20th century. He lived a vibrant 99 years of life and I was fortunate to know him in his final decade. Two of my great mentors were his students (one of them is his daughter, Marcia).

Every so often Marcia sends to me a treasure from DeMarcus’ life: some of his beautiful costume designs, set renderings, paint brushes, or a directors book. Recently, she sent a small book, hand made, filled with notes the young student DeMarcus took about design. There are riches on every page. Each day I play the game of opening to a random page. This is what I read this morning (he is writing about color):

One vibration (color) must dominate or a scheme of chaos is the result.

Everything in this world of feeling is Joy.

And truer and more real and more ultimate than paint, good than evil, every problem has its solution through the language of color – through color we add joy to this world of seeing.

Everything created must give a feeling of unity.

Taste these phrases! “A scheme of chaos.” “Through color we add joy to this world of seeing.” “Everything created must give a feeling of unity.”

This was an artist! Imagine seeing the world through those eyes!

Truly Powerful People (98)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

It is the final few weeks of our telecoaching class. Patti and I have asked the group to do something akin to attempting to consciously create each moment of their day. We’ve asked them to place their focus on their immediate relationships (with others, with nature, with themselves) and to ask, “Is this how I want to story this moment? Is this what I want to create in this moment?”

It seems like an impossible request until you consider that it is what you are doing anyway. The pertinent question is not, “Can you do it?” rather, the question is, “Are you aware of how powerful you are at creating?”

The most potent recognition I’ve had in doing this exercise (and I have it every time I do the exercise), when I ask the question, “Is this how I want to story this moment,” usually my answer is, “No.” Usually I want to create something else. I do not want to create frustration or angst or rushing around. I do not want to attempt to control or manipulate or pressure an outcome. I do not want to invest in a fear or let loose the lack monologue to rage once again about my mind. I do not want to deflect or hide. And the moment I see it, I let go my grip on something I can only call a “story.”

I let go, my eyes clear and I become present. That is why I suspect that creating is a quality of being as much or more than anything I will ever do.